The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha on Tuesday put aside its demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland and agreed to a new hill council with more autonomy in a bipartite agreement signed with the West Bengal government, signalling an end of the 15-year-old movement in Darjeeling.
"Today is a historic day. The Darjeeling issue which has been lingering for a long period has been settled. I have informed Union Home Minister P Chidambaram," Banerjee told mediapersons at the Writers' Buildings after the conclusion of the two-day official-level talks with the GJM.
Asked about the 'magic formula' that clinched the agreement, Banerjee, who had earlier stated that she would
solve the Darjeeling problem within three months, said, "It is our heart and good intention. The magic formula for reaching this agreement is development."
She said she had asked Chief Secretary Samar Ghosh to talk to the Centre so that the agreement can be formalised at Darjeeling "where I will be present".
Asked if a financial package will be given to Darjeeling, she retorted, "Shall I attend a wedding without a gift? We love the people of Darjeeling."
Ghosh told mediapersons that the bipartite agreement was signed by GJM general secretary Roshan Giri and Home Secretary G D Gautama.
He said that consensus was reached on formation of a new hill council replacing the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council which would have full administrative, financial and executive powers and be given more autonomy.
Ghosh, however, declined to elaborate on the autonomy.
"A consensus has been reached for forming a new hill council. This will be through election. It requires new enactment of law and work in this regard will start shortly. Necessary amendment is required in the next session of the assembly," he said.
The chief secretary said that the board of administrators would include two to three members besides the Darjeeling district magistrate.
On the GJM's demand for inclusion of Gorkha-dominated areas in Dooars and Terai region in the proposed council, the Ghosh said that a 9-member, high-power committee would be constituted in two weeks with four members each from the GJM and the state government besides a chairman which would submit its report within six months.
The committee would look into the geographical location and the present status on the disputed territories.
About the temporary employees of the DGHC who had completed 10 years of service, he said they would be allowed to work till they attain 60 years.
"They will be given retirement benefits and those who have not completed 10 years will be entitled to the benefits after completing the full term," he said.
DGHC's regular and casual employees total 6,000.
About 'tauji', which deals with tea garden and is now under the control of the collectorate, Ghosh said a decision was reached for formation of a committee with members from the Tea Board, Ministry of Commerce and GJM representatives.