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Tea Tracks - Vintage Train Route To Darjeeling
After the journey from the plains, it is tempt­ing to take the motorable road to Darjeel­ing, but we chose the slower narrow gauge train. The conversion from steam to diesel engine has added some speed to the heritage train but it is still a slow ride, taking about six to seven hours while a road journey takes subsequently less sans any traffic jam. But then isn’t a trip to Darjeeling, located in the northern part of West Bengal and popularly known as the Queen of Indian hill stations, about lan­guorous pleasures, basking beneath the shadow of the Himalayan snow ranges, sipping endless cups of the champagne of teas and riding the toy train?

Thus, we waited at the Siliguri Junction station for the New Jalpaiguri-Darjeeling Passenger (NJP-DJ) train to arrive. Running on a two feet (0.610 m) gauge track, the train consisted of a blue diesel engine pull­ing three coaches, and it required no stretching of the imagination to realise why it is called the ‘toy train’.
Just giving us enough time to settle down by the large carriage windows, the train was on its way. As we rolled past Sukna station, we could see tea gardens, interspersed with forests, unfurling around us. Reminding us that it is to the tea trade that the train owes its origin.
After the British managed to obtain the tiny hamlet of Darjeeling as a gift from the ruler of Sikkim (then an independent kingdom) in 1835, they appointed Archibald Campbell as the superintendent of the hill station four years later. Among the many things intro­duced by Campbell was the cultivation of tea. It is said that an indigenous variety of tea was being cultivated in Assam following its discovery around 1826. But the Chinese variant introduced by Campbell, nurtured in the loamy soil and the cool weather, soon turned out to be an absolute winner. The stringent rules regarding plucking and processing of tea laid down by him are still followed today.
Even though the Hill Cart Road was laid from Siliguri to Darjeeling and the British travelled by horseback or pony carts, it was not an easy journey. Franklin Prestage prevailed upon the govern­ment to build a railway line into the hills. Completed in phases, between 1879 and 1881, the railway itself was an engineer­ing marvel. It climbs 2,112 metres on its 88-kilometre long route between NJP and Darjeeling, through a series of loops and z-reverse, which helped overcome the steep gradient. Founded as the Darjeeling Steam Tramway Company, it was later renamed Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR).

As the train crossed Rongtong station, we realised that we had cleared the first of the several loops. The train had begun to climb uphill. The railway track runs almost parallel to the Hill Cart Road, oc­casionally entering into forested patches only to come out on the road again, sometimes even crossing right across. Sometimes, the train hugged the hill side, sometimes the lip of the slopes.
Near Tindharia, we crossed the first reverse. Here the train goes back and then again forward to go up a level along the hill side. Often, you may find a train berthed at an upper level to allow an­other train from the opposite direction to pass through.
It crosses several loops and reverses before it passes Gayabari station. A little later we cross a hill spring called Pagla Jhora (mad torrent) whose volume of water increases manifold during the monsoon, sometimes causing a landslide or partly washing away the tracks.
Kurseong onward, the tea gardens came closer. The velvety bushes covered the slopes as far as the eye could see. Dur­ing plucking season, you will find scores of women, with a basket on their backs held in place by a rope around the head, busy snapping the two leaves and buds. It is a delicate job and requires practice.
Each tea garden has its own factory where the leaves are processed by the ‘orthodox’ method to keep the flavours intact. The tea has a brownish-black, well-twisted appearance and contains a lot of ‘golden tip’. Certain morphologi­cal characteristics of the leaf are said to be responsible for the quality of the tea —tipping is one such. The ‘tip’ is derived from the hairy buds and leaves of the plant, which the Darjeeling variety is well endowed with.
From garden to the cup, it is a long process. Some of the key process involves withering, rolling, oxidation and fermen­tation, drying and finally grading. One of the key pillars of the tea trade are the tea tasters. A long-acquired expertise, it is through tea tasting that the standard of tea is determined, based on its subtle flavour, colour, astringency and other characteristics.
Several tea gardens in the area are now promoting ‘tea tourism’, which includes a tour of the garden and factory, tea tast­ing, and accommodation in their plush bungalows (some dating back to the British era).
The toy train ran through some of the most congested parts of the Hill Cart Road. Habitations and life appeared to spill on to the railway tracks. We almost looked into the living rooms of people, read labels of jars in the stores, and sali­vated at the sight of a plate of dumplings being shared by a couple in a wayside restaurant. Rounding a bend, the engine tooted furiously. Many people preferred to walk along the tracks because the road was choc-a-bloc with rushing vehicles.

