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CM announces Cultural Board for Sherpa community in Darjeeling

DARJEELING : Signing off her three-day visit to Darjeeling, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday announced her government’s decision to set up a development board for the Sherpa community. Gorkha Janmukti Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration deputy chief executive Ramesh Allay and the three hill MLAs were seated beside the Mamata when she made the announcement. It may be mentioned that GJM leaders had not taken to it kindly when Mamata had earlier formed the Lepcha board, saying it was interference in the functioning of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration. Her announcement of the Sherpa board was imminent going by hints from party insiders, but the question was when. However, she did not drag the suspense for long as she chose the 119th birth anniversary celebrations of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose to announce a Sherpa cultural board. Mamata set up Lepcha community development board in 2013 and another for the Tamang community last year. 

The Sherpa board formation announcement, however, was abrupt and came during the dying minutes of the birth anniversary programme at Chowrastha. The chief minister said, “They (Sherpas) had requested to set up something for them. Honestly, I was not aware of this. So we have decided to give them a cultural board.” Mamata said so from her seat below the dais where she and other dignitaries were seated following her keynote address. When asked about the announcement, a senior hill TMC leader conceded it had been thought out earlier. “There were plans to form a cultural board for the Sherpa community. However, because of certain technicalities in the paperwork that the district administration is better aware of, the announcement could not be made earlier,” he said, not wanting to be named. The chief minister said the state government would also soon release a fund of Rs5 crore to the Sherpa board to construct houses for poor members of the community and that other formalities would be discussed later. Earlier, she said Rs1 lakh each would be given to 10 members of the Sherpa community. 

On Thursday, the chief minister handed out Rs5 crore to the Tamang Development and Cultural Board at Lebong, also to construct houses with a promise to give more funds. When asked for his comment on the chief minister’s announcement, Giri said, “We have no ‘aitraj’ (objections) if a board for the Sherpa community is formed. However, our stand remains that similar boards should also be formed for the other sub-communities of the hills and they should all come under the purview of the GTA. We want all communities to be treated with equality.” The GJM general secretary also dispelled fears of an adverse political effect in the run-up to the 2016 state assembly election given Mamata’s announcement. “Development is welcome and we are not against it. As far as we are concerned, the GJM is very powerful and will not be affected. We have the people’s mandate,” asserted Giri. The GJM has already taken up with the Centre the demand for inclusion of ten hill communities and one from the Dooars in the Scheduled Tribe list. The BJP, the GJM’s political ally, has reportedly conveyed its consent to Darjeeling MP SS Ahluwalia who is pursuing the matter in Delhi with the government and party. At the start of the programme, the organisers, the state information and cultural affairs department, sounded a siren at 12.15pm to mark the moment Bose was born. During her speech, Mamata questioned Bose’s whereabouts saying there were no authentic records on the matter, while ruing that the freedom fighter had not been given due recognition outside Bengal.
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