Saturday, May 18, 2013

Sikkim’s Anand Gurung leads NE’s summiting of Everest

GANGTOK, 17 May: The 1st North East India on Top of the World [Mt Everest] Expedition team has successfully reached the summit of the highest peak of the world, Mt Everest [29,029 ft] this morning at 7:35 AM [Indian Standard Time].
Anand Gurung from Sikkim was the first to summit Mt Everest at 7:35 AM followed by Nima Lama from Arunachal Pradesh at 8:30 AM and finally by N Bidyapati Devi from Manipur at 9:30 AM. N Bidyapati is the first lady from Manipur to Summit the Mt Everest.
A press release from the PRO of the expedition, Santosh Shekhar informs that the expedition was flagged off from the historic Kangla by the Governor of Manipur, Gurbachan Jagar, on 25 February and subsequently by the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee from Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi on 20 March.
The release adds that for the remaining members of the leader of the Expedition, Dr L Surjit Singh, president MMTA, advised to make the attempt for summit tomorrow due to heavy wind condition. It is informed that other members of the team attempting the summit are currently waiting for the opportune weather conditions.
The teams had arrived at the Everest Base Camp on 5 April and have undergoing acclimatization during the acclimatization the team reached Camp III [24000 ft apprx] on 30 April. O Ibobi Singh is the Chief Patron and DS Poonia, IAS, Chief Secretary of Manipur is the Chef De-Mission of the expedition.
The press release mentions that with the successful summit, it will now be listed in the history of the region as the First Expedition exclusively of North East India mountaineers and being supported by the Government of India and State Governments to have scaled Mt Everest. It is further added that the mountaineers of the region now join the league of the best mountaineers in the world.
The 1st North East India top of the World Mt Everest Expedition is the first ever expedition comprising exclusively of mountaineers from six states of North East. Sixteen individual from different states are participating in the expedition including the support team.
The expedition is being funded by North Eastern Council, Shillong and supported by Planning Department, Government of Manipur and being implemented by Manipur Mountaineering and Trekking Association, Manipur.

Proportion of cultivators drops by 10% in 10 years

FARMING LOSES OUT TO WHITE COLLAR JOBS, MORE THAN HALF THE WORKERS LINE UP AS ‘OTHER WORKERS’ IN SIKKIM
GANGTOK, 17 May: The Directorate of Census Operation, Sikkim, today released another set of Primary Census Abstract containing population data on sex ratio, child population (0-6), literacy, proportion of Scheduled Caste/ Schedule Tribe and workers.
Speaking on the occasion, PIB Director CK Dorjee, who was present as the chief guest, informed that the Directorate of Census Operations, Sikkim has already released Provisional Population Paper I & II containing  Provisional Total population of the state, literacy rate, sex ratio, Rural-Urban Population, based on Enumerator’s Abstract.
It has also released the 1st phase housing data based on scanning on a data sheet as well as in book form which included the number of census houses, households, the condition of the census houses, amenities available to the households and assets possessed by them.
He said the Census Office is  releasing the data for second phase i.e. Population Enumeration on a data sheet viz. ‘Primary Census Abstract – At a Glance’, that will provide information on population and its growth, literates and literacy, sex ratio for whole population and in 0-6 age group, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Population, Workers and Work Participation Rates .
Directorate of Census Operation, Sikkim Additional Director, Dr DK Dey made a power point presentation on population enumeration and said his office will release the final population at sub-district level and will also release shortly the data at village level in rural area and ward level in urban areas.
He informed that the final population of Sikkim as on 01 March 2011 was 6,10,577. This included rural population of 456,999 and urban 153,578; and Male 323,070 and female 287,507. The sex ratio of Sikkim has improved from 875 in 2001 to 890 in 2011. However, the Child Sex Ratio [0-6 year] has declined from 963 in 2001 to 957 in 2011. Again, the proportion of children to the overall population has dropped from 14.5 percent in 2001 to 10.5 percent in 2011. This was already expected when Sikkim’s population growth rate more than halved in the decade 2001-2011 in comparison to population growth from 1991 to 2001. While Sikkim’s population grew by 33.4% in the decade 1991 to 2001, the next decade from 2001 to 2011 saw population grow by only 12.89%.
Meanwhile, Work Participation Rate in Sikkim is 50.5 percent bagging it the second rank on this indicator among all states/UTs of the country. Work population rate is defined as the percentage of total workers [main and marginal] to total population. Workers have been categorized as cultivators, agricultural labourers, household industry workers and ‘other workers’. The last segment, that of other workers, takes the largest pie of workers at 51.8%, with 38.1% of the workers being cultivators who work on their own farms, followed by agricultural labourers who make up 8.4% of the workers in Sikkim with a sliver of 1.7% of the workers engaged in the household industry.
Sikkim has 1,17,401 cultivators, outstripped significantly by 1,59,608 ‘other workers’.
A significant decadal comparison comes in the change in proportion of cultivators to the total number of workers in Sikkim. Where 49.9% of the working population was of cultivators, people working on their own farms in 2001, in 2011 this has fallen to 38.1% of the workers. This slightly over 10% loss in the cultivator proportion has gone to “other workers” whose proportion has grown from 42% in 2001 to 51.8% of the total workers in 2011.
Dr. Dey also mentioned that the number of Literates in Sikkim is 444,952 with rural 321,930 and urban 123,022. The literacy rate in Sikkim is substantially high at 81.4 percent. Among the states of India, Sikkim stands on 7th position. So far as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled tribes are concerned, proportion of Scheduled tribe population has gone up from 20.6 percent in 2001 to 33.8 percent in 2011. This, because the Limboo and Tamang communities were added to the ST list in 2003-04 meaning that while they were not counted as ST in Census 2001, they were enumerated as such in 2011.
Dr Dey also sought the cooperation of the people of the state for the smooth conduct of the second phase of National Population Register i.e. capturing of biometry.  He mentioned that the decision of the Govt. is that wherever biometry has been taken up by the UID, only photocopy of the Aadhaar number will be taken. It is mandatory since NPR is being conducted under Citizenship Act 1955.

