ANURADHA SHARMA LAKHOTIA & PEMA LEYDA SHANGDERPA
Chuikhim, Sept. 27: Dashain is all set to be different in Chuikhim this time.
Much to the pleasure of the women here, Dussehra in this nondescript hilly village in Kalimpong subdivision, more than 55 km from Siliguri, will be held sans jaand and raksi (forms of country liquor that are must-haves at any festival).
“We will try to make it up with liberal doses of meat and fish,” said Krishna Bahadur Rai, one of the women. Ever since the residents decided to develop this place as a model self-sustaining village and introduce community-based tourism more than a year ago, all hooch dens have shut shop. “We now want the village to develop as a liquor-free tourist destination,” Rai added.
Backed by Support Himalayan Agro Rural Enterprises (SHARE), a community-based body, residents organised a colourful cultural programme and a football match to celebrate World Tourism Day.
“Our objective is holistic economic development of the village,” said Prashanta Mallick, the project coordinator. “Tourism in the form of home-stays is one of the economic activities. We are encouraging villagers to start village and cottage industries as well. We are also helping them avail of government schemes and five self-help groups have been formed.”
Meanwhile, the day passed off without much noise in Siliguri and adjoining areas. “Because of the Pujas, we could not organise any programme the way we wanted to,” said Gopal Lama, deputy director of tourism department, north Bengal. “We took a group of under-privileged and challenged children from Matangini School on a day-long tour of North Bengal Science Centre.”
The tour operators, too, observed the day on a silent note. “We distributed stickers with Athiti Deva Bhawa written on them to mark the day,” said Samrat Sanyal, secretary of Eastern Himalayan Travel and Tour Operators’ Association. “In any case, what do we celebrate? Bad roads and ill-developed infrastructure?”
In Gangtok, however, things were different. Manakar Shah and his wife, who had arrived there yesterday for a tour of Sikkim, were surprised when they were told by the Information Centre that a free dinner awaited them at Hotel Mayur.
The Desais from Bhopal were luckier. Like the Shahs from Mumbai, Sharad R. Desai and his wife Karikar had visited the Information Centre and were taken on a free tour of the seven sight-seeing points around the capital.
The two couples were the lucky firsts to have reached the information desk for queries today and win the complimentary gifts from Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation (STDC) as part of the World Tourism Day celebrations.
While it was a low-key affair this time, a programme was organised this morning at Hotel Mayur where the chairperson of the STDC Manita Mangar was the chief guest.
Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim and Sikkim Association of Adventure Tour Operators were awarded for being “responsible” tour operators and promoting tourism in the hill state while Namgyal Treks and Tours was adjudged the “best travel agent” of the year. Within the tourism department, two of its staff members — senior guide Sonam Rinchen and information assistant Tashi Gelek — were felicitated for their dedication and contribution.