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Exempt tourist vehicles from requisition for polls, Hill travel industry urges state govt

Darjeeling: Fearing that the requisition of tourist vehicles from Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts for the forthcoming rural polls would cause major inconvenience to the tourists during peak tourist season, the travel trade industry has appealed to the government for an exemption.
The Hills are looking forward to a bumper tourist season this May, but also fear that the rural polls could emerge as a damper. Six districts of North Bengal will be going to Panchayat polls on April 5, with repolls (if required) scheduled for April 7. However, Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts will not go to poll.
Counting for this phase-wise election of West Bengal has been slated for April 8. May is the peak tourist season for the two districts. Already, vehicles are being requisitioned from the two hill districts for the rural polls, claimed travel agents.
"We would appeal to the government and specially the district administration, to exempt vehicles from these two districts from requisition. Otherwise, it will cause grave inconvenience to the tourists. This time, we are expecting a bumper tourist season with the return of peace and normalcy. Many who had cancelled their trips to the Hills in 2017 owing to political strife, are visiting this year," stated Pradeep Lama, secretary, Darjeeling Association of Travel Agents.
Around 5,000 vehicles ferry tourists to and from Darjeeling on any given day during peak tourist season. "Every year, more than 10 lakh tourists visit the Hills. There is a shortage of vehicles during peak season. Along with tourists, locals also face problems. Requisitioning of vehicles will further aggravate the problem," added Lama.
The political unrest, along with the 104-day-bandh in 2017, had caused a major dent in the tourism sector, the economic mainstay of the Hills. Stakeholders including the GTA and state government, are trying to woo tourists back.
"We will write to the Election Commission and district administration, requesting exemption for vehicles of the two districts. We are hoping for a positive response regarding this," stated Samrat Sanyal, a tour operator.

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