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17 Jun 2017

State bus emerges as the ship of the desert in the Hills

State bus emerges as the ship of the desert in the HillsAmitava Banerjee |  MP | 2017-06-16  |  Darjeeling: For Shanti (name changed on request) and many others like her, the state buses were no less than the ship of the desert. With taxis off the roads owing to the ongoing closure in the Hills, the state buses plying from Siliguri to Darjeeling and back were the only means of transportation for the general public. The state buses with police escort have been ferrying passengers during the indefinite bandh.

Shanti has to attend a job interview in Kolkata on Saturday and had booked her train ticket online. "However, with the sudden indefinite bandh, I was at my wits end as to how to reach Siliguri to take my train from NJP. Then a neighbor informed me that state buses with police escorts are plying from the Chowk Bazar and I availed it. I support Gorkhaland wholeheartedly but a job is also important for me," stated Shanti.

The district administration had arranged for bus services throughout the Hills owing to the ongoing bandh. "Around 700 tourists were evacuated on Friday," stated Joyoshi Das Gupta, District Magistrate, Darjeeling.

There were six buses from Darjeeling, seven from Kalimpong, one from Gangtok, two from Mirik and one from Bindu. The buses also ferried stranded students of schools and colleges after their examinations.

"We had arrived 10 days ago in Darjeeling and had gone trekking. We returned from the trek last night (Thursday) amidst an indefinite bandh. I am going to Calcutta," stated Mitch from Australia.
There were hundreds of daily wage workers from the plains trying to leave the Hills. "I am a daily wage helper of a mason. With the bandh, there is no more work and I am leaving. Things are very difficult. Back home, there is hardly any work," stated Pankaj Rai from the Jalpaiguri district. He earns Rs 350 per day working as a mason's helper in Darjeeling.

Farook Alam, a mason from Islampur had the bitter experience of having to celebrate Eid in a similar bandh in Darjeeling two years ago. "This time I decided to return home and not wait for the bandh to be lifted. I will spend Eid with my family members in Islampur."

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