Friday, June 8, 2012

Flash-flood tears through Rolep, claims 7 lives


GANGTOK, 07 June: A flash flood in Rolep, under Rongli sub-division in East Sikkim, early this morning has claimed seven lives. Heavy overnight downpour is believed to have triggered a flash-flood at around 4:30 AM this morning on the jhora that flows through Rolep. Within minutes, five houses in the area were damaged beyond repair with some were completely washed away and seven lives from four families lost to the flash-flood.
Rolep is situated around 12 kilometers from Rongli Bazaar.
In this unfortunate incident, four members of a single family - Bir Man Rai, Mani Maya Rai, Tika Devi Rai and Susan Rai lost their lives. Others who also perished in the flash flood are Mihan Rai, Mahendra Prasad Rai and Chandra Kumari Rai.
SDM [Rongli], PD Rai, while speaking to NOW! over the phone, informed that all the seven dead bodies were recovered after a joint rescue operation, the last body pulled out from the debris at around 8 p.m. He further informed that there were also reports of many serious and minor injuries to people due to landslides in-and-around Rolep. There are around 14 minor and major landslides at various places from Lamaten towards Rolep, making access difficult. The communication network has also been severely affected.
As things stand, many families in the area have been shifted to safer locations with the help of panchayat members and local residents, the SDM further added.
District Collector [East], D. Anandan, is camped at Rongli and has taken charge of the situation and has been monitoring the rescue operations throughout the day. The district administration has also announced ex-gratia payment of Rs 1.5 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased. Chief Minister, Pawan Chamling is scheduled to visit the affected area on Friday, it is informed.

Dzongu’s Ring Khola bridge too dilapidated to be safe anymore


MANGAN, 07 June: The Ring Khola Bridge which connects Lower and Upper Dzongu in North Sikkim is now in such ruinous condition that it can no longer be considered safe for vehicular traffic. Unfortunately, it also sits on the only road open to North Sikkim at present and is receiving even more traffic. The iron plates and nut bolts on the bridge have loosened and it is not advisable for loaded vehicles to cross the bridge.
The Dzongu road has been an alternate route for vehicles plying to North Sikkim as traffic at Rangang gets disrupted very often. Owing to the road block at Rangrang, this bridge had been bearing excess traffic of vehicles.
The condition of the bridge has now become so delicate that Police personnel from Bringbong and Sangkalang Check Posts had to be deployed at both ends of the bridge to ensure that vehicles crossing the bridge were not carrying even passengers. All the commuters are being made to disembark and cross the bridge on foot after which the driver allowed through to risk a crossover. Needless to add, this cannot be a permanent solution.
What is worse, on one end of the bridge is the risk of shooting rocks and boulders from a landslide triggered by last year’s earthquake which had claimed a mother and her son at the spot.
Some maintenance work is being undertaken by the BRO under whose jurisdiction the bridge falls, and some iron plates have been replaced. However, complete replacement of the bridge is what urgently required.
Several other bridges in Dzongu like Maney Khola bridge, Tareng Khola bridge and Dett Khola bridge also require replacement with new structures.

Lachung Dzumsa boycotts family for violation of Dzumsa system


GANGTOK, 07 June: The public at large including the Pipon of Lachung Dzumsa have boycotted one Thupden Norzang Lachungpa and his family for life considering the non-compliance and violation of the Dzumsa system practiced in Lachung.
Addressing media-persons here today, a delegation of the Lachung Dzumsa headed by the Pipons and the Gumpa head informed that they are in agreement that Thupden N Lachungpa of Lachung has been “misguiding the innocent people of Lachung along with trying to dislodge the Dzumsa practice of Lachung by carrying out activities which are totally against the Dzumsa law and system”. [Thupden N Lachungpa has also lashed out against a section of the people yesterday; read “Individuals with ‘ulterior motives’ creating problems alleges Lachung Dzumsa Coop Society” published in NOW! issue dated 07 June 2012]
Tshering Lachungpa, Gumpa Head of Lachung, contended that Mr Thupden has been carrying out activities “violating the law of the land practiced by the Dzumsa” for a while now and has been reprimanded in the past as well. In the year 2008-09 he had filed an RTI application on the MGNREGS “hindering developmental activities in Lachung violating the Dzumsa system” following which the Dzumsa had boycotted him in person. This boycott was later lifted.
“But Mr Thupden for the second time started an NGO in Lachung without prior information and discussion with the public or the Pipon and with it committed yet another mistake and now again without any prior information or consultation with the Dzumsa he has registered a cooperative society [Lachung Dzumsa Cooperative Society],” he added.
The Dzumsa itself is a cooperative society and the decision made by the Pipon selected by the public at large directs the actions on development to be carried out in the area added, Tshering Lachungpa added. “Mr Thupden’s allegations of favoritism and lack of freedom in the work carried out in Lachung are totally untrue and false,” he added.
Apart from these, the Lachung delegation also alleged that he is even misguiding the local youth and creating a rift between the state government and the people of Lachung by “speaking nonsense”. The Gumpa head added that Mr Thupden had even forged the stamps, signature and the seal of Pipons for the registration of the said cooperative society which is totally illegal considering which such a step is being initiated by the Dzumsa of Lachung today.
Apart from this the delegation also met with the Secretary Roads and Bridges Department demanding the cancellation of the enlistment of Thupden N Lachungpa along with Registrar Cooperation Department to cancel the registration of the cooperative society.
Lachung Pipon [I], Karma Lachungpa said that the people of Lachung have been and will continue to support the state government and the Sikkim Democratic Front [SDF] party. All the laws and rules enacted are acceptable but the action initiated by Mr Thupden trying to create a rift between the Dzumsa and the government is unfortunate, he stated.
The Chief Minister earlier with respect to cooperative movement had also stated that no cooperative system will be enacted in Lachen and Lachung where the Dzumsa will continue, he added.
He further informed that the Law Department in its notification had also stated that no changes be made in the Dzumsa system being practiced in Lachen and Lachung. He also appealed to all the departments and the state government not to entertain the documents of Thupden N Lachungpa hence forth even if it is duly signed by the Pipon.
He also demanded the cooperative society registered under the name of Lachung Dzumsa Cooperative Society by Thupden N Lachungpa with registration number 193/JRCS/COOP dated 26.03.2012 be cancelled at the earliest and no developmental works to be allotted as well. If the same is initiated than the Dzumsa system [which is protected by Article 371 F Old Laws] will no longer remain functional in areas like Lachung and Lachen.
It may be recalled here that Mr Thupden had claimed in a press release yesterday that some individuals were trying to create problems for the Lachung Dzumsa Cooperative Society of which he is the president.

Monsoon’s here


GANGTOK, 07 June: The Southwest Monsoon reached some parts of Sikkim on Wednesday and it is likely to cover the entire state in the coming couple of days. The advancement of the SW monsoon in the state brought rainfall in different parts of the state yesterday.
This year the SW Monsoon officially hit India through Kerala on 05 June and slowly advanced into different parts of the country. It is informed that on Wednesday the SW monsoon further advanced towards Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and some parts of Sub-Himalayan West Bengal and Sikkim along with other parts of the country.
The Meteorologist In-charge at Gangtok Meteorological Centre, GN Raha, while speaking to NOW!, mentioned that the SW Monsoon reached some parts of Sikkim including Gangtok on Wednesday and is likely to cover the whole state in the next 2 to 3 days. He further added that the normal date for SW Monsoon to cover the whole state is 10 June.
The Gangtok Met Centre recorded 51 mm rainfall at Gangtok, 44 mm in Tadong, 7 mm in Mangan, 55 mm in Majhitar, 39 mm at Khanitar and 53 mm at Damthang.
The SW Monsoon period begins from 01 June to 30 September and July has traditionally the wettest month.

Rehabs take to the field to kick away misconceptions


ANUSHA GURUNG
GANGTOK, 07 May: With the aim to generate awareness amongst the masses regarding drug users, a football match between four rehabilitation centres namely Serenity Home [lower Burtuk], Sikkim Rehab 32 Mile, Jagriti [lower Sichey], Mirakai Rehab Centre, Aho [Pakyong], was held today at the Guard’s Ground, Tathangchen.
The match was supported by Nayuma Entertainment Private Limited and West Point School. The match was attended by General Manager Nayuma Entertainment Private Limited, Gajendra Ghalay and the Principal, West Point school.
In the first match, Sikkim Rehab 32 Mile defeated Mirakai Rehab Pakyong by 5 goals while in the second match Jagriti Lower Sichey defeated Serenity Home by 6 goals. The final match was played between Sikkim Rehab 32 Mile and Jagriti Lower Sichey in which the former emerged as the winners.
Team leader of Mirakai Rehab Centre and mentor of HOPE foundation, KC Nima said that if these drug users are taken into confidence and given opportunities to show their creative potential then they would not betray the trust. He also supported his statement with a few examples.
He further added that  a team ‘Rehab Boys’ will also participate in the 15th August football tournament, supported by Nayuma Entertainment Private Limited.
One of the workers of Jagriti Lower Sichey, Namgyal Lepcha expressed that it is sad that the society looks down on drug users and stated these drug abusers can also be good and able human beings if given a chance.
Likewise, another chemical dependent boy from Sikkim Rehab centre, Rabin Rai said “We have been neglected by the society and people also say that we are not capable of doing things which is totally wrong. Today we have become clean and can do a lot of work”.

