Local residents and traders of the Indo-Nepal border settlement of Maneybhanjyang in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal, withdrew the ongoing indefinite bandh from 6pm on Thursday. This decision was taken following a meeting between local residents, the Shashashtra Seema Bal (SSB,) district administration and the police.
Incidentally Manyebhanjyang, 27 km from Darjeeling town had been shut down indefinitely since August 8, 2011 by traders and local residents protesting alleged SSB highhandedness.The problem revolved around transportation of goods through Maneybhanjyang after dark. Boasting an agrarian economy, settlements in and around Maneybhanjyang depends on the Siliguri market in the plains for selling their produce.
According to local residents, traders taking their produce down to Siliguri at night have to face immense harassment from the SSB. They have complained of pick-up vans being detained by the SSB throughout the night. By the time the pick up vans are allowed to resume journey after daybreak and reach Siliguri market, the prime trading time is already over resulting in the traders incurring huge losses.
Cauliflower, cabbage, carrot, beet, radish, potato and ginger find way to the Siliguri market from this region from Manyebhanjyang and neigbouring areas having a population of around 20,000. Around Rs. 2 lakh worth of vegetables find their way to the Siliguri market from this border hamlet daily. The traders also alleged of SSB troopers demanding bribes.
The SSB had earlier stated that they would not allow vehicles after sundown for security reasons and also to prevent smuggling.
Thursday’s meeting saw a climb down by both the sides. “We will allow the movement of vehicles carrying vegetables and perishable goods at night. However we can conduct thorough checks on the vehicles at any time. The local traders had asked for compensation for the vegetables that had perished (the traders had refused to take back 5 pick up vans loaded with vegetable detained by the SSB on August 7 night.) We cannot consider that but we agreed to donate a computer for the economically backward village kids. We have also decided to replace the company deployed at Maneybhanjyang. The villagers can directly contact the SSB Battalion Commandant in case of any such problems in future and we will immediately look into the matter” stated LK Gohain, DIG, SSB.
“We are happy with the outcome. The Commandant of the 29th Battalion who was present in the meeting also formed a joint committee comprising of local residents and SSB officials. The committee will meet once every month to review various issues. The committee will also address such problems.” stated Chandan Pradhan, trader.
“After specific assurances from the SSB the local residents decided to withdraw the bandh. There will be no time restrictions in the movement of vehicles as this is a 24 hour open check post” added U Sherpa, Block Development Officer, Sukhiapokhari.
SSB formed in 1963 was declared as the border guarding force and lead intelligence gathering agency for the Indo-Nepal border in January 2001. The Darjeeling district shares 105 km of border with Nepal. There are 90 SSB Border Out Posts (BOPs) in this stretch.