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Demand to lift rafting suspension

Teesta Bazar, June 12: River guides based here and in Melli have demanded that the DGHC immediately lift the suspension it had imposed on the rafting in the Teesta following a mishap about two weeks back.

However, the 70-odd guides of the 18 rafting units in these areas under the banner of Red and White River Rescue Group and Guides’ Association were prevented from going ahead with their plan to block the Teesta-Pesho-Jorbunglow road for 12 hours by the Teesta branch of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today.

The guides said they were being made scapegoats following the June-1 incident in which a tourist from Mumbai died after a raft had capsized in the river near Chitrey.

“The tourism department (of the DGHC) is now saying we are not trained. What was the department doing all these years? Had we not been competent, we wouldn’t have been able to rescue 11 of the 12 rafters on board when the mishap occurred,” said Sanjog Gupta, the vice-president of the guides’ association. The proof of their skill, he said, lies in the fact that many of them were hired by rafting groups in Jammu and Kashmir and Arun achal Pradesh.

The guides said with the rafting season only 15 to 20 days away from ending, it was imperative for the authorities to lift the suspension, as their families survived on their earnings.

The off-season lasts for three months from July to September. “We have lost 12 days of earning. Rafting is the only source of my family’s income,” said Dipen Gurung, a guide.

While each guide gets Rs 250 for one rafting trip, his assistant’s fee is Rs 100. On a good day, the guides manage to do three or four trips.

“It is not just the guides, but at least 70 per cent of the economy of the Melli-Teesta bazaar-29 Mile area also depends on rafts,” said Saran Chhetri, the Morcha’s Teesta branch president.

Chhetri said his party would take up the cause of the river guides with the DGHC authorities on Monday. “We will have to settle the issue across the table. The blame game must stop. We realise that the guides have little employment opportunities here,” he said.

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