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Gorkhaland agitation: How Darjeeling unrest has come as a boon for Sikkim tourism

India TV News Desk Gangtok 20 Jun 2017, 11:04:10 IST
India TV News Desk

The unrest in Darjeeling hill at the peak of the tourism season has hit hard the living of thousands in the region while the holiday plans of lakhs have also suffered. With no solution in sight and no intention shown by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) to end the shutdown, tourism will continue to suffer. 

The crisis in Darjeeling, one of the most popular hill stations in India, has not only affected lives in the so called Gorkhaland but also that of the overall tourism industry in North Bengal. But as the rest of India reels under intense heat, tourists continue to throng the hills. It is just that they have chosen a different location this year, 110 km north of Darjeeling to neighbouring Sikkim.

The unrest in Darjeeling in the peak tourist season has come as a boon for Sikkim with tourists thronging the neighbouring hill state instead of Darjeeling in view of the GJM agitation. 

"The tension in Darjeeling has led to a sudden boom in the tourism industry here," Secretary, Sikkim Tourism, C Zangpo said.

The GJM agitation in Darjeeling led to the cancellation of bookings by domestic and foreign tourists in the 'Queen of hill stations' and make travel arrangements in Sikkim, he said. 

"Tourism related establishments in Gangtok are currently packed with customers and have full bookings in the coming days as well," Zangpo states. He said that almost all the tourists who are now visiting Sikkim were supposed to visit Darjeeling on the second leg of their journey or had been there before reaching Sikkim. 

Difficult to manage 

Travel operators, however, are worried as it is difficult to manage so many tourists at a time, and the secretary also echoed similar views. 

"We have asked travel operators and hotels to try and accommodate as many tourists as they can without compromising on the service standards as any mismanagement at this time could give a bad name to the tourism industry," Zangpo said. 

Hotels presently have bookings upto mid-July and they have now started cancelling new booking enquiries, one of the travel operators said. 

Santanu Bose, a tourist from Kolkata, said, "We had been in Darjeeling for holidaying when all this happened. Our travel agent immediately contacted operators in Sikkim and we were lucky to get reservations." 

Many tourists, however, had to cut short their visit and return, Bose told PTI at the Mall here. 

"We spent only one night in Darjeeling. We are enjoying our stay here now," he said. 

Provide security to vehicles passing through Darjeeling, Sikkim to West Bengal 

As the tourists from Sikkim were now being provided Sikkim Nationalised Transport buses every day with security, they are feeling secure that they will not get stuck in the hills because of the ongoing bandh. 

Since June 8, Darjeeling has witnessed clashes between GJM activists and police over the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state. 

Sikkim government sources they had requested their West Bengal counterpart on Sunday to provide security to vehicles passing through NH 31A in Darjeeling district in view of the agitation. 

The West Bengal government had assured them that security would be provided to Sikkim-bound vehicles and the police would carry out extensive patrolling on the highway. 

The 92 km long NH 31A connects Sevoke in Darjeeling district to Gangtok and is considered the lifeline of Sikkim. The GJM agitators had yesterday blocked the highway at some places in to protest the death of three their activists on Saturday. 

NH 31A connects Sevoke in Darjeeling district to Gangtok and is considered the lifeline of Sikkim. Around 30 km of the highway passes through West Bengal.

Meanwhile, security forces continue to patroll the streets in Darjeeling and Internet services remained suspended for the second day yesterday as GJM supporters held a march and burnt effigies of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for rejecting their demand for a separate state. 

The GJM has called an all-party meeting today to discuss the next course of action. 

(With PTI inputs)