GTA : Gorkhaland Territorial Act

Gorkhaland Territorial Act : GTA is a semi-autonomous administrative body for the Darjeeling hills in West Bengal, India.."

The GTA will replace the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, which was formed in 1988 and administered the Darjeeling hills for 23 years.
 GTA presently has three hill subdivisions Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and Kurseong and some areas of Siliguri subdivision under its authority...made recently in 2012..

Gorkhaland Territorial Administration: An Overview

Swatahsiddha Sarkar
The recent tripartite agreement on the Gorkha-land Territorial Administration (GTA) held between the Central Government, State Government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) to usher in normalcy, peace and development in the hill region of the district of Darjeeling, West Bengal has set in motion the potentialities for controversies and politics.

While the new arrangement of the GTA is considered both by the GJM and the Trinamul Congress (TMC), the ruling party of West Bengal, as a great achievement, the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM) and All India Gorkha League (AIGL), the other two major political platforms from the hills, have treated it as a ‘betrayal’. The Left, the party in the Opposition now, expressed serious concerns about the prospective consequence of such an arrangement and raised questions regarding some procedural norms bypassed in the process of finalising the agreement. Several other regional outfits both from the Siliguri Terai (platforms like Janchetna, Amra Bangali, Bangla O Bangla Bhasa Bachao Samiti, Kamtapur Progressive Party) and Jalpaguri Duars region (namely, Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikash Parihad, Duars Millat-e-Islamia, Rabha Development Council, besides the conglomerate of eleven anti GTA platforms—the Duars Terai Joint Action Committee) also raised their own reservations on the prospect of the agreement (their concerns revolve mainly around the proposed issue of including parts of Terai and Duars within the GTA’s territory) for the region as a whole and they even called a day-long strike just on the eve of the signing of the ‘historic’ accord and strove to create public opinion for the withdrawal of the agreement.

The common people of the hills were, however, non-enthusiastic and bewildered to some extent over such grave questions like how the new settlement is better qualified than the earlier experiments? Is it really a substitute for or a stepping stone towards the much awaited Gorkhaland? In order to arrive at a better under-standing the provisions of the treaty needs to be elaborated in some detail.

The case of the present GTA accord came up as a sequel in the long drawn urge of the Gorkhas to have autonomy and self-rule over the hilly tract of the district of Darjeeling, West Bengal. The craving for Gorkhaland is indeed a historic occurrence. The idea of a separate administrative arrangement for the Darjeeling hills was mooted during the early years of the twentieth century and then onwards the demand for segregation went on unabated. During the 1980s the movement for a separate State for the ethnic Gorkhas spear-headed by Subhas Ghising reached its zenith. The fierce battle for Gorkhaland continued roughly for two years resulting in the plundering of human life and livelihood besides destruction property and resources. Finally in 1988 the aggrieved Gorkhas were persuaded to accept a Hill Council. Soon after the setting up of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), the movement was temporarily stalemated. However, in the recent past the movement resurfaced with a new leader (Bimal Gurung) and a new political platform (GJM).

Gorkha Janmukti Morcha: A New Hope?

IT is rather pointless to debate over the issue as to whether July 18, 2011, the date when the new deal of the GTA was signed between the State Government and the GJM leadership in the presence of the Central Government represen-tatives, be treated as ‘historic day’ or considered as a day that recorded an ‘untenable political surrender’.

The issue is that the GJM became functional only in 2007, by capitalising on the Prashant Tamang phenomenon1 and soon emerged as the most powerful political platform in the hills. Initially the GJM developed more as an anti-Ghising and anti-DGHC forum and gradually worked out its own programmes of action which were, however, nothing new in their nature and form.

Bimal Gurung, the GJM chief now, was an erstwhile Councillor of the Ghising-led DGHC and was considered as one among the firebrand youth leaders of Ghising’s cohort. Perhaps the experience of his early political socialisation led Gurung to follow similar courses of action like those of his predecessor, namely, non-payment of taxes, elec-tricity bills, telephone bills, Gorkhaland instead of Government of West Bengal in the hoardings of all government offices, GL no. in vehicles instead of WB, restricting tea and timber movement outside the hills, etc.

