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Tourism sops for Darjeeling

Siliguri, June 14: Union minister for tourism and culture Jagmohan today announced sops for the tourism industry spread over north Bengal and Sikkim, in the third and last day of his visit to the region.

The minister today inaugurated the Northeast Tourism Conclave, a three-day tourism festival organised by the Kanchenjungha Tourism Association.

“We have a master plan aimed at the overall development of Darjeeling as a tourist destination,” Jagmohan said after the inauguration.

“We want to give Darjeeling a new lease of life and we are going about it in a big way,” he said. “Money will not be a constraint. However, more than money, it is the will and commitment that matters,” the tourism minister pointed out.

The plan, to be implemented in collaboration with the Centre and the state government, will deal with problems that plague the tourism industry in Darjeeling.

“Water crisis, improper sewage and garbage disposal, absence of a solid waste management system, traffic chaos and illegal constructions are some of the major problems in Darjeeling, which are deterrents to the tourists coming here. These problems need to be addressed properly if we want more tourists to visit the region,” the minister said.

“It is a perfect mix of tourism, culture and clean civic life that we are trying to promote. We have had talks with the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council officials and Gorkha National Liberation Front chairman Subhas Ghising and they have shown a very positive response,” he added.

Besides the master plan, the minister announced Rs 1.45 crore for the upkeep of the Shrubbery Park at Darjeeling and another Rs 7.5 crore for the development of other tourist attractions in the hill town.

Jagmohan also has plans for Siliguri, the gateway to the Darjeeling hills. He said an entertainment park has been planned for Siliguri. The park will be set up with Central funds on a 13-acre plot near Mallaguri, to be provided by the state government.

The blueprint is being made and urban development and municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya and a local MLA will meet Jagmohan in Delhi on Monday to discuss the details of the project.

The minister also announced a Rs 10-crore fund for the Sikkim government for the upgradation of a management institute.

“For greater tourist flow, it is necessary that the region has skilled manpower. We have decided to upgrade the Food-craft Institute of Sikkim to make it a state-of-the-art institute that would impart training on food-craft and management techniques so as to develop the right kind of human resource in the entire region, including north Bengal and Sikkim,” Jagmohan said.

Sikkim will also get more financial help for the development of religious tourism, the minister assured. “Sikkim is a treasure of rare Buddhist monasteries and we are seriously looking into how they can be used to get more tourists to the state,” he said.

Jagmohan also promised “liberal, substantial financial and technical help” for the region.

Union minister of state for tourism and culture and parliamentary affairs Bhavnabehn Chikalia, Sikkim minister for tourism K.T. Gyaltshen, state tourism minister Dinesh Dakua, Bhattacharya and Siliguri Municipal Corporation Mayor Bikash Ghosh were present at the inaugural function.

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