Darjeeling back to life after three months of shutdown

Darjeeling: Leaving behind the days of the shutdown and the miseries that followed, West Bengal’s picturesque hill station of Darjeeling on Wednesday bounced back to life following the withdrawal of the over three-month-long protest by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM).

Markets reopened as people flocked to stores for shopping ahead of “Dasain” (Durga Puja), banks resumed operations and taxi-cab services re-started in the north Bengal hills.

Binay Tamang, GJM’s ousted leader and head of the state government-appointed Board of Administrators (BoA), said: “Normal life resumed even before the formal announcement of withdrawal of the shutdown.

“Transport and various trades started their operations. Operations also resumed in some of the tea gardens but some of these still remained closed as bonus was not yet paid to the workers in these gardens.”

“Fulpatti” (day of flowers) celebrations marking the seventh day of Dasain were held with zeal by residents carrying banana stalks, “Jamara” (barley sprouts) and sugar cane.

Ready to welcome prospective tourists, hotels and resorts also kick-started operations. As many as five hydel power projects in the area also resumed power generation.

Some hotels took to Twitter to announce that “Darjeeling has opened” after three months.

Glenary’s, renowned for its confectionary products, was also ready to welcome visitors.

Shops at Sukhia Pokhri in Darjeeling district also opened as news about the strike being called off spread.

However, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), which has incurred an estimated loss of Rs 2.5 crore as a fallout of the Gorkhaland agitation, would need some time before it can run its services again.

“We need to inspect every inch of the track between Siliguri and Darjeeling to ensure safety. The procedure will take some time and when we are satisfied, then the services can resume,” Northeast Frontier Railway’s Chief Public Relations Officer Pranav Jyoti Sharma told IANS.

The GJM had on Tuesday announced the withdrawal of its indefinite shutdown in the northern West Bengal hills and said the situation would return to normal from 6 a.m on Wednesday.

The announcement came hours after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh appealed to them to call off the over three-month-long strike and invited them for talks to find an amicable solution to the issue.

In an audio clip from an undisclosed location, Gurung urged the hill residents to resume transport services, and reopen shops and schools and colleges. He also extended greetings for the festive season.

The GJM had called the shutdown, which was in its 104th day on Tuesday, demanding a separate state of Gorkhaland.