What was new was perhaps a blend of Gandhigiri and non-violence on the surface with that of force, threat, and violence at the core. The movement this time remained more or less peaceful. However, cases of violence and of political murders2 did happen but not in a similar scale as in the decade of the 1980s. One striking point of the GJM-led movement is that the renewed call for Gorkhaland this time very consistently emphasised on the issue of inclusion of Duars and Terai regions within the proposed Gorkhaland territory. Besides the hills, the Terai and Duars region has been made the epicentre of the GJM-led Gorkhaland movement.

GTA: The Beginning of another New Arrangement

THE inclination towards attaining some kind of agreement with the government in the form of an interim set-up came into vogue during 2010. By September 2010, the GJM agreed to accept the interim set-up but with qualification. The GJM proposed the name of the new arrangement as the Gorkhaland Regional Authority (GRA) and moved further despite opposition registered by the CPRM and AIGL. The State Government, that time led by the CPI-M, had even finalised a draft proposal for the formation of what it thought as the appropriate Gorkhaland Autonomous Authority (GAA). It is remarkable to note that the GAA proposal had provisions for legislative power besides executive, administrative and, financial powers over 54 subjects/ departments/ offices to be handed over to the new body. It may be a matter of mere coincidence but it is a fact that the recent GTA arrangement has replaced on several points the text of the earlier GAA draft.

But a more serious issue is: why then did the GJM not finally accede to the earlier settlement and waited for the Assembly elections of 2011? Perhaps this happens in the case of a long drawn movement for self-rule, which always looks forward in a liberal democratic polity for securing the best deal out of a political bargain keeping pace with the upcoming political events. How-ever, it needs to be judged very carefully whether such gestures make the self-rule movement attain the status of mere self-management or not? In fact, a cursory look at some of the distinctive provisions of the agreement may help us understand the problem in a much more comprehensive manner.

The Composition of GTA

UNLIKE the erstwhile arrangement of the DGHC (which was formed under the State Act) or the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC was constituted under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution), it is proposed that the Gorkha-land Territorial Administration (GTA) would be formed through direct election subject to a Bill to be introduced in the State Legislative Assembly for this purpose. So far as the composition of the GTA is concerned, it is having far more numerical strength of the electoral members than the erstwhile DGHC or even the BTC. Apart from the fifty members (out of which fortyfive members would be elected and five would be nominated by the Governor), the GTA Sabha (Council) would be composed of seven ex-officio members (comprising of three Hill MLAs, three Hill Munici-pality Chairpersons, and the single Member of Parliament of the district). Besides the GTA Sabha, there would be an Executive Body having fourteen members (to be nominated by the Chief out of the fifty Sabha members) headed by the Chief Executive, a Deputy Chief (to be nominated by the Chief out of the fourteen members), a Principal Secretary (the Chief would select him/ her from a panel prepared by the State Government).

It needs to be stressed that there is no specific clause in the agreement on the mode of selection of the Chief Executive. One cannot be very sure, even after reading the accord’s clauses several times, as to how the Chief Executive would be appointed. Is the position an elected or a nominated one? Would he/she be the ex-officio head of the Executive body by dint of his/her capacity of being the Chairperson of the GTA Sabha (not to mention that this had been the arrangement the DGHC upheld)? Moreover, no specification regarding the policy of reservation (for the women, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, non-tribes, non-Gorkhas, religious minorities etc.) is there in the nine-page-long text of the accord itself.

The terms of office of the various elected members of the GTA, DGHC, and BTC are the same (five years in each case). Whereas the BTC accord besides having specified the reservation policy also made suitable arrangements for the safeguard of the interests of the non-tribals, the GTA, even after its due ratification by both the State Assembly (on Septmeber 2, 2011) and the President (on March 7, 2012), still maintains some of these rather grey areas.

