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Community development boards may come back to bite Mamata as Adivasis up the ante

Sulagna Sengupta | Updated on: 16 February 2017, 6:52 IST
(Arya Sharma/Catch News)

Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee might have been appreciated for announcing Rs 300 crore for setting up 15 development boards for backward communities ahead of municipal elections. But she now faces criticism from Adivasis, a community that feels left out.

 Banerjee made provisions for communities such as Khas, Gurung and Lepchas from the hills of North Bengal in her development board plan.

 Now Adivasis from the hills are demanding a separate board for their welfare. The Adivasis mostly work in tea gardens and stay at the foothills.

The community has decided to intensify protest ahead of this year's civic polls.

Nearly 20,000 Adivasis work in tea gardens, according to the district administration. They are mostly deprived of welfare measures provided by the state.

Matter of communities

The Adivasis mostly support Bimal Gurung, who heads Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, a source in the North Bengal Development Department said.

Banerjee's Trinamool Congress is trying to poach them away.

However, the creation of a separate Kalimpong district has caused fresh controversy with the Gurung community demanding that the chairman and the vice chairman of the Gurung Development Board be selected from Darjeeling rather than from Kalimpong.

Apart from that they have also urged the chief minister to set up a different board for the Gurung community which is yet to be formed.

Binanjay Gurung a member of the Gurung community said, “Almost all the chairman and vice chairman of different development boards are from Kalimpong and so we have urged the chief minister to select the vice chairman as well as chairman of Gurung Development Board from Darjeeling, following the formation of a new Kalimpong district with separate administration.”

Divide and fight?

According to the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJMM), the creation of various boards for different communities will result in clashes among the communities and will disturb the peace of the region.

A senior member of GJMM said that they will continue their agitation against the TMC for playing the divide-and-rule policy in the hills. “We want an overall development of the hills, keeping in mind the interest of all the communities,” he said.

Sources in the GJMM said that Banerjee wants to divide and rule in the hills and so she has decided to provide funds for the development of majority of the communities for strengthening her vote bank ahead of the municipal polls.

In an attempt to garner more support from the different communities staying in the hills, Banerjee on Wednesday also announced that Rs 2 lakh will be given to local clubs of the 15 different communities for enhancement of sports and cultural activities. The cheque will be given to the clubs on 20 February.

She even urged the communities to identify 10 more clubs within the communities for the same purpose.

Banerjee’s comments came at a time when the TMC is fighting to secure a strong foothold in the hills and the GJMM has intensified its stir for a separate state for Gorkhaland.

During the 2016 Assembly elections, AITMC candidate Bhaichung Bhutia had lost the Siliguri seat by 14,072 votes to Siliguri mayor and former CPI(M) minister Ashok Bhattacharya.

Political analysts, however, are of the opinion that Banerjee wants to have a strong foothold in the hills and as a result, she is now trying to adopt the wait-and-watch policy before announcing welfare measures for all the deprived communities ahead of the municipal elections.



Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 16 February 2017, 6:52 IST