Inherent and Multifarious Imbalances to be Resolved by Integration of Darjeeling District and Duars with the Union of India by process of Federation – by diminishing the area of West Bengal State to form a new State.
|1. Regional Identity||
Govt. of India Acts:
1. 1773: Regulating Act (British Govt. intervened to check the East India Company practices and passed the Act)
11. Practically all the 8 ‘Excluded Areas’ have given birth to newly formed States/ Union Territories of the Indian Union. As well as the 28 ‘Partially Excluded Areas’ have jointly or together formed the remaining States/ Union Territories of the Indian Union.
|2. Ethnicity||The ethnology and ethnicity of the Darjeeling hill peoples as compared to the rest of Bengal are totally in contrast to produce the right gel. This is not a discriminatory claim to find out who is good, better or best, but simply a statement to identify the complete difference between the hill communities and the plains people as a matter of comparison. This divide is further stretching as a result of the large scale migration of non-Indian Bengalis from across the borders. While attempting to compare the past population index since the beginning of Darjeeling district history, the increase of population factor becomes a clear indicator to justify the marginalisation of Darjeeling hill peoples ethnicity space being occupied by completely alien groups migrating to all directions, from the country of origin with the soul purpose of surviving, despite adverse conditions in the new country. The immediate picture of the story is, that Siliguri subdivision of Darjeeling district which space belonged to the Darjeeling hill peoples, having similar ethnicity and affiliation with the people of Sikkim, from which country Darjeeling and Siliguri was detached by the British, which space have been unfairly and clandestinely occupied by alien citizens promoted by ethnically related local citizens, is a slur to the entire nation. The plains people instead of accepting the guilt complex and coming out clean, is vandalizing the Darjeeling hill peoples as illegal immigrants, is only to cast its own shadow on oneself. Bengal must ask the question, if George Charnock established the sleepy fishing village of Kalighat in 1686 to the present stage, it was George Campbell who established Darjeeling in 1839, (with the population of 100 souls increasing to about 10,000 in 1849 chiefly by migrations from Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan, in all of which slavery was prevalent) along with the aboriginal Lepcha Bhotias and the sturdy Nepalese inducted from Nepal for labour, all manual work related to the development and economic progress of the entire district inclusive of clear felling the forest in the malaria infected marshlands of Siliguri. This is the sweat and bloody contribution by the Nepali ancestors of the Darjeeling hill peoples, more than a century and half back. This is the proof of the ethnical background of the Darjeeling hill people. It is the pointing of fingers at the Darjeeling hill people, which is upsetting as well as demeaning. In order to avoid such future distaste that only obtaining a state will cease the undue comments once and for all.Only then the ethnicity and regional identity of the hill peoples will be conserved. To realize this point is the immediate aim of the present generation and which had been the same for the past generations of hill peoples.|
| 3. Cultural & Educational
| The constellation of Darjeeling hill peoples is a numerical minority in the sea of dominant Bengali population in the state finding their representation in the state legislature to inaudible insignificance, reducing the representation to superfluity and incoherence of participation in the house of over 294 elected members as compared to 5 MLAs (normally elected 3 from the hills and 2 from the plains) and 1 single Member of Parliament for the District. The sheer population of the dominant ruling society is a mental block in the development and advancement of culture and progress in matters related to education inspite of the fact during the colonial rule the Darjeeling hill stations were promoted as centers of primary an secondary education to school the children of British and Indian residents in the plains particularly from Calcutta and neighbouring industrial towns. Under the present times too the Darjeeling hills are doted with primary and secondary educational institutions, more as a economic oriented need to source education to outstation students from the region, other than to educate the native populations own childrens academic needs. The despicable and low standard of infrastructure of the govt. sponsored schools and institutions, as with all govt. undertakings are insufficient to produce quality and quantitative student citizens of the future. Most of the elementary, primary, secondary, graduation colleges and schools are run by private communities, having been handed over to the local bodies by the departing Christian missionaries after the fall of colonial rule. The post graduate level institutions normally run by the education department Govt. of West Bengal are said to be inefficient to be prepared for al round development other than to sit for examinations to obtain certificates as passport for employment usually in some allied govt. service and depts. This peculiar culture of Bengal has been transferred to the simple minded Darjeeling hill peoples who had been cultured by the colonial rulers for loyalty, discipline and perseverance besides arming them with broad guidelines of education., imbibing them with sense of morality, ethics and cultural practice for a healthy and sustainable lifestyle environmentally friendly to preserve the mountains, valleys, rivers and the very clean air and atmosphere of the hills. The basic practice and culture of the hill people are simple mindedness to the point of ignorance and commercial exploitation. With the introduction of more advanced, clever, and exploitative nature of the plains people has practically eroded the traditional value based natural character of the hill folks, without access to proper education, are being misguided with relevance to inherent ignorance turning the hill society into a disgruntled lot with hardly any break to pick and choose their own space and environment specific to immediate needs.
