Writes: Shikha Subba
“It is our duty to take care that persons in pursuing their own particular interest do not transgress those laws which were made for the benefit of the whole community”
I hope this message will reach to Silviculture (Hills) division (research wings) of the forest directorate, the Range Officer Botanical Garden Darjeeling and to all those who are silently acquiring the pessimistic impositions as normalcy.
Charging entry fees due to the paucity of funds is the only reason (that too very vague) for the authority concerned to have a greater control in the botanical garden, disturbing the normalcy of day to day life of people living around the botanical garden.
Well, the Range Officer is giving one reason to levy entry fees and closing of gates at a particular time, however, there are multiple cons of this new rule.
Firstly, I would like to highlight how this new rule will curtail the emergency services.
The people living in Steinthal Thal Tea Estate (just below botanical garden) are mostly tea garden workers and daily wage earners, where everybody cannot afford to book a cab during emergency services; the sick patients are still carried on stretchers by locals till hospitals regardless of time-bound where this botanical garden lane stands as the shortest and comfortable route. However, time restrictions on all gates will have an adverse impact on the life of those who need emergency health services at night. It’s a way to difficult to carry patients from alternative route crossing roads via Tongliview, Chandmari, Gadhikhan and Thanaline.
Another major concern is especially during rainy season, owing to the steepness of botanical garden every year the intensity of flood from the botanical garden towards Steinthal Village is huge where villagers sometimes need to enter the inside garden to check and maintain the drainage. I hope the authority can understand that natural calamity doesn’t follow the timings set by them.
The botanical garden is not only a mere showpiece where one needs to pay money and enjoy the beauty. It’s a larger social space which is accessible by all from small school going kids to oldie people living around. It will be very disheartening if the school going kids need to change their route because of everyday checking and entry fees.
This will also violate one of the basic norms of Right to Education(RTE) Act , the Act defines the limits of neighborhood schools as 1 km walking distance from the habitation of a child at the primary level (class 1 to 5) and within 3km walking distance for upper primary level (class 6 to 8 ).
Well, I heard that special provisions are being made for daily commuters for the people living nearby where a photo ID pass will be given with some charges annually or monthly. What an irony??? This is nothing but identity policing in one’s own place. It’s an offence, why one needs to carry photo id proof to reach one’s own home.
From the ancestral time, people are moving freely by their own choice of road. What does the authority concerned wants to prove by asking photo id proof or entry fee for senior citizens who come every day for morning and evening work from the nearby surroundings like Chandmari, Tongliview, Pragatigram, Correctional Home compound etc…
If the Photo ID pass is for inhabitants then what for their visitor, friends and relatives. People do have social lives. Who wants their guest to pay and enter their place or why anybody should walk a longer distance when shorter safe and beautiful route is available.
Darjeeling till now might not have faced any religious discrimination, but now we can say it started if the entry fee system will operate. One can see a big Church just near the lower gate of Botanical Garden in P.B. Gurung Road Steinthal which probably is having followers from in and around. It’s obvious for the Church followers to use the gate. It’s shameful if a minority religious group in Darjeeling has to pay the price to reach the place of their faith where other religious group doesn’t have to do so.