By P.T. Bopanna
With Bharatiya Janata Party leader and MP Subramanian Swamy (in picture) suggesting an autonomous status for Kodagu, the way forward could be the setting up of the Kodagu Autonomous Council on the lines of the erstwhile Darjeeling Gorkha Autonomous Hill Council.
Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council was the result of the signing of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council Agreement involving the Government of India, the West Bengal State Government and the Gorkha National Liberation Front in Kolkata in 1988.
Incidentally, the then Union Home Secretary C. G. Somaiah (in picture), who hailed from Kodagu, signed the tripartite agreement on behalf of the Government of India and Subash Ghishing on behalf of the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) as the representative of the people of Darjeeling District.
The Memorandum of Settlement laying down the salient features of the Darjeeling Hill Council states: “In the overall national interest and in response to Prime Minister’s Rajiv Gandhi’s call, the GNLF agreed to drop the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland. It was decided that for the social, economic, educational and cultural advancement of the people residing in the hill areas of Darjeeling district, it was agreed to have an Autonomous Hill Council to be set up under a State Act”.
Some of the main provisions of the agreement providing for delegation of powers to Darjeeling Hill Council, include general power of supervision over Panchayat Samithies, Gram Panchayats and municipalities falling within the area of the Council’s jurisdiction. The General Council will have a total of 42 members out of which 28 will be elected and the rest nominated by the State Government.
There will be an Executive Council. The Chairman of the General Council-cum-Chief Executive Councillor will have the ex-officio status and privileges of a minister in the Council of Ministers in the state.
The Kodagu autonomous council is possible only if the people of Kodagu are in favour of such a body. There is a need for educating the people for setting up of the council to look after the developmental needs of Kodagu.
Once the awareness on the need for the autonomous council is created, the Kodagu zilla panchayat could pass a resolution and send it to the Karnataka government for suitable action.
Source: Rise and Fall of the Coorg State by P.T. Bopanna, Rolling Stone Publications, Bangalore.
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