Gautam Deb with local people at Marianbarie Tea Estate on the outskirts of Kurseong subdivision on Tuesday. (Kundan Yolmo)
Siliguri, Aug. 13: Minister Gautam Deb today toured fringe areas of the hills where a few residents came out of their homes and told him about lack of food supplies and transport.
Deb said people had “braved” the janata curfew to speak to him.
Rohini, Garidhura, Marianbarie Tea Estate and Dudhia-Damfatar, the places Deb visited, are all in Kurseong subdivision and around 20-25 km from Siliguri.
Nothing moved in the hill towns today, but the hill areas that Deb toured are closer to the plains and away from the direct glare of the Morcha.
Deb toured the areas with Trinamul leaders from the hills. In some places, residents walked with them for a few metres.
“In all these places, I spoke to people who braved the so-called janata curfew, came out of their homes and narrated their plight,” Deb said after the tour.
Most of the areas that the north Bengal development minister toured have a strong Gorkha Janmukti Morcha presence. In Rohini, the GNLF also has a base.
Deb was accompanied by hill Trinamul leaders such as Rajen Mukhia and Binny Sharma.
The minister, who had announced on Sunday that he would visit the hills and urge people to defy the strike and raise their voices in support of the development, visited Panighata in Kurseong subdivision, 35km from here, yesterday.
Panighata has some Trinamul supporters.
“The strike started on August 3 and till date, not a single grain of food or a single piece of vegetable has been handed over to us by the Morcha leaders,” a resident of Dudhia told Deb.
“None of the shops are open. If one or two shops are opening in the evening for an hour or so, they are charging a lot for their goods,” said the woman.
Local Morcha leaders, who remained indoors in support of the janata curfew today, said the hill party was distributing foodgrain.
“Our party is delivering its responsibility by distributing food and vegetables to people across the hills during the strike. Those who have raised such allegations are GNLF workers who are against our movement,” said Durga Sharma, the secretary of the Sukna block committee of the Morcha.
Buses to hills
At least four NBSTC buses left for hills from Siliguri on Tuesday morning in the first move by the state to normalise the situation in the hills.
Minister Gautam Deb, who is the chairman of NBSTC, had said yesterday that the state would run government buses in the hills.
“Four buses have left for the hills. The first left for Darjeeling in the morning, carrying around 10 passengers. Among the other three, another bus left for Darjeeling in the afternoon and two more left for Kalimpong,” a senior official of NBSTC said on conditions of anonymity.
“We have been told by the administration that once the buses climb up the hills, police escort would be provided. All the four buses are supposed to return here (Siliguri) today.”