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Dissolved board at work, DM says illegal – Civic chairman issues ‘invalid’ certificates

Posted by Ramesh Khati on August 4, 2009

Ola at his chamber in the Darjeeling Municipality on Monday.

Ola at his chamber in the Darjeeling Municipality on Monday.

Darjeeling, Aug. 3: The board of councillors of the Darjeeling Municipality today discharged its “daily functions” with the chairman of the dissolved body Pemba Tshering Ola signing cheques and disbursing monthly salaries in a move that has been termed “illegal” by the district administration.

With the government failing to hold elections to the three hill municipalities of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong last month, the state had formed four-member committees headed by the subdivisional officers (SDO) to run the civic bodies.

The other members in the committee are the former chairpersons, vice-chairpersons and representatives from the directorate of the local bodies. The SDO was made the sole signing authority for each of the municipalities.

The Morcha, which has linked the civic elections to the implementation of a three-tier panchayat system (the hills only have a single tier system which has been in limbo since 2005), has rejected the government’s arrangement. Instead, it had announced that the present board of councillors — all of whom are members of the Morcha — would continue to “discharge their functions”. The five-year tenure of the civic boards had expired on July 14.

Around 11.30am, Ola came to his office. He signed applications for residence certificates and leafed over service books of civic employees signing the documents wherever needed. Later in the afternoon, he also signed the monthly salary statement and the cheques.

The cheques bearing the signature of the chairman was honoured by the State Bank of India branch here. The salary was disbursed late in the evening.

The exact amount withdrawn is unknown as B.B. Maiti, chief manager of the SBI, said he was not authorised to speak to the media. It was, however, learnt that Ola’s signature was honoured as the bank had not received any instructions to the contrary.

According to Ola, the monthly salary of the 538 permanent workers of the municipality came to around Rs 69 lakh. The wages of the day labourers amounted to Rs 3.46 lakh while Rs 14 lakh is disbursed as pension every month.

Darjeeling district magistrate Surendra Gupta said: “There is no doubt that all these activities are illegal. The subdivisional officer is the head of the committee and the signing authority.”

Asked if the banks were informed that cheques signed by the former chairman or vice-chairman should no longer be honoured, Gupta said the subdivisional officer might have issued the letters to that effect.

Bharat Biswas, subdivisional officer of Darjeeling, however, denied having any knowledge of the day’s developments.

According to Gupta, all residence certificates issued by Ola today will be considered illegal.

Ola, on his part, insisted that the government had not defined the roles of the members of the present body and hence his signatures, as far as residence certificates were concerned, were not invalid.

“If the members are unaware of their duties, they should write to us and get the doubts clarified,” said Gupta.

Source:The Telegraph

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