Power and Functions of GTA

A cursory look at the provisions of the accord would help one to realise that both the GTA and DGHC are identical politico-administrative arrangements to execute power at the sub-State level. To return to the basic question whether the GTA or DGHC or any such arrangement is capable of reflecting the urge self-rule of the dissident group in any meaningful way, let us revise. Pared down, both were created on the pretext of a chaotic situation and as a strategic design to bring forth peace and normalcy in the troubled zone, albeit temporarily. Both the bodies are constituted as autonomous bodies although with no legislative powers. Pared down further, both the institutions emerged amidst the zigzags of political compromise and compulsion: compromise to the so-called claim of a separate State inter alia self-rule and the compulsion to remain as a legitimate organising body of the sub-State level federal administration.

As pointed out earlier, the GTA has not been assigned with any legislative power. The agree-ment, however, affirms in clear terms that the powers to frame rules/regulations, under the State Acts, to control, regulate and administer the fifty-nine departments/offices and subjects transferred to the new body will be conferred upon the new body. The administrative, executive and financial powers in respect to the transferred subjects will be vested in such a manner that the GTA may function in an autonomous way. Compared to this, the DGHC was having only executive power (subject to the provisions of Central and State laws) over such subjects transferred to it. Besides having control over such important departments like education, agriculture, cottage and small scale industries, rural development and Touzi (which deals with land records of the tea gardens) as well as control over all unreserved forests in the region, the GTA will also have the power to create government jobs in the B, C and D categories.

It deserves mention that the General Council of the DGHC was also having the power to appoint (with the prior approval of the State Government) officers and other employees as may be necessary for the due discharge of functions of the Council. Armed with such a clause, the Chairman of the DGHC had appointed thousands of casual employees more as a measure to quell the mass animosity towards the Council itself. This section of the casual workers finds a place in the new arrangement too, wherein it has been maintained that the GTA would not go for outright absorption of the huge number3 of ad hoc, casual, daily-wage workers of the DGHC since it would go against the current position enunciated by the Supreme Court. However, the matter of regularising those employees who have ten years continuous work experience would be guided by the Finance Department order of April 23, 2010. Those outside this ambit would be extended an enhancement in wages to a minimum of Rs 5000 per month. As and when they would complete ten years of continuous service, they will be eligible for the full employment benefit. In essence what stands out is the fact that while the accord incorporated in it some juridically framed arrangements for promoting restricted power over the issue of recruitment, in effect it has the propensity to encourage the politics of recruitment to be accrued from the provision(s) of the accord itself.

Objectives of GTA

THE GJM, while not dropping its demand for a separate State of Gorkhaland, has agreed to the setting up of an ‘autonomous body’ (empowered with administrative, financial and executive powers) for the overall development and restoration of peace and normalcy in the region. It is worth noting that both the State and Central governments kept it on record that the GJM’s aspiration for a separate State remains unabated even though a temporary truce has been reached; whereas the earlier DGHC agreement categorically maintained in the very first sentence that ‘the GNLF has agreed to drop the demand for a separate State of Gorkha-land’. This is indeed a very significant departure in the way proposals of conflict containment were finalised in contemporary India. While in the case of the DGHC agreement the state appeared to be overpowering, in the case of the recent GTA accord the contending parties seem to have more teeth than earlier. This does not, however, mean that the significance of the state has been diminished in a significant manner.

In fact, there is hardly any deviation in the approach of the state regarding the settlement of problems like that of the Darjeeling hills. Whether it is Gorkhaland, Bodoland or Telengana, the state looks into the problem more as an issue of law and order and the consequence of uneven development, or the lack of development. Such crucial issues like culture, self-respect, or self-rule are all clubbed together and considered as significant only when they are pitted against the discourse of develop-ment. This becomes crystal clear when one considers the way the objectives of the peace agreements are framed. For example, the major objective of the GTA, as the agreement upholds, is to establish ethnic identity of the Gorkhas by expediting allround (socio-economic, infrastructural, educational, cultural, and linguistic) development of the people in the region. While comparing the situation with the DGHC we find that the major objective of the DGHC agreement was to guarantee the social, economic, educational and cultural advancement of the people residing in the hill areas of Darjeeling district. To no one’s surprise similar is the case with the BTC accord, whose objective was to fulfil economic, educational and linguistic aspirations and the preservation of land-rights, socio-cultural and ethnic identities of the Bodos; speed up the infrastructure development in the area through the creation of an autonomous self-governing body under the Sixth Schedule.

