Uncorrected excerpts of Speech of Jaswant Singh MP, Darjeeling, Lok Sabha on Friday the 24th july 2009
I will come to the point of how the Budget and the Finance Bill can be instruments that will impart to the country’s public life a sense of morality and purity. But I wish to, from the general aspects of the Finance Bill,come to parochial, not personally parochial but nationally parochial points.
They both arise from your Budget speech. One is on paragraph 73, which relates to cyclone Aila and the other is on paragraph 68.Mr.Finance Minister,you have allocated an additional sum of Rs.1000 crore for meeting the requirements of cyclone Aila. I submit to you firstly that besides being the most untimely, unseasonal and unprecedented cyclone, it was also devastating in its effect. You feel all that it hit is the coastal areas of Bengal. It was much more than the coastal areas. It hit the hills of Darjeeling also.
I submit to you, Mr. Finance Minister, as a distinguished and an eminent citizen of not just India but also of the State of West Bengal, that in a sum that you have allocated, serious questions have arisen about the utilisation of that fund.
Firstly, I do not think Rs. 1,000 crore is adequate. Secondly, I do think and you know very well that the Left Front Government is the most parochial in the application of that money when it comes to the Darjeeling Hill area.
The entire definition of “disaster” or “calamity” is different. The cyclone has resulted in floods in the plains of Bengal. The cyclone has resulted in devastation in the hill districts, while landslide, house collapse and death from its consequences. It is in this context that I appeal to the Government of India, I appeal to you, Mr. Finance Minister, firstly, please allot a sum larger than just simply Rs. 1,000 crore. Secondly, please allot a sum that is directly applicable to the hill areas of Darjeeling because for the last thirty years the Left Front Government has neglected Darjeeling Hill area as never before. It is for that reason – because of its neglect by the Left Front Government – there has arisen the entire demand for Gorkha land, which I support because I represent them. I appeal to you, please address this issue seriously, address it urgently.
You would know very well, you have held the charge of Defence Minister too, as I had had the honour, Pranab Babu, that Darjeeling is the only district in the country which adjoins four international boundaries. It is the only district which has four nations touching it. If you do not address this as a serious issue of national security, you are doing a very grave wrong to the national security, to the citizens of Darjeeling. It adjoins Bhutan, it adjoins Nepal, it adjoins Bangladesh and it is barely 12 kms. from the People’s Republic of China. There is no other district which has four international boundaries. It sits at the door, hence the word “dwar” or the “dwars”. It sits at the door, the entry point. It is the gateway of the entire North-East. It is the chicken’s neck.
You allocate roads to Sikkim, but there are no roads allocated to Darjeeling. You allocate for Sikkim a border road on the ground that it is a border State. Of course, it is. I am asking this not at the cost of Sikkim. Though it is adjoining four international boundaries, you do not consider Darjeeling to be a border State, the hill areas of it. Then, you are doing a grave injustice not simply to the people of Gorkha land but also to the national security.
That is not the reason why I am pleading. You have to actually now go to see the condition of the roads that exist there. I am sorry to say that `The Queen of Hill Station’, as it was called earlier, has been reduced to a state today wherein 36 people died in the recent cyclone. Damages worth crore of rupees have been caused.
The hon. Minister of Finance knows it very well. He is the hon. Minister of Finance. About 90 (19?) tea gardens have been closed in Dwar. One tea garden has been closed in the hill areas. If France can build up an industry, simply on the name Champagne, why cannot an industry even of tourism be built up, if the tea that comes from Darjeeling is called the champagne of tea? Please address this question seriously.
I am glad that a Tripartite Conference has been called. I urge you to recognise the need for a Gorkha land. It is the oldest of the demands that have come. The entire Himalayan tracts from the North-East, whether it is Nagaland, Manipur or Arunachal, Mizoram, Uttrakhand and Jammu and Kashmir, have been recognised as separate States. What wrong have the Gorkhas done for not deserving a separate State? They are the sword arm of the country. They are living on the border. They fight for the country and they die for the country.
Sir, I have had the benefit of serving as a soldier, but when it comes to a demand to have legitimate interests of Darjeeling hill area, a legitimate demand for Gorkha land, you refuse even to contribute or meet. I urge you as the Central Government, as a distinguished leader of the country, as a distinguished citizen of West Bengal, to please take interest in it. I am glad that the tripartite talks have started. The Central Government must take interest. You must be a part of it. You are one of the three and see to it that the grievances are redressed and the Gorkha land is granted.