West Bengal minister seeks tourist safety in Darjeeling

Kolkata, Aug 6 (IANS) West Bengal Tourism Minister Manab Mukherjee has written to Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) supremo Bimal Gurung, seeking his assistance in ensuring the safety of tourists in the Darjeeling Hills. “I wrote a letter to GJM chief Bimal Gurung requesting him to bring back normalcy in Darjeeling, especially during the months of October and November, which coincides with the festivals of Durga Puja and Diwali,” Mukherjee told IANS Wednesday.

He said thousands of tourists, including foreigners, visit Darjeeling every year during the festive season. Tourism in Darjeeling is a roughly Rs.5 billon industry and the economy of the district largely depends on it.

“We want all tourists to have a safe holiday in the hills. For that I earnestly seek cooperation from the GJM leader to ensure that a proper environment is maintained in the entire district of Darjeeling,” Mukherjee said.

Since the past few months, the tourism industry in Darjeeling has been badly hit due to violence and shutdowns in the region over the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state. More than 100 hotels were lying vacant as tourists had left the pretty mountain resort.

The GJM, led by its president Bimal Gurung, has been spearheading a movement in the hills for a separate state, besides opposing the Sixth Schedule status for Darjeeling district, which confers it greater autonomy.

Darjeeling was the summer capital of British India till the capital was shifted to New Delhi from Kolkata in 1912.

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