Darjeeling: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee blamed neighbouring Sikkim along with certain foreign powers for stoking unrest in the Hills.
She further clarified that as the state government did not want to interfere in the functioning of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, GJM leaders like Binay Tamang had been nominated to run it.
Addressing a gathering on the occasion of the prize distribution ceremony of the Himal- Terai- Dooars sports festival, the CM stated "There are many powers that want unrest in Darjeeling. If there is unrest in Darjeeling, Sikkim stands to gain. All the tourists are diverted from Darjeeling to Sikkim. We do not want unrest in Sikkim. Many countries do not want peace and stability in Darjeeling. They spend money to create disturbances here."
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee added that by creating disturbances some people and forces stood to gain. "Henceforth Darjeeling cannot be bought over with money, Darjeeling can only be won over with a heart" declared Banerjee.
Putting allegations of undue interference in administrative matters of the Hills by the state government to rest, Banerjee claimed "I come here often, but I come here to give and not to take away. The MLAs are yours, the MP is from BJP backed by you. We do not want to interfere with Darjeeling thus the GTA was created by the state and the union government. After the GTA members resigned we could have run the GTA with state government officials, but we preferred to appoint GJM leaders like Binay Tamang to run it. The state government is just helping them run it. We just provide the funds. Darjeeling is yours and you all have to look after it for your future generations."
She stated that the bandhs and agitations had thrown hill life out of gear and it is the people of the Hills who had borne the brunt.
"If Darjeeling closes tourists will not come. How will businesses and shops survive? The whole economy will crash. The game of bandh needs to stop" stated the Chief Minister.
Incidentally, the Chief Minister arrived in Darjeeling on Tuesday after a gap of nearly 8 months. "There is ample scope for industries in Darjeeling. The Hills can be developed as an industrial hub. tourism, IT industries can thrive here. Employment will be generated benefitting the youth. We will speak to industrialists to invest in the Hills. However, the industrialists are sceptical. They feel that there will be future unrest thereby jeopardizing their investments" claimed Banerjee.
She urged the youth to come forward and send out the message that they want rice and not bullets.
The CM assured of a meeting with captains of industry in the Hills in March or April. "You do not have to send repeated requests to the Centre for a university. The state government will start a new university in the Hills" assured the CM.
Binay Tamang, Chairman, Board of Administrators, GTA in his address stated: "Let us show political maturity. We have to halt political unrest and work for development in the Hills."
The families of 5 persons who lost their lives in the recent uprising (out of the 9) received ex gratia of Rs. 2 lakhs each from the CM on Wednesday.