Not educated enough to express these inherent demands, but subconsciously aware of their democratic rights, which is being expressed in demanding a state of their own in order to deliver them goods, which will not come their way under the present circumstances, and, which is estimated to deteriorate further with time with no solution in sight.
It is considered within the framework of a state, enough impetus and resources would be available for the development and promotion of educational rights, which availability in turn will evolve a progressive and sustainable cultural parameter with inputs to carry Darjeeling hills to its natural journey.
4. Linguistic Cohesion:
‘Lingua franca’ Nepali
Language provided by
8th Schedule of the
|Nepali language spoken in India by over 28,71,749 (census 2001) is the lingua franca and the media communication for all ordinary human activities in Darjeeling District and all surrounding contiguous plain-lands including the Duars (Jalpaiguri Dist, West Bengal), besides the neighbouring State of Sikkim (state language)and the bordering countries Nepal and Bhutan. The development of language has been marginalized by the dominant ruling majority population of West Bengal since colonial times without much progress in its development and application by the State since independence. On the contrary Nepali has been overlooked by Bengal while promoting its own state language, inspite of the fact Nepali language is popular in the plain-lands, also spoken by the various plain tribes. In a separate state with proper financial and infrastructural setup the language can equal the status of Bengali, if not less, considering it is a spoken and literary language of Nepal 26,267,147 (Manorama 2007) and South Asia: 28,463,000 (Redrawing the Map of Nepal/ Dr. Stan Stevens). The language an offshoot of sanskritisised Hindi introduced by migrant high caste Hindus to Nepal is rich, compared to the ethnic Himalayan Tibeto-Burman dialects spoken by the Himalayan races and who have been linguistically united in preserving the hill peoples mountain identity.However, with inclusion of Darjeeling District in Bengal has been the death knell instead of its development. Under a new state the natural language Nepali will galvanise the various hill communities to a group, above the existing Tibeto-Burman dialects, in further bringing the backward communities to an educational pitch allowing the entire constellation of communities to sail the tide of mainstream India. Although language is officially recognized under the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution for use as the third language it is insignificantly just opposed in the state thereby adversely affecting its proper development. The achievement of statehood as a regional recognition of identity gives a fillip to increased awareness for a distinct linguistic identity.|
|5. Geophysical Divide|| Geophysically the Darjeeling hills has been territorially misplaced with Bengal since its inclusion with British India in 1835 annexed from its contiguous component the erstwhile independent state of Sikkim and Bhutan 1865 with whose territories the geophysical conditions of Darjeeling are identified.In lieu of the above states being foreign countries at the time of annexation, Darjeeling hills was thence identified regionally with erstwhile Assam, with which state there are geophysical commonalities, as contiguous regions including other aspects of social formations particularly both areas being hilly regions with similar ethnology and features for a uniform administrative setup.
Earlier as well as presently, with the geophysical divide between the hills and the plains of Bengal, the legislation enacted in the Provincial Assembly is peculiarly inapplicable and its implementation misdirected and misplaced, instead of ushering development and progress it is seen to have the opposite effect, down sliding the whole process to an irrecoverable low. Considering the decades of harm done under such circumstances, it is observed only a state for Darjeeling district and the Duars will be geared to lift it up again from its pathetic sight, and hopefully reverse the process to bring the damaged geophysical conditions to its natural form.
| Strategic Importance of
| The district situated on a narrow strip of land bordering three connecting South Asian Association for Regional Corporation (SAARC) countries, is the only passage hemmed between the northern countries of Nepal and Bhutan and Bangladesh in the south, also connecting eight Northeastern states including Sikkim to the rest of India.Needless to mention, the importance of Darjeeling district being a sensitive and strategically important area, particularly given the naturally defined security perception concerning India’s perceived belligerent large northern neighbour, a factor not to be disregarded by the State and the Central govt. and the people of the region, at all times.
