Darjeeling, July 7: Necessity is the mother of invention for the bandh-hit residents of Darjeeling, literally. At a time when the hills are facing severe shortage of essential items as shops and trade centres remained closed for more than 20 days now, locals have come up with creative methods to tide over the crisis.
Instead of waiting for the indefinite strike to end, which has entered 23rd day on Friday, the locals are visiting a neighbouring small town in Nepal to buy essential items and use internet.
The West Bengal government has banned internet services across Darjeeling and adjoining areas, citing law and order problem.
The tiny town in Nepal, Pashupatinagar, situated down the Darjeeling-Mirik Road, has become the favourite shopping destination for the people of Darjeeling. The residents of the hills can easily cross the Indo-Nepal border on foot as they are not required to furnish any written permit to visit Pashupatinagar, as is generally the case to go to any foreign country.
However, if one is travelling in a vehicle, then permission from the Nepal police is needed to visit the town. The locals say it is very easy to get permission as Nepali policemen are very friendly in nature.
Thus on a regular basis, the residents of the hills are travelling around 30 km through the porous border to reach Pashupatinagar. During their way back home from Nepal, the Indians are bringing with them food items which include rice, lentils, biscuits and noodles. They are also buying liquor and soft drinks to keep themselves free from any thirst.
"Every day, hundreds from Darjeeling come to buy goods such as rice, lentils, vegetables, meat and even liquor bottles and crates of soft drinks," a Nepali police officer posted at the border was quoted as saying by The Times of India.
"Usually, there is a bar on the amount of goods one can carry past the border, but given the prevalent crisis in Darjeeling, the cops are being lenient," he added.
Many natives of the hills are crossing the border to use internet in cafes of Pashupatinagar. The petrol pump in the Himalayan town is also attracting a lot of hill residents to help them get their fuel quota.
Currently, the people of Darjeeling are facing severe petrol and diesel shortage due to the ongoing strike.
This time, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) is spearheading the protest to demand the separate state of Gorkhaland. Over the last few weeks, other pro-Gorkhaland parties too have joined the GJM to demand their homeland.
The entire crisis in the hills began after the Mamata Banerjee government announced the decision to make Bengali compulsory for all schools. The anti-Bengali protest soon metamorphosed into pro-Gorkhaland agitation. Last month, three supporters of the GJM were allegedly killed in a police firing.