In fine, the issue of conflict containment and its empirical reference in present-day India have in fact equated the politics of peace with the politics of development. There is a general apprehension that development per se is the major problem that needs to be addressed in any discussion on ethnicity, despite the fact that such arguments appear to be paradoxical in the real sense of the term. That is because development has not only been treated, by such an approach, as the major stakeholder in the augmentation of ethnic conflict and movement but at the same time it is also considered to be the panacea which would surely mitigate the problem that the lack of it has instigated. The latest instance of the GTA in the case of the Darjeeling hills or for that matter the Srikrishna Commission Report in the context of Telegana are cases in point. Besides analysing some of the provisions of the GTA agreement let us now deal with the major potentially contentious issues incorporated in the agreement itself.

Provisions for Touzi Department in the New Arrangement

ONE such major issue is that of the Touzi Department which, according to the terms of the agreement, was handed over to the GTA. There is much hype surrounding the issue.4 Those acclaiming it do treat it as a significant departure since it was not there in the DGHC, or even in the earlier draft proposal of the GAA. The Touzi Department is somewhat unique in the sense that it had been created by the colonial rulers primarily to look after the interests of the European planters, which was done by setting apart the tea plantations from the agricultural sector and thereby from the jurisdiction of the land revenue administration too. This possibly explains why the Touzi Department is having its existence till today only in the two tea producing districts of the State, namely, Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling.

It is interesting to note that the Touzi Department did maintain the same colonial structure in those two districts even after the promulgation of the West Bengal Estate Acquisition Act (WBEAA), 1953 and West Bengal Land Reforms Act (WBLRA), 1955. Till today the Department enjoys its autonomous existence from the jurisdiction of the Land and Land Revenue Department and is headed by the District Collectorate. Effectively there has been none in between the tea gardens and the government, except the single-layered bureaucratic frame headed by the District Collectorate.

