Despite tourism being one of the main sources of revenue, why does this state want you to stay out?
It remains the only Indian state that hasn’t reported a single case of coronavirus. Alongside Nagaland which reported one positive case who was shifted to Assam, it’s a rare state that is also entirely in. the green zone. Obviously, the administration wants to keep it that way. As a result, the State Government of Sikkim has decided to prohibit tourists from visiting. At the moment, it has been decided that Sikkim will close itself to all tourists and most outsiders till October 2020 at the very least.
His Excellency, the Governor of Sikkim, Ganga Prasad told India Today that the state had to come to this decision in the interest of its population of seven lakh. He told the publication that Sikkim had also retained all migrant workers and the administration has been providing them food and paying them a stipend every day. “We know we will need their help immediately after the lockdown is lifted,” he was quoted as saying.
Sikkim has been ahead of the curve in its fight against coronavirus. When a great number of its student population returned from China in January, they were put under strict quarantine before they were allowed to return home. The state went under lockdown on March 17, before PM Narendra Modi enforced it across the country and it also cancelled the annual Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.
The pilgrimage that begins around June each year is an important one for the Hindus but also Buddhists, Jains and people of other faiths too. It covers the breathtakingly beautiful mountain pass, Nathu La in Sikkim, which only allows select number of people to access it since it is one of the only three border trading posts between India and China. The permits that Sikkim grants (these are restricted only to Indian citizens) to access Nathu La, are among a major source of income for the state’s tourism department. Taking a conscious decision to seal its borders to tourists is, therefore, a major step for Sikkimese administration.
Meanwhile, Sikkim has begun the process of bringing home Sikkimese people who have been stranded in other states. Independent stores and businesses have been granted permission to stay open between 10 am and 4 pm and even allowed private vehicles to ply on select days based on their registration numbers.
What continues to remain closed in Sikkim is everything else – this includes bars and hotels, restaurants, public transport, large shopping complexes and cinema halls as well as gyms and swimming pools. The administration has also made it compulsory for everyone to wear masks and has implemented social distancing protocols strictly.
With pandemic showing no signs of slowing down, it would seem that your travel to Gangtok and the stunning valleys and hills of Sikkim may have to wait a little while longer. Definitely until October, but probably later than that too.