Gangtok, 22 Jun:
Around 40 buses arranged by the State Government and many other vehicles, both private and taxis, traveled to Siliguri from Gangtok and vice versa today. The last bus out of Gangtok for Siliguri left the SNT Depot at 2 p.m. today.
There were no more buses scheduled for the day. And yet, a visit to the ticket counter at the Depot revealed that there were still many tourists milling around, hoping that some arrangement would be made for them to make it in time for their flights and trains the next day.
Siddharth Malhotra of Delhi who was at the SNT Depot with his family hoping that they could move out today, informed that they had joined the queue at SNT at 5 a.m. this morning. And they still could not get a seat on any of the around 40 buses that departed from here for Siliguri today. The line ahead of them was already that long.
The mass of tourists waiting in a line of quiet desperation since as early as 5 a.m without any clarity as to the chaos they have found themselves in. Despite waiting for an arduous amount of time and the Department doing everything in its power to redress the situation, things have not really panned out as well as they should have for people spending their holidays in Sikkim.
The Sikkim National Transport (SNT) Gangtok, Sikkim is going out of its way to accommodate the stranded tourists providing as many as 30-40 buses daily, including the buses from the pharmaceutical companies and other undertakings. The first bus leaves at around 6 in the morning and the last bus at 2 p.m.
Even after the scheduled hour for last bus to Siliguri, the tourists refused to budge, staying put in desperate anticipation that something will work out for them.
The only alternative to this endless wait is to board a handful of service cabs which ferry passengers at their own risk if they have missed the police escorts provided by West Bengal police in batches to traffic from Sikkim at 8 a.m and 11 a.m from Rangpo, and at 2 p.m and 5 p.m from Siliguri.
The confusion and consternation imposed on tourists and commuters is unfortunate specially since there is no real trouble on the highway, just a lot of fear-mongering. In fact, the highway saw very heavy movement of vehicles today and one of the SummitTimes correspondents travelled from Siliguri to Kirney near Melli and back and did not come across any picketing or heckling along the way.
SNT buses, daily service vehicles and private cars along with trucks were seen going to and fro from Siliguri and Sikkim even outside of the convoys and faced no aggression along the way.