Under these circumstances handing over of the responsibility of the Touzi Department to the GTA, without specifying the role of the District Collectorate, could possibly lead towards procedural complexities and create hurdles in the management of the tea gardens as the resources of the State. The significance of Touzi Department in matters of regulating issues like tea plantation land, particularly in the district of Darjeeling, can be ascertained from the following Table.
Information on Land of Tea Gardens(in acres) in Darjeeling District
Total no of Tea Gardens144
Retained Area141056.02
Area Under Tea74843.82
Area Under Housing, etc.12499.98
Unused Area16308.93
Area under Forest17217.27
Doubtful Area20186.02
Source: (Retrieved on 6.8.2011)
The Touzi section deals with land matters of the tea gardens involving issues like lease of the tea garden land, renewal of the lease of the tea garden, collection of land revenue and Cess/ Salami/ Penalty/ fine etc. The Touzi Department also deals with giving NOC for development purpose, permission for uprooting and replanting/ felling of shed trees. The Department is also held responsible for the resumption5 of the retained land of the tea garden. The tea garden lands are guided by the Estate Acquisition Rules 1954 and Section 4 of the WBEAA and under Sub-Section (3) of Section 6 of the WBEAA along with Form-I Schedule F of the Lease Deed Agreement (all the terms and conditions for tea garden land were prescribed in the Lease Deed Agreement). The fixation of rent of the tea garden is done under Section 42(2) of the WBEAA.
Status of Lease of Tea Gardens in Darjeeling Hills
Status of Tea GardensNumber
Lease Renewed34
Lease not yet Expired10
Lease Expired59
Total strength of tea gardens in the three hill subdivisions103
Source: Data collected during fieldwork (June 2011) from the office records of the District Collectorate, Darjeeling
Amongst the total 144 tea gardens 103 gardens are located in the three hill subdivisions of the district (Darjeeling 56, Kurseong 41, and Kalimpong six) covering an area of 41,837.36 acres (out of the total area of 97,731.33 acres comprising the three hill subdivisions) generating a sum of Rs 37,68,082 as land revenue and cess. These figures amply indicate why the Touzi Department can still be considered as very significant in the so-called tea economy of the region itself. All these also help us understand the concern of the GJM to have the responsibilities of the Touzi Department handed over to the GTA.
However, it needs to be remembered that the tea garden land is guided by the WBEAA 1953 along with Form-I, Schedule-F, of the Lease Deed Agreement. Under the Act, the Collector is empowered by the government to deal with the land matters of the tea gardens except the sanction of the renewal cases. As the GTA has no power to function as the collectorate, it would be difficult to look into the land matters of the tea gardens of the hills. Moreover in spheres like resumption of land, the authority of the State Government stands binding. Conspicuously, the text of the GTA agreement fails to draw attention to these rather inescapable administrative stipulations involved in the functioning of the Touzi Department. As it stands today, the Touzi Department runs on the dictates of the State Government in general, and the Collectorate in particular. Hence, the mere transfer of the Touzi Department would hardly yield anything unless the intricacies of its functioning vis-├ávis the authority of the GTA in the same is spelled out in some definitive terms. All these led the tea planters to have second thoughts over the issue of transferring Touzi to the new body. Newspaper reports also reveal that Morcha leaders recently started alleging that the tea planters were playing the game of ‘double standard’.
Provisions for Panchayati Raj Institutions in GTA
EVEN though the agreement handed over the Department of Panchayats and Rural Development, including DRDA, to the GTA, the GJM leadership is yet to be free from the anxiety as to how it would function. Referring back to the earlier DGHC Act of 1988 one may recall that the said Act mentioned in clear terms that “there will be no Zilla Parishad in the district of Darjeeling. The Hill Council will be a substitute for the Zilla Parishad in the hill areas, the existing HADC and the District Planning and Coordinating Council.” And for the plains areas of the district there shall be the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad as a substitute for the Zilla Parishad. According to the provisions of DGHC Act, the Darjeeling hills have enjoyed the atypical two-tier system of local governance; that too was opposed by Ghising and it ultimately ceased to exist from 2006. Currently in West Bengal there are 17 Zilla Parishads, 333 Panchayat Samitis and 3354 Gram Panchayats. In Darjeeling district, local governance comprises of Gram Panchayats and Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) in the hill Sub-Divisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong and of Gram Panchayat, Panchayat Samiti and Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad in Siliguri Sub-Division. In the hill Sub-Divisions of Darjeeling district there are no Panchayat Samitis for the eight blocks. Hence, in West Bengal there are 341 blocks but 333 Panchayat Samitis. (Government of West Bengal 2007: 9)
It is crucial to note that while the entire country has been enjoying the benefits of the 73rd Constitution Amendment Act, particularly in terms of participation of the common masses in matters of grassroot level governance, the people of Darjeeling hills hardly had that scope. This was thanks to the Gorkhaland movement, which aimed at achieving self-rule at the cost rendering injustice to the common people and denied them the minimum opportunity to take part in the process of governance with whatever capacity they possess. As a matter of fact, the 73rd Amendment Act 1993, which emphasised empowerment of people at the grassroot level not only in the manner of exercising political rights but also to have a share in the process of governance, debarred the Darjeeling hills from enjoying these rights which are being practised in other parts of this country successfully. The 73rd Amendment Act promulgated a three-tier system of Panchayat in the entire country with the apex body at the district level. Since the Darjeeling hills have been divided into the DGHC and Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad, it is not possible to hold three-tier Panchayati Raj elections here. However, the single-tier system, which was in force since the last five years, now stands as a totally defunct body due to political reasons.
