The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bandh to protest phone fiasco

Darjeeling, June 8: It’s a bandh with a difference.

Agitated over phones that are “dead” for over two-and-a half months, residents of Maneybhangyan and Simana, lying along the Indo-Nepal border in Darjeeling district, have called a 24-hour general strike tomorrow.

In the past four months, the harried residents said they had met all those who mattered in the telecom department, including Darjeeling telephone exchange officials, but to no avail. They said they were left with no alternative but to call a strike to make the authorities sit up and take notice.

“Since March 20, we have not been able to communicate with the rest of the world and despite repeated reminders, telephone officials have failed to fix the problem,” said Wangal Tshering Sherpa, a resident.

Sherpa, who is secretary of the local unit of the Democratic Youth Federation of India, said Maneybhangyan and its adjoining areas had some 70 telephone connections. Except one phone at a local public booth, the rest were out of order.

All the phones at Simana, which also has about 70 connections, are down, too.

The breakdown in telecommunications does not augur well for Maneybhangyan, a tourist destination about 35 km from Darjeeling. The trek to Sandakphu starts there.

The strike comes when the trekking season is nearing its end. But it will disrupt the heavy traffic to Mirik from Darjeeling and Kurseong as the road runs through Simana. Local residents called the strike, despite an appeal by the Darjeeling Gorkha Joint Action Committee, a transport union.

Though their telephones have been “out of order” for two and-a-half months, residents said they had received bills, asking them to pay up.

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