50 days of unrest over Gorkhaland leaves Darjeeling residents in the lurch2 min read . Updated: 03 Aug 2017, 06:06 AM IST
Shops are shut, supplies are limited and expensive, and government work has suffered in Darjeeling following unrest over Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's demand for Gorkhaland
Darjeeling: A caste certificate to be issued by the Darjeeling district administration stands between 18-year old Sweety Gupta and her dream of becoming a pharmacologist. She has given up on two colleges before, and has less than a week to submit her papers to take admission in a college in Bhopal.
The reason: the indefinite general strike in Darjeeling which enters its 50th day on Thursday has left the district administration crippled. Her certificate cannot be issued immediately because the officials who are to conduct an inspection at Gupta’s home have not been turning up for work.
A sympathetic district magistrate, Joyoshi Dasgupta, has issued a letter saying that her caste certificate is being processed to enable her to go ahead with the admission procedure, but Gupta isn’t sure if the college would agree to give her time to produce the caste certificate.
It is clear to this third generation settler from Uttar Pradesh that if she misses the bus this year, she would never realize her dream of lifting her father out of the lowly trade of selling betel leaf.
For her father Rajendra Kumar, the disruption couldn’t have come at a worse time. His shop is shut for more than a month now, and he will surely have to borrow from friends to pay for his daughter’s admission. “In these difficult times, it is embarrassing to ask for loans even from close friends," he says.
Traders and businessmen are reeling in losses. Even the state government is behind on paying salaries. July salaries have not been paid, said a key government official in Darjeeling, who asked not to be named.
There was no delay in June, but last month, agitators have vandalised an optic-fibre cable connecting the district administration’s offices. Documents have been sent to Siliguri for payroll processing, said the official cited above.
The unprecedented blockade is taking a heavy toll on common people as prices of essentials have shot up. The cheapest variant of rice is selling at Rs40 a kg and flour at Rs80 a kg—way above what common people can afford, said Kumar. With banks and post offices shut, even access to cash is a “huge challenge".
Supplies are still reaching Darjeeling, according to the district official cited above. Goods vehicles are being allowed to ply between Siliguri and Darjeeling with leave of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), the dominant party behind the agitation for Gorkhaland.
And these so called permits are being sold to traders by the GJM, alleged the district official, adding that “the common man in Darjeeling is paying for it". Only when it was thought that the “arrangement" had stabilised “at whatever cost to the common man", agitators on Tuesday night torched a goods vehicle carrying consumables from Siliguri to Darjeeling, according to the official.
Meanwhile, an ongoing fast unto death launched by three members of the youth wing of the GJM is approaching a fortnight, and a tug of war has started between the administration and the party over the health condition of one of the protestors.
The administration wants one of them, identified as Rakesh Chhetri, to be immediately taken to a hospital because his condition is life-threatening, but the GJM wouldn’t allow his fast to be forcibly broken.
“Yes, two of them are struggling with renal problems," said Jiten Rai, chief adviser to the GJM’s youth wing, “but they won’t budge." “We will hold the Centre responsible if any of them dies fasting for Gorkhaland," he added.