The Switzerland model of autonomy that West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee claims she has convinced those seeking a Gorkhaland in her state to accept has added to a certain confusion in the minds of those seeking Telangana as to what exactly the model is.
While speaking at the meet-the-press programme in New Delhi on Tuesday, Mamata had said: “In response to the demand for carving out a separate state out of Darjeeling made by the Gorkhaland Janamukti Morcha (GJM), I offered them autonomy on the lines of that which exists in Switzerland. They accepted it,” she said. Switzerland is divided into Cantons or administrative districts. Derived from the French word for ‘corner’ or ‘district’, canton (from which the word cantonment is also derived) is an independent administrative zone and are small in terms of area and population as opposed to districts or provinces. Apart from Switzerland, cantons exist in Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia, Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Lebanon and Luxembourg.
The Swiss cantons are by far the best known. Each canton in this European country has its own constitution, legislature, government and courts. They are responsible for healthcare, welfare, law enforcement, public education as well as taxation.
According to sources, what Mamata offered the Gorkhaland separatists is autonomy with regard to local laws, Gorkha as the official language in the province and a financial package. The Gorkhaland council, which will rule the region, will be elected by the people through democratic elections. However, the council will not have the powers to enact laws. In the context of Telangana, the separate state advocates have already rejected the offer of greater autonomy and a financial package. The sixth option that was recommended as the best one by the Srikrishna Commission was maintaining status quo and constituting a Telangana Regional Council with financial and legislative powers.
But those fighting for Telangana argue that all such councils are useless and powerless and cite the existence of two such boards in the past including the Telangana Regional Development Board set up by former chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy which largely remained defunct as it had no financial or administrative powers. “Whatever the model advocated by Mamata is unacceptable to the people of Telangana. Unlike other places, Telangana was an independent entity that was forcibly merged with the Andhra region of the erstwhile Madras presidency. This merger was opposed then itself and all the provisions that were drafted later to convince the Telangana people like gentlemen’s agreement, six-point charter and Presidential Order have remained only on paper. Creation of a separate state is the only option left,” said Rajya Sabha member K Keshava Rao.
The Telangana advocates say the autonomy and freedom offered by Mamata can satisfy the Gorkhaland separatists, but cannot be applicable to Telangana as the demand for a separate state has been on for the last 60 years and that the fight was for independence from the oppression of the people of the other two regions for which the only solution is the division of AP into two states. TOI