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17 Jun 2017

Tourists stranded in Darjeeling

Shiv Sahay Singh, TH,  DARJEELING, JUNE 16, 2017:It has been one of best holiday seasons for the tourism industry in Darjeeling but the sudden shutdown in the hills over the demand for a separate State of Gorkhaland has abruptly put an end to it.
On Friday, when there was a complete shutdown in Darjeeling, a huge crowd of tourists gathered at the Chowk Bazaar area, waiting for hours for a vehicle to take them back to Siliguri.
With the indefinite shutdown called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) after a raid at party president Bimal Gurung’s residence, hotels in the hills have asked tourists to leave one of the country’s most sought after holiday destinations as early as possible, citing limited supply of food and other essentials. Private vehicle operators have completely stopped operating.
A resident of Kolkata’s Salt Lake area, Tithi Mukhopadhay and her father Tapas Mukhopadhyay had already waited for six hours at Chowk Bazaar. “We have two children and two senior citizens who have had nothing except biscuits since yesterday,” Ms. Mukhopadhyay told The Hindu.
The family had arrived in the hills on June 11 and had booking till June 17 (Saturday) but had to leave the hotel early on Friday morning. “We have been standing here since 6 a.m. Now it is past noon and not a single vehicle has come,” Ms. Mukhopadhyay said.
Tourists from different States across the country as well as foreign tourists waited for hours, hoping the State government would provide vehicles.
“Darjeeling is a very nice place but there is no food and water. We are forced to go back,” said Sebastain, a tourist from France.
Long wait
Almost 1,000 tourists waited for State government vehicles to take them to Siliguri. By the evening, there was a near stampede-like situation when tourists tried to force their way into the vehicles. The State government was able to provide about half a dozen buses and one truck.
The owner of a reputed hotel in Darjeeling town rued the fact that the shutdown had brought life to a complete halt. “We had full bookings till the first week of July. With the shutdown, there is not a single tourist in our hotel,” he said.
Tourism is the backbone of the Darjeeling economy.

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