Editorial:Prepare Better


The monsoon officially arrived in Sikkim on Wednesday, and even as the Met office was registering its arrival, the vicious calling card of the rains was delivered with a flash flood in remote East Sikkim which claimed seven lives in Rolep as dawn broke on Thursday. A few days before this mishap, a flash flood tore through Lachung [on 03 June] at the other end of Sikkim, but because this one happened in the afternoon, the warning signs were noticed in time and although property was damaged, no lives were lost. There was no such providential escape for Rolep, where the flashflood struck too early in the morning for any precautions to be possible.
One does not normally associate floods with the hills, but flash-floods are common here and are caused essentially by three reasons – a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood, a cloudburst or the breaking of a natural dam. Information trickling in from Rolep suggests that the first two causes don’t apply in its case. The residents are convinced that the flash-flood resulted when a natural dam caused by a landslide upstream burst on Thursday morning. If this was indeed the case, the disaster preparedness plans of Sikkim need to be revised. GLOFs can justifiably catch people off guard because glaciers are extremely remote in Sikkim and national security paranoia has kept them out of bounds for locals and experts alike and a cloudburst is nature at its most fearsome offering no response time. A flash-flood generated by natural dam [and its eventual collapse], is however something which at least allows time for evacuation, if not remedy, in time. It is kind of like a Tsunami in that just as before a Tsunami, the sea retreats, so in the case of a natural dam burst, the jhora or stream in question will be discharging much lower volumes of water than the precipitation coming down. Hill folk have traditionally recognised this warning sign and move away from water courses when the volume of water in the jhora/ stream is not proportional to the amount of rain being received. The connection with the land is no longer as organic as is required for safety in these parts and too many warning signs are lost to ignorance, disinterest, and as could have been in Rolep’s case, timing. Details of the incident are still not very clear since the village is still grappling with the shock of fatalities, but it is possible that natural dam was created at night and the overnight inundation so heavy that it broke earlier than is normal.
One will probably never know what really triggered the Rolep flash-flood, but it is important that the lesson is learnt well. To begin with, disaster management plans, which, as per claims, have been drafted for all parts of Sikkim, need to be reviewed for their efficacy and to verify whether they are customised to location-specific threats or are the usual cut-and-paste jobs of token do’s and don’ts. It is important that disaster management plans are nuanced with traditional knowledge on how the jhoras and hill slopes of each area behave, take into consideration the history of slides and remind people of the warning signs and how to respond to them. Even meteorological data needs to be updated on real-time basis [at least during monsoons], and this, if checked against land stability projections [easily produced by the Mines & Geology Department if supported with the right amount of funding], can provide those crucial minutes of advance warning which could save lives, if not property. Such a mechanism would have been worth every lakh spent on its creation in Rolep’s case [if it was caused by a cloud-burst or extremely heavy rainfall as is also being speculated]. Funds in a post-earthquake scenario to install such an advance warning system should not be difficult to source, but more important for such an undertaking will be an earnest approach and dedicated follow-up, but the results will be definitely be rewarding...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Chief Minister calls on Sonia, seeks support to resolve pending issues


GANGTOK, 06 June: Chief Minister Pawan Chamling called on UPA Chairperson, Sonia Gandhi, and offered his total support and full appreciation of her stewardship of the UPA Government which, he said, was successfully steering the Indian economy in spite of global economic recession. A press communiqué received from Principal Secretary to the CM, RS Basnet, informs that the CM also briefed Ms. Gandhi in detail development and progress taking place in the State highlighting that the 18 September Earthquake of last year had set back the tempo of development for which he sought Special Central Assistance.
Ms. Gandhi, the release informs, gave a patient hearing to the CM’s elaborate presentation and assured him of positive action from the Central Government. During the meeting, the CM also invited Ms Gandhi to inaugurate the International Flower Festival in February 2013 in Sikkim. Ms Gandhi accepted the invitation, the release informs.
The CM also sought constitutional, political and economic steps and solutions for several crucial issues facing Sikkim.
He sought the UPA Chairperson’s personal intervention to expedite the Central Government’s decision to provide reserved seats for the Limboo and Tamang communities [in light of their having been included in the Scheduled Tribes list] in the Legislative Assembly of the State. The release highlights that he stressed that the seats already reserved for the Bhutia-Lepchas not be touched while allocating seats for the Limboo and Tamang communities as Scheduled Tribes.
The CM also apprised Ms Gandhi of the need to accord Scheduled Tribe status to the left out ethnic communities of Sikkim - Kirat Khambu Rai, Gurung, Mangar, Thami, Jogi, Sanyasi, Bahun, Chettri and Newar.
“Unless this sensitive issue is not addressed on time, in a time bound manner, the situation is likely to impact the peace and tranquillity of the most peaceful State of the Nation,” the CM stressed.
Providing a background to the situation, the CM detailed that Lepcha, Bhutia and Nepali were recognized as the ethnic groups of Sikkim during the monarchy and enjoyed equal seat reservation in the erstwhile National Assembly of Sikkim. Following the merger, however, while the Bhutias and Lepchas were recognised as Scheduled Tribes, the entire gamut of ethnic Nepali community of Sikkim was left out. “In the process, the Nepali speaking tribes, who were recognized by the then Chogyal as equal Subjects with due rights and recognition as other tribes became devoid of their rights and privileges vis-à-vis Bhutia and Lepcha communities,” he pointed out.
He expressed that the left-out communities had put the largest stake in the Merger and “strongly feel that they were not treated appropriately”.
“Had the leadership at that point of time [Merger and later], convinced the Government of India for inclusive action, the widespread dismay and dissatisfaction among the left-out communities and a sense of betrayal for the hopes and aspirations today, could have been avoided,” the Chief Minister informed, while calling on Ms. Gandhi to help deliver justice to the left out communities of Sikkim by securing Scheduled Tribe status for all the remaining ethnic communities of Sikkim.
Income Tax exemption for the old settlers including the members of business community of Sikkim was also discussed by the CM during the meeting.
Mr Chamling further requested for grant of a Special Package (SPA-untied) of Rs. 600 crores over and above the NDRF and Prime Minister’s Sikkim Earthquake Relief Package “as an economic kick-starter to the growth of development” of the state post the earthquake.
In conclusion, the CM offered his full support to the UPA candidates to be finalized for the country’s important offices of the President and the Vice-President.

High Court takes up PIL on North Sikkim Roads, directs BRO to submit details on plans, status and problems


GANGTOK, 06 June: The division bench of Sikkim High Court, on 01 June, directed the Chief Engineer of Project Swastik to submit a detailed affidavit explaining the organisation’s plans for improvement and maintenance of roads in Sikkim, especially those in North Sikkim connecting Dikchu to Mangan.
The High Court of Sikkim has taken up the case suo moto [now a Public Interest Litigation by public and panchayats of North Sikkim versus Chief Engineer, Project Swastik, and others] following a letter written by a handicapped girl complaining of the bad road conditions in North Sikkim and similar representations made by the public and Panchayats of North Sikkim to the Chief Justice Permod Kohli during his visit to the district [on 15 May 2012] accompanied by Supreme Court Judge Justice Altamas Kabir Justice SP Wangdi of the High Court of Sikkim.
During his halt at the Block Administrative Centre Passingdang in Upper Dzongu, the public and Panchayats had made a representation seeking the High Court’s intervention to address the poor condition of roads maintained by both, the state government and Project Swastik.
The Sikkim High Court has directed Project Swastik to file detailed reports on status of roads maintained in Sikkim by BRO [under which Project Swastik falls] adding that most of the roads are of national strategic importance and are necessary for development of the border areas as well.
The Court has also directed that norms laid down for improvement and repairs of the road be placed on record to enable the Court to “crease out” the difficulties of the Project Swastik and other respondents and to issue “effective directions”.
The back-cuttings, upgradation and maintenance of North Sikkim highways were initiated in the year 2005 and have still not even halfway through with the concerned agencies claiming various difficulties including forest clearance and financial constraints and labour shortages.
The Commander of 758 Border Road Task Force (BRTF) filed details of the works taken up by Project Swastik and BRTF and their present status. Col. PH Reddy, who was present on the Court had explained the difficulties faced by the executing agencies in undertaking repairs, upgradation and maintenances of border roads.
The High Court, while appreciating the difficulties, also opined that the carpeting of roads in phases definitely creates a lot of problems. “By the time the entire road is carpeted, the initial carpeting is broken and damaged due to vagaries of weather and its users,” the bench observed.