Modern Medicine's Miracle?!

Dr. MR Kotwal, GangtokIt was wonderful to see the picture of a man who celebrated his 100 year birthday. Personally, for me it was a great feeling of joy to see this very unforgettable face. His portrait is attractive and sagely.
Many years ago, one late evening I had responded to the late Dr Sunder Pradhan’s call (Chief of Surgery at the time) to see a patient in his surgical ward at STNM Hospital. The patient had acute abdomen in other words pain, distension and could not pass stool or flatus. I endoscoped him next morning and to my surprise found him having a condition called phytobezoar*. In simple English this man had a huge ball of vegetable fibre in his stomach that was blocking the passage down to the duodenum (intestine). A phytobezoar is a trapped mass in the stomach, that consists of components of indigestible plant material, such as fibres, skins and seeds. Phytobezoar can cause obstruction over a time and patient has to be operated to cure him. He perhaps kept on tolerating this problem in which one has pain abdomen passes very little stool till finally nothing comes out. The stomach and intestines start bloating up. As nothing comes out one cannot eat much and because of vomiting, pain and emaciation sets in.
On endoscopic examination, when I saw this phytobezoar I had called Dr Sunder Pradhan to have a look during the procedure from the side viewing scope. We did not have video scopes in those days. I suggested that perhaps the only treatment for this person was surgical removal. Dr Sunder Pradhan removed the long tortuous phytobezoar during Laparotomy. (Medical jargon for abdominal operation). Dr Sunder wrote an article and Sikkim Herald published the picture of the removed Phytobezoar, which was over 40 centimetres long and tortuous from stomach down into small intestine.
I wondered with joy of course that he has crossed a century. With his so many wonderful descendents, his enterprising skills and adventure in going over to Tsurpu and getting trained under HH the Sixteenth Karmapa  in those difficult days he must have been a great adventurer I thought.
Today, the world over, the main goal of human beings is to enhance healthy longevity. Of course with good quality of life and many of us want to be frozen in our frames perhaps around 25 or may be thirty years of age. Longevity does not come on its own, even with longevity genes; one has to work hard for living long and healthy life.
Modern medicine has contributed enormously in our longevity of life span worldwide. An average female lives over 87 and male over 82 years in some developed nations. The average age a century ago was half of what it is now. Of the many thousands of oldies over hundred years age are not uncommon in Okinawa, Andorra, Nordic and many European nations. Maybe not us, but many of our descendents are poised to live an average of 125 years by 2050 in the developed nations.
Yesterday, I visited Arab Lama in his house for a brief period and requested him for a picture. I had seen him only 2 or 3 times after his treatment nearly 27 years ago. He was kind enough to permit me to take his picture. He looked almost the same as he did 26 years ago. He told me that he had been operated for brain haemorrhage some years earlier. I intend to meet him again at his convenience to simply chat. As I stepped out of his top floor house I kept on pondering the reason for human existence, whether if this is truly not the Miracle Of Modern Medicine then what it is! We do know that one’s longevity is directly proportional to the region of the world one is born in. In this century both knowledge and means of affordability are the main factors for longevity. Science has improved human life beyond imagination and man is poised to play God.

