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12 Aug 2017

Morcha faces strike posers from residents - 'Where is the solution?'

A Morcha meeting in Darjeeling on Friday. Picture by Passang Yolmo
TT, Siliguri, Aug. 11: The statement issued by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha yesterday has prised open a set of uncomfortable questions for the party at a time a section of the hill residents has started talking about the purpose of the strike in the absence of any clear-cut roadmap.
Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri had yesterday issued a three-page statement, mentioning a series of problems that had cropped up because of the strike and the governments' alleged indifference to them.
"... the tea pluckers giving the world's best tea and the growers in villages producing international acclaimed fruits and flowers are in a state of starvation....," read a portion of the statement.
But while the Morcha leadership wanted to use the statement to express concern over the hurdles people are facing and the economic impact in the hills, the tea industry has turned the tables on the party.
"If the party can realise the plight of tea workers and minor horticulturists, why are the leaders sitting idle and letting things go beyond control? There is a vast difference in their statements and decisions. On one hand, they are lamenting the conditions of tea workers, on the other, they have closed down the Darjeeling tea industry during the peak season," said a senior executive of a tea company in Calcutta that owns estates in the hills.
The statement by the Morcha also mentions the problems faced by students because of the ban on Internet services. The Darjeeling district magistrate today extended the ban till August 25 to prevent "incitement of violence".
"They appear concerned about the education sector and the future of students who had to face inconveniences for registration and admission in colleges. But so far, we have never heard that the issue was raised at any of the meetings of the party or that of the Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee. Schools are now holding classes in the plains and at rented places in the hills. But where is the solution?" asked a teacher of an ICSE-affiliated school in Kurseong.
A section of the residents also pointed out that the party had done nothing to ensure trucks ferrying foodgrain reached the hills without being attacked.
Following a few incidents of arson and attacks on vehicles ferrying supplies, drivers from the plains had refused to ascend to the hills, prompting the government to say that despite having stocks in Siliguri, foodgrain could not be sent.
"At this point, the Morcha did nothing to assure the drivers that they would not be attacked. The party also did not ask the ration shop owners to open their outlets so that people can get foodgrain. Food crisis is one of the key problems now," said the owner of a grocery shop in Darjeeling.
Political analysts said the questions would add to the pressure of the Morcha, which is desperately trying to give some headway to the agitation in the absence of any response from the Centre.
"On one hand, there hasn't been any progress that the party can flag as a success in the way of achieving the demand of statehood. On the other hand, people are getting impatient in the hills and want answers from these parties. Almost two months have passed and it is obvious that resentment has set in among the people," an observer said.

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