Bimal Gurung speaks out on hawkers market at chowrasta issue

Bimal Gurung speaks out on hawkers market at chowrasta issue
With all humility, I first wish to counter a myth that ‘the Administration is the most powerful entity in India’. It is not. Thanks to our constitution, that honour goes to the common people of our great nation.

As the people of Darjeeling are opposing the construction of a concrete structure in Chowrasta, as planned by the District Administration, I feel that a referendum must be undertaken to determine if the people are supportive of the district administration's move or not.

I have always said that no trees should be cut in Chowrasta in the name of Development, and specifically said so in relation to the proposed hawker’s market on May 23, 2014. That does not mean that I am supportive of a building which is built in Chowrasta without cutting any trees. I am against any concrete building in Chowrasta period! It is the only patch of greenery that we have left in Darjeeling town.

In a democracy the voice of the common people should be heard and the administration must not, cannot, and should not be allowed to bulldoze these voices by use of force.

I am not against building a hawker's market, in fact I am supportive of it, but I am against the location of the hawker's market as selected by the district administration, which spoils the sanctity, serenity and tranquillity of Chowrasta.

I would appeal to the State Government and the District Administration to construct the Hawker's market at any place other than Chowrasta. They must do due diligence, and follow the norms and rules laid down by the Darjeeling Municipality, instead of trying to have their way at the cost of the natural and cultural heritage of Darjeeling and its people.

The people of Darjeeling consider the whole Chowrasta area to be an extension of the Mahakal Mandir, and it holds immense religious and cultural significance for the hill people, I am afraid that the proposed hawkers market will infringe on the sanctity of the Buddhist shrine on the C R Das road, which is culturally very important for the people of Darjeeling.

I strongly support the hawkers’ right to a permanent place from where they can earn their livelihood, and towards that end the GTA has already given the Darjeeling Municipality Rs. 1 crore to construct a hawker's market in Chowk Bazar. The construction of which will start immediately after monsoon. I hope that our brothers and sisters, who are waiting for a hawkers market to be built, will have the patience to wait for a permanent solution to their problem.

I am not opposed to development, but development should not be undertaken at the cost of our environment, religious beliefs and our cultural heritage.

I am hopeful that the state government will respect the emotions attached with feel towards Chowrasta in the hearts of the hill people, and refrain from building a concrete structure in the heart of Darjeeling.

- The Darjeeling Chronicle

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