Thursday, January 7, 2010

Gorkhaland: The Solutions & Why Not Animesh Ray
The issue of Gorkhaland is not inherently a complex issue, and therefore should not be made to look so. So let us look at the probable solutions one by one.

The state government does nothing and the central government turns a blind eye to the hills. How much steam does GJM have? It's all going to fizz out in a few months. And if still the agitations continue, well then lets suppress it.

Advantage: None in particular. Might satisfy some higher egos in the state government.

Disadvantage: Agitation continues, and all the harmful things associated with it (mostly financial). Plus, it leaves the issue open to dispute later.

SECOND SOLUTION: Merge Darjeeling with Sikkim.

Yeah, that saves the hassle of forming a new state, and must also placate the Gorkhas (Man, doesn't Sikkim also consists of mainly Nepalis?). But I don't think that's possible. If the Gorkhas are looking for an identity, Sikkim is hardly going to provide that. And ironically it was to save Sikkim's neck that the British had annexed Darjeeling from the Gorkhas. Plus I think any merger plans would be vociferously opposed by the SDF, the ruling party in Sikkim. This would be triggered by the fact that the population of Darjeeling is 3 times more than that of Sikkim. So any merger would see the rise of another strong party (GJM) in state politics, and this might very well cost Mr. Chamling is beloved chair.

Advantage: Saves the hassle of the formation of a new state.

Disadvantage: Fails in all other objectives.

THIRD SOLUTION: Form a new state, Gorkhaland.

This is what the GJM is presently dreaming about. A state of their own. So that they can say that, "I belong to Gorkhaland, and that's a state of India." Very well. So first let me state the various factors.

Favourable factors-

1. Land area comparable to Goa (the smallest state).
2. High population
3. Distinct language and culture
4. Success of smaller states like Goa and Sikkim
And now the unfavourable factors-
1. Land area even less than Goa (yeah, it counts both ways of the argument).
2. Strategic concerns (it lies in the chicken's neck corridor).
3. More governments mean more ministers. More ministers mean more bureaucrats. And all this means more cars, servants, houses, and ultimately more money (and so less money available for development).
4. Failure of smaller states like Manipur, Tripura, Nagaland (the other side of the same coin).
5. The wrong message to all other communities desiring their own states.
Advantages: Solution of the problem. Complete withdrawal of all strikes and agitation. Spurt in economy.
Disadvantages: Wrong message to other communities fighting for statehood. Plus the Bengali population in Siliguri might not be too pleased. Anti-Gorkhaland strikes and rallies. Siliguri might be kept within West Bengal (but this certainly won't find much favour with GJM). But hey, you win some, you lose some. You lose a city, but you win the state.

FOURTH SOLUTION: Declare Darjeeling to be an Union Territory (with partial statehood later on).

This would be more amicable to the Central Government, and would also solve the problem of identity which the Gorkhas feels so keenly. The Government of West Bengal too, I have reasons to believe, will be less opposed to this plan. The Lieutenant-Governor appointed by the Central Government might be chosen from any of the Gorkha Regiments. This would certainly go a long way in creating goodwill amongst the people of Darjeeling. Later on as the political climate stabilises in the state, Darjeeling (or Gorkhaland after renaming) can be conferred the status of partial statehood with its own elected legislative assemblies and the executive councils of ministers on the lines of the DGHC. 

Advantages: Solution of the problem. Spurt in economy. Strategic interests will be taken better care of (Gorkhaland will be a frontier UT then).

Disadvantages: The issue can still be exploited by vested political interests. GJM might not be satisfied as it's leader Bimal Gurung will have failed to get the power for himself. His dreams of being the Chief Minister will be dashed.
Finally the choice lies with the Gorkhas. It will always be difficult to satisfy all the parties. But this doesn't mean that an agreement will remain forever elusive. All we need are a few compromises and a dilution of the excited egos on both side of the political fence. And God willing everything will be great.

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