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Rush to stock up hill larders

Posted by Ramesh Khati on July 21, 2009

Vehicles stuck in a traffic jam during the 10-hour relaxation in Darjeeling on Monday.

Vehicles stuck in a traffic jam during the 10-hour relaxation in Darjeeling on Monday.

Siliguri, July 20: Around 50 vehicles left Siliguri for the hills with essential commodities today, making use of the 10-hour relaxation in the indefinite strike called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.

Although members of some anti-Morcha organisations put up blockades at few places in Siliguri, the goods movement went off peacefully and the brisk sale was a relief for the traders who had been incurring losses ever since the strike began on July 13.

Since morning, trucks and other vehicles from Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong – the three subdivisions in the hills – started coming down to collect essential commodities from local markets.

“At least 15-20 vehicles carrying vegetables, fruits and fish left for the hills today. There was a transaction of around Rs 30 lakh today,” said Tapan Saha, the secretary of the Siliguri Regulated Market Merchants’ United Forum. “Our members had been incurring losses since July 14, when a full-fledged strike started in the hills,” he said.

“There could have been some more business today, but blockades and a rumour that strike had been called in Siliguri today by some anti-Morcha forces hampered further trade,” he added.

Traders at the regulated markets and places like the Khalpara area are dependent on the hills, which account for 50 per cent of their business.

Sujit Bose, an executive committee member of the Siliguri Merchants’ Association, said: “Because of the relaxation in the strike, about 30 vehicles, loaded with groceries and foodgrains, left for the hills. The transaction on any normal working day at Khalpara market is Rs 6-7crore but today, there was hardly 30-40 per cent of the business.”

Robin Rai, a trader from Darjeeling who reached here by 8.30am, was carrying potatoes, onions and ginger. “It is natural that the strike led to the shortage of these items in the hill markets..”

The Bangla O Bangla Bhasha Bachaon Committee, which has been protesting against the indefinite strike and the demand for the separate state, blocked the main entrance to the regulated market from 7am to 9.30am. Its members also staged a similar protest on Nehru Road in Khalpara for one hour at noon.

“We simply wanted to send our message to the Morcha that if it does not withdraw the indefinite agitation this week, we will call a 72-hour strike here,” said Mukunda Majumdar, the president of the committee.

The Amra Bangali also organised a half-an-hour blockade at Darjeeling More around 3pm.

Source: The Telegraph


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