West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee here today said that an industry meet will be held in Darjeeling next month to boost economic activity in the hills. She also urged all the parties to rise above political differences in the interest of the region’s all-round development. The chief minister said the industry meet would focus on setting up an IT hub in the Darjeeling Hills, apart from inviting investments in tourism, horticulture, food processing and hotels. “I appeal to all political parties to work together for the development of Darjeeling while maintaining your individual political ideology,” she said in her first visit to the hills after an unrest over statehood demand, which closed down Darjeeling for over 100 days since June last year.
The youth of Darjeeling need to be given training in skill development, which will be helpful in employment generation, Banerjee told reporters after a meeting with the Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA). Describing the meeting as “very fruitful”, she said development works in the hills, which had been stalled owing to the agitation, have resumed. “What has happened has happened, let us work for the future,” the CM said. The Bimal Gurung-led Gorkha Janmukti Morcha had resorted to a 104-day bandh in Darjeeling. The agitation, during its long course, had often turned violent and even saw the deployment of Army and paramilitary forces to restore order.
The latest round of unrest in the hills, which had seen bouts of agitation since 1986 over statehood demands, began on June 8, 2017, when Banerjee was holding a Cabinet meeting at the Raj Bhawan premises here. Gurung has been on the backfoot after the GTA slipped out of his hands with a new set of leadership led by Binay Tamang and Anit Thapa taking over the caretaker administration of GTA, with the backing of the state government. Banerjee said the process of giving patta (lease) to landless farmers, and appointment of teachers that had been stalled due to the agitation, would be restarted in a gradual manner.
Stating that teachers would be given their due salaries, she urged them to take extra classes as educational institutions had been closed for two-three months. Banerjee said the process of identifying land for setting up a university in Darjeeling would also be initiated to fulfill a long-standing demand of the people. The chief minister added that a meeting of all the boards of the hills, including the GTA, will be held in May at Kalimpong, where people from nearby villages will also be invited.