Deb raps travel mart organisers

Minister Gautam Deb visits Bagha Jatin Park, the venue of Bengal Travel Mart, in Siliguri on Wednesday. (Passang Yolmo)

Siliguri: The digging of Bagha Jatin Park for building stalls and pavilions for the upcoming Bengal Travel Mart drew fire from state tourism minister Gautam Deb on Wednesday.

"It is immaterial whether you have the permission or not. But digging the ground here at Bagha Jatin Park is something that I cannot approve. I have taken the task to beautify this ground and its surroundings. If you need to dig the ground, you could have shifted the venue elsewhere," Deb told the organisers.

En event of the state tourism department, the meet is being organised by Eastern Himalaya Travel & Tour Operators' Association (EHTTOA).

During his tenure as the North Bengal development minister Deb had allotted funds for beautification and development of the ground, located in the heart of Siliguri.

The minister also referred to the recent visit of the foreign delegation at the mega tourist hub in Gajoldoba, near the Teesta Barage.

Deb also took a dig at the Left-run Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC) for not having a clear policy and set of guidelines which could be followed before letting out a civic ground for any programme and denied that he had never made any request to Asok Bhattacharya, the mayor, for allowing the ground to organisers of BTM.

"The civic body here should have some policy and a clear set of guidelines for renting its grounds. Anybody seeking the ground for an event will have to adhere to such guidelines, or else, the application would be rejected. But the guidelines have to be in place. This is why an unnecessary controversy has cropped up," he said.

On Tuesday, the mayor had said that Ranjan Sarkar, the leader of opposition at SMC, had met him. "He told me that the tourism minister has requested to allow the organisers to hold the event at Bagha Jatin Park. That is why, despite digging the ground, we issued a special permission to them," Bhattacharya had said.

The event, organised to promote the state as a tourist destination, will be held from February 16 to February 18.

As the incident has drawn EHTTOA, the largest body of tourism stakeholders in the region, into the controversy, a section of people involve in travel trade are sceptical.

"It is disappointing that controversy has cropped up ahead of the BTM. Such controversy only affects brand value of the event, particularly because during past two years, it has earned accolades from the prominent figures of national tourism sector and even from the neighbouring countries," said a stakeholder.

He also pointed that it was a wrong decision to select the venue, as some other programmes would be held at a venue around 6km away. "Also, there is an apprehension of traffic congestion due to shortage of parking space at Bagha Jatin Park".


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