Bikers steam up momos for kids at Lepcha Cottage

GANGTOK, 17 May: Twenty-five members of the Dirty Angel Motorcycle Club (DAMC) prepared around 3,000 momos for the 150 students at Lepcha Cottage here at Chandmari yesterday. This was their State Day treat for the kids at Padmashree Nekung Kipu T Lepcha’s hostel.
In preparation for the treat, DAMC purchased 30 kg of beef, 15 kg flour, 15 kg of onion, 5 kg of bones for soup, 1 kg of cabbage and half a kilo of cottage cheese to make both vegetable and non-veg momos for the children. DAMC titled this event as, “Conquering Momoland”.
“They came here early in the morning with all the stuff to make momos which is my favorite dish and we hardly get momos here because it takes so much to make momos for the more than 100 children here,” said one of the children.
“Momo is our ethnic food and it is time consuming to prepare so we all decided to spend our State Day holiday making momos for children at Lepcha Cottage,” said DAMC president Rinzing Dorjee Ladipa. “On learning of our initiative, not only DAMC members but even our wives, girl friends and relatives came here to help us,” he added.
Miss Kipu Lepcha is the founder of Lepcha Cottage who is also the winner of Padmasree award. DAMC started their work at 6 am and ended by 2 pm. Apart from sweets they also distributed sweets to all the children. GANGTOK, May 17: Twenty-five members of Dirty Angel Motorcycle Club (DAMC) made about 3000 momos for about 150 students of Lepcha Cottage as their charity work on the occasion of State Day.
However, DAMC shopped 30 kg of beef meat, 15 kg of floor, 15 kg of onion, 5 kg of bones for soup 1 kg of cabbage and half kg of cottage cheese to make both vegetable and non-vegetable momos for the children. DAMC titled this even as “Conquering Momoland”. “They came here early in the morning with all the stuff to make momos which is my favorite dish and we hardly get momos here because it takes so much to make momos for above 100 children” said one of the children.
“Momo is our ethnic food and it is time consuming items to make so we all decided to spend our holiday of State Day by making momos for orphanage children of Lepcha Cottage” said President of DAMC Rinzing Dorjee Ladipa. “So knowing the fact not only our members but even our wife, girl friends and relatives came here to help us” he added.
The DAMC team got to work at 6 a.m. and finished by 2 pm. Apart from momos, they also distributed sweets to all the children. [from BISHAL CINTURY]

Minor raped

GANGTOK, 17 May: A 35 year old resident of Berbing, Ranka, was taken into custody yesterday on charges of having raped a 3 year old minor at a building construction site about a week ago. The arrest was made on the basis of a complaint filed by the mother of the victim. The Sadar police have placed the accused under arrest and booked him on charges under section 376 [punishment for rape] of the Indian penal Code read with section 4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.

Info-Tech Deptt discusses telecom realities and requirements of North Sikkim

GANGTOK, 17 May: Secretary, Department of Information Technology, KK Pradhan, chaired a meeting today to discuss the prevailing issues of telecom connectivity in North Sikkim, an official press release informs.
The meeting was attended by officers from various concerned line departments: R. Verma, Principal Director – IT; AB Rai, Additional Chief Engineer (North), Energy & Power Department; D Kharel, SE (EHV/SLDC) Energy & Power; T. Samdup, Joint Director, IT Department; SL Bhutia, DFO (T) North; ST Wangdi, Deputy Director, IT; and RP Sharma, ACF (Chungthang) Forest Department.
The meeting was also attended by Palzor Lachungpa of TAAS and representatives of Vodafone India headed by Lt. Col (retd) Sunirmal Patra, Head- Corporate Affair (East) Vodafone  and Co-Founder of SourceN Inc. Karma Michung Bhutia.
The meeting highlighted issues faced by the public in North District with respect to telecommunication connectivity and services. Mr. Lachungpa articulated the challenges faced by the people of North Sikkim in terms of geography which is vulnerable to natural disasters such as landslides, flash floods, earthquake etc. as a result of which communication & essential service fail to reach the public. He also mentioned that the telecom service beyond Mangan was very poor and steps should be taken to improve telecom connectivity to places like Chungthang, Lachung, Lachen and other remote areas in the North district.
A brief presentation was given by Lt. Col Patra, Head- Corporate Affair (East) Vodafone, highlighting the blueprint of Vodafone’s connectivity in West Bengal and Sikkim and how they plan to provide telecom connectivity to North Sikkim. He mentioned support required from key Government organisations for OFC connectivity to meet the communication needs and to provide a reliable connectivity to North Sikkkim. Use of WiMax as an alternative to OFC’s was also discussed.
Issues regarding power supply, land for erecting cellular towers and the clarification on cellular tower radiation were also discussed.
The meeting concluded with a vote of thanks proposed by T. Samdup, Joint Director/ Information Technology Department.

