NATIONAL HERITAGE: Mirth miss stares at hill rail on B-Day – the royal gift that Bengal just didn’t know how to play with because it just simply didn’t understand nor care ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, Aug. 18: Darjeeling Himalayan Railway turns 129 this Monday, but unlike previous years, authorities of the Unesco world heritage property have no plans to organise any sort of celebration this time.
“We have not finalised any programme to celebrate the day and even if something is done at the last moment, it will be a low key affair,” admitted R.K. Roy, assistant divisional mechanical engineer at the DHR’s Tindharia workshop.
Although Roy refused to say why the DHR was uncertain about the celebrations, other officials hinted that a major landslide at 14th Mile near Paglajhora, 35km from here, on June 16 was the reason.
“Services are suspended between New Jalpaiguri and Kurseong because of the landslide and all our attention is focused on the restoration of the tracks,” said a DHR official. “We will sit for a meeting on August 20 to plan something for the anniversary,” said another official.
The line between Siliguri and Kurseong was inaugurated by the viceroy of British India Lord Lytton in March 1880. He and other guests went up to Tindharia on the first toy train pulled by steam locomotive, Tiny. But August 23 is observed as the hill railway’s anniversary as the Kurseong station, which is the DHR headquarters now, was inaugurated on this day in 1880.
A grand ceremony is held at Kurseong every year and all stations along the line are decorated as part of anniversary celebrations every year.
In the past few years, there have been significant events to mark the anniversary. While a week-long photo exhibition on the DHR was organised at the North Bengal Science Centre in Siliguri last year, the diesel-driven Himalayan Princess was added to the services in 2007. Vintage steam trains were run simultaneously on three gauges from Siliguri Junction station in 2006.
Tour operators are not ready to buy the excuse given by the DHR authorities.
“The landslide should not be a factor because the DHR has said time and again that they will start restoration only after the PWD repairs NH55 (tracks are parallel to the highway).So, there is no question of DHR officials being busy at Paglajhora (as the highway repair is not over yet). Last year, too, the New Jalpaiguri-Kurseong service was disrupted because of a landslide and still, the anniversary was celebrated,” said Pradeep Lama, the secretary of Darjeeling Association of Travel Agents.