What stands out is again the crucial question of amendment. Because it is not feasible as per the strictures of the three-tier structure of the Panchyati Raj that a district would have two Zila Parishads. If we are to treat the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad as a substitute to the Zilla Parishad, then setting up another Zilla Parishad for the hills would amount to contravention of law. Perhaps this led the government in terms of thinking of redrawing the administrative boundaries of the districts and also the GJM leadership to become vocal over the issue of bifurcating the Darjeeling district into two parts, besides constantly reminding the general masses that the issue of including the provisions for the three-tier Panchayati Raj structure in the new agreement is indeed a significant achievement.
The Idea of Development and GTA
AS pointed out earlier, the major objective of the GTA, as the agreement maintains, is to establish the ethnic identity of Gorkhas by expediting all-round (socio-economic, infrastructural, educational, cultural, and linguistic) development of the people in the region. Hence an ‘autonomous body’ (empowered with administrative, financial and executive powers) is prescribed for the overall development and restoration of peace and normalcy in the region. It is crucial to note that the idea of development envisaged by the autonomous councils is equated with a process that would result in greater material production but seldom as a process of change that will lead to greater self-sufficiency.
In fact, within this borrowed idea of development in which there is hardly any scope either to ensure the involvement of the locals or to make the development agenda intertwined with local resources and local requirements one could hardly expect that the Council model of development could serve the interests of the community and thereby pave the way for inclusion in the larger society. In the absence of any self-reliant mode of development, the autonomous councils generally become a burden on the national and State budgets, and emerge as agencies which remain increasingly dependent on imported inputs. The experience of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) and the earlier DGHC are pointers in this regard. There is thus considerable doubt whether the present GTA arrangement would be able to prove itself as an exception on this score.
The way development has been worked out in Darjeeling hills deserves further comments. After independence Darjeeling’s development no longer remained the “white man’s burden”. However, this did not help the region to experience anything other than the same mode of ‘civilisational’ developmentality. The neo- Benthamites of independent India are keen to offer ‘greatest good’ for the ‘greatest number’ by following the same top-down approach in which the same steel frame of bureaucracy is entrusted with the responsibility to formulate and execute policies to ‘develop’ and ‘uplift’ those who lagged behind according to a hard scientific socio-economic scale. In short, India’s independence has failed to usher in any significant paradigm shift in the praxis of development.
Economic development in the Darjeeling hills has therefore been unplanned, uneven and skewed, producing sharp cleavages between the richer and poorer and the rural and urban sections of the community. (Chakrabarty 1997:30) The development package outlined in the GTA arrangement would lead even a casual observer to conclude that the current fashion of development (under the terms of the GTA agreement) puts heavy emphasis on urban development in general and tourism in particular, while the concern of the village and the real issues of development of the rural population hardly get a proper place in the various (proposed) development schemes. In the urban-centric model of development the stagnation of the village economy and impoverishment of the rural poor are not addressed properly.
It is well known that the self sufficiency of the hill economy largely depends upon its rural economy that helps restore the social, economic and ecological equilibrium of the hill social formation as a whole. The significance of the development strategy, particularly in the ecologically vulnerable zones like that of the Darjeeling hills, should be assessed in welfare terms rather than in productivity terms. This, however, is missing in the current fashion of development as worked out in the GTA accord. In short, the GTA mode of development strategy could hardly enable the hills and her people to build up capacities that could help them attain liberation from the ‘increased dependency’6 trap, which is, however, commonly attributable for the entire subcontinent.
In Conclusion
IN fact, the experience of autonomous council model of governance, operationalised through institutions such as the DGHC, BTC, LAHDC or others, fail to address the problem the communities of those areas raised. Moreover, these autonomous councils reinforced the problematique inherent in the liberal democratic state structure. The formula of regional autonomy and its institutionalisation hardly offer any fundamental shift in the ways through which the fragmentary logic of representation of the communities was made, the state-centric governance of the modern nation-state structure worked out, and the strategy of development grafted.
