Darjeeling, Aug. 7:
Some government vehicles in town today sported “GL” number plates while the administration provided a section of officials with taxis, which have not yet been asked by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to discard “WB” plates.
Deputy magistrates and senior officials, however, could be seen travelling around in vehicles with the legal plates in place. The Morcha had earlier said it would “exempt” the district magistrate and the subdivisional officers from its diktat.
Bimal Gurung’s party had on July 31 announced that all government vehicles plying in areas it considers part of Gorkhaland would have to sport “GL” (Gorkhaland) number plates from August 7 onwards.
Today, Gurung, the Morcha president, said private vehicles, too, should start sporting the plates from tomorrow. “We have, however, decided to exempt the judiciary and police (along with the district magistrate and the sub-divisional officers),” he said.
The Morcha leader said all school vehicles and those owned by the tea gardens too have to change their number plates from tomorrow.
“In the next phase, we will ask the taxis to join us in our movement,” he said without announcing any time frame.
Central committee members of the party have been using the new plates since July 7.
“So far about 260 vehicles have converted to ‘GL’,” claimed Narbu Lama, the president of the All Hill Transport Joint Action Committee, an umbrella organisation of transport syndicates. The Committee has been entrusted with the task of overseeing the implementation of the switch from “WB” to “GL”.
The Morcha also indicated that it would try and avoid any confrontation over the switchover to the “new” number plates. “The entire hills are our supporter and people here are actively taking part in our movement. This is why we will not force anyone to sport the plates against his/her wishes as this might lead to a confrontation. Let them do it on their own,” he said.
About the possibility of legal action, the Morcha leader said: “It is our non-cooperation movement. The law enforcers might take action but we will carry on.”
District magistrate Surendra Gupta said the administration does not want its officers to move around in vehicles with the “GL” tag. “If they do, we will have to seize the vehicles and put them in garage. But we will have to make alternative arrangements for our officers,” said Gupta. Sources said additional district magistrates were given private taxis to move around today.
Asked about the action the government was mulling, Gupta said: “This is an unprecedented incident and that is why we are taking some time. Offenders will have to be booked in an appropriate manner as it is a violation of the Motor Vehicles Act.”
Earlier, home secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti had said sporting GL on vehicles was illegal and would be treated accordingly. (The Telegraph)