Tibetans seek stronger expressions of solidarity

ANNIVERSARY OF PANCHEN LAMA’S ‘DISAPPEARANCE’ OBSERVED AS INTERNATIONAL TIBET SOLIDARITY DAY
GANGTOK, 17 May: International Tibet Solidarity Day was observed here in capital today with the prayers, a peace rally and a call for expressions of solidarity from the International community to Tibet cause.
The Central Tibetan Administration announced 17 May as International Tibet Solidarity Day. The day is significant for the Tibetan community, as it should also be for the world community, as it marks the disappearance of 6 year old Gendun Choekyi Nyima and his family and caretakers in Tibet a few days after he was recognized as the reincarnation of Panchen Lama. This was back in 1995, making the 11th Panchen Lama the youngest political prisoner of the world. The anniversary of his disappearance in the hands of the Chinese authorities is observed as the International Tibet Solidarity Day and symbolizes the international community’s solidarity with the aspirations of the Tibetan people who desire for freedom and continue to stand strong in the face of great adversity.
Today, prayers were offered at Deorali Gurulakhang for the Tibetan self-immolators who sacrificed their lives for the Tibetan cause. A peace rally was then taken out from Gurulakhang to Thakurbari.
Addressing a press conference today, a Member of Tibetan Parliament in-Exile, Youdon Aukatsang, urged the international community to express solidarity with Tibet as the people inside Tibet have been suppressed for too long and need international support.
Ms Aukatsang further informed that 117 self immolations to protest Chinese occupation of Tibet announce the Tibetan rejection of Chinese policies and the people inside Tibet proclaiming that they hav had enough.
“The Tibetan people will continuously resist Chinese occupation of our homeland and its policies and we want the world to support us more strongly now,” she urged.
While expressing gratitude towards India and the people and especially to the people of the Himalayan region, Ms Aukatsang mentioned that the country can do much more on the Tibet issue.
Another Tibetan Parliamentarian, Lobsang Yeshi added that a huge credit goes to Indian government and its people and their compassion in supporting the Tibetan struggle and keeping it alive. He added that this day was to seek support and solidarity from the world community to support Tibet. He briefly spoke about the policies of Chinese government and situation of Tibetan people inside Tibet.
Tibetan Settlement Officer, Gangtok, Zigmee Dorje read out the message of Central Tibetan Administration on the occasion. The message informs that with self-immolations now numbering 117 since February 2009, and over a million Tibetans having perished as a result of Chinese occupation, Tibetans inside Tibet are sending a clear signal to the world rejecting People’s Republic of China’s policies in Tibet which have led to political repression, cultural assimilation, environmental destruction and economic marginalization. It is added that now, more than ever before, Tibetan people need to be reassured and given hope that their plight has not been forgotten by the rest of the world.
“The Central Tibetan Administration therefore calls upon Tibetans and their friends to observe this day with expressions of solidarity involving people’s elected representatives, local government or holding an activity as deemed appropriate. In view of self-immolations, particularly the recent self-immolation by two monks of Ngaba Kirti monastery, all are requested to hold prayers on that same day,” the message concludes.

Coaching classes to help candidates prepare for written exam for Sikkim Scouts Battalion

GANGTOK, 17 May: The written examination of all categories of trades except Clerks will be held on 26 May 2013 at ARO Salugara, Siliguri informs Secretary, Rajya Sainik Board, Col D N Bhutia.
It is expected that 650 students will be appearing for the written exam. In order to repeat the excellent performance of candidates in the last written exam held on 11 March 2013, a crash-course coaching for two days will be conducted with the help of the Army personnel of HQ 17 Mountain Division as per the schedule and locations given below:-
(a)    Paljor Stadium, Gangtok: 21- 22 May 2013. 1000h onward.
(b)    Namchi Sr Secondary School Auditorium: 21-22 May 2013. 1000h onwards
(c)    Power Deptt Guest House, Soreng: 21-22 May 2013. 1000h onward

Col Bhutia has requested all BDOs, Panchayat members, School/ College Principals and Zilla Sainik Boards to disseminate this information to all students who are going to sit for the examination to attend the coaching classes. He further informs that those candidates who have been found medically fit after the medical review at Base Hospital, Bengdubi can collect their Admit Cards from ARO Salugara, Siliguri  on 20 May 2013.
He further directs all students appearing for the written exam on 26 May to attend the coaching seriously and pass the exam because the relaxation given to the hill people by allowing class VIII pass may not be available in future.

