KOLKATA: The indefinite shutdown of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts of West Bengal for Gorkhaland statehood entered the 59th day on Saturday. Eight people have died since the agitation started in the hills on June 8. The Mamata Banerjee administration has also continued with total isolation of the hills by cutting off internet.
LPG cylinder prices have touched a high of ` 1,800 per cylinder and availability of food in markets has touched a new low. Food supplies from the plains have stopped. Though the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has often distributed eatables to residents, it is not sufficient.
In these tough times it is indigenous knowledge orally passed down through generations that is helping the residents. This knowledge has enabled the residents to scourge the forests for shoots and roots and cultivate indigenous varieties of crop.
The indefinite strike has also led to increased cooperation between people including age-old barter system.
“Now, many farmers in our village and neighbouring villages are cultivating maize and local varieties of rice and are also fetching bamboo shoots and wild mushrooms from the forests. Many are also preparing fermented soyabean,” said Man Bahadur of Yokprintam village, 25 km from Kalimpong.
“Farm labourers are not available due to the strike. So, people nowadays work together in rotation at one person’s farm. After work, all the farm workers eat at the residence of the person on whose land they worked,” said Ramesh Rai of Samalbong village.