It is more discerning to regard the persistent Chinese claim to the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh considering part of Chinese Tibet, for which a war of aggression ensued in 1962, reversal of Indian troops. Besides this, the publication of a recent map showing Sikkim as a separate country openly displays the neighbouring countries political intentions. Creating a new state of Darjeeling District with the Duars will go to further fortify Indian Sikkim, from which state the adjoining Darjeeling hills originated in 1835, Darjeeling Terai (Siliguri subdivision) in 1850 and Kalimpong with the Duars from Bhutan in 1865 respectively.
In the process leading to the 6th Schedule and GHCD provisions, one of the chief factors to derail the Schedule and rejecting it totally by the Darjeeling hill people besides other reasons, was the idea incorporated by West Bengal, the attempt to divide Siliguri subdivision out of Darjeeling District, by turning Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC) area into a District.
This was to be thwarted by the Darjeeling hill peoples at all costs. Siliguri subdivision (entire) and the Duars plainsland are seen to be vital for the future development and progress of the contemplated new state. The intention of the state govt. to divide Siliguri is considered hegemonic and suspect of Bengal’s chauvinistic character in regard to the Darjeeling hill peoples whose living space has already been infracted.
Hence the earlier a new state is formed; all ensuing and pending problems will be resolved on a permanent basis.
|6. Regional Deprivation||Uneven development and widespread inequalities in the hills has been the complaint of the Darjeeling hill peoples, particularly post colonial and independence period. It is felt by the natives this is the outcome of misconceived policy of the state govt. The truth in this statement originates from the fact that, legislations enacted in the State Assembly are directed to bring about reforms in the plains of Bengal than to the Darjeeling hills. In order to bridge the gap in reforms process as well as financial inputs, Siddhartha Shankar Ray then Chief Minister in the 80s, introduced a representative Darjeeling Hill Council consisting of two nominated members from each subdivision of the district in forming the body, to advise the Secretariat in guiding the policy matters related to development programs. This was replaced in 1988 by Subhas Ghissing’s Tripartite Agreement in evolving Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), in place of a state, for which he had agitated for over three years. DGHC lasted for 21 years, with Ghissing ruling the roost till his resignation from the post of administer, was bought to an end by popular mass political uprising, dethroning him as well as putting the 6th Schedule of the Constitution providing a new named Gorkha Hill Council Darjeeling (GHCD) to a complete hold, inspite of the fact, that, the matter was amended and passed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs.It is opinioned, the action taken by the Darjeeling hill people to stall the designated GHCD (6th Schedule) too, was not sufficient to usher in good health for the Darjeeling hills, and hence again the demand for a state, in order to arrest the lacuna of regional deprivation, and further eroding the hills from future neglect and damage, deprived of its rights to regional identity in fulfilling its capacity.|
|7. Economic Viability||The economic potential of Darjeeling District and Duars to generate sustainable non plan budgetary revenues is beyond any estimate or imagination, considering its natural resources interpreted in terms of existing industrial infrastructure in the hilly regions as well as the plains.|
|Timber||2/5 of the landmass consist of forested areas whose timber and other forest product revenues were commercially exploited by the West Bengal Forest Development Corporation (WBFDC), whose balance sheet passed few decades since its inception will declare the forest wealth of the district. In fact, it is given to understand that WBFDC revenue earnings alone consisted in paying the salaries of the entire employees of forest dept. Govt. of West Bengal. The forest resources, especially its timber wealth deserves to be further conserved for tourism and environment purposes than for revenue earning resource.The Teesta river, rain and snow fed has perennial water flow in order to tap its basin for mini environmental friendly hydroelectricity multipurpose dams. Two dams TLDHEP III and IV are presently under construction by National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC), flouting environmental norms and regulations with connivance with the state govt., has become controversial for your information and deliberation if any. The point is, if properly programmed Darjeeling hills can be planned for perspective hydroelectricity cum multipurpose damming schemes.|
|Tourism||The potential of tourist industry is beyond bounds if properly programmed and implemented. At the moment, it is mismanaged only for resourcing revenue, without proper plan and development. The West Bengal Tourist Development Corporation and its extension the DGHC tourism has made an inherent mess in turning the respective depts. into employment service orientation, than projecting it as a progressive sustainable industry. Compared to tourism in the district to that of Bhutan (country) and Sikkim (state), the already existing infrastructure tourist industry developed by the colonial rulers have been degraded to shambles, turning the sub-divisional hill towns practically to shanty slums where the original residents have been adversely effected and deprived of their basic administrative and civic rights. The rampant expansion of vital space in towns have been accommodated with new environmental unfriendly structures and architecture arresting progressive development to total degradation of the towns into concrete jungles of city styled matchbox construction and design. Without proper backup of civic planning and sanitation all the major towns in the district require a complete overhaul to offset the damages by future financial consideration and inputs.|
