Taxi strike threat in peak tourist season

The Telegraph

OUR CORRESPONDENT

Gangtok, Sept. 29: The All Sikkim Taxi Drivers’ Association has threatened an indefinite strike from September 30 in the middle of the tourist season to protest the state government’s decision to outsource the sale of travel tickets to local co-operative societies.

To take share cabs from any taxi stand in Sikkim, one has to pay up at a ticket counter at that stand. The tickets have names of the starting point and the destination, the taxi number and total amount paid. The association used to run these counters.

“The strike is to protest the decision to outsource the selling of tickets to the co-operative societies. We feel it is not justified,” said president of the committee, Tinku Adhikari.

The state’s decision was announced in August. Adhikari said the committee members met chief minister Pawan Chamling on the first week of September and submitted a memorandum urging him to roll back the decision. “The chief minister had assured us that he would issue an order agreeing to our demand. It has been more than two weeks but there has been no response. On September 24, members of the committee agreed to take part in the strike. We will not lift it till our demand is fulfiled,” Adhikari said.

The committee, formed this year, has 58 taxi drivers’ bodies under it and around 20,000 taxis which run in Sikkim, Siliguri, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong. All these taxis are likely to stay off the roads if no settlement emerges tomorrow.

Gangtok has 10 taxi stands and the association earns around Rs 3,000-4,000 daily through ticket sales. “For each ticket sold, Rs 10 goes to the association fund that is used for paying staff salary and welfare of the drivers,” Adhikari said.

The rest of the money, the driver gets for that trip.

Adhikari said now the Rs 10 from the sale of each ticket would go to the local co-operative society.

In Sikkim, the Puja tourist season is from September to October. The Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim has appealed to the taxi association to call off the strike. “It is peak season. We appeal to the association to settle the matter through talks,” said its president Satish Bardewa.

The contract of selling the tickets are to be given to the co-operative societies registered with the department of co- operation.

“It is a good decision as the societies are formed by unemployed people and this will give them a chance to earn,” said the president of Singtam New Generation Co-operative society, Tar Tshering Lepcha.

Adhikari said disciplinary action, including disqualification of membership, will be taken if drivers do not follow the strike call.

“The bus, truck and tanker drivers have said they will join us after two days if the decision is not rolled back.”

Kurseong goes online on World Tourism Day

Report by:
EOI CORRESPONDENT
KURSEONG
27 Sep 2014

The Hill Tourism Development Association Kurseong, (HTDAK) in tune with celebrating The World Tourism Day on the 27th 0f September 2014 had decided to launch a web site highlighting KURSEONG as a viable tourist destination besides Darjeeling.

The program organised at Kurseong municipality multipurpose hall was attended by people from the trading community, NGOs hoteliers and private Homestay owners from Mamring, Latpanhor, Dilaram. The program was inaugurated by Mr. Anil Gurung, Senior Manager of Kurseong Tourist Lodge Govt. of West Bengal, by lighting the ceremonial lamp and by cutting a well-wishers cake, thus signifying the launch of the web site www.kurseongonline.com.

The program was flagged off by a short welcome address by Mr. S.K.Dikshit, President of Hill Tourism Development Association Kurseong and speaking on the occasion Mr. Anil Gurung ,gave a short but an informative speech on the behavioural aspect of dealing with tourists by making their stay “A Home away from Home” thereby making them want to visit again. Jeetu Giri, Secretary of the H.T.D.A.K addressed the gathering with a Power point presentation on Kurseong and outlined the various scenic spots that Kurseong has to offer which till date, is still lying unsung and unutilized by the outside world. Pointing out the various shortfalls he stressed the fact that Kurseong was unknown in the Tourism world and hence the urgent need of a web site and a tourist information center. He also put forward the suggestion of having a calendar for celebrating tourist festivals every year so that it becomes a regular feature for promoting Kurseong as a viable tourist destination on its own right. His presentation and documentary on Kurseong was an eye opener and informative. The programme ended with thanks to all the members of H.T.D.A.K. and the members of the community and press, present on this historic event. He also explained that we the people of Kurseong have to be aware and come forward for the betterness of our place than only we can do something for Kurseong.

