Saturday, February 12, 2011

Karmapa Reception Committee and JAC welcome HP Govt clean chit to Karmapa

GANGTOK, 12 Feb: The Karmapa Reception Committee and the Joint Action Committee have expressed their gratitude towards all devotees and lay people for coming out in support of the XVIIth Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje at a time when he was being hounded by media speculation and allegations.
They have also expressed their happiness on the “clean chit” given to the Karmapa by the Himachal Pradesh government on allegations relating to his being involved in benami land deals or anything illicit in the cash recovered from the raid on the Sidhbari monastery.

Sikkim hoteliers call on Darjeeling to allow free flow of Sikkim traffic on NH31A

GANGTOK, 12 Feb: The Sikkim Hotels & Restaurant Association [SHRA] has urged the people of the Darjeeling hills and the leaders there to allow unhindered vehicular movement to Sikkim on National Highway 31A. This, in light of the indefinite bandh underway in the Darjeeling hills at present which has also been extended to Sikkim traffic on NH 31A. With this highway providing the only link to the outside world for Sikkim, vehicles are undertaking this journey in convoys escorted by West Bengal police.

Convoy of 133 vehicles makes it from Siliguri to Gangtok

GANGTOK, 12 Feb: Where Sikkim sent out 92 vehicles [click here for details] in a convoy to Siliguri today, a phenomenal [for a bandh on the highway] 133 vehicles crossed into Sikkim at Rangpo this afternoon. These vehicles started arriving at Rangpo at 2 p.m., informs the Rangpo PI Sonam Wangdi. All vehicles were part of a West Bengal Police escorted convoy.

Lall Bazaar runs low on veggie stocks, Sunday haat will offer slim pickings

AMEET OBEROI
GANGTOK, 12 Feb: With no fresh supplies having come in since the GJM bandh in the Darjeeling Hills was extended to Sikkim traffic on National Highway 31A [in portions which run through Darjeeling], the Sunday haat across the State is bound to be a very drab affair. All the 15 vegetable wholesale agents here at Lall Bazaar are reporting that either they have finished their stock, or are on the verge of doing so.
[as this report was being filed, news arrived that two truckloads of vegetables also made it to Sikkim from Siliguri, but this would hardly be adequate for the Sunday haat]

new post added to buy and sell section

A new post regarding flats for sale has been added to the Buy & Sell section

DAY 4 OF HIGHWAY BANDH: 92-vehicle convoy leaves for Siliguri

GANGTOK, 12 Feb: With the indefinite bandh underway in the Darjeeling hills showing no signs of letting up, and no clear indication arriving on Sikkim traffic along National Highway 31A [in portions which pass through Darjeeling district] being exempted, the size of convoys moving out of Rangpo for Siliguri under police escort is increasing. At 10:30 a.m. this morning, a 92-vehicle convoy left Rangpo, the largest convoy yet in the latest phase of Darjeeling bandhs.

NHPC distributes spectacles, blankets, computers and teaching aids in Lower Dzongu

DC North, TN Kazi with a beneficiary at Phedang in Lower Dzongu


GANGTOK, 12 Feb: NHPC Ltd’s Teesta-V power station and Teesta-IV project distributed spectacles and blankets to those in need at Phedang in Lower Dzongu, North Sikkim, yesterday and also gifted computers, dual desks and tables for children, tables & chairs for teachers, notice board and writing boards and sports items to three schools - Ling-Dong Secondary School, Hee-Gyathang Sr. Secondary School and Rang-Rang Junior High School – all in areas adjoining the NHPC project sites North Sikkim.

Now Showing in Gangtok


Development Commissioner to also hold charge as SPDC Chairman

GANGTOK, 12 Feb: Additional Chief Secretary-cum-Development Commissioner, Karma Gyatso, now also holds additional charge as the Chairman of the Sikkim Power Development Corporation Ltd. This was recently notified by the Home Department upon clearance from the Governor.

Dalai Lama’s meditation retreat at Tashiding dedicated to his exclusive use

GANGTOK, 12 Feb: The State Government has notified the meditation retreat hut constructed for the Dalai Lama  at the Tashiding Monastery complex during his last visit to Sikkim in December, as a “Dupkhang”.
As per a notification issued by the Home Department recently, this retreat, which housed the Dalai Lama when he went into a meditational retreat from 15 to 18 December, 2010, is now placed under the administrative control of the Ecclesiastical Affairs Department.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sikkim Social Empowerment Assc condemns Sibchu killings

GANGTOK, 11 Feb: The Sikkim Social Empowerment Association, in a meeting held today, condemned the killing of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters in a Police firing on 08 Feb at Sibchu in West Bengal, a press release informs.

Sikkim Festival with Rev William Franklin Graham begins at Guards’ Ground



GANGTOK, 11 Feb: The three-day long “Sikkim Festival 2011” with Rev Dr. William Franklin Graham from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association [BGEA] started in grand fashion here this evening at Guards Ground, Tathangchen.
The festival is being organized by the United Christian Welfare Society of Sikkim [UCWSS] with the support of different churches from around the State.
Speaker, Sikkim Legislative Assembly, KT Gyaltsen, inaugurated the festival this evening.

BGP condemns Sibchu killings, demands enquiry by Supreme Court judge


GANGTOK, 11 Feb: The Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh’s Sikkim-unit has condemned the death of three GJM supporters in a police firing in West Benagl on 08 Feb.
In this regard the BGP has submitted a letter to the President of India, the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Governor and the Chief Minister of Sikkim, Defence Ministry, Central Home Secretary, Human Rights Commission and the Minority Commission demanding immediate reaction by the Centre to restore peace in the Darjeeling Hills. It has also strongly contended that the creation of Gorkhaland was the only lasting solution to this violence, a BGP press release states.
The memorandum is signed by BGP-Sikkim president, Kamal Gurung, working president, Narayan Bhattarai, general secretary, S Pandey, National Working Committee members Pravin Khaling and CP Giri.
The memorandum has also demanded that the Centre institute an enquiry committee headed by a Supreme Court judge to investigate the incident at Sibchu in West Bengal and that those guilty of having perpetuated State violence on a peaceful procession be punished as per law.
The police firing, the memorandum contends, was an act of cowardice.
The memorandum has also demanded that paramilitary forces be withdrawn from Darjeeling, accusing them of vitiating the peace in Darjeeling.
The BGP press release adds that it will also now build up support for the movement for statehood more forcefully even in Sikkim.

Jan Mukti Chalak Mahasangh pays homage to GJM martyrs


GJM'S SIKKIM BRANCH SCHEDULED TO BE OPENED SUNDAY
GANGTOK, 11 Feb: Members of the Jan Mukti Chalak Mahasangh [JMCM] sat on a day-long dharna in front of the District Administration Centre [East] here today to pay homage to the sacrifice of two Gorkha Janmukti Morcha [GJM] supporters who lost their lives in the recent [West Bengal] police firing at Sibchu on the Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri district border in West Bengal. JMCM members also forwarded a memorandum to the Prime Minister and Union Home Minister through the District Collector [East] today.

Bandh-enforced scarcity of perishable goods starts pinching Sikkim marts

GANGTOK, 11 Feb: Today was the third day of the indefinite bandh in the neighbouring Darjeeling Hills, which has, this time, included Sikkim traffic on NH31A passing through Darjeeling district in its purview. The suddenness with which this bandh was called and enforced [in the wake of the death of two GJM supporters in a police firing at Sibchu] had caught Sikkim off-guard and with no time to stock up on provisions. The GJM has otherwise kept Sikkim traffic out of the purview of its bandhs of late.

