Rs 198cr to GTA for rural power – Central funds flow, hill body to develop Tiger Hill

The Telegraph

VIVEK CHHETRI

Ramesh Alley

Darjeeling, Oct. 30: The Centre has sanctioned Rs 198.98 crore to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration for rural electrification in over 50,000 homes in the hills.

Sources said the GTA had approached the Centre in February this year seeking Rs 200 crore.

The fund, given under the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana, has come days after the GTA started functioning normally after several months of strikes.

Recently, the hill body received a letter from Jyotiraditya Scindia, the Union minister of state for power with independent charge, stating that out of the Rs 200 crore, Rs 198.98 crore had been sanctioned.

Sources in the GTA said the money would be routed through the state government.

“We will start the process of rural electrification from next week,” said R.D. Meena, the principal secretary of GTA.

Sonam Bhutia, the executive director, GTA (power), said: “Through this project 50,746 households would get electricity across the hills. Out of these, 24,423 beneficiaries are below the poverty line.”

Recently, the GTA released Rs 2.10 crore for repairing the Tiger Hill road and creating infrastructure for setting up a nine-hole golf course at the tourist spot.

The fund was sanctioned by the state tourism department.

“The golf course will be set up on a private-public partnership model,” said Lt. Col (retd) Ramesh Allay, the acting chief executive of the GTA.

It would be spread over 31.85 acres and would need approximately Rs 46 crore.

The golf course in Darjeeling was built around 1900 and in 1907, the then district commissioner had leased it out for 99 years. After the British left the country in 1947, Golf Links, the company it was leased out to, became virtually defunct.

The army used the turf till the late 1980s but left after that as documents showed the land belonged to the Darjeeling Improvement Fund (district administration), which has now been transferred to the GTA.

Water and tourism

The West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL), which looks after the Ramman Hydel Project, handed over Rs 75 lakh to the GTA on Wednesday for drinking water projects and tourism infrastructure in the region.

S. Roy, chief engineer of the 51MW project, said: “This is the first phase amount being handed over to the GTA. Once they (the GTA) provide us with the fund utilisation report, we will sanction the remaining amount in phases.”

Sonam Bhutia, executive director, GTA (power) said the WBSEDCL promised to provide Rs 3 crore to the hill body for developing a trek route to Tiger Hill and setting up tourist huts and watchtowers.

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