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regular-article-logo Monday, 27 May 2024

Polls trigger fear of cab crunch among stakeholders of north Bengal tourism industry

Samrat Sanyal, the general secretary of the Himalayan Hospitality & Tourism Development Network (HHTDN), said the mercury was soaring in different parts of the country and tourists started flocking to the Darjeeling hills to enjoy the chill

Bireswar Banerjee Siliguri Published 25.04.24, 11:55 AM
Darjeeling BJP candidate Raju Bista during his campaign in Kalimpong on Wednesday.

Darjeeling BJP candidate Raju Bista during his campaign in Kalimpong on Wednesday. Sourced by The Telegraph

Stakeholders of the tourism industry in north Bengal have expressed concern over the shortage of taxis as authorities have requisitioned hundreds of vehicles for the general election.

On April 26, elections will be held for Darjeeling, Raiganj and Balurghat Lok Sabha seats.

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Samrat Sanyal, the general secretary of the Himalayan Hospitality & Tourism Development Network (HHTDN), said the mercury was soaring in different parts of the country and tourists started flocking to the Darjeeling hills to enjoy the chill.

“Wehicles are being requisitioned for the polls. There will be apparently a shortage of vehicles for at least three-four days before and after the day of the voting. We have requested the Darjeeling and Kalimpong district administrations to see that vehicles are available for tourists also for those days,” Sanyal said on Monday.

He said tourists’ journeys had been affected in Sikkim and Dooars last week. This is because, on April 19, Assembly and Parliament elections were held in the Himalayan state of Sikkim and in the Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar Lok Sabha segments which comprise the entire Dooars.

“Also, Bangladeshi tourists were left stranded at Changrabandha as the border was closed for over three days because of the polls. We don’t want such a situation again as many tourists have planned their trips and made bookings months ago,” said Sanyal.

A transporter in Siliguri said the administration had already requisitioned some of his SUVs. The drivers, he said, have been asked to report by the morning of April 25.

“This means, the vehicles will be on election duty for at least three days, that is, till April 27 when polling teams will return from booths. We apprehend that there will be a shortage of vehicles for tourists,” he said.

According to the sources in the tourism sector, around 5,000 light vehicles ferry tourists to different destinations every day in the hills and the adjoining foothills.

In north Bengal, the tourism industry makes around 65 per cent of its earnings during the summer season, that is, from April 15 to June 15.

Siraj Bhowmik, the president of the Bagdogra Taxi Owners Welfare Association, said they were facing the crisis.

“There is already a shortage of vehicles as some of those have been requisitioned by the administration for other election-related works like movement of central and state forces.

“However, we could make some alternative arrangements for tourists arriving at the airport. But during the next few days, the number of vehicles available for them will go down. We don’t know how to handle the situation,” he said.

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