Horticulture Show 2011 gets underway at Saramsa


 GANGTOK, 11 Feb [IPR]: Speaker, Sikkim Legislative Assembly, KT Gyaltshen, today inaugurated a three-day long Horticulture Show at Saramsa Garden here below Gangtok, near Ranipool in East Sikkim.
The Horticulture Show has stalls maintained by progressive farmers, SHG’s, nurseries etc. from various parts of East district and has been organised by the Food Security & Agriculture Development and Horticulture & Cash Crops Development Department.
The exhibition is scheduled to conclude on 13 February. The inaugural function was also attended by Ministers DN Thakarpa and NK Pradhan and the area MLA BB Rai.
[all photos courtesy IPR, Govt of Sikkim]

District authorities direct RMDD to redress problems imposed on farmer by PMGSY road project

Medh Bahadur Rai stares a wall of debris where he used to have an orange
orchard. There is hope for him still, now that the district authorities have
taken up his case.
SUBASH RAI
GANGTOK, 11 Feb: The East district authorities have endorsed the plight of a farmer [click here for background details] rendered landless and homeless due to unauthorised dumping of road cutting debris on his land at Lower Barbing here below Gangtok.
The Sub-Divisional Magustrate [Gangtok], Dr. AB Karki, following the report published yesterday on this blog [“PMGSY road debris renders farmer landless and without a home”] and upon receipt of a formal complaint from the affected farmer, Medh Bahadur Rai [incorrectly named “Meg” Bahadur Rai in yesterday’s report], today, shot off a letter to the Chief Engineer, Rural Management & Development Department [which supervises all PMGSY projects], informing him of the incident and recording that the complain “seems to be very genuine and vital”.

Former teachers and ex-students of PNGS form alumni assc

GANGTOK, 11 Feb: Former teachers and ex-students of Paljor Namgyal Girls Senior Secondary School met at a local hotel in Gangtok today and formed an alumni association. An adhoc committee of the alumni association was formalised with Mrs. Kunga Gyamtso as president. The meeting also today approved the draft constitution of the committee.

40 youth complete 4-day computer interface and leadership training at SICB


NAMCHI, 10 Feb: The valedictory function of a capacity-building training on computer interface and leadership was held here on 09 Feb at the State Institute of Capacity Building (SICB) at Karfectar.
The four-day long training, which had started on 06 February, was organized by the Nehru Yuva Kendra [Namchi] at SICB Karfectar. The training was attended by around 40 youth from Ravangla, Sumbuk, Namchi and Jorethang blocks.
SD Dhakal, Chief Administrator, SICB, was present as the chief guest for the valedictory function.

Private vehicles join SNT convoy to Siliguri

Gangtok, 11 Feb: As per information received here, today, Day-3 of the indefinite bandh underway in the Darjeeling Hills, private vehicles also joined the SNT convoy headed for Siliguri under West Bengal police escort. Confirmation on how many vehicles made it past Rangpo is awaited. It may be recalled that an indefinite bandh was called in the Darjeeling Hills following the death of two of its supporters in a police firing at Sibchu in Jalpaiguri district on Tuesday. This time, the bandh has been extended to traffic from Sikkim as well and till today, only SNT vehicles had been allowed through. 

Sikkim to choose its Red Ribbon Star on 12 Feb


JOURNEY OF THE RED-RIBBON SIKKIM STAR CAMPAIGN

by LUBHANA RAI
Mobilizing and educating on HIV/AIDS through infotainment is one of the mediums to draw participation of one of the most vulnerable groups, the youths. With an aim to spread the awareness from urban to rural population Sikkim State AIDS Control Society initiated the “Red Ribbon Sikkim Star”, a theme-based performing art competition, part of the Multi-Media Campaign 2010-11. Keeping in view the importance for involvement of youth, the competition was categorized in 3 divisions- music, song and drama.
The campaign made its debut with a stakeholders meeting on 26 September 2010. During the meeting various aspects and objectives were discussed along with the launching of the campaign promo supported by an appeal by Project Director SSACS Dr. V. Singhi,  Indian Football Captain, Arjuna awardee Baichung Bhutia and singer Girish Pradhan. The meeting was attended by representatives from various Government Departments, NGOs, NYK, Sikkim University, Sikkim Armed Police, Jail officials, FBOs, members of SNP +, 1st AIDS Ambassador, media personnel and SSACS officers.
After the successful completion of the stakeholders meeting, training on IPC (Inter Personal Communication) for the effective implementation of MMC was conducted in four batches to members of Red Ribbon Clubs and FBOs. A total of 140 members were oriented on the importance and proper execution of the MMC. The IPC was followed by aggressive advertisements through print, electronic, Private FMs and All India Radio.
With hope and aspiration to spread the message of HIV/AIDS through music, dance and drama, Sikkim SACS rolled out the first ever “Red Ribbon Sikkim Star” competition initiating from Mangan, North District on 13th December 2010. Even though the participation was minimal, it was really heartening to see performances coming from closed doors of rural areas to an open stage projecting their ideas through various medium. Sincerity and hard work of the contestants from North District were appreciated by Judges and audiences.
Only 5 teams/ solo artists could secure themselves to the Semi-Final round. Leaving the purity of mountains and handful of dedicated contenders from North District, the audition was then shifted at the Capital, Gangtok in East District. With superfluous zeal and beaming confidence, large number of participants surrounded the venue anticipating to be crowned as the 1st Red Ribbon Sikkim Star. The unborn creativity was unleashed during the two day auditions conducted on 15th and 16th December 2010. From Gangtok 15 team/ solo artists were selected for the next round.
The next audition was held on 18th and 19th December 2010 at Namchi, South Sikkim. Participants from all walks of life had registered for the auditions, be it from the far end remote areas to the populous urban areas. A total of 15 team/ solo performances were selected from South District. The final two day auditions was held at Gyalshing, West Sikkim on 21st and 22nd December. This district unveiled some true talents which was unexpected and unforgettable. These surprise packages come from some of the secluded and media dark areas. From dawn till dusk the participants queued anxiously waiting for their turn. Finally 10 individuals/ teams were shortlisted for the Semi-final round.
The gift of versatile talent from this tiny Himalayan State flabbergasted the organizers and judges. With mesmerized senses the journey of District Level audition came to halt leaving behind many aspirants. At the end of the auditions 45 individual/ team were selected for the Semi Final round which was scheduled for 5th and 6th January 2011.
The two-day Semi Final was conducted at Government college auditorium, Gangtok wherein, the selected 45 groups showcased enormous talent. Every performance, be it dance, song or drama kept everyone wondering especially the blend and synchronization of HIV/AIDS message with the performance. After long wait of 48 hours the results were announced and 7 teams/ artist will be competing for the coveted title of ‘Red Ribbon Sikkim Star’.
The participants were judged by panel of 6 renowned personalities namely Mr. Madhu sudan Lama (lyricist and composer), Mr. Narayan Rai (lyricist, composer and singer), Mrs. Bimla Pradhan (singer and lyricist), Mr. R. D. Lepcha (theatre specialist), Mr. Uttam Pradhan (actor) and Dr. DS Kerongi (Deputy Director M & E, SSACS).
The Audition and Semi final rounds were recorded and telecasted episodically on Nayuma Entertainment Television, the only local cable in Sikkim.
The Grand Finale of “Red Ribbon Sikkim Star” is scheduled for 12th February 2011.The winner will be awarded a cash prize of Rs. 75,000 along with various attractive gifts. The 1st and 2nd runner-up will be handed over a cash prize of Rs 50,000 and Rs. 30,000 respectively.
Chief Minister Pawan Chamling will grace the occasion as the Chief Guest.
[The writer is Assistant Director, Sikkim State AIDS Control Society]

