Push for normality in hills

The Telegraph

KINSUK BASU

Calcutta, Aug. 7: Bengal home secretary Basudeb Banerjee is scheduled to visit the headquarters of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration tomorrow to restart work at government offices in what is being described as a “symbolic step” in the strike-crippled hills.

Sources said resumption of work at the GTA’s Lal Kothi headquarters would pack a strong message. “Throwing open the doors of the GTA headquarters would be a symbolic step that would underline the presence of the government in the hills,” said a senior home department official.

Only GTA principal secretary R.D. Meena has been attending office since the protests for a Gorkhaland state began last week, the sources said. Most government offices have been deserted.

“It would also send a message that the government is in no mood for any negotiation unless the strike is withdrawn,” the official said.

Banerjee, the highest ranking state official to visit the hills since the statehood protests resumed, is scheduled to meet hoteliers and transport operators who have been counting losses as a result of the indefinite strike that began from Saturday.

Calcutta High Court today said the state had “failed to maintain normality” in Darjeeling and directed the government to ensure peace. ( )

Aware that tough administrative action could trigger a backlash, the state government is taking steps to secure key officials and properties.

In a situation report sent to the government today, Banerjee said SDOs and BDOs from the three sub-divisions — Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong — should be provided with personal security so they can attend office.

The report sought immediate despatch of at least 500 civic volunteers. Banerjee has also asked for two water cannons.

“To avoid any situation that might provoke police to open fire, we are sending water cannons as demanded by the home secretary,” a home department official said.

A source at Writers’ said the home secretary was in the hills as part of a plan drawn up after chief minister Mamata Banerjee met senior state officials last week.

“At a meeting with the chief secretary, home secretary and the director-general of police… the chief minister said the unrest would have to be tackled through an administrative decision,” the source said.

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