Mamata to submit report to PM on Hills, skirts statehood issue

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday said she would submit a report to Prime Minister for a special Hills package, but skirted the Gorkhaland demand.

Last Updated: Sep 27, 2010, 20:21 PM IST

Darjeeling: Seeking to give a healing touch in Darjeeling, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday said she would submit a report to Prime Minister for a special
Hills package, but skirted the Gorkhaland demand.

"I understand you have suffered a lot and have been neglected over the years for lack of development. What you require is a special package which I would like to request
Prime Minister to announce for you," Banerjee said addressing people at Darjeeling railway station.

"You are very much part and parcel of our motherland. Love your mother. Have faith on me and come to us and allow us to come to you. There is no barrier between the plains and the Hills and it is time that all of us should dedicate ourselves for the betterment of the people of Darjeeling.
"It is my fervent appeal to maintain the bond of brotherhood between the people of the Hills and the plains who should live in peace and tranquillity," Banerjee said.

Starting her speech in Nepali to wide applause, she said that such special packages were also needed for the people of Telengana, Bundelkhand and Junglemahal to dispel poverty and underdevelopment.

In an apparent rejection of the Gorkhaland demand by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), Banerjee said, "You are asking something. May be I have a difference of opinion, which I do not agree to."

Lining up priorities for development in the Hills, she said "what you are agitating I think is for employment, education, health and for peace and democratic rights." The Railway Minister said that she would return to Darjeeling in two to three months. "I hope to see your smiling face like the face of the Kanchenjungha." "On my return to Delhi, I will submit a report to the Prime Minister urging for a special package for the Hill people here which you need most.

After the Commonwealth Games, I will talk to him about you," Banerjee said.
Stating that she had held talks with GJM, she said that the Gorkhaland demand was not discussed. "Darjeeling is part and parcel of our country and it is duty of all of us to
ensure its development."

Referring to GJM agitation, Banerjee said "I have limitations. I know what I can do. But if somebody dubs Gorkhas as foreigners, I don`t agree." Stating that she was not visiting Darjeeling with an eye on the Assembly polls but to see the people`s condition here, Banerjee said that she would strive to turn Darjeeling, along with adjoining Dooars and the Terai into "a Switzerland of West Bengal".

The Railway Minister said a new train `Paherer Rani` (Queen of the Hills) would be launched under a special tourist package scheme, which would touch all tourist spots in the Hills with a "message of peace and development".

She said the Sevoke-Gangtok train service would be extended to Darjeeling and there would be a 72-hour joyride for tourists. The Sukna-Siliguri line would be converted into broad gauge and a new line would be laid from Darjeeling to Rongpo, Banerjee said, adding a halt station would be set up at Teestabazar.

A decision has been taken that those appearing for the railway recruitment board (RRB) examinations could answer in Nepali if they wished, she said.

PTI