Gangtokians witness the Transit of Venus


GANGTOK, 06 June: Around 500 Gangtokians including school students, teachers and even some tourists gathered at the White Hall complex today to witness a rare celestial event - the Transit of Venus.
The observation was organized by Sikkim State Council of Science & Technology [SSCST] which had made arrangements for safe viewing of the transit from 7 AM till the end of the transit around 10 21 AM. Science and Technology Minister, Bhim Dhungel and Science & Technology Secretary, PT Euthenpa and his team of officials were also present at the event.
The Council had set up a six-inch Reflector Telescope which projected the transit onto a screen while solar filters were also used to view the transit. Physics Department HoD, Sikkim Government College, Dr Robin Chettri and his team of teachers and SSCST officials explained the phenomenon to the viewers.
The SSCST had also organized awareness programmes on the Transit of Venus along with series of lectures in Sikkim Science Centre, Marchak and some of the schools of in-and-around Gangtok, which had Dr Chettri as the main resource person assisted by teachers, Evan Lepcha and Hem Prasad Rai and ASO from DST, Suman Thapa and Navin Sharma from SSCST as master resource person. It was informed that solar filters were also provided to schools so that students could safely view this rare event.
Speaking to NOW! students expressed their excitement and enthusiasm on witnessing this extraordinary astrological phenomenon and mentioned that they were lucky to see the Transit of Venus across the sun.
Dr Chettri informed that the transit was an important event as it is used to determine the distance between the Sun and the Earth, which is called 1 Astronomical Unit. The transit of Venus across the sun happens in pairs and the last one was in 2004 and today’s event which is happening after a gap of 8 years is the last one of this century, he further informed.
In Gangtok, the transit started at 3:40 AM and lasted till 10:21 AM.

Archery Olympic Camp concludes at Paljor Stadium


GANGTOK, 06 June: The 20-day Archery Olympic Camp for the Indian Olympic Archery Team held for the first time in Sikkim concluded here at Paljor Stadium today. Both men’s and women’s teams and even coaches expressed that the camp at Gangtok proved beneficial in preparation of their upcoming competitions.
It may be mentioned here that due to unfavourable weather conditions in Kolkata, the Archery Association of India [AAI] shifted the Archery camp to Paljor Stadium this time.
On the last day of the camp, Sikkim Archery Association president, PHE Minister, TT Bhutia accompanied by general secretary, Dr KB Gurung and other executive members of SAA, expressed their best wishes on behalf of the SAA and the people of Sikkim to the Indian team members and coaches. On the occasion, the president also handed over Site Allotment Order provided by the State government to Arjuna Awardee, Tarundeep Rai, at Lumsey in Tadong “in recognition of his outstanding performance in sports [Archery]”.
The SAA president mentioned that it was a proud moment for Sikkim to host the Olympic camp in the state and it was also a big achievement for the SAA. He further wished the archers luck for the Olympics and World Cup.
Speaking to media persons, Tarundeep expressed his gratitude to the government for the encouragement and support. He mentioned that the camp at Gangtok helped them a lot to practice for around 8 hours in a day which was not possible in Kolkata. He expressed his hope and expectation to qualify for the London Olympics with a better performance in the 3rd Stage of the Archery World Cup Tournament at Ogden in USA. Tarundeep thanked the SAA for supporting the coaching camp.
Likewise, Indian archer, Deepika Kumari, who is on the fifth position in world rankings at present, expressed that the camp at Gangtok would help them to a large extent in the Olympics as the weather conditions in London is similar to that of Gangtok’s. She expressed that Indian women’s team was in good form and would hopefully bag medals for the country in the London Olympics.
Chief Coach, Limba Ram Ahari, also stated that the pleasant weather conditions of Gangtok made long practice sessions possible and further added that such climate would also help archers to store energy and peace of mind.
The Chief Coach also expressed his deep gratitude towards the Sikkim Archery Association for their continuous support and cooperation.
The archers are undergoing training under chief coach, Mr Ahari assisted by coach, Ravi Shankar and coach, Purnima Mahato. The team was also accompanied by physiotherapist, Jaideep Das Choudhuri and masseur Anup Das.
The women’s team comprises of Deepika Kumari, L Bombyala Devi and Chekrovolu Swuro, who have already qualified for the upcoming London Olympics 2012 in the individual and team events. While, the men’s team has Sikkim’s own Tarundeep Rai, Jayanta Talukdar and Rahul Banerjee, among them only Jayanta Talukdar has qualified for the London Olympic 2012 in the individual category so far. Now, Tarundeep and Rahul have their last chance to qualify for the Olympics in the 3rd Stage of the Archery World Cup Tournament scheduled to be held at Ogden in USA from 17 to 24 June.

REDRH begins in North Sikkim


MANGAN, 06 June: The foundation stone of the first Reconstruction of Earthquake Damaged Rural House in North Sikkim was laid by chief guest on the occasion, area MLA Lachen-Mangan, TW Lepcha here at Naga Busty in North Sikkim under Toong-Naga GPU. The foundation stone of the house of beneficiary Pema Lepcha, which had been damaged during the 18 September earthquake last year, was laid today.
Addressing the people after laying the foundation stone, the MLA urged everyone to under take quality work since it is for their benefit and also informed that Sikkim is the only state in India where such facilities are available it its citizens. He also informed that the complete list of the beneficiaries in Toong-Naga GPU have been passed and highlighted that the carpeting of Naga Gumpa road is in the phase-I of approval.
While highlighting the issue of contract work in the area, the MLA appealed to all the people to get involved in cooperative societies so that contract work can be done by the society which aims at providing long term benefits to the public. The MLA also welcomed the recent transfer of teachers to the village areas from Gangtok.
The function was also addressed by BDO Mangan, Chiran Rizal who highlighted about REDRH and CMRHM. He informed that a total of 2900 REDRH have been sanctioned in North District where 567 beneficiaries have been enlisted under BAC Mangan.
Earlier, the function was also addressed by the panchayat secretary, Dorjee Tak Lepcha who highlighted about the different schemes under taken in the GPU. He also highlighted about the delay in payment of compensation for the land acquired by BRO for the up-gradation of roads.
The function ended with the vote of thanks proposed by former chairman Nim Tshering Lepcha. Also present in the function were Divisional Engineer, officials from BAC, panchayat members and the general public.

Witness to a Felling


ONGDEN LEPCHA
A ten-year-old child standing by the window, asks his mother. “What are those people doing on the slope?”
“I think they have come to cut a tree,” replies the mother.
Minutes later, the child asks again, “Why is one of them climbing with a rope tied on his back?”
By now, the man has climbed a few metres below the top of the slope. He slowly unties the rope and wraps it around a tree. In the meantime, the child pushes his mother aside at the window to get a clearer view.
An old man, cockeyed, with a round bluish cap on his head, whistle hanging from his neck, lights a few sticks of incense. He makes a round of the tree before placing the incense sticks on the ground.  A boy standing nearby, hands a glistening axe to the old man. The man tries his hand first by striking on the base of the standing tree. The first few hits disperse the butterflies and insects on the tree.  The ants are in nervous scramble as their nest gets disturbed. Sweat streams down the old man’s wrinkled face and he passes the axe to the boy. The boy strikes at the tree for a few minutes and shifts the axe to his other hand.
Now, the tree is half cut.
The old man directs his companion standing few metres away to pull the rope. The child watches them eagerly, without blinking. The striking continues...
The old man blows his whistle for the first time, passer-bys turn and look. The residents of the vicinity look towards the tree for a last time, the tree which stood for years. The National Highway comes to a standstill. Again the old man gives instructions to strike and pull simultaneously.
The tree sways.
Finally, the tree cannot bear the strikes, profusely bleeding it slowly leans and falls to the ground with a loud bang scattering leaves, twigs and branches in every direction.
In two days, the child counts upto twelve tree stumps.
The child tells his mother, “It’s looking like a playground”.
Weeks later, the child’s father returns home from the frontier. Early next morning, he takes a round of the kitchen garden. He is sipping a cup of hot Temi tea when the slope catches his eye. Noticing that not a single tree stands there, he’s dumbstruck.
Later in the evening, sitting beside a fire hearth he narrates to his family members.
“We grew up together and were separated only by a permanent black line. They (trees) randomly grew up on that damp slope without moving an inch despite the scorching sun, bone biting chill, its stomata blocked by carbonmonoxide.  They grew from seeds dispersed by birds and the wind. Not from somebody’s green finger or any other mission. This patch of small wood was full of life. I like being in the midst of nature, in green places where there is a lot of fresh air to breath. It never once crossed my mind that this slope could turn bald like an old man’s scalp. What has befallen the nests of the owl and the squirrel- predator and prey breathing next to each other? What has happened to the single Orchid species, a vertical movement which bloomed for the first time a year back on the uttis tree?  Now it takes donkeys years to see a mature tree or small wood on this slope. Each tree on this slope had a specific story and emotional bond attached to me”.
He paused for a moment and added, “Two adult malata trees were on the edge of the road.  Their spreading canopy almost overlapping each other, just like a teenage couple walking arm in arm.  The female tree used to produce small greenish fruit seen hooked only by house pigeon. Once seen feeding by a single rare visitor-green pigeon. The canopy of a male tree annually gets enshrouded by foliage of one woody climber.It bloomed for the first time last year, in the first week of May. Large, numerous, white fringed flower blooms in pitch dark and drops to the ground before morning sunlight hits the tree. It was a male indreni, Trichosanthes tricuspidata”.
“When paiyoo blooms it signifies the approaching chill of winter in the eastern Himalayas. One single paiyoo had been blooming annually for the past seven years or so. This paiyoo used to bloom in clusters, light-pink, the size of our vanishing mandarin, coming out in every branchlet, not encountered elsewhere. When in bloom it was a sight to watch the horde of birds hooked to its nectar, followed by a pair of squirrels when the fruits ripened. This tree, looking so vibrant and alive some years ago is also no more. A heart wrenching sadness surrounds me. But the scene is vivid and fresh as ever”.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Flash-flood on Jiring Khola wreaks havoc on Lachung


