Darjeeling is again in the news for all the wrong reasons. The Queen Of Hills is in a sorry state and the worst part is that much of the trouble being caused is due to its own doing.
Reason Behind The Agitation
The current turmoil was initiated because of the Bengali language being made compulsory in schools from Class 1 to 10. Though the decision was reversed, however, it did light up the agitation mode back in the hills which doesn’t bode well for it in the tourist season.
The slogans of, “Go Back Mamata “, “ We Want Gorkhaland” were back on the streets much to the agony of the tourists. It has certainly given the Gorkhaland demand a new lease of life.
However one must understand that there are other issues which plague Darjeeling and on which the renewed agitation is built upon.
Age Old Demand
The demand for creating a separate state for the Nepali-speaking Gorkhas remains a pipe dream which won’t take place in the near future.
Whether the demand for Gorkhaland is right or wrong is an issue to be debated upon for some other day but what is clearly visible is that the ongoing protests are like hitting the hammer on its own foot for the Darjeeling people at this peak point of tourist season.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s term ends in August and fresh elections will be held soon.
The CM of Bengal is making a conscious bid for it after Trinamool’s victory in civic elections in Mirik and the opposition parties are wary of it and might well be using the language issue to create needless trouble to retain its hold.
A major bone of contention is also the demand for payment of minimum wages to tea garden workers which seems to be irrational at the moment considering estate owners have repeatedly termed it unreasonable citing housing and medical support. Whether there is any truth to it is beyond our knowledge.
Divide and Rule Policy
Since taking oath as CM, Banerjee has created 19 welfare boards for various hill communities, which is seen by the GJM as a divisive move aimed at dividing the Gorkha community. Her decision to hold cabinet meetings in Darjeeling did not go down with the political parties out there and was probably the biggest reason for the outburst.
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Tourist Sector is Taking a Hit
The unfortunate part is that it is the common people who are suffering because of the current dire situation.
Tourism, Tea, and Transport are the pillars of the economy of Darjeeling. Even if one of them is in a topsy-turvy state, it doesn’t augur well for the people and the whole economy comes to be a standstill.
According to the Darjeeling tourist association of travel agents, nearly 70% of bookings have been canceled and it is only expected to rise further.
Whether Gorkhaland should become a reality or not is not something to ponder upon right now. Whether Mamata Banerjee is trying to play a “divide and rule” policy card at the hills or not shouldn’t be our topmost priority as of now.
We are in the most important season of the year for the people of Darjeeling in regards to their economic stability for the whole year.
If the protests are to continue, there is going to be a colossal loss of income and credibility and Darjeeling will remain under duress for quite some time.
Image Credits- Google Images