Gorkhatimes

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Morcha wants SDOs out – Only elected representatives for municipalities: Gurung outfit – Jaswant office in Siliguri

Posted by Ramesh Khati on July 30, 2009

Darjeeling Municipality: In crisis?

Darjeeling Municipality: In crisis?

Darjeeling, July 29: An administrative crisis is brewing in the three hill municipalities of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha objecting to the state government’s decision to run the civic bodies with the help of the respective subdivisional officers.

With no hill resident filing nominations to the municipality elections following the Morcha’s boycott call, the government had decided to constitute a four-member board to run each municipality. From July 14 — a day after the five-year term of the municipalities came to an end — the SDOs were supposed to be assisted by the outgoing chairperson, vice-chairperson and a representative of the deputy director of local bodies.

Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the spokesperson of the Morcha, said today: “We do not want the SDOs to head these local bodies as they are not elected representatives and have no idea of the people’s aspirations. An SDO heading a municipality would mean that we are handing over local self-governing bodies to the state government as an officer would be the signing authority (authorised to sign all cheques, normally done by a chairperson).”

The Morcha has conveyed its objection to the state government and has proposed that the civic bodies should consist of the outgoing chairperson, vice-chairperson and the chairperson-in-council instead of the SDO. The number of chairpersons-in-council varies from one municipality to another, depending on the number of seats.

The Morcha objection could hamper development projects in the civic areas as the outgoing chairpersons and vice-chairpersons, who are knowledgeable about the functioning of the civic bodies, may refuse to assist the SDOs.

The Morcha which has linked the holding of the municipality elections to a three- tier panchayat system in the hills, today reiterated that it would not budge from its stand. “We want the three-tier panchayat to be implemented,” said Chhetri. “Accepting the present one-tier panchayat means that we are legitimising the DGHC.” His party led by Bimal Gurung has been agitating for Gorkhaland and is against the DGHC, which is a symbol of autonomy rather than statehood. As long as the DGHC exists, Gorkhaland may be far away, the party feels.

A two-tier panchayat system came into existence after the DGHC headed by Subhas Ghisingh was created in 1989. Ghisingh did not want the powers of the panchayat samitis to clash with the DGHC and so did not ever allow the election to the second tier to be held. Since then only gram panchayats existed in the hills. From 2005, Ghisingh stopped elections to the panchayats as well saying that the Sixth Schedule status, which would have a different set-up, would be soon conferred on the hills.

Surendra Gupta, the district magistrate of Darjeeling, admitted that the Morcha had written to him about its reservation. “The state government is of the opinion that since elections cannot be held, the municipality has to be run by an officer as per the norms of the municipality act. However, the government would be responding to the letter written by the Morcha.”

Source:The Telegraph

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