Morcha adds to Aila aid list – Home secretary in hills to review relief, restoration

The Telegraph

Darjeeling, Aug. 26: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today made the state government add more than 1,400 damaged houses to the list prepared by the Darjeeling district administration for compensation in the wake of the havoc caused by Cyclone Aila in May.

Morcha leaders submitted the list to state home secretary Ardhendu Sen, who held a meeting with district officials on post-Aila reconstruction work, along with relief secretary M.L. Meena.

Political observers said the home secretary agreed to lengthen the list of damaged houses keeping in mind the next round of talks to be held here in December on the statehood demand of the Morcha.

The Morcha leadership had asked the home secretary to send a team to verify its claim on the damaged houses. However, Sen ruled out the need for clarification, indicating that there was no room for bargaining or controversies and a congenial atmosphere was maintained.

The Morcha leaders had returned from the third round of talks in Delhi on August 11 with the state and central governments proposing to scrap the DGHC Act and abandoning the Sixth Schedule bill, looking for an “alternative arrangement” instead.

Amar Lama, a central committee member of the Morcha, said: “Using our own resources, we had found out that the district administration had left out 1,496 houses from the list it had compiled. The names of these victims could not be included, as the report had already been sent to the state government. The home secretary has agreed to add the new names.”

These houses are scattered across the three hill subdivisions of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong.

Soon after the cyclone, the district administration had worked out a report, which said Rs 345 crore would be needed to carry out the restoration in the hills.

Asim Dasgupta, state finance minister, during his visit to Darjeeling in June had said the government had found out that 4,500 houses had been fully damaged and 12,000 partially.

“The home secretary has agreed to provide a compensation to the houses we added to the list at the rate of Rs 5,000 for partially damaged ones and Rs 25,000 to those which have been fully damaged,” said Lama. According to the Morcha’s new list, 309 houses have been completely damaged by the cyclone-triggered landslides.

Sen said he was “satisfied” with the progress of the restoration work. “Temporary restoration is likely to be completed by the end of September. The government has already provided Rs 55 crore. More funds will be sanctioned soon,” said Sen.

During his stay in the Darjeeling hills, Sen will also review the utilisation of funds by the DGHC and the law and order. However, Sen’s priority is to oversee relief and rehabilitation work.

Representatives of the tea industry also met Sen here today. “We told him that 35 roads in various tea gardens have been affected badly and he has promised to look into the matter,” said Sandeep Mukherjee, the secretary of Darjeeling Tea Association.

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