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Tourists must for state cause: Fest organisers
- Club appeals to political parties for bandh-free January

Darjeeling, Dec. 16: Organisers of Maneybhanjyan Tourist Festival have appealed to all political parties not to call general strikes during the first half of January despite heightened fervour for the demand for Gorkhaland, underlining that tourism continues to be the economic mainstay in the hills.

Tenzee Bhutia, the president of Reunited Club which is organising the festival, said: “We had earlier planned the event in October but could not hold it because of political problems. We have made all arrangements for a three-day festival from January 8. We, therefore, appeal to all political parties to refrain from calling a strike during that period.”

The festival is scheduled at Maneybhanjyan, 28km from here, and the organisers have lined up cultural events, games and horse rides for tourists through forested and hilly trails.

“We have got a confirmation from at least 40 to 50 tourists who want to come for the festival. All lodges around Maneybhanjyan have also offered to provide some discount,” said Tamling Sherpa, the secretary of the club.

Tourists can avail of horse riding and go till Dooteria, 19km from Maneybhanjyan. However, Maneybhanjyan, which is the starting point of all treks to Sandakphu, is more known for its Land Rovers. Six of Series I, six of Series II and 12 of the 109S model operate in the area at a time when they are virtually off the roads in most parts of the world.

“We or the club might not be directly involved with tourism, but the people of Maneybhanjyan indirectly benefit from the industry. If more tourists come to Darjeeling, it will strengthen the statehood demand as they will know the difference in culture among the hills and the plains,” said Bhutia, adding that they would be formally making a request to political leaders in a day or two.

Going by Morcha indications, the mood is unrelenting at the moment. The students’ wing today said if the December 21 talks fail they would sit on hunger strike along National Highway 55. The students are also of the opinion that if the closure of offices fails to impact, then the employees should think of resigning en masse.

However, the Morcha has decided to spare the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway from the office shutdown purview “for the convenience of the tourists”.

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