The Sikkim government is set to take the West Bengal government to court for “losses” it incurred because of the Gorkhaland agitation in Darjeeling.
Government representatives claimed that ever since the protests began, the West Bengal government and its police have deliberately prevented supply of goods to Sikkim, stopping trucks from entering the state because of the support Sikkim — including its Chief Minister Pawan Chamling — has shown for a separate Gorkhaland.
National Highway 10, which connects Siliguri in North Bengal to Gangtok, is the only highway that connects Sikkim to the rest of the country and serves as the state’s lifeline.
Sikkim’s lone Member of Parliament P D Rai, speaking with The Indian Express, said, “We are planning to approach the Supreme Court next week. The circumstances which have been created are unconstitutional. Our food supply and all other essential goods coming to Sikkim have been stopped. In Siliguri, many of our trucks carrying essential goods have been stopped by police in civil clothes, while uniformed police have looked on. Just because we have a particular stand, which has been a known stand for many years, this is being done.”
Rai said that such disruptions have taken place routinely due to the shared highway with West Bengal, but the past 20 days — since the agitations began — have been particularly bad. “Over the past 30 years, Sikkim has incurred losses worth Rs 60,000 crore due to such disruptions. We want the West Bengal government to make good on these losses,” he said, adding that in the past 20 days alone, the state has incurred losses of Rs 200 crore.
“Till the day before Mamata Banerjee decided to hold her cabinet meeting in Darjeeling, there was not a single room vacant in any hotel in Sikkim. But since then, there is not a single room that is occupied. Our economic losses have been huge. Disruptions and agitations will occur, you can’t prevent that. But the highway should have been protected by paramilitary to ensure that essential goods reach us. Yesterday, areas in north Sikkim ran out of rice and pulses; we have shipped these items to them today. There is no problem with organic vegetables or dairy in the state, but we import our cereals, and this has been hit. There is no cash in ATMs either,” said Rai.
Operators of trucks that ferry goods from Siliguri to Sikkim called an indefinite bandh on June 30 to protest the alleged attack on Sikkim-bound trucks by anti-Gorkhaland protesters. Groups of youths protesting the “division of Bengal” allegedly vandalised two trucks in Dhupguri and New Jalpaiguri, and another in Siliguri carrying milk supply for the Indian Army, on June 30. Tanker associations have also stopped supplying fuel to Sikkim.
“Very soon, our medical supplies will run out. We are sandwiched between two agitations — for and against Gorkhaland. The West Bengal government needs to pay up,” said Rai.