The Times Of India
Darjeeling: Promoting the Hills as a tourist destination has been on the agenda of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) ever since it came to power. Taking this step forward, the GTA has decided to convert Chitrey, 7km from Darjeeling, into a tourist spot.
Tucked in the lush green tea gardens with the mighty Kanchenjunga in the backdrop, Chitrey is an isolated spot where tourists make a brief halt on their way to the Tibetan Refugee Center and Lebong. It is popular not only for the numerous stalls that sell tea and tea leaves collected from the surrounding gardens, but also for delicacies like momos and thukpa. There are about 25-30 shops in Chitrey which sustain over 100 families.
These stalls are, however, makeshift structures which the GTA wants to convert into permanent ones and give the place a facelift. “The location of Chitrey is its selling point. We want to modernize it and project it as another destination for tourists to visit while in Darjeeling,” said Sonam Bhutia, tourism secretary of the GTA.
“The budget for converting Chitrey into a regular tourist spot is pegged at Rs 5 crore which will include a parking facility and washrooms. But the final blueprint will be chalked out after preparing the detailed project report,” Bhutia said.
When asked if the stall owners would have to pitch in with their share of the capital for the facelift, the tourism secretary said, “We may have a licensing system for the stall owners but no taxes. We are working out on the modalities at the moment.”
Besides the Tibetan Refugee Center, Tenzing Rock Climbing Center and a temple around Chitrey are some other tourist attractions. However, with a section of the shop owners reluctant to take the modernization route, the plan could receive a setback.
“Tourists enjoy the natural setting of our shops. Concretizing it will not work well with them. We have not received any official information in this regard. It will be better if the GTA provides us loans so that we can give a facelift to our stalls while retaining the Hills flavour,” said Ganga Thapa, president, Chitrey Bazaar Sangathan.
“We have information that a section of the Chitrey stall owners is objecting to our project. But we will sit with them and convince them about the benefits,” said the GTA tourism secretary.