GJM bandh temporarily puts the brakes on Darjeeling's iconic toy train services
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's ongoing agitation has robbed the world heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railway of its steam. The Railway has shut down DHR services indefinitely keeping in line Morcha's indefinite Government office bandh in the Hills since June 12.
Along with the services, the reservation counters at the Darjeeling station have downed shutters causing inconvenience to both the tourists and local residents.
"We cannot take the risk of any damage to the world heritage rolling stock and injury to the passengers in case protestors forcefully stop the services. The Railway authorities have decided to discontinue services till normalcy returns" stated Suman Pradhan, Station Manager, Darjeeling.
"It is sad that services have been discontinued. We have heard so much about the DHR and we were looking forward to taking a ride but owing to the ongoing unrest we have not been able to do so" stated Jayesh Bapodra from Ahmedabad.
Foreign tourists, many of who visit Darjeeling just to take a trip in the DHR are a dejected lot. "I am a steam loco enthusiast and my trip to India revolves around my visit to Darjeeling to undertake a ride in the DHR. It is very depressing. It is not every day that we can plan trips to Darjeeling" stated a crestfallen Andrew Stone from Australia.
As for the locals, reservations and cancellations have become difficult with the reservation counters remaining closed. "We have to depend on online reservations from home or go through a travel agent to get our tickets done. It has been causing a lot of inconveniences" rued A Rai, a local resident.
"The passengers who have booked DHR service tickets in advance can get cancellations done from counters in Siliguri and NJP" added Pradhan.
The DHR was marked as a World Heritage site by the UNESCO on December 2, 1999. "Railways fall under emergency services. They should immediately resume it," stated Samrat Sanyal, Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators Association (EHTTOA.)