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Transport 'tiff' ache for tourism

'Strict' vehicle entry scan by sikkim, bengal fans fears ahead of summer season

File picture of vehicles lined up on NH10, the highway which connects Sikkim with Bengal and the rest of the country.

Siliguri: The tussle between Bengal and Sikkim that had started during the last year's statehood agitation in the Darjeeling hills seems set to continue as both states have taken a "strict" approach on allowing commercial vehicles into each other's areas.

For past couple of weeks, the Darjeeling district administration has stopped issuing "recommendations" to commercial vehicles for Sikkim trips. The document is required to obtain permits to move into the Himalayan state.

Also, the administration and the police are checking permits of vehicles registered in Sikkim.

On the other hand, there are reports fines have imposed and cases have registered against some vehicles of Bengal in Sikkim.

The tussle had started after Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Bimal Gurung had reportedly moved into Sikkim to avoid arrest. Also, Sikkim chief minister's open support at the demand of Gorkhaland had not gone down well with Mamata Banerjee and her government.

Later, as Mamata visited the hills on last month, after situation returned to normal, she had said that unrest in Darjeeling "benefits" Sikkim.

The continued tussle has, however, taken a toll on transporters of both states.

"We could not send vehicles to Sikkim as recommendations of many vehicles have lapsed. Also, in Sikkim, our cars are often checked and some of them have already been fined and cases have been registered even though there were all necessary documents," said a Siliguri-based transporter.

A senior official of the state transport department of Sikkim, however, said "everything is fine in their end." "We follow the reciprocal agreement and there is no problem in our side. There are however, some reports of harassment from the other side," said the official.

Travel operators in the region are worried. "We had a slump season last year due to the agitation. Most of us are pinning hopes on the upcoming summer season. Sikkim and Darjeeling hills had always remained an integrated tourist circuit. Both states should sit across the table and fix the problems. Otherwise it will be a huge problem for us," said a tour operator in Siliguri.#

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