After Tung station, we crossed Sonada, which in the local Lepcha language means the ‘cave of bears’. In fact, there is a story attributed to Mark Twain where he spoke about a railway manager on this route sending an urgent telegraph to his office in Calcutta saying ‘tiger eating station master on front porch, telegraph instructions’. These areas were home to many wildlife considering they were deeply forested in the 19th century.
Perched at 2,258 metres, and covered in mist almost round the year, Ghum is one of the highest railway stations in the world, and the highest in India. Here the train stops for another 10 minutes, prob­ably taking a rest after the steep climb.
In 1999, the DHR was accorded World Heritage Status by Unesco* (the tag was later extended to Nilgiri Mountain Rail­way and Kalka-Shimla Railway, and now together they have been categorised as the Mountain Railways of India).
After Ghum, the train takes the famous Batasia Loop, a double spiral—one of the many engineering marvels this line is famous for—where the train offers an al­most 360 degree view of the hills. Some­time back, the place has been beautified with a park and contains a memorial dedicated to Gurkha soldiers. From here, the train descends to Darjeeling town.

Although Darjeeling has been shorn of its colonial nostalgia, the look and feel of the pre-independence town lives on in pockets; a hotel here, a clock tower there, a legacy restaurant, a vintage photo stu­dio, or the botanical garden. While newer brands have made inroads, we were happy to note that two old restaurants, Keventers (our preferred choice for breakfast, tea and mountain views) and Glenary’s (for lunch), were holding on to their fame and position.

NOTE:  Bagdogra, the nearest airport, is about 14km away from Darjeeling. From Siliguri, Darjeeling is about 65km via Hill Cart Road and nearly 80km via National High­way 10. Stay options include: Windamere Hotel (from `13,500; windamerehotel. com), Central Heritage ( from `2,500; cen­ or Mayfair Darjeeling ( from `7,500; Avoid a visit during the monsoon season as landslides are common. You can book the tickets for the toy train on
*Recently, the UN body has asked for a report on the state’s conservation of DHR after they found the train and the tracks suffering from insufficient maintenance.

Only 600 vehicles allow to Tiger Hill daily
Six hundred light vehicles will be allowed to travel daily to Tiger Hill from Sunday, double the current limit that came into force two weeks ago with the aim of reducing congestion around Darjeeling town.

The Batasia Loop, where tourists are taken to when they return from Tiger Hill, will open at 5am, instead of 10am, officials said.

The earlier restrictions had not gone down well with travel operators who feared a drop in the number of tourists ahead of the Puja season.

Since September 1, the police were allowing only 300 vehicles with entry passes on a first-come-first-served basis. 

“It has been decided that from Sunday, we will allow 600 vehicles to Tiger Hill. The decision has been made keeping in mind the available parking area and some other issues. We have been issuing coupons and the process will continue,” Hari Krishna Pai, additional superintendent of police of Darjeeling, said on Saturday.
Pai was speaking after a meeting with transporters and other stakeholders of the tourism industry in Darjeeling.
On August 27, the police had proposed the 300-vehicle cap for Tiger Hill. It was also mentioned that the Batasia Loop would open at 10am. On Saturday, ASP Pai said: “Like earlier days, Batasia will open for visitors at 5am.”
Those associated with travel trade in the hill town and across the region had protested the cap of 300 and spoken with state tourism minister Gautam Deb, senior police officials and others in the administration over the past two weeks.
On Saturday, too, they demanded that the police revoke the coupons and pointed out that during the peak tourist season, around 1,800 vehicles head for Tiger Hill every day.
But ASP Paid said: “They could not provide any logic on why we should stop issuing the coupons. We have doubled the number of vehicles and in due course, will review the situation and take decisions.”
Pradip Lama, general secretary, Darjeeling Association of Travel Agents, said: “We are not satisfied with the new announcements. We will soon sit with other associations and plan our further move.”

