DARJEELING, 11th June 2017 (with inputs from PTI): A day after a 12-hour bandh called by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) life had limped back to normalcy in Darjeeling as people resumed their daily work with hotels, shops, eateries and markets opening for regular business today. However, everything has been put on a turmoil after the announcement of the indefinite strike from Monday and resumption of the Gorkhaland agitation.
On Saturday, Tourists had gradually started arriving in Darjeeling after transportation facilities were put back in order. But now there has been a reversal with the tourists making a beeline for journey back home canceling their stay further in the Hills. Several hotel owners said that they were also receiving calls to cancel the bookings for days to come.
“This is a peak season and we have seen a surge in tourism here. If this continues, our business will take a dip as we depend on this season for our living. We are trying to convince the tourists that everything is fine but many of them are insisting on cancellation of bookings,” Shibshankar Majumdar, manager of a hotel near Mall area, said had said on Saturday.
Several tourists reached Kolkata availing the free bus service provided by the state government in the wake of the unrest in the hills.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who was already in Darjeeling on Thursday, had stayed back after trouble broke out and supervised the entire operations.
State government sources said the chief minister, who had descended to the plains of Darjeeling district late last night, will take stock of the situation in the hills from there itself.
Banerjee, who spent last night at Uttar Kanya, the mini- secretariat in north Bengal, is likely to hold a meeting there with Chief Secretary Basudeb Banerjee, Home Secretary Malay De, Director General of Police Surajit Kar Purkayastha and other senior officials in the afternoon regarding the next step to tackle the situation in the hills.
With the state government announcing a special audit of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration’s (GTA) handling of finances in another two weeks, GJM chief Bimal Gurung is also likely to meet his party colleagues to decide their next strategy.
“With GJM calling for an indefinite strike from Monday and shutting down Banks, it has become impossible for the tourists to continue to stay. Most tourists who visit with their family do not want to risk any further and end up being trapped in the volatile political situation of the hills, thus they are leaving in large number so much so that they are willing to pay more for transporation simply to be able to reach Siliguri,” a hotel owner said.
A local tour operator speaking anonymously said, “GJM’s move has hammered a death nail to the tourism industry in the Hills. Simply because the party is in loggerhead with the TMC for supremacy in the hills and the GTA election is round the corner, the party (GJM) had no right to put the entire hills hostage due to their selfish ambition.”
A political observer said that the Chief Minister’s visit to Darjeeling this time was ill timed and ill planned. With the GTA election very close and the GJM being pushed to the corner, confrontation was inevitable. Perhaps even the CM knew this and she came nonetheless which ultimately added fuel to the fire and now that the hills will have to suffer for months to come.