NEW DELHI: The welfare of tea garden workers, waste management, creating employment opportunities and poverty alleviation in Darjeeling and Siliguri are some of the favourite topics for India’s former foreign secretary and G20’s chief coordinator, Harsh Vardhan Shringla. He has been has been working in those areas since November 2023. He is also emerging as a popular choice as a local candidate from Darjeeling for the Lok Sabha elections.
“I have mostly been in Siliguri and Darjeeling for some months and my objective is to help the people on my home turf,’’ said Shringla while talking to this newspaper. He has also established the Darjeeling Welfare Society (DWS).
Shringla often meets locals during morning walks and also catches up with them over the morning tea, almost every day. He has addressed students in colleges and schools and motivates them to study and strive for success. He was also instrumental in organising a G20 Tourism meeting in Darjeeling, for which the locals are grateful to him.
Recently, at his invitation a US delegation of CEOs visited Siliguri and so did members of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The latter will visit the area again on January 29 and help assist tea garden workers to supplement their income and also inform locals on waste management.
“We organised a Rozgar (job) Mela in November where major corporates like Taj, Intercontinental and Thomas Cook India came to our area and met qualified locals. Around 270 youths were offered jobs. This is the core of DWS; we would like to support people in getting employment and help in welfare activities,’’ Shringla said.
The DWS was formed in 2014, when it began to execute welfare work and it was registered in 2023. Shringla never really lost touch with the locals even when he was a serving diplomat. During the pandemic, he helped stranded Indians from Darjeeling and Sikkim to return home from the Gulf.
“He is liked a lot by the locals after he facilitated the G20 meeting. Besides, people in Darjeeling like his unassuming nature; we really wish he contests elections from Darjeeling,’’ Sreejana C Gurung, an educationist from Mirik, told this newspaper.
Locals in Siliguri and Darjeeling are optimistic that if Shringla was to get a BJP ticket, he would win hands down.