Mr. Giri further says that for HTDAK the programme was grant success as this has been a dream of HTDAK members for long time, in a short span of 9 months it is a great achievement. HTDAK thanks Feroz Akhtar, an advisor of HTDAK, for the wonderful world tourism cake and Kurseong municipality chairman, Samir Deep Blon for providing us the hall was the celebration was held.

The website has been designed by Roshan Thapa, from Kurseong itself.

Kurseong goes online on World Tourism Day.

wtd02 copy wtd07Kurseong: 27th September 2014

The Hill Tourism Development Association Kurseong, in tune with celebrating The World Tourism Day on the 27th 0f September 2014 had decided to launch a web site highlighting KURSEONG as a viable tourist destination besides Darjeeling. The program was attended by people from the trading community, NGOs hoteliers and private Homestay owners from Mamring, Latpanhor, Dilaram. The program was inaugurated by Mr. Anil Gurung, Senior Manager of Kurseong Tourist Lodge Govt. of West Bengal, by lighting the ceremonial lamp and by cutting a well-wishers cake, thus signifying the launch of the web site www.kurseongonline.com.

The program was flagged off by a short welcome address by Mr. S.K.Dikshit, President of Hill Tourism Development Association Kurseong and speaking on the occasion Mr. Anil Gurung ,gave a short but an informative speech on the behavioural aspect of dealing with tourists by making their stay “A Home away from Home” thereby making them want to visit again. Mr. Jeetu Giri, Secretary of the H.T.D.A.K. addressed the gathering with a Power point presentation on Kurseong and outlined the various scenic spots that Kurseong has to offer which till date, is still lying unsung and unutilized by the outside world. Pointing out the various shortfalls he stressed the fact that Kurseong was unknown in the Tourism world and hence the urgent need of a web site and a tourist information center. He also put forward the suggestion of having a calendar for celebrating tourist festivals every year so that it becomes a regular feature for promoting Kurseong as a viable tourist destination on its own right. His presentation and documentary on Kurseong was an eye opener and informative. The programme ended with thanks to all the members of H.T.D.A.K. and the members of the community and press, present on this historic event. He also explained that we the people of Kurseong have to be aware and come forward for the betterness of our place than only we can do something for Kurseong.

Mr. Giri futhure says that for HTDAK the programme was grant success as this has been a dream of HTDAK members for long time, in a short span of 9 months it is a great achievement. HTDAK thanks Mr. Feroz Akhtar for the wonderful world tourism cake and Mr. Samir Deep Blon for providing us the hall was the celebration was held.

The website has been designed by Mr, Roshan Thapa, from Kurseong.

Viral hits Dooars tourism Hotel bookings dip by 50%

The Telegraph

OUR BUREAU

Sept. 26: The Japanese Encephalitis outbreak that claimed over 200 lives in north Bengal this year has scared Puja tourists away from the Dooars so much so that hotel occupancy has fallen by almost 50 per cent.

Samrat Sanyal, the working president of the Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators’ Association, said: “In the Dooars, the occupancy is around 80 per cent during the Durga Puja holidays and that continues for around a month. It starts decreasing for another one-and-a-half months and again goes up before the winter holidays from mid-December.”

Dibyendu Deb, the secretary of Lataguri Resort Owners’ Association, said that unlike other years when the rate of occupancy is above 80 per cent starting from Durga Puja, “the average rate of occupancy this year is around 30 per cent”.

One operator said this could be the worst Puja tourism season in the Dooars in a decade.

Tour company managers and other industry stakeholders said most of the tourists who cancelled hotel bookings cited the viral outbreak as the reason to stay away.

“Although most Japanese Encephalitis deaths were reported from the blocks of Dhupguri and Mainaguri, which are not travellers’ haunts and which tourists don’t have to cross barring a village or two, those who had planned to spend the Puja in the Dooars have cancelled their bookings citing the outbreak,” Deb said today.

Tour operators suspect that those cancelling hotel bookings in the Dooars were choosing to go to the Darjeeling hills and Sikkim as train bookings have not been cancelled.

Ujjal Sil, a tour operator in Mainaguri, said: “People have not cancelled their train reservations. The railway website shows that no tickets are available during the holidays but several people are calling up and cancelling their trips to the Dooars. There would be an unprecedented rush of tourists to Darjeeling, Sikkim and even Bhutan. Those who had planned to visit the forests will visit the hills,” Sil said.