LACHUNG, 05 June: Sunday afternoon’s heavy downpour triggered a flash-flood on Jiring Khola about a kilometre short of Lachung, damaging five houses at Singring in Lachung, North Sikkim. The flash flood broke its banks right above the village and diverted the flow of the stream towards the village.
A building and a wooden house belonging to Thakchuk Lachungpa and another house belonging to Khetuk Lachungpa have been damaged. The flash flood also damaged the under construction house of Chyangchok Lachungpa and Dup Lachungpa. Apart from these, four under construction CMRHM houses and a guest house of the Fisheries Department along with a fish pond have also been damaged.
The flood also damaged three RCC bridges connecting Singring and Thomchu and another bridge on the way to Lachung Monastery. Land belonging to Thungchung Lachungpa and Hooking Lachungpa were also damaged along with standing crop of potatoes, cabbage and apple orchards. Fortunately, no loss of life has been reported as the flood occurred in day time and people managed to escape in time.
One Sonam Lachungpa’s house along with several other houses are, however, still in danger.
Villagers comprising of women, youth and senior citizens have been engaged in putting together a temporary log bridge to cross over the river which is an urgent need. The drinking water supply line to Singring and Thomchu was extensively damaged and villagers are now fetching water from the nearby river. The affected people are being housed in a temporary shed while some villagers have sought shelter at Bitchu nearby with relatives.
While speaking to NOW!, Tenzing Lachungpa informed that diversion of the river and jhora training of the river is urgently required to avoid further damage. Meanwhile, the area MLA, TW Lepcha, SDM Chungthang and BDO Chungthang also visited the spot and took stock of the damages. A team from the Irrigation department headed by Asst Engineer, K Jigme Bhutia also visited the affected areas.

Reports of Chinese incursions into Sikkim false: Army and ITBP


VISHNU NEOPANEY
GANGTOK, 05 June: Sources in the Indo-Tibetan Border Force (ITBP) and 17th Mountain Division here in Gangtok have denied media-reports of Chinese incursions along the border in North Sikkim terming the reports as “incorrect”.
Sources in the 17th Mountain Division said that national media reports about encroachment by China of Indian territory in North Sikkim were false, and stressed that national electronic media should confirm such reports with local authorities and army before airing them.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of ITBP Gangtok Sector, Amit Prasad, also rubbished reports of incursion along the Indo-China border. He said that no such incident has transpired and pointed out that should incursions have taken place, “I would be in North Sikkim instead of here in Gangtok”.
Sikkim’s borders with Tibet Autonomous Region are “settled borders” and reports in the national media are totally false, the DIG stressed, adding that the Army and ITBP personnel posted in the border areas have not reported any such activities.
“The rumors and false reports in national media created havoc and unnecessary tension with the army border personnel and people of the border area in general. They should properly verify the reports before broadcasting such reports,” the ITBP DIG said.
Sources in the army echoed these sentiments, pointing out, “The Sikkim-Tibet border is the only sector Beijing does not dispute. Chinese incursions are however occurring in the Uttarakhand territory -- the middle sector – where the line of control was clarified in 2001 through an India-China exchange of maps.”
The state administration in Gangtok also denied news reports of Chinese incursions in North Sikkim. “If such things happen, local administration will certainly be alerted by the army or border forces,” said a senior officer here in Gangtok.

CM seeks central support for fiscal consolidation in Sikkim


NEW DELHI, 05 June, 2012 [IPR]: The Chief Minister, Pawan Chamling attended Meeting of NE Chief Ministers called by the Union Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, today in Finance Ministry in the North Block to discuss financial situation of the NE states including Sikkim. The meeting was also attended by Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Dr. Monteksingh Ahluwalia, Members Planning Commission including BK Chaturvedi and all Chief Ministers of seven NE States and Finance Minister of Tripura.
At the outset, the Union Finance Minister welcomed the Chief Ministers to the interactive session. Highlighting the fiscal constraints that the Country itself was going through global recession, the Union Finance Minister said that a number of factors attributed to present slow growth. Addressing the meeting, he said among the challenges that the country faced today are: high fiscal deficit, widening current account deficit; slow export growth; low availability of institutional investment and foreign direct investment. The Union Finance Minister attributed certain global reasons behind this slow growth saying that the International financial crisis of 2008-09 and the euro crisis. The Union Minister further informed that the global crisis was being compounded by the euro crisis. Stating that the international economy impacted country’s growth, the Union Minister said that the country’s export accounting to over 32-33 % of our export to the European markets had been adversely affected.
The Chief Minister, Pawan Chamling, echoing almost all the NE chief Ministers’ concerns sought the cooperation of the Central Government to push the NE states on sustainable path of development. Highlighting the unique socio-geographical location of the State, the Chief Minister pointed that the Sikkimese people were saddled with added responsibility to ensure environmental security, water security and at the same time promote the Nation’s integrity and sovereignty as unpaid soldiers living on international borders. Sikkim joined the planning process much later than other states and hence all planning process of development, institutional interventions and delivery mechanism were introduced and begun only in 1975. Referring to the difficulty to access central funding under certain CSS including JNNURM etc. the Chief Minister sought the intervention of Finance Ministry to facilitate easy and untied transfer of funds for a more need-based relevant schemes under state roads, schools, power etc
The Chief Minister Nagaland had similarly opined that the economy of his state has a salary economy with deficiency development and the government being the sole employer. The CM Assam had also drawn the attention to the narrow resource base of the state. The Arunachal Pradesh explained the burden of salaries on the state government. The CM of Mizoram also reverberated on the same line. The Finance Minister, Tripura too lamented that projects announced by the Central Government in 1997-98 for Tripura were yet to take off.
While summing up the meeting, the Union Finance Minister said that all should work collectively and proposed to institutionalise similar meeting with the Chief Minister every six months for periodical review. Responding to the demand of Sikkim’s Chief Minister on keeping the interest rate constant at 6.5 % in respect of Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF), the Union Finance Minister assured the Chief Minister that the Finance Ministry would try to work out appropriate modalities to fully benefit the States in the NE region and assured of Special Package in consultation with Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission and the Prime Minister for the whole of NE States. Acknowledging that the NE is located in the far flung hilly areas, the Union Minister sought to allay fear and said that the NE region is very much in our hearts.
The Chief Minister was accompanied to the meeting by the Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, RS Basnet, Principal RC cum PCCF cum Secretary Forest, Arvind Kumar and Finance Secretary, KN Bhutia.

Tibetan trader goes click-happy along Nathula, detained and pushed back


GANGTOK, 05 June: Indo Tibetan Border Police [ITBP] personnel detained a lady trader from the Tibetan Autonomous Region who was allegedly taking photographs of Indian Army camps at the Nathula border today. She was subsequently handed over to the Sikkim Police and then ‘pushed back’ into Tibet after her mobile phone [with which she was taking photos], was confiscated.
Superintendent of Police, East, Dr. Mandeep Singh Tuli confirmed that a case of photography in a restricted area by a foreign national was reported today. He said that the Tibetan woman’s motive behind taking these photographs could not be ascertained and added that the mobile phone will be examined and an inquiry report submitted to the government, District Collector along with other agencies entrusted with duties on border trade.
Dr. Tuli said that ITBP personnel seized the mobile phone and handed it over to the State police adding that following interrogation the woman was sent back to TAR around 1 PM this afternoon.
“Once ITBP personnel noticed and caught her taking photographs, I immediately appraised the SP [East] to look into the matter in the interest of national security and border trade,” informed Deputy Inspector General of ITBP Amit Prasad.
“Once we receive the mobile phone from the Sherathang Police, we will examine and submit reports for further action for cancelation of her border trade pass and other necessary action through the Ministry of Commerce and Industries and External Affairs,” the SP detailed.

