Health Care

Centre monitoring Darjeeling situation, ready to offer 'all help'

Centre monitoring Darjeeling situation, ready to offer 'all help'

"We had heard about the trouble and still reached the hill resort on Friday, hoping that the situation would be normal", Priya Roy, a visitor from the southern city of Bangalore, told AFP.

Despite massive security arrangements, violence was reported from several areas as Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) supporters torched, vandalised or forcibly shut state government offices on Monday - Day One of its indefinite shutdown called to press for a Gorkhaland state in the northern West Bengal hills.

Chief Minister Banerjee branded the GJM protest as "abhorrent" and appealed to the people of the region to maintain peace. At present, many tea garden workers get only Rs 132.50 as a daily wage.

Pradip Lama, secretary of the Darjeeling Tourist Association of Travel Agents, said anxious visitors were leaving and almost 70% of bookings had been cancelled. Even though, the main goal of the current bandh by the GJM is to mount pressure on Mamata Banerjee's government, sources in BJP here said that their central leadership is anxious because of the GJM's renewed movement for separate statehood. "The administration will act as per law if anybody is found forcing others as well as establishments to participate in the bandh", the DM said.

Caught in all the turmoil are the tourists who are are facing a lot of problems due to bandh even as they regret coming to the hillstation stating that they will have to think twice before coming to Darjeeling again.

Roshan Giri, general secretary of the GJM denied his party's involvement in the incidents and claimed the allegations were an effort to defame the Morcha.

"We didn't enforce a shutdown".

Mamata Banerjee said a week earlier "Darjeeling Hill is smiling". "We want Central intervention".

GJM activists began the day by allegedly trying to set fire to a BDO office at Phulbazar in Bijanbari block. Supporting his stance, West Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh alleged that the government was not interested in solving the issues being dealt with in the region, adding that the violence witnessed is a result of forced interference by Mamata.

While protesters took to the streets and became increasingly violent, CM Mamata Banerjee was forced to call in the Army when local law enforcement officials nearly failed to keep the situation under control, despite the use of lathis and tear gas shells. Schools, colleges, transport, hotels and shops were exempted from the purview of the shutdown. Most of the tourists have left the hill station in view of the GJM's agitation. Asked whether the government was mulling arresting GJM president and GTA chief executive Gurung, she said: "I can't say this right now".

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