Buffer Zone defined for DHR in crucial meeting between Railways and UNESCO
Darjeeling: "There is no threat to the heritage status accorded to the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways," stated Sanjiv Rai, General Manager, North-east Frontier Railways, while talking to media persons following a two-day meeting with the UNESCO representatives in Darjeeling. The UNESCO representatives dubbed the meeting as a landmark one and added that it agreed on defining and agreeing on a buffer zone that is one of the most important components of conserving the world heritage railway.

"It was a very fruitful meeting. Though the DHR has been enjoying the world heritage tag for the past 20 years, the boundary of the heritage had not been defined and hence protecting it was a challenging task. In this landmark meeting, the Railways agreed to the Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP) team's proposal of creating a buffer zone. The boundary discussion ended fruitfully in this meeting. The other stakeholders have to be proactive in the conservation and protection of this world heritage also. All the stakeholders including the local community need to come together for this," stated Junhi Han, Chief, Culture Department and Programme Specialist, UNESCO, New Delhi.

She appealed to all the stakeholders including the state government, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, the municipality, Forest department and the PWD to come together for this noble task. Commenting on the issue of land encroachment along the tracks, Junhi Han said: "There is no quick solution to this as people's lives are involved. There has to be a long term plan which should involve the other stakeholders. However, it has to be ensured that no further encroachment takes place," she remarked.

She also stated that the Indian Railways is committed and open to understanding that this industrial heritage also includes the old buildings like staff quarters, printing press and workshops. "They accepted this and even assured us that redundant components could be transformed into museums and community centres," stated Han. Echoing similar sentiments, Ravinder Kumar Verma, Divisional Railway Manager, Katihar Division, maintained: "Heritage is not the track alone. The Hill Cart Road on which the DHR runs is also part of the heritage. The buffer zone will maintain the scenic beauty along the route. Any construction in the buffer zone has to confirm with the heritage nature. Other stakeholders will have to see this. We will also take up the matter of encroachment with the state and the local authorities." Regarding work on the DHR, Verma stated that the revamped Ghayabari and Sonda stations will become operational before the end of this month. "20 to 25 new coaches will be introduced soon. 20 km of sleepers will be changed." Adding to this, the GM stated: "The joy ride services of the DHR has witnessed a surge of 50% passengers than previous years. Vistadome coaches have been introduced along with AC coaches." In 1879, work first started on the DHR, then called the Darjeeling Steam Tramways. DHR was titled as a world heritage site by UNESCO on December 2, 1999.
She appealed to all the stakeholders including the state government, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, the municipality, Forest department and the PWD to come together for this noble task. Commenting on the issue of land encroachment along the tracks, Junhi Han said: "There is no quick solution to this as people's lives are involved. There has to be a long term plan which should involve the other stakeholders. However, it has to be ensured that no further encroachment takes place," she remarked.

