- Sujal Pradhan, NET Correspondent, Sikkim
Following three years of its closure, the popular tourist destination – Banjhakri Falls was scheduled to reopen for general masses on Monday, but the Councillor of Lower Sichey – Kala Rai along with few other locals created a ruckus and staged a sit-protest. They alleged that a contract for Ban Jhakri Falls was awarded to a retired official who has already received enough amount from the state, while unemployed youth in the area have been continuously neglected and are not allowed to work.
Rai has demanded for open tender instead of “arbitrary” allotment.
It should be noted that Kala Rai is a powerful female leader in the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM), and this could be interpreted as a dharna against the government’s policies.
The Councillor after staging a sit-in protest and following interaction with Minister BS Panth and other stakeholders said that “In a meeting, it was decided that the Ban Jhakri Falls tourist site would remain closed until new tenders are floated fairly. We won’t allow to operate the site for those who are already wealthy; and we want the underprivileged to have a chance of using the tender.”
Besides, the Chairman of Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation (STDC) – Lukendra Rasaily shared “the financial condition of STDC and Tourism department was poor due to Covid-19 pandemic, and to generate the revenue we were handed-over with few properties by the Tourism departments which also includes this site (Banjhakri).”
“After taking charge of the property we called interested parties to revamp the site and operate it. We received three applications and one party agreed to repair and run the property so we handed-over the property; which was even passed by the cabinet,” – he added.
The councilor has also demanded to stop the visitors until new tender floats. “We have received their applications and will pursue the matter with the government. The final call will be taken by the government.” – she added.
The site spans across 8,093 sqm of land, incorporating of cascading waterfalls and a beautiful garden landscape. One will find several ethnic sculptures and figurines in the Banjhakri Falls that represent the local culture, art, and history.