|Tea||The tea industry established by the British and the people of the Darjeeling hills is only now showing signs of revenue recovery from years of slowdown. However, the health of the industry is in poor shape as a result of years of revenue extraction only instead of treating it as a viable exploitative and employment generating program as done by the past colonial rulers.The new owners of the tea industry are all based in the plains and the big city of Calcutta, with not much love for the tea bush as a plant nor the taste of the brew except its value as revenue income for the individual owners, families and private companies. Some of the tea gardens managed by the Tea Corporation of West Bengal are in total shambles as all Govt. of West Bengal public enterprises. Despite these setbacks, mismanagement by the companies and over sighted by the state administration, the Darjeeling hill tea employees and labours, the tea plant are a means for their very survival. Which deteriorating situation faced by the tea gardens and labour with no end in sight for proper sustainable development, can only be reversed by process of Darjeeling District and Duars combinedly joined to form a continuous hills of tea gardens within the new state|
|Industry||The adjoining plains of Darjeeling District from the river Mechi in the west to the Teesta in the east and further on to the Duars plains contain numerous tea gardens with forested areas. However, in between running along the National Highway 31 leading to Assam are fertile for agriculture, as well as for developing infrastructures for an industrial belt. The importance of Siliguri metropolis, the airport at Bagdogra and the New Jalpaiguri railhead are seen as major centers for capital investment for the present as well as for the future. The location of this area is such that, all economic activities related to the subsistence and development to the entire contiguous regions, states (the entire Northeast region including Sikkim) and countries (Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh) are directly or indirectly supported and affected by Siliguri town. The fast growth of this town from a small meter gauge railhead, Siliguri junction, to become an important and major revenue town is incomparable to any city in West Bengal, except probably to Durgapur fed by large industries. If statistical data’s are available, it would be interesting to compare the revenue income generated by Siliguri subdivision and that for the entire state of Sikkim. The data’s should speak for themselves and the details noted while considering the district to be converted to a viable state. The potential is simply mind boggling.|
|8. Ecology|| This is one of the main considerations to observe as the ecology of the entire Darjeeling hills and adjacent areas are being affected in every direction in terms of footprints made on the fragile ecology of the areas, natural and pristine environment and surroundings.The arterial roads and highways leading to major towns and districts from the plains, and linking roads within the sub-divisional towns are in disastrous conditions. Roads and transport forming the important aspects of human communications, goods and material are complimentary infrastructures for the socio-economic development of any region.
These are impacted by human forces, specially over use with improper maintenance and inputs, further degraded by natural phenomena’s and causes related to geophysical and adverse climatic conditions prevailing on the heavy monsoonal belt affecting the entire Sikkim and Darjeeling Himalayas.
In short, in order to address all ecological issues whether related to human intervention, geophysical and other natural forces, it is felt only the finances and resourcefulness of a state can arrest the deteriorating ecological disaster of Darjeeling District.
The human ecological imbalances created by migrating human populations in the limited territory of the district is an important factor for consideration for all concerned, the district, state and the Centre. The population explosion in Darjeeling district is said to be the highest applicable to a hill-town in the world. This is not a trophy to be displayed, but to be shocked and the entire blame passed on to the state govt. which has closed eyes while looking at Darjeeling. Thirty running years of one party rule in West Bengal has been the bane and destruction of Darjeeling hills. In the process, Calcutta and other major cities in West Bengal no doubt faced the same fate, only found to be recovering presently under new leadership. Cosmetic changes no doubt have amended Calcutta to a large extent, but the mindset and psychic needs to be reversed and vitalized to bring about the change required to move the roadblock constructed by three decades of political and administrative mismanagement, singly or in connivance with each other. Politicization of administration for vote bank politics is the chief factor that requires to be removed without semblance of its existence to move ahead to a cultured survival of the state. It is the spread of this lethal dose of poison which has caused all the ills in the Darjeeling hills. In order to regain its health back again, the hills now require a state to nurture it back to its original form with effective guidance and funds.
Originally published in Darjeeling times on October 8, 2008