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Darjeeling Mall to get battery cars

Darjeeling, June 12: The tourism department of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration Sabha has decided to introduce battery-operated cars around Darjeeling Mall, the main promenade in town, in two months.

The Mall is a tourist hotspot and provides a stunning view of the Kanchenjungha. Officials said the cars were being introduced keeping in mind the discomfort of aged and differently-abled persons who find it difficult to walk around the place. Tourists would also be able to enjoy the rides.

“The project has been approved by Bimal Gurung, the GTA chief executive. We have decided to introduce four battery-operated cars to start with. The cars should start running in two months,” said Sonam Bhutia, executive director of the tourism department.

While two vehicles would be eight sitters, the other two would be either six sitters or four sitters.

“We have realised that senior citizens and differently-able people find it difficult to take a walk around the Mall. We are introducing the cars for them but tourists can also take a ride if they wish to,” said Bhutia.

Pony rides around the Mall at Rs 200 a trip is popular but senior citizens are not comfortable with them.

The GTA is yet to fix the fare for the roughly 1km-long car ride but Bhutia said the tickets would be affordable.

“The maintenance cost of a car is 60 paisa per kilometre. A fully charged battery can run for 60 hours,” said Bhutia. “If the project is successful, we will launch battery-operated car rides from Chowrasta to Darjeeling zoo also,” said Bhutia. Chowrasta and Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park are 2km apart.

The tourism department will instal a 20feetX20feet LED screen at Chowrasta near the Mall. “The giant screen will display flight and train details. We will also showcase the cultural diversity of the hills (through it),” said Bhutia.

The GTA has also decided to launch “memorabilia carts”. “Hand-pulled carts would have embroidery machines installed in them. We would have tee-shirts for sale in the carts. Any one wanting a particular design on a tee-shirt can get it done instantly with messages like ‘I was in Darjeeling’ or ‘I love Darjeeling’,” said Bhutia.

The GTA is planning to introduce two such carts.

“The total cost of the three projects would be Rs 1.2 crore. Four battery cars are likely to cost Rs 40-Rs 45 lakhs,” said Bhutia. The giant screen and the carts would be introduced in two months, sources said.