Monday, May 17, 2010

CRPF personnel posted on Sikkim 31-A National Highway

Traffic resumes on Sikkim highway

Gangtok,May 16: Two companies of CRPF were re-deployed today on NH31A even as the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha tried to enforce its 48-hour bandh for the second day today.

The comeback of the paramilitary force follows yesterday’s violence in which 10 Sikkim-bound vehicles were damaged by alleged Morcha supporters on the highway, the Himalayan state’s only road link to the rest of the country. The shutdown is part of the Morcha tactics to pile pressure on the government to include the Terai and some parts of the Dooars in the proposed interim set-up for the hills.

Traffic between the two states resumed today with the help of Bengal police who escorted the vehicles along the national highway amid sporadic attempts to stall vehicular movement.At 1.30pm today, a Sikkim government vehicle from Siliguri was stopped and its windscreen and windows smashed at Sukhapool, 4km from Rangpo, the gateway to the Himalayan state.

Earlier around noon, an army convoy bound for Gantgtok, had a narrow escape when a large tree came crashing down on the highway at Tarkhola. Police said there was evidence that the base of the tree had been hacked at with axes. The crown of the tree blocked the highway till it was cleared 30 minutes later.
Gangtok police said the first batch of vehicles along with 10 Sikkim Nationalised Transport (SNT) buses were allowed to proceed to Siliguri from Rangpo with police escort at 10am. Two Bengal police vehicles with armed men in khaki led and brought in the rear of the convoy.

Till 4pm, a total of 214 vehicles had left Rangpo (for Siliguri) and 175 vehicles had entered Sikkim, the police posted at the border town said.
The SNT plied eight extra buses with police escort to clear stranded passengers in Siliguri. “We ply six buses to Gangtok daily and the first one departs at 7.30am. Yesterday only two buses could leave because of the trouble on NH31A,” said Tulsi Prasad Sharma, the SNT traffic inspector said. “Today, 14 buses left under police escort.”
A long queue of more than 600 passengers had been waiting at the SNT terminus in Siliguri from 4am, but only only half of them could be issued tickets. With the Darjeeling tour with its toy train ride foiled, Diane from Estonia and Amy and Cecilia from Hungary were determined to travel to Sikkim. “No vehicles were plying yesterday and we came here very early in the morning and got our tickets after standing in queue for three-and-a-half hours,” said Diane.

This morning, two of the three companies of CRPF moved into two camps — at Reang on NH31A and at Pintail Village in Siliguri — vacated only about 20 days back. Later, they hit the road on patrol duty.
K.L. Tamta, the inspector-general of police, north Bengal, said: “Two companies have been deployed in Kalimpong and Rambhi and another one is posted at Pintail Village off NH55. They have been requisitioned to maintain law and order along the highway.”
Sikkim governor Balmiki Prasad Singh who was speaking at the 35th State Day celebration at Chintan Bhavan in Gangtok said the “frequent trouble in the neighbouring region” often hindered movement of passengers and goods along NH31A for days together.

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