South district panchayats oriented for Village Development Action Plans


GANGTOK, 10 Feb: A one-day orientation workshop on Village Development Action Plan for South Sikkim was organised at the Zilla Panchayat Bhawan, Namchi by the State Institute of Rural Development [SIRD] on 08 Feb under the chairmanship of Zilla Adhayaksha (South), Ravi Chandra Gurung, informs a press release.
There were a total of 120 participants at the workshop which was conducted by SIRD faculty member, Suraksha Rai.
The objective of the workshop was to inform and sensitize the participants on the need for Village Development Action Plans (VDAP) in achieving the vision of the State government in making Sikkim a Poverty Free State by 2013 and also to discuss on the VDAP operational guidelines.
The workshop commenced with the welcome address by Suraksha Rai, Faculty SIRD, during which she highlighted the objectives of the workshop. DDO south, DK Pradhan informed the participants about the programme Mission: Poverty Free Sikkim 2013 and further pointed out the need and importance of VDPA.
After the DDO’s address, Panchayat President, Aritar GPU, Dhiren Gurung, shared his experience in making VDAP and informed that the role of Panchayats and the rural public is vital in preparing a realistic VDAP and also the coordination, cooperation from BAC, Line department officials and functionaries, adds the release. He stressed that the reactivation of the Gram Planning Forum was a must at all GPUs.
Director, SIRD, PN Tamang gave a detailed presentation on the administrative aspects of VDAPs and informed that the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) tools will be used for preparing of the VDAP, the release further informs.
In his presentation he also highlighted the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders in VDAP and said that VDAP should be realistic and achievable.
This was followed by the presentation on Contents of Village Development Action Plan by Faculty SIRD, Ganga Pd Sharme, Works Manager NREGA Cell, RM&DD Karma Doma Bhutia, and Faculty SIRD Suraksha Rai.
Up Adhayaksha Himal Tamang, in his address stressed on the role of panchayats and requested all the panchayats and government officials to actively participate and cooperate during the preparation of VDAP.
Adhyaksha (South) Ravi Chandra Gurung in his address requested the district and block level officers and the respective panchayats to take the mission seriously and help in achieving the vision of the state government in making Sikkim Poverty free Sikkim by 2013. He also assured full cooperation and coordination in fulfilling the mission, adds the release.
The workshop ended with the vote of thanks by Additional Director (SIRD), HK Sharma. The workshop was attended by Joint Director (SIRD), Bishal Rai, DDO (South), DK Pradhan, Addl. Secretary, RM&DD , Tashi Khangsarpa, DPO (South)  Suchitra Rasaily, Block Development Officers of South District, officials and staffs from SIRD, Panchayat Inspectors, Field Facilitators, APOs and Rural Development Assistant of South district.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Namchi College begins countdown to ambitious Blossom Fest 2011


PURAN TAMANG
NAMCHI, 10 Feb: The Government College here at Kamrang is organizing a first of its kind college fest for a Sikkim government college with a 4-day long “Blossom Fest 2011” from 23 to 26 February 2011 here at college premises.
The main objective behind the fest, its student organisers inform, is to preserve and promote the State’s tradition and cultures and also to provide a platform to talented college students.
The culture secretary of Students Representative Council (SRC) of the college here, Phurba Sherpa, informs that the Blossom Fest was being organised by the students themselves without any financial support from the college fund. The organisers, he said, have been keeping busy through the winter holidays contacting corporate and private sponsors to make the fest possible.
Though the bandh in the neighbouring state has hampered accessing good sponsors from outside the State, Mr. Sherpa announced with confidence that even with the local sponsors already arranged, they would put up a memorable event.
The Blossom Fest will include performances by rock band showdown which will have rock outfits from all over the country in competition.
Over the four days, a series of cultural events will be hosted, including fashion shows, dance competitions and an array of live performances by established and upcoming artists.
He stressed that the organisers were inspired by the Chief Minister’s frequent appeals to the young to become more proactive and self-reliant and said that the putting together of this grand event solely by the students was a gesture of living up to this call.
He added that the Chief Minister has accepted their invitation to inaugurate the event and that they were looking forward to hosting him on the 23rd.
The members of the organising committee also expressed confidence that the successful hosting of this ambitious event will boost the college’s image and highlighted that this would not have been possible without the support of all the students who have been working tirelessly over the past few months. Assistance was now coming in from students from all the colleges of the State, and today’s meeting was also attended by SRC members from the other government colleges as well.

Sikkim Nagrik Samaj writes to President in support of statehood for Darjeeling

A meeting of the Sikkim Nagrik Samaj convened at the Press Club of Sikkim on
Wednesday to condemn the killing of GJM supporters in a police firing on Tuesday. 

ORGANISATION OF JOURNALISTS ACCUSES WB ADMINISTRATION OF ‘BRUTAL SUPPRESSION’, DEMANDS INDEPENDENT INQUIRY INTO POLICE FIRING
GANGTOK, 10 Feb: The “Sikkim Nagrik Samaj”, which, in a meeting held yesterday, had condemned the killing of GJM supporters in a police firing on Tuesday, shot off a petition to the President of India today demanding that a permanent solution be found to the situation in the Darjeeling Hills with regard to the statehood demand there and alleging that the West Bengal state administration was “continuously trying to suppress the agitation brutally”.
The petition signed by the SNS president, Editor, Sikkim Mir-Mirey, Kishore Moktan, and four other office bearers, calls on the President to ensure that the State and Central governments take the situation in Darjeeling seriously, “keeping in mind the geographical location of the Darjeeling hill region and Dooars i.e. surrounded by international borders”.
The petition seeks that the central government come forward to secure the political rights of the people of Darjeeling and Dooars. It has also demanded that the Sibchu firing be thoroughly investigated by an independent agency.
The petition contends that joint forces of the West Bengal police and CRPF arrived at Sibchu where GJM members were on a relay hunger strike. Section 144 was imposed in this area which has barely 15 families living near a wildlife sanctuary, the petition highlights, to argue the “atrocity” carried out by the West Bengal government.
The firing was directed at a peaceful procession, the SNS contends. Two GJM supporters were killed in the firing.
The petition highlights that the people in Darjeeling have lost faith in the police after the incident and conveys the organisation’s belief that the national news channels have not reported a true picture and were neglecting several facts. “We felt very strongly that national media persons are working with malafide intentions concerning Gorkhaland demand,” the petition conveys.
Meanwhile, the Citizens Forum has also condemned the killing of GJM workers in the Sibchu incident. The Citizens Forum president, Thukchuk Lachungpa, addressing a press conference today, conveyed the organisation’s condemnation of the firing and argued that the GJM movement for statehood was a nonviolent agitation which has been targeted with violence.
“Agitations for statehood elsewhere in the country are violent movements, whereas the demand for Gorkhaland by the GJM is the only nonviolent movement,” he said, adding that the police firing was pushing even this agitation to turn violent.
Media reports have also carried strong condemnation of the firing by the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front which has denounced the killing of GJM members as an affront on democracy and democratic aspirations of the people of the neighbouring hills.

Theatre's 'Rang Yatra' in Mangan

"Jharlangey", a play directed by RD Lepcha and written by Jagdish
Sharma, being performed as part of "Rang Yatra" in Mangan

MANGAN, 10 Feb: The Sangeet Natak Akademim North East Centre, in collaboration with the Culture and Heritage Department is hosting the North East festival, “Rang Yatra, Sikkim” at the Community hall, Mangan, from 09 to 13 Feb.
The programme was inaugurated by Power Minister Sonam Gyatso Lepcha, who also holds the Culture and Heritage portfolio, yesterday.
A historical play, “Jharlangey”, directed by RD Lepcha and written by Jagdish Sharma, was staged on the opening night. For the final evening of the festival, another much-anticipated play, “Kirai-ko Maanche”, is scheduled while the rest of the evenings will have plays by artistes from elsewhere in the North East.
[WANGCHUK BHUTIA]

SNT presses all available buses to Siliguri service, sends out 16 today

Ticket seekers at SNT terminus, Gangtok

At the SNT terminus, Siliguri

An SNT convoy of 5 buses awaits WB police escort at 2 Mile, Siliguri

SAGAR CHHETRI
GANGTOK, 10 Feb: The Sikkim Nationalised Transport pressed an expanded fleet of buses into service to keep Sikkim linked with the rest of the world today, the second day of the indefinite bandh in the Darjeeling hills. Only SNT buses are plying on the highway to Siliguri at present, moving in convoys under West Bengal police escort. Today, 16 buses [up from 10 yesterday] moved from Gangtok to Siliguri and five made the journey in from Siliguri.
Deputy General Manager, SNT, Rinchen Bhutia, informs that under ‘normal’ conditions, SNT plies seven buses to Siliguri from Gangtok, but given the special circumstances of the present, extra buses have been inducted to service this route. The fares, one may add, remain unchanged.
Mr. Bhutia informed that even the JNURRM buses earmarked for the city-runner service for Gangtok and its surrounding areas have been added to the Siliguri fleet to ensure that people who need to travel are not left stranded.
It is learnt that while the convoy of 16 buses left the SNT complex here by 8:30 this morning, they could proceed beyond Rangpo only later in the afternoon accompanied by West Bengal police escorts.
The five buses from Siliguri too waited till afternoon at 2nd Mile, Siliguri, till the WB police escorts arrived.
All buses reached their destination safely.
Meanwhile, the rush of ticket seekers at the SNT complex here was heavy throughout the day.
The DGM informs that they were only taking advance booking for seven buses and that the rest were sold on the day of travel itself when the number of buses available was confirmed.