SJS-Rhenock posts 100% ICSE results, topper scores 89.4%

GANGTOK, 17 May: All 54 students who took the class X ICSE exam in March from St Joseph’s School, Rhenock, have passed. In the results announced this evening, the school found five students scoring in the 80 to 90% bracket.
Ajay Nepal, son of Lok Nath Nepal and Sabitra Nepal from Khamdong, topped the exam from the school with an aggregate of 89.4%. An press release from the school informs that 19 students scored between 70-79%, 23 scored between 60 to 69% while seven students bagged marks in the 56.4% to 59% segment.
“The Principal, staff and all the students of St. Joseph’s Rhenock congratulate the topper Ajay Nepal and all the ICSE candidates who appeared for the ICSE Examinations of March 2013 and were awarded Pass Certificate. God Bless your hard work,” the principal has conveyed in a press release.

Employee commits suicide in Gangtok hotel

GANGTOK, 17 May: An employee of Club Kings B at Hotel Mayur situated at Hospital Dara here is reported to have committed suicide by hanging in the basement of the hotel yesterday. The deceased, a 21year old hailing from Darjeeling and employed here for the past year and a half used to live in the staff quarters in the basement it is informed. He had been living there alone for the past few days as co-workers were away on leave.

Forged gate pass used to cart away construction material from work site

GANGTOK, 17 May: A case of theft and forgery was registered at the Sadar Police Station yesterday when, what must have been a truckload of construction material, was carted away from a worksite in the New Cantonment area here on the basis of a forged gate pass.
As per police records, on the night of 14 May, 120 pieces of steel plates, 71 pieces of Ply [8mm x 4mm], 3,312 kg of 8 mm reinforcement bar, 1,137 kg 10 mm reinforcement bar, 3,192 kg 16 mm reinforcement bar and 2,505 kg 25 mm reinforcement bar were stolen from the site showing an allegedly forged gate pass.
Police investigation has revealed that the Manager at the site, who had issued the gate pass for the vehicles [WB-73C-4142 and SK-01D-0620], on the grounds that the material be ferried from the MP Golai site to Bardang, also went missing on 15 May. The cops are on the lookout for the manager.
A case under section 379/ 468/ 471 [punishment for theft, forgery for purpose of cheating and using as genuine a forged document] of the Indian Penal Code has been registered at the Sadar Police Station and the case is under investigation.

Brother-in-law booked for attempt to murder

GANGTOK, 17 May: A case of attempt to murder was registered against a resident of Sungdang, Namchi at the Namchi Police Station on 16 May. This, following a 19 year old being attacked by her brother-in-law with a Khukuri on Thursday. She has reportedly gone over to her brother-in-law’s house in Sungdang to settle a quarrel between her sister and her husband when the latter assaulted her with a khukuri. She has suffered injuries to her head and body and after first aid at Rangpo PHC, was rushed to STNM Hospital, Gangtok, for treatment. The accused brother-in-law meanwhile absconded after the incident and remains untraced. A case under Section 307 [attempt to murder] of the Indian Penal Code has been registered against him at the Namchi Police Station.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Sikkim’s honor roll

25 FETED FOR SERVICE TO SIKKIM
GANGTOK, 16 May: State Day 2013 was celebrated with 25 personalities from all over the State, across generations and from diverse professional, political and ideological backgrounds honoured and feted with awards for the one aspect they all have in common – service to Sikkim. Two veterans from the movement for democracy of the early Seventies were conferred the LD Kazi Award for Democratic Movement, two conferred the highest civilian award of the State – the Sikkim Sewa Ratna and 21 conferred the Sikkim Sewa Samma in recognition of their service to the State through their respective professions. The honor roll reads like a who’s who of Sikkim through several generations, including a ninety year old and also a teenager.
The LD Kazi Award for Democratic Movement being conferred on BB Mishra and Chandra Bahadur Rai. They were presented with Rs. One lakh in cash, a Citation and a shawl.
Sikkim Sewa Ratna was conferred to two stalwarts of Sikkim politics, former Minister Sherab Palden Lepcha and erstwhile Member of Sikkim Legislative Assembly, Advocate NB Khatiwara. The awardees were presented with the cash award of Rs 2 lakhs, memento, citation letter and shawl
Sikkim Sewa Samman was given to 21 professionals from different walks of life for their immeasurable contribution in their respective fields. The award carries Rs One Lakh cash, amedallion, citation and Shawl.
The 21 are: Dup Tshering Lepcha, TR Poudyal, Dr. Rajendra Bhandari, Dr. Ghanashyam Sharma, Pravin Rai Jumeli, Bhaichung Tsichudarpa, Kunzang Gyatso Bhutia, Yangdi Sherpa,  Amit Patro, Yishey Doma Bhutia, Deepraj Rai, Yougan Tamang, Arjun Kumar Rai, Sushil Tamang, Denzong Foning Lepcha, Passang Sherpa, Dewaker Basnet, Remanti Rai, Ganga Mukhia, Robin Mukhia and Geeta Sharma.
The Governor and the Chief Minister also released four books today - Gazetteer of Sikkim 2013 and Sikkim Model -1994-2013 People and Development published by IPR Department, Urban Strategic Plan of Sikkim and Comprehensive Mobility Plan Gangtok by UD&HD.

