March 29: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today said it was “happy” at the outcome of the official-level tripartite meeting held in Delhi to sort out areas of “agreement and disagreement” before the next round of political talks to be held in mid-May.
“Many of our demands have been agreed upon and this is something positive, we are happy,” said Morcha central committee member Amar Lama, who was present at the meeting with five other hill party members. “The officials have said many issues raised by us could be accepted.” Lama, however, did not elaborate on what had been agreed upon.
Today’s talks were held so that only those points on which there was no agreement could be discussed at the next political-level meet. “The idea is to make the process simpler for the political-level talks,” a home ministry official said, adding: “Another round of official-level talks will be held in April for the same purpose. We hope to finalise the points of agreement and disagreement in that meeting. They will then be put up at the political-level talks.”
However, the territory that will come up under the jurisdiction of the proposed interim set-up continued to be a source of “major disagreement” with the Morcha insisting on the inclusion of the Dooars and the Terai and the state and the central governments refusing to concede ground. “Officials of both the state and the Centre told us that the territory issue has to be thrashed out at the political-level talks,” said Lama. “Neither side conceded an inch.” Morcha representatives submitted a detailed mouza-wise plan of the area it wants to be incorporated from the Dooars and the Terai in the interim settlement. The deadlock over territory notwithstanding, Bengal and central government officials also described today’s talks as “good and cordial”.
The Morcha also placed some additional demands at the talks table. These included regularisation of all temporary workers of the DGHC, realignment of the East-West corridor through those areas in the Dooars that the hill party wants included in the interim set-up, setting up of an Institute for Development of Nepali Language, and inclusion of tea and cinchona in the list of subjects to be transferred to the interim set-up. The party also demanded that Scheduled Castes should not be converted into Scheduled Tribes, an amendement of its earlier proposal where it wanted ST status for all hill communities.
In all the Morcha has demanded legislative control over 124 subjects compared to the 102 subjects it had mentioned in the earlier proposal.
Today’s talks were attended by senior home ministry officials including Union home secretary G.K. Pillai, special secretary Anita Choudhary (centre-state), joint secretary Nirmaljit Singh Kalsi and Bengal home secretary Ardhendu Sen.
Today was the fifth round of bureaucratic level tripartite talks.“Hopefully, the April meeting will be the last round of bureaucratic-level talks between the three sides and a decision on the interim set-up can be reached in the next two political level talks,” said the home ministry official.