PMGSY road debris renders farmer landless and without a home

Meg Bahadur Rai stands in his now lost courtyard with his swamped by road debris
orchard in the background. This used to be flat land till a fortnight back.

Road cutting debris pushed out from the alignment above kicks up a cloud of
dust as it races down to Meg Bahadur Rai's home and land
SUBASH RAI
GANGTOK, 09 Feb: 60-year old Meg Bahadur Rai of Lower Barbing [under Martam-Rumtek constituency in East Sikkim], has been rendered landless, homeless and with this combined loss, without even an avenue to make a living any more. The culprit – a road being constructed under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana which has been dumping debris from the road-cutting works on to his land. Even as a question mark hangs on the legality of such dumping, what makes the pain even more hurtful for the 60-year-old widower is the reality that he is not even counted among the “affected people” and received no compensation since the road does not pass through his land, skirting above the cliff face behind his land.
The construction of a link road from Ranka near Rai Gaon to Rey Khola Road is underway and Mr. Rai’s only land-holding which measures around half a hectare falls below this road alignment at Lower Barbing. The road-cutting work has now reached above Mr. Rai’s plot, and in the fortnight that earth-movers have been at work above his house, he has lost everything to the debris pushed down the cliff on to his land.
Mr. Rai, a Tuberculosis patient on MDR medication at present and with two school-going children to look after, had an orchard of 90 orange trees which, in the last season [December 2010] had earned him around Rs. 35,000. Where he had his orchard, now he stares at a mountain of debris and dust.
Also on this dry land, Mr. Rai used to grow broom [Amliso], ginger and seasonal vegetables.
“I used to earn between Rs. 800 to 1,000 every week selling vegetables,” Mr. Rai said.
All that is now past. Tonnes of boulders and loose mud have swamped his orange orchard and vegetable fields.
Fresh debris which crashed into Mr. Rai's home while this
reporter was at the spot on 10 Feb, Thursday.
Even his two-storeyed ekra mud house has suffered substantial damage from the debris which has crashed into it. The house is too unsafe for habitation any more and Mr. Rai has moved into a neighbours cowshed along with his two school-going children.
“My milching cow will also now die because the fodder I had collected for the dry season is now buried under the boulders,” he said.
Mr. Rai is in a daze, unsure of what the future holds for him. Someone has told him that PMGSY works do not have a clause for compensation payment and thus far, the contractor in question has not visited the affected area.
The only hope that Mr. Rai now holds on to is an assurance received from a supervisor at the work site. “The supervisor has assured that my losses will be looked into,” he shares.
He is also now toying with the idea of approaching the elected representatives of his area and the concerned authorities to work out a solution for him.
What he is dreading is the approaching monsoons, when the clouds of dust which the constant dumping is causing will turn into wayward mudslides and obliterate whatever little is left of the land.
Anyone who has been following road constructions will notice that this is not a rare case.
The SDM [Gangtok], Dr. AB Karki, when contacted to understand what rules govern dumping of this kind, informed that such dumping is flagrantly against the rules.
“Contractors are required to cart away the debris and dump it only at authorised sites. This cost is included in the work estimate and is completely unauthorised. In fact, when it comes to PMGSY projects, extra care is required because the scheme does not include a compensation clause for such damages, because as per rules, such dumping is not allowed,” the SDM explained.
Now to see how Mr. Rai’s situation is improved.

Tingling villagers protest delay in release of compensation for livestock killed by clouded leopard


GANGTOK, 10 Feb: The villagers of Tingling in West Sikkim, who lost livestock to clouded leopard attacks last month, and even assisted the Forest department capture one [which eventually died in transit], have complained that they have still not received their due compensation. The department it may be recalled (as reported on NOW! dated 18 Jan 2010) had assured that compensation would be paid out within 15 days [of the animal having been trapped].
The villagers, while speaking to NOW! yesterday, contended that it was now many days past the deadline, but the compensation is still awaited.
What is more, the Department has neither contacted the villagers, nor the panchayat over the past fortnight to collect details of the claim. With no official enquiry having been undertaken, the villagers wonder when the compensation due to them under Forest laws [for damage caused by wildlife] will be released.
The villagers are also now demanding that the post mortem of the animal be conducted outside the state.
“This demand has been made in order to prove ourselves innocent against the accusation made by the department that the animal died because we [villagers] had beaten it up in captivity,” a villager said while speaking to NOW! over the phone.
“We are agonized and hurt because instead of receiving applause for our feat [of having captured the animal alive] the department has accused us of carelessness in handling the animal when it actually died while under their care [the clouded leopard died while being transported to the Himalayan Zoological Park in Gangtok],” the villager added.
The villagers further inform of another sighting of a clouded leopard in the village a week after the incident and state that they have not informed the Forest department this time as an act of disapproval and disappointment against the way they were indicted in the earlier incident. This clouded leopard has reportedly already killed a goat belonging to one Tej Raj Rai.

Traffic jam on a Bandh-hit highway!

Gangtok, 10 Feb: Day-2 of the GJM indefinite bandh in Darjeeling, which has been extended this time to Sikkim traffic as well [with only SNT buses exempted], coincided with the funeral of the two GJM supporters from Kalimpong killed in a police firing at Sipchu in Jalpaiguri district the day before.
16 SNT buses left Gangtok today, departing Gangtok between 7 to 10 in the morning. All however collected in Rangpo for the West Bengal police escort onwards to Siliguri. Sources at the SNT inform that this convoy, which eventually moved out at around 1:30 p.m. from Rangpo were stuck in a traffic jam at Tar-Khola, barely half an hour out of Rangpo, till 2:30 p.m. The jam, it is informed, was caused by the funeral cortege of the GJM supporters killed in the Sipchu firing. More details are however awaited on this.
Meanwhile, the SNT convoy from Siliguri to Gangtok, which left the SNT terminus there at around 11 a.m., had to wait at 2 Mile, Siliguri, for close to two hours and proceeded on it journey only at around 1:30 p.m. They got clear roads throughout and the time of filing of this report [4:45 p.m.] had reached 32 No. between Singtam and Ranipool. This convoy was of 5 SNT buses and crossed the Siliguri-bound SNT convoy at Teesta bazaar bridge on their way in. Although 10 buses had made it to Siliguri yesterday, only 5 could be spared for general passengers and 5 buses were retained for Army service.

Only during highway bandhs

There are some scenes possible only when the National Highway 31A is closed for regular traffic. A taxi stand empty of passengers or any activity is one such. This is the mainline taxi and bus station at Deorali in Gangtok. 