State level World Environment Day celebrated at Pangthang


ANUSHA GURUNG
GANGTOK, 05 June: World Environment Day 2012 state-level celebration was organized by the Forest Department at Government Junior High School, Pangthang playground today on the theme “Green Economy, does it include you?”
Governor, Balmiki Prasad Singh who attended the occasion as the chief guest was accompanied by the Forest Minister, Bhim Dhungel, Cabinet Ministers, MLAs, Zilla Adhyakshas, Secretaries, senior government officials, Retired Forest Officers, members, PCCF Environment, Dr. Anil Mainra, PCCF cum Project Director[SBFP], Thomas Chandy and senior officials of the concerned department. The entourage then proceeded to plant rhododendron saplings in the school ground. The programme started with the Sikkim Police Brass band rendering the National Anthem.  
On the occasion, the Governor accompanied by the guests released a bilingual newsletter ‘Panda’ published half yearly by ENVIS which aims at dissemination of information on environment, forest and wildlife as well as serves as a medium for communication amongst the foresters and environmentalists.
Various other books, magazines and posters were also released on the day.
As an incentive the community organizer working under the Sikkim Bio-Diversity Conservation and Forest Management Project [SBFP] were provided with laptops. Cheques of Rs 1.50 lakh each to 22 JFMC/EDC presidents for entry point activities supported by SBFP, a total of Rs 33 lakh were also disbursed.
Environmental kits were distributed to Pangthang and Bojhoghari JHS. The kit consists of 2 dustbins for bio-degradable and 1 for non biodegradable waste along with an Environment calendar, Environment activity register, bio-diversity register and Paryavaran Mitra booklet.
During the programme students presented a cultural show which was followed by the presentation of green school awards comprising of Green Leaf trophies and CM Green School Rolling trophy award.
To promote environmental conservation and consciousness in school as well as the surrounding areas, the Chief Minister’s Green School Rolling and Green Leaf Trophies initiated from last year was awarded. Green Leaf Trophies with cash prize of Rs 1 lakh each was presented to Government Secondary school Rong, South Sikkim, Government Secondary school Tingley, South Sikkim, Government Secondary school, Government Senior Secondary school Deorali, East Sikkim and CM Rai Government Secondary school Jarong, South Sikkim.
While the Chief Minister Green School Rolling Trophy with a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh was awarded to Dentam Senior Secondary school. These awards were given to the schools for their performance in Green Gobar Times Green School programme of the country.
Addressing the occasion, the Governor said “Let us remind ourselves importance of caring for our environment and lets join every year everywhere for preservation of environment and creating a feeling of difference for any visitors as soon as they enter the state where the Green Economy provides us an opportunity to rethink about the way we work and we have to be proactive if we are to create a green future”.
The programme was also addressed by Forest Minister, Bhim Dhungel, PCCF Environment Dr Anil Mainra and others.

Saga Dawa at Tashiding


Text & Photos JIGMEY NAMGYAL















Saga Dawa was celebrated in a grand style at Tashiding Monastery in West Sikkim on Monday.  A huge number of devotees from all over Sikkim, including school children, were present to offer prayers. Along with the regular Saga Dawa prayers conducted in the main monastery hall by the Dorjee Lopen and other monks of Tashiding Monastery, the occasion was made more special by the presence of Soktse Rinpoche who was conducting Tsog Bhum prayers along with nuns from his Tashi Choling nunnery at Khechodpari, West Sikkim, since 01 June 2012. Serdup Dungzing Rinpoche from Namchi was also present for the prayers.  The accompanying photo-essay captures moments from Saga Dawa at Tashiding with Soktse Rinpoche being followed by devotees, nuns and lamas and school students, prayers being offered in the main hall and local youth distributing tsogbhum prasad to devotees.

Thunderstorm blacks out South Sikkim


NAMCHI, 05 June: Heavy rain accompanied by strong thunderstorm in South Sikkim last evening has caused extensive damage here uprooting trees and damaging the electricity supply lines in different places. Most parts of South Sikkim have been blacked out for more than 24 hours and another 72 hours are needed to restore power supply in the area, it is learnt.
According to Assistant Engineer, Jagat Thapa, a team from the Power department along with additional labour has been deployed by the department to restore the damaged power lines. He further informed that damage was so severe that power supply of Namchi (LT line and 11 KV high transmission line) was totally damaged due to trees falling at different places.
He also informed that another 3 to 4 days is needed to completely restore the damages and they are trying their best for early restoration.
“Our entire team along with additional workers is working at different segments of damage”, said Mr Thapa adding that they are trying to restore the bazaar areas first.
Power supply was briefly restored to some parts of Namchi by 8 pm this evening, however, the supply remained erratic.
People coming for official work, bank related work and businesses suffered the most throughout the day.

Road mishap at Kupup claims four


GANGTOK, 05 June: Four people, including the driver were killed when the vehicle in which they were travelling met with an accident on their way from Kupup towards Rongli late last evening.
The vehicle [a red Qualis] with West Bengal registration number plate was coming down from Kupup towards Rongli, when the vehicle driven by Dilip Chettri [the driver] met with an accident at a place called Duki Dara, 35 kilometers ahead of Padamchen which falls under the jurisdiction of Kupup, informed Dr MS Tuli [Senior Superientendent of Police, East], while speaking to NOW! today. No action regarding the accident could be taken yesterday because the incident had not been reported by any one, he added.
The bodies of the four people travelling in the said vehicle were recovered at 2.30 in the afternoon today, he said and added that one of the people killed in the accident was an ex-army officer, Major Jaswant Singh. All the four had died on the spot.
Their bodies have been sent to the Singtam District Hospital for post mortem and will be handed over to family members later on.
The exact reason of the accident is not known yet but the inclement weather conditions yesterday could have led to the accident as the area is said to be very foggy in the evenings.

Editorial:Let’s Show China the Finger


The Fingertip Area in North Sikkim, the portion which juts into Tibet after tourists take a right turn for Gurudongmar Lake, is back in the news with the national media claiming incursions by the PLA even as border and army personnel in Sikkim deny the reports. Be that as it may, Chinese showboating is not new to its borders with India, whether along Sikkim or elsewhere. Reports of Chinese aggression had peaked back in the year 2008, and below we reprint an editorial from 20 May 2008. Irrespective of the situation at the border, the sentiments shared in the editorial still hold strong and the opinion remains unchanged…

While Delhi expended copious amounts of midnight oil to ensure that Beijing was not embarrassed by democracy-leaning citizens and guests when the Olympic torch trampled over Rajpath, China indulged in some inspired whimsicalities. Having gobbled up a large bite of Bhutan from the international tri-junction along East Sikkim from right under the nose of Bhutan’s large neighbour, the People’s Liberation Army is now claiming that a finger of North Sikkim that pokes into Tibet is actually a part of their hand. National media reports on Monday quoted “Government sources” as trying to downplay the whole episode as a “minor and local” matter. No wonder China continues to harbour designs on Indian territory. If the same “government sources” are modulating foreign policy and deciding defence priorities, the reason why our country’s foreign policy is in such disarray becomes very clear.
Territory can never be a “minor” issue and any babu who says so in Delhi should serve a tour of duty in the frozen desolation of the recently-made-disputed territory in North Sikkim and then justify why our soldiers are made to suffer such extreme privation for what are essentially “minor and local” matters. The pusillanimity of those who sit on negotiating tables has passed down a situation where, after having risked life and limb, the Indian soldier is told to ignore the demolition of its bunkers by China because they technically fell on Bhutanese soil. India has signed a treaty to defend Bhutan against aggression and it was with aggression that China encroached 10 odd kilometres into Bhutan and thereby technically erased the international “tri-junction” that marked the southeastern tip of Sikkim. But hey, that is a treaty with Bhutan, and with China, Delhi seems to have a conduct manual that supersedes all prescribed guidelines of self respect. And so, within eight months of the tri-junction adventure, a bolder China has created a new disputed territory, this time within Sikkim. One needs to confirm with the defence ministry whether this development is part of our confidence-building initiatives vis a vis China. In December last [2007], the Defence Minister, while air-dropping greetings to soldiers in border areas here, had said: “As this is a semi-developed border, incidents might have happened. But we are trying to find solutions by building positive relations with the Chinese on border issues.” He was responding to media queries on the confrontations that were still fresh at the time in the tri-junction area. The positivity that the defence ministry was trying to build has indeed been a very positive confidence booster for Chinese forces it seems.
On the present dispute, the Indian army has invited the PLA to a “ground meeting” to resolve the territorial claims over a zone the Indian army refers to as the “Finger Area” north of Giagong en route to Gurudongmar. A ground meeting is one in which the two sides put documentary evidence supporting their claims [to territory, in this case] on the table in the hope of resolving the confusion on the spot. That’s a very good idea. No aggression, no fighting, let’s just show China the Finger… on the map and in old documents, that is, as a part of Sikkim. And while we are at it, let’s do the same for Delhi too to establish that it is not a “small tract of land”.
While on document-sharing mode, maybe our soldiers can also include some photographs of Indian tourists posing along the disputed zone which incidentally marks the left bank horizon on the drive up to Gurudongmar. As for Mr. Antony, a positive development on border issues is not necessarily nurtured across the border, a more positive development is guaranteed if the people on this side are taken into confidence. Keep the areas up to the border open for locals and tourists and establish an emotional bond among them for the empty lands. Every civilian footfall in these zones reiterates the Indianess of the soil. The paranoia should be directed beyond the borders and not inverted. For those who still live in times when on-ground espionage was a worry, they should try the Google Earth to realise how redundant their fears are.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

