Worry over seizure of cars for polls

Police deployed panchayat election nomination process
Darjeeling: The Darjeeling Association of Travel Agents has requested the administration not to seize vehicles from the hills and the adjoining plains for deployment during the panchayat polls as tourists will be inconvenienced.
Pradip Lama, the secretary of the association, said on Monday: "The administrations of various districts have started seizing documents of vehicles from the Darjeeling hills and the adjoining areas for deployment during panchayat elections in May.
Since no elections are being held in the hills and the Siliguri subdivision, we would request the administration not to seize our vehicles as it would have a direct bearing on the tourism season."
After a complete halt to the tourist inflow following the re-launch of the Gorkhaland movement in June last year, visitors have just started arriving in Darjeeling. Hotel bookings suggest that the season is expected to be good in May.

"If we are unable to provide vehicles to tourists, it would lead to chaos and problems for tourists. Many tourists might not even get vehicles and it would send a very wrong message. We request the administration of other districts to manage vehicles from their own districts as they manage during other elections," said Lama.
Stakeholders of the tourism industry said they couldn't afford to send a wrong message to tourist this time around.
"We had suffered huge losses last year. There was no income during the 104-day strike from June but we had to pay our staff and the lease," said a hotelier.
"Even after the strike was lifted in September, we lost the entire Puja season. There was hardly any tourist during the Christmas-New Year or the rest of the winter. Now, the signs are encouraging," said the hotelier.
Tourist arrivals in the hills are expected to start after school exams get over in the plains.
It is estimated that about 3.5 lakh domestic tourists, the majority of whom are from within Bengal, visit Darjeeling annually, apart from 40,000-odd foreigners.

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