Mungpoo United Veteran Football Sangh under 15 Tournament
यहाँको मङपु जन मैदानमा गत २ सितम्बरदेखि कलिला खेलाडीहरुलाई प्रोत्साहन संगै मङपुमा फुटबल खेलको स्तरीयतालाई बरकरार राख्न मङपु युनाइटेड भेटेरन फुटबल संघको आयोजनामा सम्पन्न भइरहेको फुटबल टुर्नामेन्टको चुडान्त खेला आज सम्पन्न भयो | शुरुमा भेटरेन म्याच जसमा हाइवे भेटरेन र लाठपन्चर भेटरेन माझ खुबै रोचक खेल सम्पन्न भएको थियो जसमा लाठपन्चर  भेटरेनले हाइवे भेटरेनलाई परास्त गर्दै विजयी कप हत्याउन सफल बन्यो | यसको लगत्तैपछि आजको मुख्य खेल अन्डर फिफ्टिन टुर्नामेन्टमा सारदा हाइ स्कुलको भिडन्त सरस्वती उच्चतर माध्यमिक विधालयसंघ भयो जसमा सारदा हाइ स्कुलको उत्कृष्ट प्रदर्शनी अघि सरस्वती उच्चतर माध्यमिक विधालयको केही सिफ चलेन जसको फलस्वरूप सारदा विधालयले शुन्य गोलको विरुद्ध तीन गोल गर्दै आजका विजयी ट्रफी आफ्नो टीमको बनाउन सफल बन्यो |
आजको खेलमा भेटरेनबाट हाइवेको साइबल राईलाई बेस्ट प्लेयरको ट्रफी प्रदान गरियो भने जुनियर टीममा सारदा विधालयका युगेश मंगरलाई बेस्ट प्लेयरको ट्रफी प्रदान गरियो | संघका सभापति सन्तोष सिंग्दनको सभापतित्वमा सम्पन्न फाइनल खेलमा मुख्य अतिथिको रुपमा सिन्कोना व्यवस्थापक डा० सामुयल राई, विशिष्ट अतिथिमा व्यवस्थापक गोपाल लामिछाने अनि अन्य अतिथिहरुमा बोटानिष्ट लिना सुब्बा, मङपु अस्पतालका डाक्टर अरुप घोसाल अनि अन्य रहेका थिए |  

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Raju Bista Darjeeling MP at Mungpoo talking About Assam NRC
एनआरसीले कुनै पनि खाँटी गोर्खालाई केही नोक्सान गर्दैन, यदि एनआरसी बङ्गालमा लागु भएन भने अवश्य हाम्रो नोक्सान हुनेछ | म भोलिनै असम जाँदैछु, कति जना छुट्ने र अघाडि कस्तो प्रोसेस गर्नुपर्ने बारे त्यहाँ सबै संघ संस्थाहरुसित म कुरा बुझ्छु पहाडमा भुक्दै बसेर मात्र एनआरसीको समधान हुँदैन| एक जनापनि खाँटी गोर्खाको नाम एनआरसीदेखि छुटिदैन भन्दै लोकसभा चुनावको जीतपछि पहिलोपल्ट मङपु आएका दार्जीलिंग सांसद राजु बिष्टले एनआरसी बारे पत्रकारहरुलाई यसो भने | तिनले यहाँको बस बिसौनीमा आयोजित धन्यबाद कार्यक्रमबाट जनसम्बोधन गर्दै यदि एनआरसीले असमको एउटा पनि खाँटी गोर्खाको नाम छुटेर देशदेखि बाहिर जान पर्यो भने म यो कुर्सीको त्याग गरिदिन्छु समेत भनेका छन् | तिनले जीटीएका दुई दाजुहरु भन्दै बिनय तामांग र अनित थापालाई लक्ष्य गरेर तपाईंहरु जस्तो राजनीति गर्नु हुन्छ हामीहरु पनि त्यस्तै राजनीति गर्छौं | कुरा बुझेर बात गर्नु होला | एनआर किन लागु गर्नु? भारतमा बंगलादेशबाट छिरेकाहरुलाई खेद्न, रोहिन्गासहरुलाई खेद्न | हाम्रो घर कुनै धर्मशाला हो? के सबैलाई ल्याएर हाम्रो आफ्नै घर आँगनमा राख्नु? त्यसको जवाब दिनुपर्छ भन्दै सांसद बिष्टले  आक्रोसित भाकामा भनेका छन् | दिदीले एनआरसीको बिरोध गर्छ र यहाँ विपक्षीहरुले हामीले एनआरसीको विरोध गरेको होइन समर्थननै गर्छौं भन्दै दुई मुखे साँप जस्तो बात नगर्नु, म जीटीएको नोकर होइन, मलाई तपाईंहरुको प्रश्नको उतर दिने कुनै जिम्मेवारी छैन भन्दै सांसद बिष्टले सांकेतिक स्वरमा बिनय तामांग अनि अनित थापालाई भनेका छन् |
सांसद विष्टले सिन्कोना बारे बोल्दै पहिले टीएमसीले र अहिले जीटीएले सिन्कोना बगान मास्ने षड्यन्त्र गर्दैछ | आज सिन्कोना बगानमा काम गर्ने मानिसहरुले आफ्नो न्युनतम रोज पाएको छैन, आफ्नो पर्जा पट्टा पाएको छैन | यदि जीटीएले राम्रोसित सिन्कोना बगान चलाउन सक्दैन भने केन्द्र सरकारलाई हस्तान्तरण गरिदिनु, हामी राम्रोसित चलाएर न्युनतम रोज पनि दिन्छौँ, पालन पोषण पनि गर्छौं | किनभने यो एउटा हेरिटेज हो, अंग्रेजको पालादेखि चलिरहेको उद्योगमाथि हाम्रो आत्मा सिन्कोना बगानसित जोडिएको छ | यसैले अब केन्द्र सरकारले यसको विकासको निम्ति काम गर्नेछ | आजनै तिनले गोर्खाहरुको सपना पाँच वर्षभित्रमा पुरा हुनेछ, मोदी सरकारले पुरा गर्नेछ हतास नहुनु भन्ने डाइलग पुन: दोहोराएका छन् | सभालाई गोजमुमो बिमल गुटका लोप्सांग लामा, दार्जीलिंग विधायक निरज जिम्बाले पनि सम्बोधन गरे भने भाजपा जिल्ला सभापति मनोज देवान, तिलकचन्द्र रोका, पूर्व विधायक एनबी छेत्री बिशेष रुपले उपस्थित रहेका थिए साथै गोरामुमो, गोजमुमो बिमल गुटका बाक्लो समर्थकहरुको पनि भेला जमेको थियो || 