View the Transit of Venus on Wednesday from White Hall


GANGTOK, 04 June: The transit of Venus on 06 June is the perhaps the only chance for most of us in this lifetime to view this special celestial event which will occur next after 105.5 years!
A transit of Venus across the Sun takes place when the planet Venus passes directly between the Sun and Earth, becoming visible against the solar disk, and can be seen from Earth as a small black disk moving across the face of the Sun.
Transits of Venus are among the rarest of predictable astronomical phenomena. They occur in a pattern that repeats every 243 years, with pairs of transits eight years apart separated by long gaps of 121.5 years and 105.5 years.
The transit will be best viewed from the Pacific Ocean. North America will be able to see the start of the transit, while South Asia, the Middle East, and most of Europe will catch the end of it. The transit will not be visible in most of South America or western Africa. From India, you will be able to see the latter part of it as it would have started before sunrise.
Enthusiasts, astronomers and the science community across the globe are gearing up for this rare event. In India, SPACE, Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators, is organising a host of activities on the Venus transit. SPACE is an NGO based in Delhi, founded in 2001, with the goal of popularizing science via Astronomy and Space Sciences throughout the domains of education, public and media.
On 06 June, SPACE is conducting public observations at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, at the Udaipur Solar Observatory, Udaipur and one at Tihar Jail especially for the prison staff. Live webcast of the transit from start to end (Ingress to Egress) is also being organised [http://www.space-india.org/transit-of-venus/webcasting.html], in case weather conditions do not allow a clear view. Similar observations have also been planned in schools in and around Delhi apart from its associate schools across the country.
Here in Sikkim, the State Council of Science & Technology is organising a public observation at White Hall premises, Gangtok on 06 June and the Council has invited all interested to participate in the event. The Council is also organising awareness programme along with series of lectures in Sikkim Science Centre, Marchak and some of the schools on 05 June at 10 am. According to the Council, in Gangtok the transit of Venus will be visible from 10:04:11 in the morning.


TRANSIT TIMINGS
Transit of Venus is a very rare occasion and if you are planning not to miss this amazing celestial event then here is the table to show you the timings of 1st contact (External Ingress), 2nd contact (Internal Ingress), 3rd contact (Internal Egress), 4th contact (External Egress) from various cities in India. However, since in India transit is visible during the sunrise, we would have already missed 1st and 2nd contact as at that time India will be in the night side of Earth. The timings marked with * are the contacts not visible from individual cities due to night time.

A table showing the timings in Gangtok is given below:
Sunrise
External Ingress
Internal Ingress
Maximum Transit
Internal Egress
External Egress
04:40:17
03:40:10*
03:57:57*
07:02:16
10:04:05
10:21:24
[courtesy: SPACE]


The Venus transit has special significance also because when observed with sufficient accuracy from the Earth it allows the determination of the distance between the Earth and the Sun. This measure is crucial for astronomers to know because all other distance determinations in the universe ultimately depend on this value. Today astronomers use other, more precise methods for the determination of this “Astronomical Unit – AU”, so the present one is above all of historical and didactic interest.
Scientist all over the world will use this rare celestial phenomenon to measure the distance between Earth and Sun – 1 A.U.
The next transits of Venus will be on in December 2117 and December 2125.




VIEWING THE VENUS TRANSIT
The safest way to watch a transit is to observe an image of the Sun projected onto a screen through a telescope, binoculars, pinhole or reflected pinhole. The event can be viewed without magnification using filters specifically designed for this purpose, such as an astronomical solar filter or eclipse viewing glasses coated with a vacuum-deposited layer of chromium. The once-recommended method of using exposed black-and-white film as a filter is not now considered safe, as small imperfections or gaps in the film may permit harmful UV rays to pass through. Observing the Sun directly without appropriate protection can damage or destroy retinal cells, causing temporary or permanent blindness. It is advisable not to use smoked glass, colour film, sun glasses exposed black and white film photographic neutral density filters and polarizing filters. They all are unsafe.
[Sikkim State Council of Science and Technology]

NOW! completes 10 years of publication


Dear Readers,
It’s been a while since a letter to the readers, and this one comes as a message of gratitude. 
Today, NOW! completes 10 years of publication! The exclamation mark is as much by habit as to register genuine surprise over having been around for so long. Admittedly, ten years is not a very long time, but in newspaper years, it is almost middle-age. We might not be much wiser from the long years of publication, but we are definitely grateful to everyone – those who have patronised us with a decent readership, those who like us, those who couldn’t care either way and those who are critical of us. It is in all these responses that we find our relevance and the motivation to stay the course. The ten years have been a rewarding experience, and although all our shortcomings are of our own creation, anything half decent about this publication has been because of the expectations of its readers and the endorsement of our advertisers which keep us sharp and solvent respectively. Congratulations are also due to everyone who works at and with NOW! and everyone who has done so in the past and populates the extended family of this newspaper.
A message like this is normally expected to include some major announcement, but we will only reiterate our commitment to journalism and sign off with an assurance to return to some experimentation undeterred by the fact that not everything we have attempted in the past has succeeded.
Thank you all...
Editor

Saga Dawa in Gangtok


GANGTOK, 04 June: Devotees, students and monks came together in the Bhumkor procession taken out by the Yargay Association of Tathangchen [YAT] from Tharpa Manilakhang in Tathangchen on the occasion of Saga Dawa today.
Saga Dawa is considered to be a triple-blessed festival because on this day Lord Buddha was born, attained Enlightenment and Nirvana as well.
The procession began at around 9 AM from Tharpa Manilakhang with Lord Buddha’s statue along with holy books, scriptures and flags carried by devotees and students. A banner with the message “Practice, Wisdom and Compassion for Realization of Enlightenment” led the procession across town.
Covering Kazi Road, Tibet Road, MLA Hostel, TNA gate, Ridge Road, the procession finally concluded back at the starting point. Before the procession began, holy books were recited and prayers were conducted at the Tharpa Manilakhang. The public lined up along the way taking blessings from the holy books and scriptures carried around mostly by students while some also went under the Buddha’s statue.
YAT executive members expressed their gratitude to devotees, students and different organizations of Gangtok for actively taking part in the procession.
YAT general secretary, Karma Denzongpa informed that this is the third consecutive year that YAT is organizing this procession on the occasion of Saga Dawa. He further informed that prayers and recitation of holy scriptures had started at Tharpa Manilakhang from 03 June itself which was followed by the procession today.

Saga Dawa prayers at BL House


ANUSHA GURUNG
GANGTOK,04 June: On the occasion of Saga Dawa, the Sikkim Buddhist Duechen Organisation [SBDO], in collaboration with various other organizations and associations, organized a daylong prayer session here at BL House today. The prayers were held to “promote Universal Peace, Harmony and Prosperity”, the organisers inform.
Rinpoche Rigzin Duepa offered Kawang [ holy blessings] on Longchen Nyinethik to devotees from all over Sikkim. The auspicious occasion started with the offering of prayers along with Tshogs and butter lamps.
President [SBDO], Pasong Namgyal, informs that the SBDO in collaboration with other Buddhist and cultural organisations has been making endeavors for the past 28 years to observe Saga Dawa, “the most auspicious of the Four Buddhist Cardinal occasions [the other three being Chothrul Dawa-the 1st Lunar month, Drukpa Tsheshi-the 6th Lunar month and Lhabab Duechen-the 9th Lunar month] with various programmes to pursue noble service to all sentient beings by making a clarion call to announce the arrival of the opportune moment for all to earn immense merit”.
He further added that “Kawang” is incumbent on the person himself to make efforts to acquire or achieve such a state of enlightened mind. The resultant benefit will be a mind peaceful, content, happy and of generous disposition. Such a state of mind goes a long way to contribute in meeting the challenges of the present day turbulent world, he added.
Saga Dawa or the Fourth Lunar month of Tibetan calendar is considered to be very auspicious in the Buddhist world as Sakyamuni Buddha was born, attained enlightenment and passed into parinirvana in this month. The 15th day of the month is observed as Saga Dawa Duechen which this year falls on 04 June and any act, negative or positive is believed to have multiplying effect by 10 million times thereby influencing the resultant “Karma”[reckoning cause and effect].

