How The Closure Of India-Nepal Land Border Disrupts Tourism In North Bengal For Backpackers

by Tejashee Kashyap
How The Closure Of India-Nepal Land Border Disrupts Tourism In North Bengal For Backpackers

The border region at Panitanki offers a rich tapestry of cultural diversity and natural beauty. The strategic location of Panitanki, which connects India’s Siliguri Corridor to Nepal’s eastern regions, makes it an ideal spot for promoting cross-border tourism. However, the closure of the India-Nepal land border at Panitanki has caused a major dent in tourism in this region. Here, tourism development holds immense potential and presents a unique opportunity.

 Why Has Been The India-Nepal Road Closed?

Credits: Representational image; Canva

The India-Nepal border at Panitanki is steeped in history and culture. It is home to diverse ethnic communities. Enhanced connectivity will not only benefit tourists but also promote trade and economic development in the area. Despite all attempts, the land frontier Panitanki remaining closed to foreign tourists since 2020 has been a big setback. There has also been no official communication regarding the shutdown. The tourist season is rapidly approaching, and this is quickly becoming a serious issue.

As a result, it seems North Bengal is slowing down in the world tourism arena. According to an article by Millennium Post, foreign tourists usually make a circuit of Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, and Darjeeling. Prior to the pandemic, the region saw approximately 2 lakh foreign tourists (including Bangladeshi tourists).

The Panitanki border has strategic significance. It is part of the Siliguri Corridor, also known as the “Chicken’s Neck,” which is a narrow strip of Indian territory that connects the northeastern states of India to the mainland. This corridor is of utmost importance.

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How Long Does It Take?

Covering a span of approximately 22 kilometres from Siliguri in the Bengal district of Darjeeling, the Panitanki border is more than just a physical divide. The article cites that as a result of this closure, tour prices are rising and valuable tour days are being lost. A one-week vacation that includes pickup in Bhadrapur (Eastern Nepal,) Darjeeling, Sikkim, and drop-off in Bhadrapur often costs around US $1000.  With closure, foreign tourists must fly from Kathmandu to Delhi and then to Bagdogra. They must fly from Bagdogra to Delhi and then to Kathmandu to return. This requires time and an added cost of around.

Furthermore, during peak tourist season, airfare rates are excessive. As a result, tour package prices are rising. Backpackers and low-budget foreign visitors choose to cross from Nepal at Raxaul in Bihar or Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh and take trains from there. In travel, approximately four days are lost.

Cover image credits: X/I Love Siliguri