The digging up of the Bagha Jatin Park for the proposed three-day event, Bengal Travel Mart, has sparked a controversy. The annual event in the town seeks to showcase Bengal as a good destination for domestic and foreign tourists.
The event that will begin on 16 February is being jointly organised by the state tourism department and the North Bengal Development Department (NBDD), in association with the Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators’ Association (EHTTOA). The Trinamul Congress objected to the holes that have been dug to set up bamboo structures in the park.
The leader of the Opposition in the Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC) and Trinamul councillor Ranjan Sarkar conveyed their “dissatisfaction” to EHTTOA members, who are overseeing the preparations for the event. While the NBDD gave the park a facelift, it is maintained by the SMC and it was formally handed over to the civic body by the NBDD on 11 October 2015.
The beautification work cost the NBDD Rs 62 lakh. “We are completely against the digging of the ground. The organisation should be careful in maintaining the greenery in the park and not harm the ground in any way. There are several holes in the park. We are upset with the development, but we also want the event to be held. The corporation should have alerted them while giving them permission that the ground should not be dug up,” Mr Sarkar said.
EHTTOA functionaries, meanwhile, said they acted as per the written permission they got, and added that they deposited Rs 70,000, including the security money, to the civic body to obtain the permission. They referred to the no-objection certificate that reads, “You will not be allowed to dig earth other than for structural purposes, or remove grass from the park ground to maintain the greenery of the ground,” the certificate says. “We dug up the ground to fix the bamboos for the structures only.
We did not know that we were not supposed to make such holes. However, we will repair the ground,” said the president of the organization, Debasish Maitra. Trinamul Congress councillors met Siliguri mayor Asok Bhattacharya on this issue. “We denied permission initially, because the park is not meant for commercial use.
Political parties can hold their programmes, some sports events are held and two pujas are performed here. We allowed them to hold the programme after state tourism minister Gautam Deb made a request. They were supposed to organise the event without digging up the ground. I received some calls expressing concern today. There was a printing error in one point of the certificate, which actually would have said that they will not be allowed to dig the ground.
We have alerted them and they will give us an undertaking saying that they will repair the damaged portions of the ground,” Mr Bhattacharya said. Organisers said Thailand and Russia could participate in the third edition of the event this year. In 2016, the travel mart was held at the Mainak Tourist Lodge, while it was held at Savin Kingdom last year. “Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan will participate, but Thailand and Russia may also attend the travel mart this year,” Mr Maitra said.