Sikkim’s journey since 1975 has been most fulfilling and rewarding: Governor

GANGTOK, 16 May: “It gives me immense pride to introspect on the factors that have led to the development and the recognition that Sikkim has been achieving. The communal harmony existent amongst all the communities that has also been recorded in the 350 year history of the state speaks volumes that this harmony has now become a way of life of the people here,” said Governor BP Singh in his address delivered at the State-level State Day celebration here at Chintan Bhawan today.
The Governor added that the people of the state have over the years, devised and maintained a ‘code of conduct’, a model that was exemplary and worthy for all to follow. He said that ‘Democracy was the heart of Sikkim’ and had become a way of life here.
“I am happy to state that the journey which began in the year 1975 has been most fulfilling and rewarding,” the Governor conveys in his State Day message,
The Governor further said that the will of the people had prevailed in Sikkim and that democracy had now taken deep roots here. In this regard he said that this will of the people has been respected and each and every Sikkimese had been given an opportunity to live with dignity and respect.
“Political leaders should respect the dignity of all Sikkimese and I hope that the political leadership in the state always preserves this trend of culture, democracy and good-governance and not do anything that will damage this fabric that is taking Sikkim to even greater heights ,” the Governor said.
He also stated that democracy did not only mean holding elections and remarked that it was good governance that had led Sikkim to where it stands today. He added that good governance did not come by chance and that the people of the state willed and demanded it and that this was possible only in a true democracy.
While remarking that education was in transformation in Sikkim, the Governor said that as an individual he ‘admired’ the Chief Minister’s initiative of selecting students from the remotest of villages on merit and sending them on full scholarship to the best public schools. He said that he believed that if these children were given the right guardianship along with the facilities then a time would come when every Sikkimese will be seen as a person of merit, someone with dignity who should be respected.
“In 1975 only 16 percent of the total population was educated but now less than 16 percent are illiterate here. It is numbers such as these in areas of much needed intervention that make me admire the present leadership. There will be a day when we will have zero illiteracy in Sikkim, no poor, all pucca houses and creation of dependable workers , and that day is not far,” expressed the Governor.
Amongst areas that needed further attention, the Governor said that a need to collectively take advantage of the resources within and outside the state for it’s and the country’s development was an important area. Further, while stating that the work of the civil police within the state was good he urged for the need for the police to be prepared to tackle the crimes that come with prosperity.
The Governor also spoke on the need to improve the work culture in government offices and develop the collective will to have pride in work. Similarly, he also pointed out the need to ponder on the subject of the high number of suicide in the state along with the high rate of substance abuse.
In his address the Chief Minister stated, “In the past 38 years Sikkim has been an important part of the country. You all know what Sikkim was before and what it has become now. Now our responsibility and duty is to make the Sikkim of tomorrow. The responsibility lies in our hands, every mode through which we contribute towards the development of the nation will speak volumes about our contribution. Be it education, health, basic amenities, hydel, tourism, social justice and basically all round development, all the areas where we are contributing are being recognized. 22.8 percent is our growth rate, this we have to maintain and further strengthening this rate is our duty as Sikkimese and Indians. Our work should speak for itself.”