The highway monkeys, pampered by highway commuters to the extent that they appear to have forgotten how to forage food in the forests or fields, rummage through the rubbish at Rangpo. With traffic denied on the highway, there are no meals for these simians either. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

SNT keeps Sikkim linked through the bandh

An SNT bus edges past a GJM picket at Rangpo, West Bengal, on
Wednesday morning

SAGAR CHHETRI
GANGTOK, 09 Feb: The Sikkim Nationalised Transport [SNT] fleet is invariably the only reliable service when it comes to braving bandhs in neighbouring Darjeeling. The heli-service, even when it plies extra flights is limited by capacity [the Pawan Hans chopper is a tight 5-seater], and even the subsidised fares beyond most pockets. So when it comes to passenger service or the transport of essential commodities when the hills in the neighbouring State shut-down, it is the SNT that Sikkim turns to.
The scenario today, Day-1 of the indefinite bandh called by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in the Darjeeling hills and extended to Sikkim traffic on sections of NH 31A snaking through Darjeeling district, had SNT essaying the same role again. GJM picketers did not allow any vehicle through except those of the armed forces and the SNT. A fleet of 10 SNT buses left Sikkim today and made it to Siliguri, while a fleet of 22 made it into Sikkim from Siliguri. This was the only road traffic which linked Sikkim to the rest of the world today.
A convoy of 10 SNT buses ferried people to Siliguri under an escort of West Bengal Police from Rangpo today.
The buses have left Rangpo at around 11:15 a.m. and safely reached the SNT complex in Siliguri at 3:30 p.m.
SNT officials were camped at Rangpo through most of the day to coordinate the exercise and were in constant touch with the drivers and conductors of the buses over phone throughout their journey to Siliguri.
This set of 10 buses were then advised to stay back in Siliguri overnight and undertake the return journey on Thursday after the situation on the highway was evaluated afresh.
As for the vehicles which made it to Sikkim from Siliguri, they were part of a 22-vehicle SNT convoy, again with West Bengal police escorts. These comprised 14 trucks, 3 tankers and 5 buses, all of the SNT.

New Employment Notice posted

A new post has been added to the Employment Bulletin section announcing 21 vacancies in 10 posts at the State Nodal Agency for Integrated Watershed Management Plan

At Mayalmu Sangh’s destitute home...



NGO CHIPS IN WITH A DONATION, BUT THE HOME NEEDS MORE CONSISTENT ASSISTANCE
GANGTOK, 09 Feb: Mayalmu Sangh, a destitute home for the mentally unstable, located at Metro Point, Tadong in Gangtok, were yesterday presented with a donation purchased from profits earned from a New Year’s party organised by a recently-formed NGO, Sikkimey Jan Sewa Samiti [SJSS], along with Dirty Angels Bikers Club and Quixotic Entertainment [an event management company]. A 2000 litre Sintex water-tank along with some kitchenware were presented by the SJSS president, Tshering Wangchuk Lepcha, to the Mayalmu Sangh president, Bindya Gurung.
The destitute home was established in 2008, starting with three inmates and now houses 30.
Ms. Gurung, while speaking to media persons, informed that the Home now needs to move into a larger space since the present rented accommodation is already too cramped. They have requested for allotment of a 100 x 100 feet plot to construct a proper Home to house the increasing number of inmates.
“We have approached the Chief Minister’s office but have not been able to get an appointment so far. We were then asked to keep an application ready for the purpose, which we have and are now waiting for an appointment to process the request,” she informed.
Water supply and lack of clothes for inmates are the other problems that the Home is facing at the moment, she added, appealing to the public to donate old and discarded clothes. She further expressed her gratitude towards all past and present sponsors, donors and those who have extended support to the home.
“Our ultimate objective is to help all mentally ill destitute from across the state,” she added.
SJSS’s Mr. Lepcha, while appreciating the Sangh’s efforts towards providing shelter to the mentally ill, expressed the need to encourage and support such work.
On the SJSS, he informed that there are 10 members as of now and aim at involving youth from all the four districts. On the organisation’s future plans, he informed that providing a platform for all artists in the state, providing necessities to deserving students who are financially backward are some of the things they are looking forward to achieving.
“We have spoken to some health officials and lawyers who will support us in our endeavour” he added.
[TSHERING EDEN]

Heli-service increases number of flights but there are only so many seats and so many flying hours


PAWAN HANS CHOPPER FLIES 4 FLIGHTS TO BAGDOGRA ON DAY 1 OF DARJ BANDH, PLANS 7 FROM TOMORROW ONWARDS
GANGTOK, 09 Feb: The Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation [STDC] Heli-Service, even though offering only a cramped 5-seater option, invariably runs more sorties when the highway shuts down due to bandhs or landslides. National Highway 31A was closed even for vehicular traffic from Sikkim due to a GJM bandh in the Darjeeling hills and this set up the Pawan Hans helicopter to fly four sorties to Bagdogra and back. The STDC had planned for 5, but inclement weather late in the afternoon forced it to abandon it last flight out.
Given the need to pack in more flights into the 7-hour flying hours the chopper service has in a day, STDC has started flying out of the Mamring ground at Rangpo instead of the helipad in Gangtok. This cuts down flight time by 20 minutes per two and fro flight from Bagdogra and serve the passengers just as well because it lands them in a bandh free Sikkim where they can continue their journey easily.
What the flights from Mamring also achieve is a central location even for passengers coming in from South and West districts, explains Vijay Thapa, General Manager, STDC.
Although the helicopter could swing on four two and fro flights today, starting Thursday, STDC plans to squeeze in seven flights.
Tickets have already sold out with all possible flights booked till 13 February. With only SNT buses allowed on the highway today, and no taxis or jeeps getting through, the rush is expected to only increase if the indefinite bandh called in the Darjeeling hills does keep Sikkim locked out for longer.

Census 2011 begins in Sikkim with Governor becoming the first resident to be enumerated

A Census enumerator calls on Governor BP Singh at his winter camp in
Rangpo to launch the Census 2011 in Sikkim on 09 Feb  

RANGPO, 09 Feb: The second and final phase of Census 2011 began today with the Governor of Sikkim, BP Singh, being the first person to be listed by the enumerators who called on him here at his winter residence in Rangpo.
Speaking to media-persons today, the Governor shared that his link with the Census of India has been very long and old. “The Census of India is a very true and proper verification of a person, it gives the person’s true information,” he said, adding that the task of an enumerator was very important as they are the persons who have to go to each and every house and get the details.
He further shared that he also found archives of the 1901 Census in Sikkim which have been kept in the Culture and Heritage Department in Gangtok. Commenting that he had gone through the 1901 Census, the first for Sikkim, he said that he was very happy that such records have been preserved.
Director, Directorate of Census Operations, Sikkim, Bhagwan Shankar, informed today that this was the second phase of the 2011 Census [under the theme ‘Our Census, Our Future’] being held in Sikkim from 09 to 28 February.
The enumerators will be going from house to house to record each and every person’s proper verification [and this even includes outsiders and foreigners who are residing in Sikkim], so that the true picture of the population can be brought forth, he said.
There are a total of 24 questions in the questionnaire which need to be filled out and these record all details of a person- name, age, educational qualification, sex [this time there is a third gender too].
“We should be able to give the preliminary finding of the Census by the end of March, this year,” he said.
[AMEET OBEROI]

GJM locks down Sikkim

AMEET OBEROI
RANGPO, 09 Feb: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha picketers at the interstate check-post at Rangpo held up out-bound traffic from Sikkim today. This, as part of the indefinite bandh called by the GJM for the Darjeeling Hills following the death of three of its supporters in a police firing at Sipshu on the Darjeeling-Jalpaiguri border on Tuesday. While the highway has been kept open for Sikkim traffic through most of the recent GJM bandhs, this time, the GJM has extended the bandh to Sikkim traffic as well. The only relaxation they were according till late this afternoon was for SNT buses which were allowed through. A total of 10 SNT buses had managed to get past Rangpo till 1 p.m. today. Army vehicles, and those of other essential services [like BRO for road repairs] were also allowed passage from the Rangpo, West Bengal, picket. All other vehicles, including marriage processions [traditionally exempt from bandhs in the hills], were however stopped.
The situation remained unchanged till the filing of this post.
SNT allowed through while a passenger jeep is turned back from Rangpo,
West Bengal, on Day-1 of the GJM indefinite bandh, 09 Feb.

An SNT bus moves through the GJM picket at Rangpo on Wednesday

A desperate foreign tourist, his jeep turned back, explains that he has plane
tickets and connecting flights to catch

Eventually, the West Bengal cops and the GJM Nari Morcha [wonen's wing]
managed to get him a lift in an Army vehicle.

The GJM picket at Rangpo, West Bengal. 09 Feb 2011

New post added to litNOW!

