Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bandh bane for Sikkim

Tourist exodus continue

GANGTOK, June 11:
Sikkim was totally cut off from the rest of the country for two days following the indefinite bandh called by the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM) in the neighbouring Darjeeling Hills.
The second day of indefinite bandh was marked with more confusion amongst the stranded vacationers who waited haplessly at the Sikkim Nationalized Transport (SNT) and Deorali Motor Stand here for vehicles to safely ferry them to Siliguri.
According to sources, SNT buses were allowed to ply towards Siliguri only after a telephonic conversation between the leaders of GJMM and the officials from the State Government.
However, there was some respite for the tourists as well as locals as the GJMM today relaxed the bandh for 72-hours till Saturday morning in order to facilitate them a safe passage back home.
The bandh was lifted from 1pm today. It will continue till Saturday 6am.
Talking with the media, LN Pradhan, General Manager, SNT said that ten buses were being used to ferry tourists to Siliguri this evening.
Even buses from Sikkim Manipal Institute of Medical Sciences, Sikkim Jewels, State Jail and from other government departments were used to ferry the stranded tourists.
“We are accommodating a maximum of 35 passengers in one bus,” the GM said.
GJMM leaders had said that all the vehicles from Sikkim should cross Rangpo border by 4 pm.
The travel agencies, Main Line Taxi Drivers and SNT drivers have been actively involved in helping the stranded tourists get vehicles to Siliguri.
Talking with SIKKIM EXPRESS, Dinesh Tamang, president, Mainline Taxi Drivers’ Association said more than 60 vehicles carrying tourists headed towards Siliguri this afternoon.
“Since we are running short of vehicles, a large number of tourists are still waiting for the vehicles at the motor stand,” he added.
As per reports, 1700 tourists from Gangtok were evacuated since today afternoon.
“Almost all the tourists have been evacuated from the State,” the president of Travel Agents Association of Sikkim (TAAS), SK Pradhan told SIKKIM EXPRESS.
“Fortunately, this is almost the fag end of tourist season here. If the bandh had been called during the peak season, then the tourism industry in Sikkim would have suffered tremendously,” he said.
Apart from the tourists, locals have expressed worry over the probable inflation and shortage of essential commodities following the closure of NH31A.
Reports coming in from Rangpo also inform that almost 3000 tourists from Sikkim stranded at Rangpo were ferried from the Rangpo border in 10 trucks, 10 buses and other small vehicles to Siliguri from 2.30 pm. More than 500 tourists were accommodated in trucks.
Some of the tourists also complained of being charged 30 percent more than the actual fare by taxi drivers.
“This is our last tour to the hills. We will never visit this part of the country in future and will tell our friends not to visit as well,” said a harassed tourist in Rangpo.