New Raj Bhawan inaugurated

GANGTOK, 16 May: Governor Balmiki Prasad Singh dedicated the new Raj Bhavan to the people of Sikkim this afternoon coinciding the occasion with the 39th State Day celebrations.
The Governor first unveiled a statue of Mahatma Gandhi after that he officially inaugurated the new Raj Bhawan, a replica of 123 years old Raj Bhawan albeit with state of the art facilities and technology.
The Governor commented that with a few cosmetic changes, this Raj Bhawan complex has the potential to become the most attractive Raj Bhawan in East India.
The old Raj Bhawan will be continue as the Governor’s residence while the new complex will host VVIPs and visiting Governors.
In his address today, the Governor also applauded Chief Minister Pawan Chamling for his leadership and positive pursuit of development.
The new Raj Bhawan building, developed at a cost of Rs. 39.74 crore, is a 3-storeyed complex which has incorporated Vaastu sensibilities and advanced building technology systems into the contruction. The ground floor houses a banquet hall for 150 people, the main kitchen, store, serving area, veg and non-veg sections, tea section, six guest rooms, common sitting room, one suite, one Attendant’s room, linen, clothing and AHU room, lobby and toilets.
The first floor will house the office of the Governor and the Raj Bhawan secretariat along with a conference hall built to seat 80, a VIP waiting room and a visitor’s room. 
On the second floor, the residence of Governor, and VVIP apartment along with master bed room and suite, a deluxe room, sitting room, security check lobby and exclusive dining room and pantry and attendant room.
The building have also equipped with auto fire detection and fire fighting arrangement systems. 
The new Raj Bhawan Building overlooking the old one is replica of earlier building in terms of fascia finishing, located approximately 70 meters of south west of the old Raj Bhawan and was conceived by state Building and Housing department and constructed by M/s Archtec Consultants Pvt. Limited, Kolkata with the initial cost of Rs. 20.97 crore which was later revised in built up area, changes in orientation, specifications, addition of finishing terms and involvement of additional protective works and creation of gardens in front and back side goes upto the cost of Rs. 39.74 crores, Building and Housing department Chief Engineer informed in a technical report.

State Day

editorial:
Thursday was State Day, the day marking 38 years of Sikkim as a part of the Indian Union; an apt moment also for a quick recap of events which led to the first State Day back in 1975.
The decade of the Seventies began in Sikkim with a democratic groundswell and a heightened political consciousness among the people. Like with most historic occasions, several things had to come together at the right moment for Sikkim to make history and set on course a new destiny. The right combination of popular leaders, a supportive Delhi and a weakened palace led to the signing of the Tripartite Agreement of 08 May, 1973, with the Government of India, leader of the political parties of Sikkim and the Chogyal as signatories. Nar Bahadur Khatiwada, feted with the Sikkim Ratna on State Day this year, was a successful youth leader of the movement for democracy in Sikkim and will be able to better explain the passion which inspired the Sikkimese at the time. He will hopefully do that some day, but for now, suffice to say that at the root of the upsurge was a general belief that the elections to the State Council in 1973 were rigged by the palace. Soon, there was anarchy on the streets, police stations even in remote Sikkim were being attacked and the Chogyal invited the Indian Political Officer to take over the administration. The Tripartite Agreement envisaged the Chogyal as a constitutional head, and set things up for the establishment of democracy, rule of law, fundamental rights, independent judiciary and adult franchise. As much as this set in place the parity formula for the first Assembly, a system which did not survive till the next elections, adult suffrage was also a major victory for the subjects, and when the Sikkimese were given their first chance to vote in a democratic environment [in April 1974], the voters gravitated towards the person they saw as the leader of democratic movement in Sikkim – Lhendup Dorji Kazi, whose Sikkim Congress cornered 31 of the 32 Assembly seats. The Tripartite Agreement, however, did not hold for long. Its provisions were being ignored within a year, or so the elected representatives believed. On 10 April, 1975, the Sikkim Assembly met for an emergency session and agreed that the Chogyal was violating the provisions of the Agreement and abolished the institution of the Chogyal and resolved to become a constituent unit of India. The Statement of Objects and Reasons appended to the 38th Amendment Bill of 1975 [which subsequently became Article 371F of the Constitution] records that the Sikkim Assembly, on 10 April, 1975, “…inter alia, noted the persistent harmful activities of the Chogyal which aimed at undermining the responsible democratic Government set up…” The Assembly then submitted its Resolution to the people for approval. What Sikkim today calls the “Referendum” is referred to as “a special opinion poll” conducted by the Government of Sikkim. This “Opinion Poll” was held within four days of the Assembly’s resolution and 61,133 of Sikkim’s approximately 97,000 voters shared their opinion – 59,637 in favour of the Resolution and 1,496 against it. The verdict of the people was communicated to India on 15 April and the then Chief Minister and his Council of Ministers were in Delhi the next day. On 19 April, the amendment to the Constitution was mooted and Sikkim became a full-fledged State of India on 16 May, 1975. With the passage of the Act, Sikkim became the 22nd state of the Indian Union, the institution of the Chogyal was formally abolished and provisions of the Indo-Sikkim Treaty, Tripartite Agreement and the Government of India Act, 1974 were made inoperative. Sikkim’s identity within India was to be decided by provisions of Article 371F.
Article 371F is a powerful tool providing Sikkim with its special status within the Indian Union. Unfortunately, it has become just convenient dodge to rake up the past. The Act was inserted into the Constitution to guide Sikkim’s future, not nail it down to the past. One reason why it is not taken as seriously as it should is because Sikkim has been unable to remind Delhi what the Act is all about. Delhi, of course, with larger states to keep happy, rarely does its homework and bulldozes all over Sikkim. What people need to appreciate is that Article 371F has none of the incongruities of Article 370 and boasts near watertight provisions which allow Sikkim to remain unique while also wholly a part of India. It is a progressive Act and that is how it should be used, not as a political slogan to confuse people or to whip up nostalgia for an imagined utopia.