While commenting on the state of affairs of the regional autonomous councils in India, based on a detailed study of the Ladakh Autonomous Council, Beek maintains that “autonomous councils are no panacea for the ailing of the national/ developmentalist state, nor do such institutional arrangements address the causes that gave rise to regional disgruntlement”. (Beek 1999: 452) A far more pessimistic diagnosis has been provided by Bethany Lacina (2009) who equated the functioning of autonomous councils in the local context as local autocracies and argued that these localised autocracies limit peaceful political competition. In the absence of institutionalised and rule-based means of politics, changes is the local distribution of power lead to violence by the challengers looking to seize control of resources or leaders seeking to reconsolidate their dominance. Lacina is of the opinion that much like the North-East, contemporary Darjeeling powerfully demonstrates these dynamics.
The issue is that the efficacy of the GTA as a conflict containment strategy has to be assessed in the backdrop of such a reading that we attempted to elaborate so far. Needless to mention that the entire idea of autonomous council (be it the erstwhile DGHC or the present GTA) in the case of the Darjeeling hills can hardly dismantle the claim for a separate State. But it could play the role of an effective administrative structure that comes up more as a dual strategy of ‘democratic exclusion’ and ‘control’. This could hardly resolve the aspiration for self-rule merely by advocating that the new arrangement would secure overall development for the region by situating the council to work at the level of the community.
However, the experience of the autonomous council and the praxis of development worked out through such a sub-State level administrative arrangement in the Darjeeling hills as also in other places largely suggests that they had been a very poor substitute for a machinery of inclusion. In the liberal democratic body like that of ours, one can hardly expect an inclusive arrangement (to be mediated through the autonomous councils) by which the Gorkhas could feel at home. Perhaps that is why the Gorkha urge for self-rule remained unabated even after the implementation of autonomous council(s) in the region. The capacity of the GTA to ameliorate the situation in the hills is stymied with its innate complexities and contradictions.
1. In September 2007 Prashant Tamang of Darjeeling won Indian Idol, a popular TV show much similar to its American or UK counterparts. Tamang’s musical success has brought once again the political awakening of the Nepali speaking population of Darjeeling into limelight. The multi-racial Nepali community has united like never before not only in Darjeeling but elsewhere too. Bimal Gurung at this period of time used his position as the Chief Advisor to the Prashant Tamang Fan Club to garner support for the prospective Indian Idol by organising the numerous fan clubs that sprang up overnight in the Darjeeling hills and Sikkim. It is interesting to note that just after two weeks of Tamang’s victory, Bimal Gurung formed the GJM in October 2007 and spearheaded the renewed political activism favouring the cause of Gorkhaland.
2. Among the political murders that took place during this renewed stir of the Gorkha agitation the AIGL chief Madan Tamang’s murder has been significant. The brutal daylight killing of Madan Tamang in May 2010 created political havoc in Darjeeling hills for some time. The GJM has been charged with such pernicious courses of action and eight GJM men were put behind bars. The Tamang murder case was handed over to the CBI following the direction of Calcutta High Court, although the decision is still pending.
3. Although the GTA accord did not mention the actual figure of these casual workers created during the DGHC regime, newspaper estimates reveal that the figure is roughly around six thousand.
4. The Darjeeling Tea Association initially felt that the transferring of the Touzi to the new body would solve lots of problems. (Bengal Post, 23.6.2011)
5. The proposal for resumption of land is placed before the District Land Advisory Committee after getting the NOC from the tea garden management/ application from the concerned applicant and report from the Block Land and Land Reforms Officer concerned. Thereafter, the proposal will be forwarded to the government through the Divisional Commissioner, Jalpaiguri for resumption of the land from the tea garden to the government Khatian. The settlement proposal of the said land will be finally initiated by the District Land and Land Reforms Officer.
6. While commenting on the paradoxical nature of mountain development, Sankrityayana (1997: 127) located the existence of what he termed as ‘increased-dependency trap’ in the case of the Darjeeling hills, which pitches the human resource component of the resource-system in such a way that development can only take place by increasing its dependence on the critical natural resource component.
Beek, Martin van, 1999, “Hill Councils, Development, and Democracy: Assumptions and Experiences from Ladakh”, Alternatives, 24(4): 435-460.
Chakrabarty, Debabrata, “Community Development Alternatives to the Rural Crisis: A Study in Three Tea - Villages of Darjeeling”, Himalayan Paryavaran, Vol. 5, pp. 28-36, 1997.
Government of West Bengal, Strategy and Action Plan for Capacity Building of Panchayats and Municipalities in 11 Districts of West Bengal under Backward Regions Grant Fund, 2006-07, Panchayats and Rural Development Department, 2007.
Lacina, Bethany, ‘The Problem of Political Stability in North East India’, Asian Survey, Vol. 49, No. 6, pp. 998-1020, 2009.
Sankrityayana, Jeta, “Land-use and Forests: The Mountain Development Paradox in Darjeeling”, Himalayan Paryavaran, Vol. 5, pp. 121-29, 1997.
Dr Swatahsiddha Sarkar is an Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, University of North Bengal, Darjeeling (West Bengal). He can be contacted ate-mail: