Gorkha Land: Realisable?
Gorkha Land or Gorkhaland demand of people of Darjeeling hills has been raising for many decades now. Interim period also saw an autonomous Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) coming in to existence. But the autonomy was only for some departments from the mother state of West Bengal. Unfortunately bad governance, even in those Departments by the DGHC alienated the public at large, for not meeting the aspirations of the people whose near and dear ones gave lives for this cause.
Why the demand for a separate state is not the scope of this discussion. Genuineness of the demand has already been established. I shall, therefore, like to focus whether the demand of Gorkha Land is achievable or not and do we need to take a mid-course correction, if essential? Because it is not the means but the end result which matters.
We must think what will be the territory that will encompass the new state, should the demand of the Gorkhaland be accepted. I am sure all readers will agree that a state can not be viable if it is carved out of only three sub-division of Darjeeling district namely Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong (Siliguri being Bengali dominated and opposed to Gorkhaland. There was a time when Siliguri had Gorkha majority). To be economically prosperous the state must offer place for industrial development and free trade within the state. If only three sub-divisions as mentioned above will be the new state it is doomed even before it comes to an existence because of its geographical configuration. A state must offer mix of hills and plains where possible and rail-head for its commercial activities to be competitive. It is therefore essential that adjoining areas of Darjeeling district are integrated wit the new state. The problem is compounded because the adjoining areas are not all Gorkhas as in the hills and they have their own identity which they will like to maintain, obviously. It is heartening that people are thinking on this point. But the people of plains are opposed to the Gorkhaland state.
Therefore it is time to rethink the whole strategy by the leaders heading the agitation now to achieve Gorkhaland, and that is mainly the leaders of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. In my opinion there are two main points for mid-course correction.
What is in the Name? By calling Gorkhaland, you have already alienated the people other than Gorkhas. It sounds very parochial. The state is not meant only for one cast or community. India is a secular country and therefore it must reflect in the name of the states of this Union. The name should be such that it suggests whole-hearted welcome to all, be from within or outside the state.
Another point for consideration is that state can not be a reality unless it is accepted by the Centre (the mother state’s consent is not essential under the Indian Constitution), whichever be the party or coalition in power. Please now try to understand the psychology of these parties. They are all mainly dominated by the parties which are mainly Hindi speaking. In that case it would become even more difficult to make them to accede to the demand for the Gorkhaland. History is always a good teacher and look at the names of the states which have been carved out after independence. To mention few like Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Uttaranchal/ Uttarakhand, Chhaatisgarh, Jharkhand etc. and some which are demanding a separate state are Telangana, Bundelkhand, Harit Pradesh etc. etc.. So what needs to be considered is that take all people together, have the political parties in your side and do not show very narrow approach to statehood.
My suggestion would be to call this Parvat Pradesh/ Parvatanchal/ Suryanchal/ or some other name on the famous river like Balson or Sanchal or any such name. There is no dearth of intelligentsia to suggest a suitable name for the state. A small consideration may be kept in mind that the first letter of the state is in the beginning of the alphabet then it will give advantage in the placement of the states in various national events. (That is just for consideration)
State or Union Territory? Please consider demand for the Union territory status to begin with. It has many advantage like tax relief, direct governance from the Centre, all financial support from the Centre. All this will give a great start to a newly formed semi-state. Imagine all employees who are now state employees getting their scale of Central employees, all teachers getting in to the pay roll of Central system. All IAS and IPS officers getting from the Union Cadre etc.
Since there will be a tax relief, the competitive edge of the UT will increase. There will be more turnover of the business in the state and hence more profit to the people. There will be a direct budget allocation and direct implementation. With the progress of the area, all opposition from the other ethnic groups will wane. God willing!
It is just an idea which I have put forward. It will be a good for all if we do discuss it threadbare. May be some consensus will emerge. I am not from Darjeeling or adjoining areas. Though my wife is from Darjeeling. Open for discussion.