Ministers Krishnendu Narayan Choudhury and Gautam Deb inaugurate the training programme for drivers in Siliguri on Friday. (Kundan Yolmo)
Siliguri, Sept. 6: Bengal tourism minister Krishnendu Narayan Choudhury today asked the Gorkhaland agitators in the Darjeeling hills to keep tourism out of the purview of the movement.
“We hope good sense will prevail among those who have been calling strikes in the hills for over a month. Schools have been allowed to reopen and resume education. In a similar manner, the tourism industry should also be kept out of the ambit of the strike because a halt in the inflow of visitors is affecting the industry and tarnishing the image of Darjeeling, which is one of the principal destinations in the country for both foreigners and people from other states in India,” said Choudhury, who was here to inaugurate a skill development programme for taxi drivers.
The programme was held in association with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) at Mainak tourist lodge.
Choudhury also said the government was working on a plan to introduce tourism police in the destinations across Bengal. “We will shortly introduce tourism police in Calcutta. The plan will be extended to areas in north Bengal later,” said the minister.
The Union tourism ministry had earlier this year directed states to introduce tourism police to prevent harassment of the visitors.
The organisers of the skill development programme said it would help improve the services provided by the drivers.
“It has been observed that taxi drivers have a great influence in building the image of tourism. As the drivers spend considerable time with the tourists, they can also create a negative image of the industry. Untrained youths with little formal education are picked up indiscriminately and put into driving profession. A substantial number of the drivers belong to the lower socio-economic strata and don’t know what to inform the tourists about the destinations,” said a CII official.
According to representatives of the trade body, around 300 drivers of the city would be trained in the first phase. Today, 120 drivers attended the programme, where they were apprised of professional skills and told about healthy and hygienic practices. The drivers were also told about etiquette, dress code, traffic rules and basic knowledge of tourist spots.
“After the training, certificates will be issued to the participants,” said the CII official.
Junior Union home minister R.P.N. Singh today told the Rajya Sabha that the state government would be taken on board before any meeting with Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders. The reply came after Trinamul members protested Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde's meeting with Morcha leaders in Delhi on September 3.
Trinamul MP Sudip Bandopadhyay in the Lok Sabha and party legislator Derek O'Brien in the Rajya Sabha raised the issue through a special mention and said the Centre was playing a role in the “deliberate and motivated attempt to divide Bengal”.
Speaking on behalf of Shinde who is unwell, Singh said the home minister had met the delegation despite his ill health as it was led by the Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh. Singh said the Centre had worked with the state in working out the tripartite agreement on the setting up of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration in 2011 “and will continue to do so to further the development of the area”.
Singh said the only assurance given to the delegation was that the Union home secretary would hold a tripartite meeting with the state chief secretary and representatives of the GTA to sort out the outstanding grievances in line with the directive of the Prime Minister.