Trainloads of tourists regularly pass through Aluabari Road, the station that caters for Islampur town in North Dinajpur, but not a single person gets off for a vacation here.
North Dinajpur is not known as a tourist destination.
The only spot that people visit for seasonal picnics is the Kulik Bird Sanctuary on the outskirts of Raiganj town, the district headquarters.
Yet people feel the district could bring in a lot of visitors and generate business locally if places of historical interest were developed.
Several proposals that were sent to the state government over the years are languishing in files.
Partha Sen, a former history teacher of Islampur College, listed 50 possible tourist attractions across the district. He said places like Sonakhoda Masjid, which was built by the Mughals, could be easily developed as tourist destinations. The masjid is just three kilometres from Islampur.
“The ancestral mansion of the current MLA of Islampur, Choudhury Abdul Karim, a bungalow of the British indigo planters in Karandighi, the forests of Sanpnikla and Paptiagachh and the Gopalpur police station are some of the places that can attract visitors. Tourism can also be promoted in the tea gardens in Islampur and Chopra,” said the teacher.
Local people said Sanpnikla forest close to Islampur has a water body, which is suffering because of neglect and lack of monitoring. Trees around it are being felled.
“There are a lot of historical and religious edifices that can attract visitors,” said local historian and teacher Brindaban Ghosh.
“But these are getting damaged and are in the danger of disappearing totally. The state heritage commission has done a little bit of exploration but the tourism department has shown no interest. The commission has identified eight spots (see box) in the district that it wants to preserve. The tourism department should try and develop tourism in these places,” he added.
Ghosh said the heritage commission has already started renovating the Choudhury mansion, the Bhairab mandir in Bindole and the indigo planters’ bungalow in Karandighi along with some other places.
“The mansion of the Bahin zamindars and the Manhantabari Masjid, built during the Mughal period are some of the other spots being worked upon,” Ghosh said.
The former Congress sabhadhipati of North Dinajpur zilla parishad, Moktar Ali Sardar, said proposals to develop tourist spots in the district had been sent to the state government. He added that similar proposals had been sent to the erstwhile Left Front government also.
“But nothing has been done. A fund of Rs 84 crore from the Borderea Development Fund is being used to beautify a portion of the banks of the Tangon river in Radhikarpur close to the Bangladesh border,” Sardar said.