Home India Politics Under BJP pressure, Darjeeling Gorkha Council bill deferred

Under BJP pressure, Darjeeling Gorkha Council bill deferred


New Delhi : Under pressure from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the government Tuesday deferred the consideration of a constitution amendment bill to create an autonomous self-governing Gorkha Hill Council in Darjeeling.

Home Minister Shivraj Patil, who was to move the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2007, for consideration of the Lok Sabha, said the government was willing to refer the bill to a parliamentary standing committee as demanded by the opposition.

“I have requested that the two bills – the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2007, and the Constitution (107th) Amendment Bill 2007 (Amendment of Articles 244 and 332) – to be take up fast. But there have been suggestions from some members and political parties that these should be referred to a standing committee or a joint select committee.

“I have no objections. Hurry was because the delay would lead to deterioration of the situation in some sensitive areas,” Patil said.

The ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) as well as its Left allies were keen that the bills were passed in the winter session itself because of fears that any delay might lead to the worsening in the law and order situation in the sensitive area of Darjeeling in West Bengal.

Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said he would not “stand in the way” if the government had taken a decision to defer the consideration of the bill. However, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi said the UPA and its allies were ready to pass the bill.

The UPA has issued a whip to its MPs to be present in the house during the consideration of the bill as a constitutional amendment bill’s passage requires the presence of at least 50 percent of members and the support of two-thirds in the voting.

The bills were to seek to amend the Sixth Schedule of the constitution for creating a Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), an autonomous body and to give it powers in matters of land, revenue and forests.

The demand of the leaders of the DGHC was formalised in principle in a memorandum of understanding in December 2005 between the central government, the West Bengal government and the administrator DGHC, under the Sixth Schedule.

The BJP has opposed the bill, saying it was done in a hurry and was not referred to parliamentary standing committee.