Darjeeling seeks to use FIFA World Cup 2018 fervour to attract tourists
The hills of Darjeeling are swaying to the FIFA World Cup spirit. The tournament, which kicks off in Russia on June 15, is seen as a great occasion to attract tourists by the local organisers, who also see a great opportunity to get over the bitterness of last year’s prolonged strikes and violence that led to the death of 13 people.
Former students of Darjeeling’s famous St Joseph and North Point schools and some non government organisations (NGOs) have taken up the initiative. The roads leading to the famous mall at Darjeeling and those leading to it have been painted and decorated with flags of the 32 nations participating in the FIFA World Cup.
According to Deven Gurung, president of the Darjeeling North Point School Alumni Association (DNPSAA), the initiative kicked off on Saturday with a rally where participants had the flag of the countries they support wrapped around them.
“Our aim is to brand Darjeeling as World Cup town. At the same time, we want to give a message to the people that Darjeeling is absolutely peaceful and normal these days,” Gurung said.
According to him, other programmes lined up for the next month include a football parade, a cheer-leading competition, garage sales by Shanker Foundation (an organisation of HIV positive people), a dance fiesta, mountain bike rally, face painting, nail art and musical performances, among others.
According to DNPSAA vice- president, Ajoy Edwards, funds generated from the month-long programme will be utilised for a project “Clinic on Wheels” that aims to provide medical facilities to people living in remote areas.
“In this hill station, football has traditionally been more popular than cricket. So, we want to celebrate the World Cup this year in this manner,” he said.
The hill witnessed a 104-day strike from June 8 till September end last year. It led to several incidents of violence in which 13 persons, including a police officer, were killed. Local businessmen, hotel owners and the tea industry suffered huge losses. Internet services remained suspended in the hills during that period and banking services too were severely hit.