SUBJECT :The Centre has eased restrictions on travel by Bangladeshi nationals to Sikkim, Arunchal Pradesh and Ladakh. 

A snow-capped lake and a Buddha park in Sikkim.

By: Additional Reporting Rajeev Ravidas in Gangtok.

Siliguri, November 22, 2018: The Centre has eased restrictions on travel by Bangladeshi nationals to Sikkim, Arunchal Pradesh and Ladakh. Bangladeshi visitors with valid visas would no longer have to take the approval of the Union home ministry in Delhi to visit these three places. They either had to visit Delhi and directly seek approval from the home ministry office or apply through offices of the deputy high com-missioners in their country. This used to be at time-consuming process and sources said many applications used to be rejected.

Now, Bangladeshi nationals intending to visit Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh can fill up a separate form along with their visa application at the multiple India Visa Application Centres (IVACs) in that country.

The decision has brought cheer to stakeholders of the tourism industry in Bangladesh and north Bengal and Sikkim, who said the number of tourists would increase.

The India high commission in Dhaka has confirmed that the restrictions have been eased. “Those planning to visit any of the three places have to submit a separation form, along with their India visa or visa application form, to any of the India Visa Application Centres located across Bangladesh. Once it is approved, they are free to entre India and make a trip to these places,” a sourced said.

 The new form can be down loaded from the IVAC website.

“It would obviously increase the number of tourists from Bangladesh to north Bengal and Sikkim. So far, they could only travel to Darjeeling and the Dooars, but could not go to Sikkim. We have come across many people who want to experience the snow. Now they can go to Sikkim, which is closer than Kashmir or Himachal Pradesh, and enjoy,” Syed G. Qadir, a member of the Tour Operators’ Association of Bangladesh (TOAB), told The Telegraph from Dhaka.

Tour operators in north Bengal and Sikkim said there was a steady flow of Bangladeshi tourists to north Bengal, but they could not cover the intergrated tour circuit of Darjeeling-Sikkim-Dooars because of the restrictions.

Taufiq Uddin Ahmed, the TOAB president, said the move would strengthen bilateral relations and augment the scale of business in the tourism sector.

“We have always wanted to plan trips and send people of our country to Sikkim, which is a major attraction here, but the restrictions held us back. The time has finally come when people from Bangladesh will be able to enjoy the beauty of the Himilayan state,” Ahmed said.

Tourism department officials in Sikkim said they were yet to receive any documents in writing mentioning about the relaxation in norms. “But if it is true, we would welcome the decision as we always want more and more tourists to visit the state,” said T.T.Bhutia, the secretary of the Sikkim tourism department in Gangtok.

Source: The Telegraph India