Hill People And Politics
The people of Darjeeling district are of the view that Sikkim, the neighbouring state is much more flourished than them. They identify more with Sikkim than with Bengal, because of common language, culture, tradition and food habits North Bengal is better known for beautiful hill stations and tourist destinations Darje-eling, Kalimpong and the beautiful view of Kanchenjunga range—but for last 20 years it has became a political hotspot when it grabbed headlines with the agitation for separate state or politics involved in it. But what the peace-loving people of the valley really want is never addressed by any government past or present in the state.
The agitation surrounding the demand for separate state of “Gorkhaland” has been there, which has been being managed by both the Left government in the past and presently the Trinmool Congress government by giving them autonomous status and other arrangements. But now people there are indeed fed up with this movement and false promises, as the movement has badly affected the tourism industry, which is the main source of income and livelihood for the people.
To know the pulse of the people Uday India talked to various sections of people of the society and came to the conclusion that everyone wants better life. By better life they mean better roads, continuous flow of electricity and water.
Tourist destinations like Darjeeling and Kalimpong struggle everyday to have required amount of water and electricity. Niraj Pradhan, a tour operator based in Kalimpong says: “We are not at all interested in politics; we just want good roads, water and electricity.”
The Government of West Bengal, always flaunts of being the only state in the country which has the beauty of sea beaches and has hill stations to offer to the tourists, but whether the government has ever worked to improve the tourism of the state cannot be said.
Bratya Basu, the newly appointed Tourism Minister of the state said while talking to Uday India: “Yes, we have been naturally blessed with hill stations and sea beaches. What we have to do is to arrange for the comfort of the tourists which our government would certainly do.”
The people of Darjeeling district are of the view that Sikkim, the neighbouring state is much more flourished than them. They identify more with Sikkim than with Bengal, because of common language, culture, tradition and food habits. When asked Niraj Pradhan said: “We everyday see Government of Sikkim gives more facilities to its citizen, In Sikkim we have many relatives who are richer than us.” Like the 2009 Lok Sabha election, this year too Bharatiya Janata Party candidate—SS Ahluwalia—won from Darjeeling, who with the promise of raising the issue of separate Gorkhaland came to power this time, Last time also BJP candidate Jaswant Singh won from Darjeeling, It is only the Darjeeling constituency that gave BJP its representation from Bengal.
Tashi Dorjee Sherpa, who owns flower business in Kalimpong Market says: “We are hopeful with the Narendra Modi government at the Centre, but at the same time we expect the state government can do more to promote tourism. Apart from tourism, Kalimpong and Darjeeling districts are also known for rare species of orchid, which need international projection and promotion. Even without promotion and projection I export flowers and orchid to many cities of the country and also outside the country like Singapore, Bhutan and Nepal.”
Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee has time and again during her visits to hills promised that her government is working to make the hills Switzerland, but to begin with the basic necessities of the people are still to be fulfilled.
Toshi Bhutia, who left school at an early age now works as a driver for tourists, is of the opinion that the state government is doing nothing rather it has divided the people, when he says: “Mamata aunty comes here and promises so many things till now nothing has happened. She rather has divided Sherpas, Bhutias, Gurungs and Gorkhas by giving money to the leaders of these communities, which together form the hill. Here the youths don’t have government jobs; rather we depend on tourists during the season.” Tourist season begins in February are remains till June, and during this period youths earns for the rest of the months of the year.
Fed up with agitations and politics involving hills, which have almost taken away the livelihood and source of income, the people themselves are working univocally to promote their way to host tourists. Home Stay—the new concept of giving more comfort and home away from home is taking the centre stage in the tourism sector of the hills.
The concept is being popularised by Raj Basu, who has been working voluntarily for past 30 years to preserve the culture and tradition of the people thereby promoting tourism. Raj Basu, the Founder of Help Tourism says: “The idea behind Home Stay is to preserve the culture, tradition, environment and local food habits, as because of irregular flow of income, people are leaving behind their home and tradition to work outside the state. This concept is running without the support of government and it helps the people to directly get profit from the tourists.”
One such family is of Shanta Devi, who with the help of her son-in-law Niraj Pradhan runs a home stay “Khaling Hidden Woodland” in Kalimpong giving the best of services from variety of indigenous food to a wonderful homely hilly stay at a very reasonable cost, which makes tourism more adventurous in the midst of mountain.
When asked by Uday India Tourism Minister Bratya Basu too assured: “The state government in order to promote Home Stay in the hills and elsewhere is in talks with State Bank of India to provide loans at a marginal rate to all those who are interested in promoting tourism this way.”
Everyone wants better and peaceful life. The demand of separate Gorkhaland is a dream, where the people think they will find better and peaceful life. If the government both at the Centre and in the state ensure them what they want, there will no more problems or agitations. Tourists from faraway places will also have far more reasons to cherish the beautiful land on earth.
By Joydeep Dasgupta from Darjeeling