New short-story, "one morning, April 1986", by Dorjee Tshering Lepcha posted in the litNOW! section. Check it out and leave a comment.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Hydel worker caught smuggling detonators


PURAN TAMANG
NAMCHI, 08 Feb: A labourer engaged with HCC, a construction company under contract with hydel project developer Lanco at Adit II and III at Karek below Namthang in South Sikkim, was arrested by Melli check post police yesterday when he was caught trying to smuggle explosive items out of state.
Source inform that one Gopal Tamang, working as a labourer at a Lanco construction site, was caught while trying to leave the State from Melli check-post in possession of 18 detonators used to fire dynamites.
The DC [South], AK Singh, while speaking to NOW!, further informed that upon receiving information from the Police, a magisterial raid was carried out at the construction site and the magazine house [where explosives are stocked] of Lanco Pvt. Ltd.
The DC informed that this magisterial raid detected some slackness in how the stock of explosives was being maintained and some portion of the magazine house was accordingly sealed.
The DC added that he will soon be submitting the findings of his investigation to the Police for further action. He also added that no further arrests have been made in connection with the pilferage and attempted smuggling of the explosives. He also confirmed that the confiscated detonators have not yet been conclusively traced back to the Lanco Magazine House. These could also have been stolen from the HCC construction site.
Meanwhile, the SP [South], Manoj Tiwari, who is currently on leave, while speaking over the phone, informed that the police was investigating the case in detail and trying to get to the bottom of things.

Burglary attempt at SBS Jorethang lands 4 suspects behind bars


NAMCHI, 08 Feb: Four suspects were taken into custody today in connection with the attempted burglary at the Jorethang branch of State Bank of Sikkim on Sunday night.
Sources inform that one person from Nandugaon and three from Jorethang have been placed under arrest in connection with investigations into the attempted break-in detected only on Monday morning.
The wannabe burglars, sources inform, had tried to enter the SBS branch by breaking through window, but could not effect a burglary. Had they succeeded, the bank would have lost nearly Rs. 98 lakhs lying in cash in the branch over the weekend.
The case is still under investigation.
[PURAN TAMANG]

Duo missing from Assangthang since Sunday found dead


NAMCHI, 08 Feb: The dead bodies of two persons missing since Sunday [06 Feb 2011] were recovered today, the two having died in a road mishap which went unnoticed.
31-year-old Timothy Rai, resident of 9th Mile, Assangthang, and Pancha Bahadur Rai, 41, a resident of Dumidara in Assangthang, had left together for the Sunday haat at Namchi and not returned home since. Their families had been frantically searching for the two since Sunday and a search party discovered the dead bodies in the forest area near the turning at 12th Mile on the Namchi-Jorethang stretch today.
Upon discovering the dead bodies, the ex-panchayat assisting the search operations reported the matter to the police who recovered the dead bodies from the site and handed them over the respective families after autopsy.
While the case is still under investigation, it is reasonably established that they perished in an accident. The scooter they were riding at the time was also recovered from the spot.
[PURAN TAMANG]

Darj DM requisitions army to quell Hill unrest

GANGTOK, 08 Feb: Media sources in Darjeeling and Siliguri confirmed late this evening that the Darjeeling District Magistrate has requisitioned the army to help normalise the situation in the Darjeeling Hills. This follows on the heels of national media reporting that additional paramilitary forces have been assured for the West Bengal administration. The situation in Darjeeling had collapsed to widespread anarchy and targeting of West Bengal state machinery in the Hills after a police firing on a GJM procession in Jalpaiguri left 3 people dead. The Darjeeling DM has reportedly submitted the request for army deployment to the West Bengal Government which has endorsed it and forwarded it to the Centre. Sources inform that given the situation in the Hills, the army could be deployed tonight itself.

Youth conduct health camp at Martam


GANGTOK, 08 Feb: Martam Charitable Youths Association organized a daylong health camp at Martam in East Sikkim near Rumtek on 06 Feb, informs a press release.
The camp was aimed as a service for residents of Martam-Nazitam ward and began at 10 in the morning. The camp provided free treatment and medicines to 180 people.
The association has expressed gratitude towards Medical Superintendent, STNM Hospital, Dr. IL Sharma, for providing the medicines, Dr. Dolkar and her associate, in charge, Martam PHC.

Darj burns after police firing in Jalpaiguri claims 3 GJM activists

INDEFINITE STRIKE CALLED IN THE HILLS, POSTERING EXTENDS BANDH TO NH31A AS WELL
SNOD TANKER SET ALIGHT AT TAR-KHOLA
GANGTOK, 08 Feb: The situation in Darjeeling hills collapsed to anarchy today as Gorkha Janmukti Morcha activists took to the streets torching West Bengal government property and bringing the hill district to a standstill. This, in a spontaneous reaction to news of police firing on a GJM procession near the Sipshu Tea Estate at Nagrakata in Jalpaiguri district which has now claimed three lives.
Initially, two GJM members, one of them a 24 year old lady from Kalimpong, had been killed in the police firing. Later in the day, a third person succumbed to injuries sustained in the police action. In the melee which visited this town on the Darjeeling-Jalpaiguri border, around 10 CRPF personnel are also reported to have been injured. An indefinite bandh has been called in the Darjeeling hills, and posters pasted along the highway announce that this time, traffic from Sikkim will also be blocked.
As news spread of the police firing and the casualties, violence broke out in the Darjeeling Hills and an immediate chakka-jam was called shortly after noon. The bandh was eventually lifted at around 4 p.m. to allow people stranded all over the hills to complete their journeys. The GJM has now called an indefinite bandh from Wednesday onwards.
While vehicular traffic to and from Sikkim on National Highway 31A [in parts which run through Darjeeling] is usually kept out of the purview of these bandhs, this time, GJM picketers along the highway have been pasting posters on all Sikkim-bound vehicles that this time, even Sikkim vehicles will not be allowed on the highway.
Those who travelled on the highway after the bandh was lifted today inform that while tension was not palpable, what was worrying was that there was no sign of either West Bengal police or paramilitary forces on the highway.
Meanwhile, news coming in from Darjeeling informs that following the police firing and deaths, arson broke out in the hills. The tourism office on the Mall in Darjeeling was set ablaze as was the forest dak bungalow at Jaldhaka in the Dooars. A police vehicle was also set alight in Darjeeling it is informed. Forest bungalows and sub-divisional offices were also torched in the Kalimpong sub-division.
Also in Kalimpong today, two North Bengal State Transport Corporation buses were set alight at the motor-stand. Also caught in the mob attack in Kalimpong was an SNT bus, the windshield of which was smashed. No one was however injured in the incident and the vehicle made it back to Sikkim when the bandh was lifted.
At Tar-Khola, the notorious West Bengal settlement ahead of Rangpo, however, a private petrol tanker [belonging to SNOD, Gangtok] headed for Siliguri from Rangpo was set alight. No one was injured and fire-fighters from Rangpo put out the flame, it is learnt.
The situation in the neighbouring Hills remains tense.

Volleyball tourney for North and East Sikkim begins in Tumin


DIKCHU, 08 Feb: The North-East Region (Sikkim) Volleyball tournament for teams from East and North districts got underway at Tumin-Barang in East Sikkim yesterday.
The tournament has been organized by the Yuva Jagriti Sangh of Lower Kambal and is being sponsored by the National Hydro-electric Power Corporation (NHPC), Teesta Stage-V.
The opening ceremony had the area MLA [Singtam-Khamdong], Am Prasad Sharma as chief guest accompanied by Chief Engineer (NHPC), AK Choudhary.
The opening match was played between United Brothers [Lower Kambal] and Sunakhari Club of Kokaley with the former team winning 2-0 in a best of three sets.  The match was refereed by Dilli Ram Basnett from Sports & Youth Affairs Department and had Depen Bhattarai as second umpire.
A total of 19 teams have registered for the tournament which carried a cash-prize of Rs. 30,000 for the winning team, Rs. 20,000 for the runners-up and Rs. 10,000 for the team coming in third.
[WANGCHUK BHUTIA]

My First Supersonic Flight - The F/A-18 Super Hornet Experience

Karma Paljor at Yelanka Air Force base, Bangalore. Suited up to fly the
F/A-18 Hornet 

KARMA PALJOR
I reached the Yelanka Air Force Base in Bangalore at 9 a.m. in the morning, and I was absolutely clueless on what to expect. I was undoubtedly very excited, but also a bit scared to be on my first supersonic flight. I had already done an extensive web search on precautions to be taken before such a flight, but there were no satisfactory answers, except for this oft repeated advice on carrying an air sickness bag.
The sickness bag I did carry, and to my relief I did not have to use it. Earlier, I had called up my good friend Group Captain Rameshwar Singh Talhan, who happens to be a fighter pilot, to get some advice.
“Just enjoy this once in a lifetime opportunity,” he told me, and then I took off.