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Darjeeling MP Raju Bista full Speech at Mungpoo
सिन्कोना, जीटीए, पथअवरोध, गोर्खाल्याण्ड र एनआरसीमाथि राजु बिष्टले दिए यस्तो बयान
Darjeeling MLA Neeraj Zimba full Speech at Mungpoo

Postering Against Raju Bista, Neeraj Zimba, NRC in Mungpoo by GJYM
लाब्दा मङपु समष्टि गोर्खा जनमुक्ति युवा मोर्चाद्वारा आज मङपु क्षेत्रभरि एनआरसी बारे व्यापक पोस्टरिङ गरिएको छ | भोलि दार्जीलिंग सांसद राजु बिष्ट अनि विधायक निरज जिम्बा मङपु आएर सभा गर्ने जानकारी प्राप्त छ भने आज ती दुवै बिजेपी नेतृत्वको नाममा एनआरसी बारे पोस्टरिङ गरिएको देखिएको छ | बिशेष गरेर युवा मोर्चा अनुसार केन्द्र सरकारले भारतभरि बसेका गोर्खा समुदायको सुरक्षा गर्नपर्ने माग र देशको निम्ति अन्य केही नसोंची बलिदान दिने बीर गोर्खालीलाई पनि एनआरसी भित्र अन्तर्भुक्त गरिनु पर्ने माग गर्दै पोस्टरिङ गरिएको बताइएको छ | उक्त कार्यक्रम युवा मोर्चा सभापति दिव्या बोम्जनको अगुवाईमा गरिएको थियो भने सचिव सरद थापा, सहसचिव ज्ञानचन्द्र पाख्रीन, मिडिया प्रभारी प्रणय राई, रेशेप शाखा सचिव प्रणय राई, मङपुर शाखा युवा मोर्चा सचिव अबुल राई, हाइवे पार्टी संयोजक उत्तम राई, रेशेप शाखा सभापति मुन्ना दास, सचिव हेमन्त राई, समष्टि पार्टी सचिव गगन राई, खरसाङ महकुमा युवा मोर्चा महासचिव बिज्ञेन मिश्र लगायत समष्टिका सम्पूर्ण युवा मोर्चा प्रतिनिधि अनि सदस्यहरु उपस्थित रहेको युवा मोर्चा प्रवक्ता विभोर तामांगले जनएको छ ||

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