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29 Jun 2017

No access to salary accounts, month-end pangs pile up in Darjeeling

Dwaipayan Ghosh| TNN | Jun 29, 2017, DARJEELING: The usual end-of-the-month pangs have become acute this June-end in strife torn Darjeeling. People are unsure if they will be able to access their salaries that will be credited to their bank accounts in a couple of days.
In fact, the situation is quite strange. Unlike other months, when there is hardly any fund left in salary accounts in the fourth week, this time around, there is enough in the accounts of most as they haven't been able to withdraw money for over a fortnight. With the GJM yet to announce any relaxation of the strike to let people withdraw money and stock provisions, uncertainty looms large, particularly over those in government service who are inadvertently finding themselves in a hostile environment.
With barely Rs 200 left, Narayan Mukhiya, a senior forest department official from the hill circle, is losing sleep over his eight-year-old son's treatment. "My son broke his arm after slipping on June 8, the very day GJM activists clashed with police. I had no option but to take him to a private clinic 20 km away as the district hospital was overcrowded with cops and the injured. Now, I don't ha ve money to continue the treatment because I can't access my account. I twice attempted to travel to Siliguri to get to an ATM but could not get transport. Government drivers are refusing to venture out fearing attack," Mukhiya said.
There is also a nagging worry of salary being deducted for days they could not attend office as violence ravaged the town. Naren Tamang, a primary school teacher at Tagdah, said he attempted to go to work even after June 15 but could not between June 19 and 23. "I was under constant watch and after a couple of days, I feared stepping out of home. I am now worried the government may deduct my salary . There is no way I can learn how much money is credited in my account as all ATMs are shut. I too aspire for Gorkhaland but I plead to Bimal Gurung to allow us a couple of days' respite from the strike so we can withdraw money and stock ration," he said. The anxiety of government employees, be it at the district magistrate's office or Darjeeling Himalayan Railway , is palpable. Apart from the worries over cash running out, they are wary of being caught in the middle of violence directed at government offices or being confronted with social boycott.
In the past 48 hours, there has been a sudden spike in attacks on government offices and institutions. At Takdah, BDO Lipon Roy was in his office when it was pelted with stones and set on fire. Those in government service realise their office could well be targeted and they could be inside when it is vandalised.
The fear of social ostracisation is also real. With GJM activists keeping a tab on the activities of government officials, neighbours are maintaining a distance. "We are government workers and it is not easy to convince neighbours to help us when we are running short on cash and stock. They constantly remind us that we are being watched," said an official at the DM's office.
N Bengal petrol pumps on strike
Due to daily fluctuation prices of petrol and diesel, the North Bengal Petrol Dealers Association declared a 24-hour strike in the region on Wednesday. The day was observed as a "No Purchase No Sale" day in all petrol pumps in north Bengal. Organization president Anand More said: "We are facing business problems because of the Centre's decision of having different petrol-diesel prices each day."

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