Yuksam Govt School student’s research interests intl publishing house


Angela, accompanied by the Govt Secondary School , Yuksam, Headmaster Sanjoy Acharya, with her Poster presentation on CLEAN UP GUYS at YETI 2010
GANGTOK, 04 June: Local girl Angela Bhutia, a former student of Yuksam Secondary School, has received a publication offer from a German publishing house, Lap Lambert Academic Publishing GmbH and Company for her dissertation on the project CLEAN UP GUYS (Cycling Long-lived Eco-unfriendly Accumulated Non-biodegradables through United Participation for a Cleaner Unpolluted Youthful Sikkim) in the form of a book.
A press release informs that in 2009, the Yuksam Secondary School in observance of International Polar Year undertook an 8-day clean-up exercise along the Yuksam-Dzongri-Goechala trail falling under KNP of KBR and returned with 122 bags of non-biodegradable garbage.
Angela Bhutia along with co-authors Passang Kipa Bhutia and Renuka Chhetri (then in Class IX) under the guidance of Sanjoy Acharyya analyzed the findings of the exercise. The students then under the guidance of their teacher Sanju Shilal presented the result at the State-level Science Exhibition 2009 where it was adjudged as the Best Exhibit.
In a mail addressed to Angela Bhutia sent at Yuksam School’s e-mail address, Alina Covali (the Acquisition Editor of the publishing house) states that she came across Angela’s dissertation in the couse of a research on MEETYETI.
The release mentions that this is perhaps the first time in the state’s history that a school student has received such an offer. The entire Yuksam School family expresses immense happiness at the achievement which is another indicator of success of Yuksam School in recent years, it adds.
Angela, who is studying in Class XII (PCB) at Pelling SSS (West) at present, was surprised and happy on hearing the news while her Class teacher, Ayodhya Ray, also expressed happiness over the development and commented that ‘Angela is learning and shaping herself well today in preparation for a better tomorrow’.
Angela was also the only school student from the country to present a Speed Talk-cum-Poster at the prestigious YETI (Young Ecologists Talk & Interact) 2010 held at Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore).

Slides disrupt North Sikkim traffic at several places


MANGAN, 04 June: Heavy overnight downpour has resulted in disruption of traffic at several places in North Sikkim owing to numerous landslides. Traffic to Lachung has been disrupted at three places between Chungthang and Lachung where it is reported that one house has also been damaged by a slide at Singring near Lachung but no casualties have been reported.
Traffic between Mangan and Chungthang was also blocked at Theng but resumed this evening after restoration works undertaken by BRO.
Similarly, traffic to Mangan has also been disrupted at Rangrang since Friday evening. Light vehicles are plying from Dzongu via Hee-Gyathang and Sangkalang.

Promotions


GANGTOK, 04 June: The state government recently put into effect a series of promotions where the state’s officers have been re-designated to different posts.
Additional Director General of Police (Special Branch & Home Guards), Abhijit Datta, has been promoted and re-designated as Special Director General of Police from 01 June.
Three other Additional Director Generals of Police - Oma Hang Subba of Police Headquarters, T. Norbu of CID and Janga Basnett of Training Branch - have also been promoted and placed in the Pay-Band of Rs. 80,000 (fixed) on ex-cadre basis. They have been designated as Special Director Generals of Police on charges currently held by them.
Similarly, seven Sikkim State Civil Service cadre special secretaries have been promoted to the Supertime Grade-I as Secretary. Amongst them are KT  Gyaltshen, currently posted as Special Secretary, Land Revenue &Disaster Management Department, CT Wangdi currently posted as Secretary, Labour Department, Ms. DL Topden, currently posted as Special Chief Electoral Officer, Election Department, KL Gyaltshen currently posted as Secretary, Sikkim State Electricity Regulatory Commission, KS Topgay currently posted as Secretary, IPR Department,  Jemima Pradhan currently posted as Secretary, Food Civil Supplies &Consumers Affairs  Department and Tsegyal Tashi currently posted as Secretary, Transport Department.
Consequently, K T Gyaltshen and D L Topden, SCS have been transferred and posted as Secretary, Printing &Stationery department and Secretary, Housing Board, respectively.
Arvind Kumar, IFS currently posted as Principal Resident Commissioner, Sikkim House, New Delhi has been promoted as Principal Chief Conservator of Forest in the rank, status and posted as Principal Secretary-cum-Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Forests, Environment &Wildlife Management Department. Similarly, Anil Kumar Mainra, IFS, Additional PCCF and Thomas Chandy, IFS both of them returned from their long term study leave abroad have been promoted as PCCF in the rank and status on the ex-cadre basis and posted in the rank, pay and status as that of the PCCF(Environment) and PCCF(JICA) under Forests, Environment &Wild Life Management Department respectively.

Editorial:Introduce the Young to Environment First


Today is World Environment Day. Like every year, there will be plantation drives, workshops and seminars held all over the world. Like every year, once the people are done with the process of observing WED, they will return to their concrete homes driving fuel guzzling and noxious fume emitting vehicles, their headlights powered by batteries that turn the earth sour. This is so because although urban-dwellers realise at some level the need to protect the environment, they do not understand what environment really is. They want the city air to be cleaner, but cannot connect with the need to keep green belts alive for this to happen. They want potable water in their taps and also uninterrupted power supply, which either burns fossil fuels or taps into water resources to generate. The city-bred ideas of environmental protection are riddled with clichés, are impractical and for all their high-sounding ideals, are shallow in their concern.
This is the trap that Sikkim has to work itself out of. Even though a majority of the people here live in the bustees, and are thus closer to nature, the generation which will take decisions in future is being groomed in the urban areas where Environment may have become a subject in school but speaks of things they cannot associate with. The disconnect cannot serve the environment too well, because even if a generation grows up feeling that the environment needs to be conserved, it will, by and large, not know what environment means. The superficiality of environmental concern will thus continue to mar even well-intentioned efforts. Take the theme for this year’s World Environment Day – “Green Economy: Does it include you?” for example. Economies, by nature, exploit natural resources to progress. The only green that an economy recognises are ‘greenbacks’, and these have nothing to do with the greening of the environment. Activities which constitute a “green economy” continue to be microenterprises which are allowed neither the space nor the motivation to grow beyond token gestures. Statistics which are so important to economists, excite little appeal among the real folk who live in rural spreads and watch urban excesses exploit resources they have nurtured for centuries. It is important for the young [the elders already beyond help] to realise that every time they leave the lights on longer than required or allow faulty water tanks to overflow or insist on being ferried around in an exclusive car instead of a bus or other mode of public transport, they are creating a demand for the exploitation of limited natural resources. Similarly, they should feel pride when they try and minimise their carbon footprint because then they would be supporting sustainable harnessing of finite resources which too many generations before them have exploited. As this section has repeated too often in the past, for such responsibility to ingrain itself, an introduction will have to be made first. That is not happening anymore. There are many children who have never seen a cow being milked. It is only slightly better in the villages because there, although the children run chores around the home, they have never seen the indigenous cow graze in the fields because the only bovines around are imported hybrids which spend their entire lives in the cowshed. For no fault of theirs, most of the young might know the various functions of the various keys of a mobile phone, but ask them to recognise one tree by name and they are stumped. They know the months and days of the week, but do not need to know the seasons anymore. This is not the curse of modernity, it is a reflection of the previous generation’s uncaring attitude not only towards their young, but also towards the society and its collective future. A generation so uninitiated in the ways of nature cannot, even if it wants to, take care of the environment.
On World Environment Day, we should perhaps introduce the young to environment first. Once they get to know each other, they will also take care of each other as well.

