Gorkhatimes

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Talks yes, but with leaders only: Morcha

Posted by Ramesh Khati on June 16, 2009

Chidambaram and the Morcha team at the meeting in Delhi.

Chidambaram and the Morcha team at the meeting in Delhi.

Darjeeling, June 15: Jaswant Singh and a seven-member delegation of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today met Union home minister P. Chidambaram and demanded that the next tripartite meeting on their demand for a separate state should be held at the political level.

Singh, the BJP MP from Darjeeling who won the parliamentary election riding piggyback on the Morcha, had earlier assured Bimal Gurung’s party that he would help its members meet the central leaders.

Today, however, the hill team largely deliberated on the damage caused by the May-26 landslides that killed 28 people and left hundreds homeless. They said a high-powered central survey team should visit the hills.

Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said over the phone from Delhi: “We want the next tripartite meeting to be held at a political level and the Union minister has assured us that he will discuss the issue with the state government.”

The first and the second tripartite meetings which were held on September 8 and December 29 last year were at secretary levels. The Morcha leadership had sat across the table with the Union home secretary and the Bengal chief and home secretaries. Giri said the next round of talks should be between the Morcha and political parties in Bengal and their national leaders.

The Morcha, while reiterating its demand for a Rs 1000-crore package, has demanded that expansion and setting up of satellite townships in the hills be given due importance.

“Apart from demanding a high-powered technical team comprising experts from the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Geological Survey of India, we have said we want the entire sewerage system in the hills to be revamped.”

The Morcha also wants alternative routes to connect far-flung areas to the district headquarters. “We want protection, restoration and strengthening of jhoras so that landslides can be stopped to some extent,” said Giri.

Protection work on the national highways (NH31A and NH55) along with the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway track was also discussed, said Giri.

Chidambaram reportedly told the delegation that the government would closely follow the report submitted by the inter-ministerial team that visited Darjeeling recently. “He was also of the opinion that teams from specific ministries like surface transport, could be sent to the hills if required,” said Giri. He was accompanied by Pradip Pradhan, Amar Lama, Harkabahadur Chhetri, Rohit Sharma, Trilok Dewan and Swaraj Thapa.

The Morcha delegation also met N.C. Vij, the vice-chairman of National Disaster Management Authority, to give him a first hand information about the extent of damage. “He said the NDMA could explore the possibility of setting up a National Disaster Response Force for our region,” said Giri.

source: The Telegrpah

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