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Covid-19: North Sikkim local govt bans outsiders

The Lachung Dzomsa took the decision after the World Health Organisati declared the outbreak of the Covid-19 as a pandemic

Manas R Bannerjee | Siliguri |

Lachung Dzomsa, a traditional administrative institution that functions as local self-government since the ‘King’s Era’ in North Sikkim, has adopted a resolution and asked authorities concerned to halt the movement of tourists and workers from other states in the region, given the coronavirus scare.

Though the Sikkim government has decided to bar the entry of foreign tourists, this sudden decision of local self-government has left stakeholders in the tourism industry in both Bengal and Sikkim parts upset. The Lachung Dzomsa took the decision after the World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday declared the outbreak of the Covid-19 as a pandemic.

“Taking the recent outbreak of coronavirus into consideration, the Lachung Dzomsa has passed a resolution today to bar tourists and even workers from other states from entering Lachung with effect from 12 March 2020 till 15 April, 2020,” the head of the Dzomsa, known as Pipon, Yanku Tashi Lachungpa, said in an advisory.

“We would also like to request authorities concerned to kindly stop issuing new work permit for Lachung Dzomsa jurisdiction areas till 15 April 2020,” the advisory added. Asked to comment, the secretary of the Tourism Department in Sikkim, TT Bhutia said: “I have come to know about the decision of the Lachung Dzomsa, but I do not have an idea about the state government’s decision.”

“The chief minister is out of his office today. It needs approval from the CM,” Bhutia said.

Official sources said that top officials of the state government have sought reports from the administration of North Sikkim. The Chief Secretary will also take up the matter with the CM, PS Golay, it is learnt.

“As far as I know, a 12- member tourists’ team has reached Lachung today. As per schedule, they would leave that place, but the fate of several tourists is uncertain now. We are in no position to manage the situation if tourists are prevented from entering Lachung. March and April is high time to visit Lachung and its adjoining areas,” said the General Secretary of the Eastern Himalayas Travel and Tour Operators’ Association (EHTTOA).

Sources said stakeholders, including home-stay owners, in Sikkim have reported to tourism officials that several domestic tourists have cancelled their bookings. Like Lachung, Lachen is also out of bounds for visitors, sources said, adding, “The Red Panda Tourism Carnival 2020, which was proposed to be held for Soreng Chakung Constituency in West Sikkim in April has been cancelled.”

On the other hand, general secretary of the Himalayan Hospitality and Tourism Development Network (HHTDN), Samrat Sanyal, came down heavily on the statement of tourism secretary of Sikkim government, TT Bhutia, that tourism was not their priority now, but human health was. “People’s health is the first priority, it is okay, but who will take the responsibility of other people in Sikkim, especially the working class, who are engaged in loading and unloading of several items imported from other states?” said Sanyal.

“We will not do tourism business for two months, but my question is will the state bear our recurring expenses, including EMI, for the investment in the tourism industry? What will stakeholders, who have invested huge amount of money in hotels in Sikkim, will do right now after the sudden decision to stop tourists from entering their destinations?” he added.

“The tourism industry in Bengal is also being affected badly because both Darjeeling and Sikkim are tourists’ circuit. Hoteliers in Darjeeling have suffered after several tourists have cancelled their tour programme for Darjeeling and Sikkim,” Sanyal claimed.