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Safari car strike in Gorumara

Jalpaiguri, Nov. 15: The owners of vehicles that take tourists around Gorumara National Park went on strike this afternoon after police seized two cars for operating inside the forest without commercial permits and arrested two guides for wearing army fatigues.

Following the wildcat strike by the Lataguri Light Vehicle Owners’ Association that began around 3pm, more than 60 visitors could not enter the national park and missed the safari to spot the Indian one-horned rhino. No tickets were issued from the counters at Lataguri, Chulsa, Murti and Ramsai.

Acting on a tip-off that vehicles without commercial permits were plying inside Gorumara, forces from Nagrakata and Meteli police stations raided the park around 12 noon. Soon, they spotted two such vehicles and seized them after asking the tourists to get off. They also arrested the two guides, Ratan Kora and Munu Oraon, for wearing army fatigues. The vehicles were taken to the Nagrakata police station for interrogation.

The subdivisional police officer of Mal, Arindam Sarkar, said the seized vehicles did not have commercial numberplates. “We arrested the two men as they have no right to wear olive mottled clothes, like the army commandos, while acting as forest guides. We have given the forest department 10 days to see that the guides do not wear this uniform. We have also asked them not to let private vehicles enter the forest.”

The forest department had banned the entry of diesel vehicles inside the park from the season that began on September 16, said Bapi Chanda, the secretary of the vehicle owners’ association. “Since all the 60 petrol vehicles that operate inside Gorumara now are privately registered, we had asked the forest department to help us procure commercial permits. But the department did not do anything.”

The divisional forest officer, Sumita Ghatak, said the vehicle owners had been asked to convert their vehicles to commercial ones long ago. “I cannot say why they did not do it. I will take up the matter of the uniforms of the guides with the police.”

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