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Plaza plan at Planter's

Darjeeling, Jan. 20: Planter's Club ' probably the only remaining testimony to the hill town's rich legacy ' is ready to exchange its green for a concrete structure.

The members of Darjeeling Club ' more popularly called Planter's Club ' may have put up billboards describing the landmark as a 'heritage' site, but they have no qualms in turning the coveted hillside into a multi-storied shopping complex-cum-parking space (see picture).

A proposal to erect a parking space ' which could also house a two-storied shopping complex ' right in front of Planter's was passed at a meeting called by its committee members recently.

Undoubtedly, the location is a coveted spot for promoters of real estate. Vijay Puri, a club member, who chaired the meeting on December 24, admitted that the proposal was passed. 'The majority of the members has given the nod for the creation of a parking space,' he said.

Sources maintain that a few enthusiastic members had even wanted to use the space below the parking area for commercial purposes (read shopping malls).

Though Planter's has 476 members (from across the country), the 'historic' meeting was attended by 30-odd people. The club, which was set up in 1868, has one of few surviving open spaces in Darjeeling. It is feared that the parking space ' to come up in front of the club's entrance from the left ' will turn the 'heritage landmark' into a concrete jungle.

Those members, who were in favour of a parking space, argued that it would be in the best interests of the club. The motor stand, incidentally, is only 20 m away. 'Prior to 1986, the club members used that space to park their vehicles but no longer,' said a member.

The Planter's has an unmatched history. The lounge has original Snaffles painting dating back to the early 20th century while the billiard room boasts of photographs of the historic Everest expedition led by Andrew 'Sandy' Irvine and George Mallory in 1924. Two oxygen cylinders at the entrance are a testimony to the fact that the expedition had started from here.

The Quarter Deck (the jutting out balcony) boasts of a Gatling Gun'dating back to World War I'gifted by Col Younghusband who had used it while leading the first British expedition to Tibet.

Residents fear that 'brazen encroachment by club members' is set to rob Planter's of its legacies.

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