Impact of Climate Change in the Himalayas With Special Focus to Fauna of Sikkim


BHOJ K. ACHARYA and BASUNDHARA CHETTRI 

Global warming and climate change and its subsequent impact on biotic and abiotic components of the ecosystem have shaken the entire world. It is one of the greatest challenges being faced by scientists and policy planners around the globe. It is reported that the earth’s surface has warmed up by 0.6°C in the past 100 years, and with the current rate of emission of greenhouse gases, global air temperature is likely to increase by 1.5 to 4.5 °C by the end of the 21st century. Such changes in global temperatures have manifold effects ranging from glacial melt and sea level rise, unusual weather events such as floods and drought conditions, intense but short duration of rainfall, infestations of diseases, changes in agriculture patterns and various effects on flora and fauna.
The Himalaya is known as the Water Tower of Asia. It contains the greatest area of glaciers and permafrost outside the Polar Regions, hence, is also known as the Third Pole. The total amount of water flowing from the Himalayas to the plains, and then on to the Indian subcontinent is estimated to be about 8.6 million cubic meters per year. Himalayan glaciers are the source of ten of Asia’s largest rivers, and more than a billion people’s livelihoods depend on them. The Himalayan region is the most sensitive zone for global climate change. Studies have shown that the rate of increase in temperature across the Himalaya is three times the global average. Currently the temperature of Himalayas has been increasing by 0.06°C per year. According to the projection made by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, average annual mean warming of the Asian land mass will be about 3°C by 2050 and about 5° C in the year 2080 with much higher rates towards the Tibetan Plateau.
More than a billion people directly depend on the Himalayas for survival. While Climate Change is global phenomenon and has a global effect, the immediate repercussions are local. In the Himalayas, it has adverse impact on ecosystems and habitats endangering the very existence of life not just in the Himalayan Mountains but in the plains downstream.
The Himalayan glaciers are melting due to global warming. Decreases in snow accumulation and glacial retreat might lead to acute water shortages in the future. Almost 67% of the glaciers in the Himalayas have retreated resulting in water scarcity in the Himalayas and for more people living downstream who depend on glaciers and snow as a source of fresh water. The high elevation lakes are also at higher risk of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs). GLOFs can have a devastating impact on people, livestock, forests, farms and infrastructure.
In addition to this, Himalayas have experienced various other impacts of climate change. The rapidly changing environmental conditions caused by climate change make plant species more vulnerable to diseases and pests, contributing to the degradation and fragmentation of forests. Climate change is altering the fragile ecosystems of the Himalayas causing upward movement of vegetation and wildlife. This change will upset the ecosystem balance and seriously endanger the survival of many plant and animal species. Climate change, besides the immediate impact on flora and fauna, has adverse impact on health, wellbeing and livelihoods of the people.
Over the years the impacts of climate change have been experienced in Sikkim Himalayas. Such impacts are noticed in the form of glacial melt, changes in sowing and harvesting season of crops, decreased productivity of crops with new invasive species and weeds, drying up of springs, shifts in geographical range of species, changes in species composition of the communities and threat of extinction of species. Some impacts of climate change on faunal components of Sikkim Himalayas are highlighted below.

Upward migration of species
With the emerging warming and climate change pattern, many species of animals are migrating towards higher elevation. Birds such as Blood Pheasant, Snow Pigeon, Ibisbill, Rusty-bellied Shortwing and White-winged Redstart have responded to climate change by shifting their lower as well as upper elevational range limits. Among snakes, Monocled Cobra Naja kaouthia, King Cobra Ophiophagus hannah, Himalayan Mountain Keelback Amphiesma platyceps and Worm Snake Trachischium guentheri have shifted their range upwards along the elevation gradient. Similarly, Snow Toad Scutiger sikkimensis and Common Toad Duttaphrynus himalayana among amphibians, and some mammals and many butterflies have shown upward elevational range shift in Sikkim Himalayas. Upward migration has reduced the range sizes and distribution limits of species. While some species might not get affected, the rate of effect differs among others so that all species in a community do not synchronize their shifting behavior. Asynchronous shift results in changed species assembly and community structure resulting in competition among species leading to extinctions. Lower elevation species moves upward along the elevation gradient but high elevation species have no space for upward movement and hence have to face extinction.

Altered breeding seasonality, breeding failure and population decline
Warmer temperature, alteration in habitats and changed climatic pattern may alter animal’s reproductive strategies. They start breeding earlier or later than their usual breeding season or produce lesser offsprings due to reduced reproductive rate resulting in population decline. Breeding activities such as habitat selection, nest building and even laying of eggs and emergence of hatchlings is supposedly impacted in many bird species in Sikkim Himalayas such as Ashy Drongo, Black Bulbul, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Grey-backed White-capped Water Redstart, White-collared Blackbird, Common Tailorbird, White-rumped Munia, Ruddy Shelduck and Ibisbill. This is attributed to unexpected weather events such as longer dry spells, altered plant phenology and insect emergence or may be heavy rainfall at the onset of breeding season.
Due to unusual rainfall event or early summer rain, some amphibians in Sikkim started breeding earlier than their actual breeding time. Bush frog Philautus sp., Duttaphrynus spp., Amolops spp. and Paa liebigii have advanced their breeding activities. The short and heavy episode of early rain followed by dry spells leads to drying of many streams before amphibians complete their metamorphosis. Such irregular rainfall pattern poses serious threat to both eggs and tadpoles; either they face the risk of being washed away by heavy rains or face desiccation before the completion of metamorphosis leading to mass mortality and population decline.

Skewed sex ratio
Temperature determines the sexes in most reptilian species, higher temperature favors female individuals. Due to climate induced changes, some snakes in Sikkim Himalayas have shown biased sex ratio. The number of female offsprings is more than the males. Such deviation of sex ratio from the normal can disrupt population dynamics of snake community.

Influx of exotic species and disappearance of some species
The hilly terrain of Sikkim forms natural continuum with the plains of North Bengal. Due to favorable temperature in the hills, movement of species from lowland to highland occurs thereby threatening the local diversity and endemicity. Such influx has been noticed in some snake and lizards. Influx of exotics might lead to disproportion in prey-predator relationship thereby disturbing the entire food chain. Similarly, some reptiles (such as turtles and tortoises) and amphibians have probably been disappeared from Sikkim due to drying of springs and streams in the lower elevation caused by climate change.

Wildlife encroachment on human habitations
Climate induced changes have directly or indirectly impacted the habitat and distribution limits and the food availability for wild animals. Due to shortage of food, wild animals wander around human habitations in search of eating materials. For example, one of the probable reasons for random movement of Himalayan Black Bear in villages and towns in recent years could be climate change. This species eats acorns and nuts of the previous year, and if the productivity of such nuts decreases due to unusual weather events, they wander around for other foods. Many other animals might have been the victim of such events.
Sikkim displays various signs of climate change impact on water sources, agriculture, forests, flora and fauna. While we have ample examples to prove that many species of plants and animals have responded to climate change but precise responses are not known. To understand and address the climatic effect on flora and fauna in the Himalayas widespread and long term monitoring studies is necessary.
[Dr Bhoj K. Acharya is Assistant Professor, Department of Zoology, Sikkim Govt. College, Tadong. E-mail: acharya2skm@gmail.com
Dr Basundhara Chettri, Assistant Professor, School of Policy Planning Studies, Sikkim University, Gnagtok. E-mail: basundharac@gmail.com]

Monday, June 4, 2012

Major ‘drug’ bust by South cops


NAMCHI, 03 June: A huge cache of contraband substances – a haul of 30,660 capsules of Spasmo Proxyvon and 440 bottles of Recodex cough syrup, both much-abused prescription drugs – was seized by South District police on Saturday.
Acting on source information, a police team led by SHO Temi Police Station, SI Karma Tshering Bhutia, I/C Bermoik Outpost ASI KB Gurung, Naik Dawa Zangpo, Constable Karma Bhutia along with other police officials seized the drugs after a raid conducted at Dalep Fatak near Sirwani Bridge in South Sikkim on Saturday at around 5:15 pm.
In a meticulously conducted operation, these drugs were intercepted and recovered from a vehicle [a Maruti Van SK-03P/0412] coming in from Siliguri. The vehicle, police sources contend, was primarily hired to smuggle the drugs into Sikkim.
Four persons, including the driver, one Deepak Subba, the husband-wife duo of Rajen Pradhan and Indra Pradhan and another Sumitra Bhutia have been arrested and booked under Section 9/14 of the Sikkim Anti Drugs Act, 2006.
The four accused have been put under 5 days of police custody.
Considering the recent haul of similar drugs at Adarsh Gaon, South Sikkim, police had been keeping a close watch on drugs-related history-sheeters in the area. Among the four arrested, accused Rajen Pradhan works as a supervisor on Muster Roll with the Public Works Department, and had also rented a room at Dalep basti for this very purpose, it is believed.
The drugs were allegedly to be sold in towns like Singtam, Ravangla, Temi and Namchi.
The police are also investigating into the prospective buyers here in Sikkim and the supply areas of Siliguri. It maybe recalled that under the initiative of SP South a huge amount of drugs were disposed here at Namchi Police Station last week wherein a similar amount of drugs seized in 67 cases from 2008-2011 of the entire South District were disposed.