Bengal’s second most important trade hub Siliguri is taking a daily hit of Rs 2 crore due to the indefinite band in Darjeeling, say trade bodies in this north Bengal city.
The bandh which entered its 34th day on Tuesday was called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) to push for its demand for a separate Gorkhaland state.
With more than 70 % of Siliguri’s business dependent on Darjeeling hills and the state of Sikkim, most of the wholesale and retail traders are suffering heavily.
According to office bearers of the Siliguri Merchants’ Association (SMA), Siliguri Hardware Merchants’ Association (SHMA) and Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry, North Bengal (FOCIN), the indefinite bandh has badly dented their business.
“Siliguri’s business is losing about Rs 2 crore daily. About 75% of business in Siliguri is dependent on Sikkim and Darjeeling hills. As everything is shut in Darjeeling hills, Siliguri is suffering a crippling effect. If this continues everything would collapse,” Biswajit Das, general secretary of FOCIN told HT.
Siliguri is usually a town with regular traffic jams, but over the past few weeks, traffic has thinned.
Read more: No work, no internet, no entertainment: A ‘boring’ life in bandh-hit Darjeeling
“We have no work and are sitting idle for more than a month,” Hiralal Agarwal the president of SHMA said. According to Agarwal, 75 % of Siliguri’s hardware business comes from Sikkim and Darjeeling hills. Every day the sector clocks a business of Rs 50 crore during normal days.
Gauri Goyal the general secretary of SMA claimed, “The indefinite bandh has eroded 70 % of the food business in Siliguri.”
From rice to wheat to lentil to edible oils, almost all food items go to the hills and Sikkim from Siliguri. The main wholesale market here is Khalpara. During normal days more than 100 trucks ferry food items to the hills. “Now only few trucks are only going to Sikkim. We are losing business of Rs 15 crore daily,” said Goyal.
The supply to Sikkim which is connected to Siliguri by National Highway 10 has also been hit as the administration here is allegedly not allowing the trucks to carry food items and other essentials to the state. Trucks going to Sikkim are regularly checked on one pretext or other, the Pawan Chamling government of Sikkim has alleged.
Goyal claimed the indefinite bandh in the Darjeeling hills has deprived about 10,000 daily labourers and 500 rickshaw pullers of their livelihood. A senior official of Siliguri Regulated Market Committee said, the vegetable and fish market is witnessing a daily shortfall of at least 65 %.
He said on normal days, 60 to 70 trucks loaded with vegetables reach regulated markets from various places out of which 40 to 50 trucks are dispatched to the Darjeeling hills and Sikkim.