THE SUIT UP AND THE BRIEF
I was kind of blank at the Boeing flight operations centre. I was at peace, and totally ready for the flight (pictures may say otherwise). Boeing’s Reggie Nathis suited me up. Formerly with the US Air Force, he was a picture of calm, the perfect person to G-suit anyone up. He had loads of patience and his words relaxed me. He told me I would not have any problem because I actually looked like a fighter pilot ;-) And then he handed me the air sickness bag (off camera).
Karma with Scot, the US Navy fighter pilot, who flew him
on the joyride
Scott, a pilot with the US navy, was my pilot for the day. He briefed me on what to do, expect etc on my flight. There were levers and instruments coloured in black and yellow, the ones I was not supposed to touch, ever. And then the part about ejection procedure scared me quite a bit. Rest was fine and fun, as he took me through the manoeuvres we were to do, and the G loads to expect when he warms me up for the flight. We were to be in the flight for at least 45 minutes. The part that excited me the most was that I would be allowed to take over controls and actually FLY a fighter jet.
I told Scott about my tiny experience with flight simulators and RC aircraft. And he told me I could try a couple of my own manoeuvres if I wanted.

THE TAKE-OFF
The F/A-18 Super Hornet flies fully loaded at the air show, which means it carries all the arsenal. And what an impressive array with an internal 20 mm gun, air-to-air missiles, together with air-to-surface weapons!
Getting into the cockpit was a breeze. Walking down the tarmac fully geared up gets you so much attention that you forget any discomfort that may have been there because of the G-suit. You feel sexy: rewind to Top Gun.
Once inside the cockpit, there are a number of belts to strap you in – also important because you don’t want to fall off when you are inverted. The only thing that was going through my mind was that I would never get these off in time in case of an emergency. All was well other than this.
I fiddled around with my helmet and my oxygen mask to be sure that I could remove it in case I felt like throwing up. All checks done, we were ready to take off. I opted for a gentler take off than the one they do for air shows.

THE FLIGHT
The taxi down to the end of the runway felt like forever, and I really wanted to fly now.  Once at the end, we finally lined up for takeoff. The engine thrust was tremendous, and I could still hear the roar of the aircraft even as it was shielded by the canopy. The nose gear bobbed up a few times before we took off with all the power, a sharp left and we were away towards the zone “we were to play in”.
Once off the ground, it felt like never before. This was like being in air on a super bike. Scott told me that I could have the controls once we were in our flying area. But before that he would take me through the dreaded g force ‘warming up’. During my G-manoeuvre, I must have felt about 4 G’s pulling on my body. I thought I was going to black out for a few seconds. This feeling again has to be felt and cannot be put in words. I made Scott stop at 4G, as I thought I could not take it anymore.
Then at 10,000 feet, I was handed the controls. And all I had to say was, “I have the controls.” So I did have the controls on me.
After a couple of 180 degree turns it felt as if I was ready for a roll. I called out, Scott gave a go ahead, and I rolled left. And my, my, it was something!! By this time I was kind of feeling a little heady, so I gave the controls back.
Scott now wanted to show me F/A-18’s slow speed characteristics, and the aircraft just slowed down. The manoeuvre is called the High Alpha-High Alpha, when the aircraft is at a very slow speed with a high angle of attack. Scott was still able to control the aircraft even as it swayed from left to right.
It was quite something!
“You have controls!” I took over as we still had some time (simulator training really helps). Scott asked me if I was ready for another roll, I did want to but was not feeling up to it. But then I thought I would probably never get a chance to do this again. So I pulled myself up and rolled to the right, and felt the high!!
Time for speed test, wing levels and a full throttle burst, a full afterburner, and the beast roared forward – I could totally feel the kick. We slowed down and turned after a satisfying 45 minutes on the Super Hornet.
Thank you God!
[The writer is a senior correspondent with CNN-IBN]

MLAs from Hill Areas Committee of Manipur arrive on Sikkim visit


GANGTOK, 08 Feb [IPR]: Members of the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) and officers of the Manipur Legislative Assembly led by their Chairman, MLA T. Kipgem, along with his wife and the MLAs WM Maknga, K Raina, A Newmel, Sr. Deputy Secretary T. Nengzakham and Reporter/ Translator Mr. Robindro , who are in Sikkim on a four-day official visit, called on the Speaker, Sikkim Legislative Asembly, KT Gyaltsen, and visited the Assembly today.
The visitors from Manipur, who had earlier visited Namchi and Tsomgo, were all praises for Sikkim and impressed with its overall development and the governance, a feeling which they conveyed to the Speaker today.
The Hill Areas Committee (HAC) was constituted under Article 371-C of the Constitution by the Presidential Order in the year 1972 especially for the state of Manipur. At present, the committee has 20 members/MLAs elected from Hill Assembly Constituencies.

Fresh tarmac for highway edges from Tadong to Ranipool



GANGTOK, 08 Feb: The Border Roads Organisation has been at work with patch-work carpeting of National Highway 31A from Gangtok to Ranipool. This project, which began a week ago from Convoy Ground at Tadong, is still layering the edges of the highway along the Tadong stretch. It is expected to continue through the month, weather permitting.
Needless to add, the cramped highway already burdened with more traffic than was ever projected for it, is narrowing into a bottleneck at these worksites where traffic jams are common. While these can be unraveled without too many delays, the jams get worse when always-in-a-rush VIPs or in-tearing-hurry taxis jump the line and clog the road.
ANUPA RAI

CoI scrutiny underway at DACs, racing towards 20 Feb deadline


GANGTOK, 08 Feb: All the four district administrative centres in Sikkim are busy with the verification of Sikkim Subjects Certificates and Certificates of Identification, a task assigned to them by the State Government with a deadline set for 20 February.
Confirming the same, a senior official at the DAC, East, informed that the verification process was underway full swing and that the officials were trying their best to complete the task within the prescribed deadline.
The District Collector [South], AK Singh, when contacted, informed that his office was seeking the assistance of the Special Branch to complete the task and informed that a letter to this effect was dispatched to the Superintendent of  Police [South] on Monday yesterday.
Meanwhile, the DC [West], Santa Pradhan, informed that they have assigned the task of preliminary verification to the Panchayat members.
“After their verifications, our office will carry out the final process,” Mr. Pradhan said.
Regarding the 20 February deadline, the he stated that it was unlikely that this deadline could be met and that they will be requesting for more time.
On total numbers of CoI holders in West Sikkim, he said, “I can’t tell the exact figure right away, but we have a 427-page preliminary list with every page containing at least 12 names.”
SUBASH RAI

First lot of Residential Certificates to be issued within a month


GANGTOK, 08 Feb: People eligible for the recently notified Residential Certificates will have to wait a month or little longer to secure one for themselves. These certificates, as per a State Government notification issued a couple of months back, is to be issued to all those who have been residing in Sikkim since before 26 April 1975 or are permanent employees of the State Government, but do not have a Certificate of Identification [issued to Sikkim Subject Certificate holders and their descendents].
The matter, anyone who has been following political developments in Sikkim will recall, is a hotly debated one between the ruling party and those in the Opposition, with the latter seeing it as something which will dilute the status of the Sikkim Subjects. This, of course, has been dismissed by the State Government, with the Chief Minister often detailing that the RC is not at par with Sikkim Subjects.
As for the reason why the RCs have not yet been issued, a senior official at the District Administrative Centre [East] informs that this is because the State Government first wants the district authorities to complete the verification of Certificates of Identification. As things stand, this task is to be completed by 20 February, but it is a major undertaking and could take longer.
“After completing this verification of Sikkim Subject Certificates and CoIs, we will proceed with issuing RCs,” the official said, adding, “Within a month or little longer we will be able to issue the first lot of RCs to the eligible applicants.”
He further informed that the authorities are also currently working on the guidelines, shape, size, format, colour and other technical details of the RCs.
SUBASH RAI

