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6 Jul 2017

Darjeeling locals cross over to Nepal to buy essentials, use internet

Shops at Pashupatinagar town in Nepal's Ilam district.
Tamaghna Banerjee | TNN |  Jul 6, 2017, DARJEELING: With shops under lock and key, no sight of food trucks plying on the road and petrol pumps running dry in Darjeeling for the last three weeks, a small town in Nepal has become the go-to place for residents to procure their daily essentials.

Situated down the Darjeeling-Mirik Road, Indian residents can easily walk across the border, without any written permit. Only if one takes a car across, a permission from the Nepal police becomes mandatory and, that too, can be managed without any hassle. Hundreds make journey of some 30km, crossing over the porous border, to reach the town to buy groceries ranging from rice and lentils to whiskey and soft drinks.

"Every day, hundreds from Darjeeling come to buy goods such as rice, lentils, vegetables, meat and even liquor bottles and crates of soft drinks," said a Nepali police officer posted at the border. Usually, there is a bar on the amount of goods one can carry past the border, but given the prevalent crisis in Darjeeling, the cops are being lenient, he said.

Kalyan Lepcha (name changed), who runs a homestay in Ghoom, was found buying groceries the Pashupatinagar market. While he bargained over the price of tomatoes and brinjals at the market, he was also carrying a crate of beer. "This is the only place where I can get my daily essentials. Before the strike, we used to visit Pashupatinagar only on weekends for recreation or to buy cheap jackets and shoes," he said, adding, he got there in his friend's milk van and would hide his goods in the milk drums while returning.

There were many like Lepcha shopping and crowding the local liquor shops. Some shops also allowed the shoppers use their Wi-Fi. "We understand the Darjeeling situation and have friends there. Many of them travel here everyday to shop and use the internet, that we are providing for free," said Pramod Rai, who runs a liquor shop at Pashupatinagar in Ilam District in Nepal.

The petrol pump at Pashupatinagar has become a top draw among hill residents who have been visiting the border town with jerrycans on bikes and cars to refill their vehicle tanks and store for future. "I am trying to stock enough for the next few weeks, as we have no clue when the strike would finally end. It is impossible to move around the town during the strike without a bike" said a Darjeeling resident in his early 30s, who had filled his bike tank to maximum capacity and carried another 10ltr jerrycan back home.

Pashupatinagar is also a hub for cheap clothes and cosmetics imported from Thailand, where traders from Darjeeling, Mirik and other places buy goods at wholesale prices.
"Our godowns are filled with stocks of jackets and trousers ordered by Darjeeling traders but due to the strike, they have refused to take the order now," said Aroop Pradhan, who runs a wholesale shop for mens' garments. 
(Source & Courtesy: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/darjeeling-locals-cross-over-to-nepal-to-buy-essentials-use-internet/articleshow/59465862.cms) 

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