Bandhs deal Rs 70-cr blow to hills

Report: Home dept says 50,000 hotel bookings cancelled in Aug,losses may cross Rs 150cr

Written by Kanchan Chakraborty | Kolkata | Published: September 6, 2013 3:01 am

The tea industry,tourism sector and the commercial establishments have suffered a loss of Rs 70 crore due to the bandhs imposed in the Darjeeling hills in August by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha,the state home department has assessed days after the Calcutta High Court asked why should the party leading the agitation be not asked to pay compensation for violation of rights and destruction of government property.

Delivering an order on August 14,a Division Bench headed by Chief Justice Arun Mishra had asked the government to assess the loss and damage to public property during the indefinite bandhs enforced by the GJM.

A counsel of the state government Thursday said the home department has filed an application in the court on the losses incurred. Incidentally,the case was scheduled to be heard by the division bench today,but the Chief Justice was not in Kolkata,According to a home department official,the tea industry incurred a loss of about Rs 20 crore,the tourism sector Rs 25 crore and other commercial establishments about Rs 23 crore.

While the tea industry suffered major losses owing to sharp fall in the production and non-export of the produce outside Darjeeling,the tourism sector was hit hard due to cancellation of bookings in the hotels. Compared to 60,000 tourists who visited Darjeeling last year,this year the figure was pegged at a little more than 600.

More than 50,000 hotel bookings till Diwali have already been cancelled with the hospitality sector apprehending that the total losses incurred may cross Rs 150 crore during the festive season,the official said.

He said while most of the commercial establishments were closed the entire month,a conservative estimate has put the losses at about Rs 23 crore. The VAT collection too dipped sharply in August — only Rs 12 lakh was collected by the commercial tax department this year compared to more than Rs 62 lakh in 2012.

The official said that the department has calculated the loss to public property,damage to vehicles and expenses incurred on deployment of central forces at nearly Rs 2 crore.

He said the state home department would submit the details of the loss incurred by the different sectors in the high court during the next hearing. Advocate Rama-prasad Sarkar,who had filed the PIL on the issue of bandhs in Darjeeling,said the case would be heard on August 9.

Sarkar has already filed contempt petition against the GJM for violating the high court’s order passed on August 14.

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