“The situation in the Dooars is grim and we apprehend that the lowest number of tourists will turn up this season in the past one decade. We are keeping our fingers crossed and we are looking forward for a better season during the winter holidays,” Sil said.

Rajib Dutta, a bank official from Calcutta’s Behala who had booked for a five-day stay in the Dooars, today said he had cancelled his trip there with his family.

Asked why, Dutta cited the Japanese Encephalitis outbreak. He said: “My wife and I are travelling with our two kids. We didn’t want to risk making the trip after reading about the viral outbreak from July onwards. Our tour operator told us that it is fine to travel to the Dooars but we would rather go to Darjeeling. We have told our tour manager to book us in a Darjeeling hotel.”

For the past one-and-a-half decade, the Dooars has emerged as an important destination in north Bengal.

Hundreds of accommodations, both government and private, have come up in Gorumara in western Dooars, Chilapata and the Buxa Tiger Reserve in the east.

“This year, accommodation is available even in some of the top government properties in the core forest areas and on the fringes. In any other season, getting accommodation here even for one night would be no less than winning a lottery. All this has happened because of the encephalitis outbreak. Whoever is cancelling the booking is mentioning that as the reason,” another tour operator based in Lataguri said.

Sudipta Chakraborty, the manager of Murti Resort run by the West Bengal Forest Development Corporation, said their only option was to appeal to tourists.

“We can only appeal to them saying the situation is perfect here and there is no reason for them to cancel trips to the Dooars,” he said.

Last summer before the forests closed on June 15, hotels in the Dooars had seen an average occupancy of 70 per cent. The Japanese Encephalitis outbreak, though it started in January, began making news in July. By then the forests had closed.

The Dooars can accommodate around 1,000 tourists daily on average.

Representatives of the Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators’ Association, the apex body of tourism stakeholders in north Bengal, are worried. Sanyal said: “Once the season ends, we will plan an extensive campaign to bring tourists here.”

Centenary of Darjeeling Durga – Darjeeling Himalayan Railways will carry Ma Durga

The Telegraph

VIVEK CHHETRI

Darjeeling, Sept. 21: A hundred years ago, two steam engines attached to a toy train had chugged up the mountains carrying an idol of Goddess Durga for the puja at Nripendra Narayan Bengali Hindu Hall.

On October 4, the hall will enter its hundredth year of Durga Puja as the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways will carry Ma Durga from Darjeeling to Bangla Khola, at Rangbull, on her last journey.

“The Durga Puja was held at the Nripendra Narayan Bengali Hindu Hall for the first time in 1915. As part of the centenary celebrations, we have decided to charter the DHR for the immersion,” said Pratapaditya Guha, secretary of the puja committee.

The puja is popularly known as the “Bengali Puja” here.

The hall at Chandmari was built in 1890. Its has a temple modelled on the famous Jagannath temple in Puri and a monolithic statue of Narayan. It is also known as Gopal Mandir.

“In 1915, the idol was brought from Krishnagar. It was ferried by a boat across the Farakka barrage and then brought to Darjeeling from Siliguri by the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. This year, we are getting the idol from Kumartuli in Calcutta,” said Raju Biswas, another secretary.

The hall has always seen the traditional ekchala idol where Goddess Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesh and Karthik are part of the same structure.

“Since the Maharaja of Cooch Behar had donated money to build the hall and also played a pivotal role in bringing in contributions, the place was named after him, Nripendra Narayan. During birsarjan (immersion), the idol used to be taken to Burdwan Maharaja’s palace at Rajbari (in Darjeeling). It is said, the rajmata used to put a gold coin on the idol (before the last journey),” Guha said.

Earlier, the idols were immersed at Kakjhora. From 1985, they are being taken to Rangbull, 16km from here.

The family members of the Maharaja of Burdwan still come here on Asthami.

The hall was gutted in a fire in April 1906 and was rebuild under M.N. Banerjee, a government pleader from here.

Dhakis used to come from Malda. Normally, we have six-seven dhakis but for this year, we will be getting 21,” said Saibal Chakraborty, a secretary.

Shows would be held at Chowrasta from Mahalaya (September 23).

“Darjeeling-based groups like Parakeet Melody, and singers of reality shows would perform,” said Chakraborty.

From September 29, shows would be held at the hall.