IF there is one thing the people of Darjeeling feel their beautiful town lacks, it is a cinema hall. Earlier the town had two cinema halls. Unfortunately, both have been closed for a while. But with the Rink Mall, a Rs.25-crore city centre project due to be operational in January, there will be no dearth of evening entertainment, especially in the winter months, for the residents and for tourists.
The structure has in it a commercial complex, a shopping mall and a family entertainment centre (including a multiplex). Coming up in the heart of Darjeeling town, the 1,50,000-square foot Rink Mall is developed by M/s Maryland Resorts Ltd. It is strategically located opposite the town post office and will also have a dedicated parking space at the bottom floor - the first of its kind in Darjeeling.
According to Rajesh Garg, director of Maryland Resorts, the idea of the Rink Mall was conceived as early as 1984. But the political uncertainty in the region precipitated by the GNLF agitation forced its postponement. "There is no evening entertainment for the people of Darjeeling. The Rink Mall with all its modern facilities will be as good as any city centre in the country. More important, it is something new which is being given to the hill people," said Garg.
The Rink Mall is unique in that it is the first of its kind in the hill stations in eastern India. The developers are also planning a resort of sorts inside the premises of the city centre. "The resort will mainly be for quality tourists, but the room rents will be economical - Rs.1,500 to Rs.2,000 a night, including breakfast," said Garg.
Constructing a structure as big as the Rink Mall in the hills can be dangerous unless all necessary precautions are taken. "The land on which the Rink Mall stands is flat and stable. We proceeded only after going through all the required tests of soil, for earthquake, etc. We will be using the most advanced fire-safety measures; there will be no compromises in ensuring the safety of our customers," said Garg.
A considerable chunk of assistance in financing the ambitious project is coming as term loan from the Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO). The rest will be generated through equity participation. "The DGAHC has also been very helpful with its moral support, but we are a little apprehensive about the State government's implementation of the subsidy promised for the first four years to new cinema halls. It will be difficult to make our project viable unless that comes through," said Garg.