The whistling steam probably does not catch our imagination or touch our lives anymore. The demand for DHR is probably declining as there are hardly any voices for its closure for the past more than 01 year. 100s of rail fanatics have returned with broken hearts, compromising for the Toy Train, Joy Ride between Darjeeling-Ghoom-Darjeeling like the leisure tourists. 23rd August, 2011, the people of Tindharia celebrated the ‘130 Smriti Diwas’, 130 years of the inauguration of the first stretch of DHR between Siliguri Town Station to Kurseong, the then Viceroy himself being the passenger at Smritiban, the 20th Mile Loop. The steam engine had not taken off for more than a year and on that day when the steam was sent for the program, it arrived only after everything was over (as the same had broken down on way).
As far as my knowledge goes, this is probably the first time that the entire stretch of DHR continuity has been in a broken condition for such a long time. The silence is like the ‘God will take care syndrome’. The main Road, i.e. the Hillcart Road or the NH 55 presently is the reason, as this has gone down in the landslide, and for more than an year as no one takes care of the same, the DHR alignment is also beyond repair. Remember, this again is the National Highway (NH), where is the priority. The people of Tindharia pays Rs.100 per person in a jeep through the Gidda alignment to Kurseong. Today, the communities have started the repairing of the same through volunteering. Our World Heritage Site, DHR communities in Mahanadi and around, they have to take a 02 hours detour to reach Siliguri, which they could have reached in 01 hour for their daily needs. Imagine the money they have to spend. Again the ‘God will take care syndrome’.
The DHR (Darjeeling Himalayan Railway), the only World Heritage Site of North Bengal and Sikkim, the tourism icon of Railway Heritage for the world, with more than 5000 domestic and international member patrons through the DHR Society-UK, DHRSA-Australia and other India born associations, how is it that DHR is not fully functional in full strength. If we see the trend towards the beginning, most of the inauguration, more than a century ago took place in the monsoon months. This showed the importance of DHR in those days, when this region was difficult to negotiate during fair weather, forget the monsoons. Is there some way we are not giving enough importance to our great grandfather, a World Heritage Site, DHR. I think the time has arrived, when from global to local, we should raise our voice to confirm immediate running of DHR through the entire route.
Let us not forget that ‘all of us who live along the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, between Siliguri to Darjeeling, are a part of the World Heritage Site community’ and we have to keep this DHR Heritage Living.