Monday, February 7, 2011

Lepcha students complete special coaching classes for Board exams


GANGTOK, 07 Feb: The valedictory function of a month-long winter coaching oganised by the Sikkim Lepcha youth Association for Lepcha students appearing for board exams [class X and XII] this year, was held on 04 Feb at Tashi Namgyal Senior Secondary School, a press release informs.
The occasion had the Dzongu MLA, Power Minister Sonam Gyatso Lepcha as the chief guest and was also attended by Padmashree Keepu T Lepcha, Chief Engineer, Energy & Power, G Targain, Asst. Commissioner, IT Centre, Lhendup Lepcha, Deputy Director, HRDD, Sonam Lepcha, president, Renjong Mutachi Rong Tarjum, CT Lepcha and TT Densapa, the release adds.
The participants of the coaching put up a cultural programme to express gratitude to their patrons and teachers for their support and guidance during this coaching period. The teachers and other volunteers were also given away the certificates as a token of appreciation by the chief guest, the release informs.
The organisers expressed gratitude towards the Minister and MLAs associated with the organization, particularly, chairman DT Lepcha, Director HRDD, CS Rao, Dr. Chultim, ACF, Forest, James Karthak, Deputy Director, HRDD, Sonam Lepcha, Principal, TNSSS and all the tutors of the coaching class who devoted their previous time and also the well wishers, adds the release.

HCPC Kamrang lifts Inter-Denomination Football cup


NAMCHI, 07 Feb: HCPC Kamrang lifted the Inter-Denominational Football Tournament here at the Bhaichung Stadium today.
The final matchwas played between EPCS Ranguthang and HCPC Kamrang with the latter winning the contest 6-4 in a tiebreaker.
Organized by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Sikkim (EPCS), Namchi, on the theme “Universal Brotherhood and Peace”, the final match of the tourney was chaired by Principal, New Light Academy, Lobzang Lama, as the chief guest accompanied by the Jailor, District Prison, Namchi, Arone Targain, RO (T) Tseten Lepcha, retired DSO NB Dungamali, Elders and Pastors’ from different churches of South District.
Regulation time of the final match ended in a 1-1 goal with Nim Tshering Lepcha of EPCS Ranguthang scoring the first goal and Phurba Lepcha of HCPC Kamrang equalising in the second half.  The tiebreaker, as mentioned, went in favour of HCPC Kamrang.
Also today, the organisers put together an exhibition match between EPCS Namchi Veteran vs. Youth which the veterans won 3-1.
A colourful cultural programme was also performed by youth representing different churches and the day began with a prayer by Elder D. Pakhrim of EPCS, Namchi.

Sikkim Subject Bachao Committee announces meetings for Mangan and Sombaria


GANGTOK, 07 Feb: The Sikkim Subject Bachao Committee, a collective of Opposition parties rallied against the State Government’s move to issue Residential Certificates [to those who have been residing here since before 26 April 1975], at a meeting held yesterday under the chairmanship of the committee president, State Congress president Nar Bahadur Bhandari, decided to hold meetings at Mangan [on 20 Feb] and Sombaria in West Sikkim [on 28 Feb] to argue its stand against the RCs.
A press release issued by the committee’s spokesperson, the Sikkim National People’s Party president, Biraj Adhihari, informs that yesterday’s meeting also reaffirmed the commitment of the members to protest the RC regime and strive to have the concerned notification withdrawn.

Daragaon sensitised on Urban Risk Reduction Programme

A jhora flowing near the venue of the URR meeting was cleared by the GMC last November. It's getting clogged with waste again.

WARD COUNCILLOR FLAGS BLOCKAGE OF JHORAS AS A WORRY
GANGTOK, 07 Feb: A meeting on “Sensitisation on Urban Risk Reduction Programme” for Daragaon ward in Gangtok was organized by the Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority (SSDMA) at Hotel Comfort Inn here on 05 February, a press release informs.
The programme which was chaired by the Gangtok Mayor, KN Topgay, and commenced with a welcome speech by Councillor, Daragoan Ward, Bhasker Basnett, who detailed civic problems and suggestions for Daragoan ward, highlighting the blockage of drains and jhoras due to rampant waste disposal that could lead to different hazards in the future, informs the release.
The State Project Officer, SSDMA, Bhupendra Sharma shed light on the background information and current progress with respect to URR Programme for the state.
DPO (East), Karma Dorjee Wazalingpa, made a presentation on Community Based Development Preparedness (CBDP). Various mappings, resources and other considerations towards achieving CDBP were also explained.
DPO (North) Sonam Lepcha, made a presentation on the preparation of Village Disaster Management Plans, explaining the 7-step process towards preparing a village disaster management plan – namely, review and analysis of past disasters in the area, mapping, formation of village disaster management teams, specialized training to the teams, formation of Community Contingency Fund, approval of the plan, mock drill and updating the plan. Based on the above points laid down by the DPOs, a committee will be formed for Daragaon ward and they will be trained accordingly.
Assistant Engineer, SSDMA, Dichen Namdul, presented a power-point presentation on Disaster Risk Reduction which focussed on the impact of disasters and ways to achieve risk reduction.
Common risks due to architectural and constructional features and solutions towards safe construction practices were also discussed. Urban/ Rural Planner, SSDMA Diki Wangmu Bhutia, discussed the ongoing process of techno-legal regime with respect to disaster management.  Also, IT specialist, SSDMA Ada Lawrence, spoke about the upcoming one stop knowledge centre for disaster management in the state.
Finally, the Gangtok Mayor made suggestions on the need for co-ordination and practical implementation of the URR Programme. He also stated that the programme should start from the grass root level so that even the public can participate in the process, the release adds.
Also participating in the programme were Deputy Mayor, Gangtok Municipal Corporation councillors, school teachers, Aganwadi workers, youth club members, NGOs and officials from SSDMA.

It’s Saraswati Puja on Tuesday


GANGTOK, 07 Feb: It is Saraswati Puja on 08 Feb [Tuesday], and as the accompanying photograph bears out, the artist selling idols of the Goddess Saraswati at Tadong has hardly any idols left for last-minute buyers.
“I have been camped here for a week now,” he shared between mouthfuls as he ploughed through his lunch of puffed rice. The largest statue in his inventory was 4.5ft tall which fetched him Rs. 1,500 and smaller ones of 1 ft height were still going for Rs. 200.
As we were leaving, he shouted after us, “If you want to see a wider variety and taller statues, go to Sichey, another artisan has brought a larger stock this year and is displaying them there.”
This remains the only time we have come across someone recommending his competitor’s wares, its perhaps the purity which underlines the essence of Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge. It is also perhaps apt that the worship of the Goddess of Knowledge comes a day after schools and colleges reopened across Sikkim today.
ANUPA RAI

CM interacts with youth of Namthang-Rateypani


NAMTHANG, 07 Feb [IPR]: Chief Minister Pawan Chamling met with the youth of Namthang-Rateypani constituency at the Namthang Block Development Centre yesterday. Around 200 youth were present in the short interactive programme during which Mr. Chamling was felicitated by the youth representatives of the constituency for his support and motivation towards the development of the youth of Sikkim.
Addressing the youth, the Chief Minister said that the biggest disadvantage compromising the prospects of the youth was their own state of dilemma and indecisiveness regarding their choices in life and stressed that this drawback is preyed up by vested interests to misguide the youth into promoting personal gain of the opportunists.
Mr. Chamling added that for this reason, it was now his aim to make the youth constructive, skilled, self-reliant and above all, aware citizens. Sikkim, he stressed, was in need of youth with a wider outlook who could steer the State towards a better tomorrow.
Towards this aim, the State Government has implemented youth-oriented schemes for skill and capacity development. The government has also ensured that through these schemes, the youth are able to utilize the ample opportunities created in the State in different sectors.
He also urged the youth not to allow antisocial elements to take advantage of their weaknesses for personal gain and take a strong stand against such opportunism.