SHSC organizes practice matches to keep trainees sharp & keen


GANGTOK, 16 May: The Sikkim Himalayan Sporting Club U-16 boys team played a friendly match with Gram Vikash Sangathan Football Academy of Central Pendam at Tenzing Namgyal Memorial Ground here this morning. The match ended on a 3-3 draw.
SHSC has begun organizing friendly practice matches for its players in training against established clubs and football academies of the State. These matches are hosted on a weekly basis at the ground at Tathangchen [as also ground elsewhere]. The main objective is to boost the confidence of the players and securing them regular match practice.
The club was established on 02 October 2012 and has 100 players from in and around Gangtok at present. 50 of these players are juniors [U-14], thirty are above 16 year old boys and 20 girls.
The club has three coaches in Pranay Subba and Devendra Gurung for boys and Anuradha Chettri for girls. The training is provided in two sessions - morning and evening – and the players are also provided diet by the club.
Speaking to NOW! today, SHSC president, Tenzing Lamtha, informed that the club has been organizing once a week friendly matches for different age categories. These matches also helped the club evaluate its coaching while also providing exposure to the players in training. He added that the club was also preparing a team for the upcoming second division Sikkim League.
He further shared that the club was now in the process of expanding to the districts and including other sports disciplines as well.
“The main objective of the SHSC is to lead children and youths towards productive futures and keep them away from antisocial activities and increase happiness among the young,” he said.
On behalf of SHSC, Mr Lamtha expressed gratitude towards Sikkim Football Association, Sports and Youth Affairs Department and all sponsors and well-wishers for their consistent support and help.

2 IRBn personnel drown in Rangeet

NAMCHI, 16 May: Two recently recruited IRBn personnel drowned in the Rangeet today. The day being extremely hot and sunny, three IRBn personnel are reported to have gone to the river for a swim near JNV Rothak, near the IRBn training centre at Pipaley, West Sikkim. The first one to enter the river was reportedly immediately swept away and his friend jumped in to rescue him, only to be swept away himself as well. The third friend then returned to the Centre and informed officials there about the incident. The dead bodies of 20 year old Dhan Bahadur Subba of Tingmoo and 21 year old Pem Tshering Lepcha of Lingmoo were recovered later in the day from the river.

Nawin Kiran to lead 75 ASESE&UA members into SDF

GANGTOK, 16 May: The All Sikkim Educated Self Employed & Unemployed Association [ASESE&UA] president, Nawin Kiran, today announced plans to join the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front with the executive and active members of the association. 25 executive members and around 50 active members of the association will be joining the ruling party after formally resigning from the ASESE&UA.
Addressing a press conference today, Mr. Kiran informed that the process will be completed over the next two days and a new executive body put in place in the association. ASESE&UA, he said, will continue working on issues and programmes it has been addressing and its members will keep away from politics.
On queries on whether the association’s chief advisor and former MP, Pahalman Subba, will also join the SDF, Mr. Kiran said that the association wanted to keep him above politics, but he added, “Nothing is impossible in politics”.
As to why SDF, Mr. Kiran said that when the executive members decided on joining active politics and after that when they decided against opening their own party and join an existing one, the choice was only between SDF and Sikkim Krantikari Morcha.
He said today that the group found that SDF was better than the SKM. He said that except the slogan of ‘change’, the association did not find any programmes or clear objectives for the people in the new party. 
They informed that they had met the Chief Minister on 13 May and then attended the SDF Namthang meeting. This one had led to some confusion with announcements made of Mr. Kiran having extended support to SDF, his denial and criticism from others.
Mr. Kiran commented today that the amount of noise generated over his presence at the SDF meeting in Namthang was surprising given that no eyebrows were raised when ASESE&UA members attended meetings of other parties.
Mr. Subba in turn said that his blessings were with the ASESE&UA members joining the ruling party. He added that the association was now looking for an able president to replace Mr. Kiran.
An executive member, Sabita Tamang, in turn lashed out against the uncharitable comments on their having attended an SDF meeting. She jabbed back with a repartee pointing out that even the leader to whom the SKM was aligned was an MLA of the ruling party.

AKRS to celebrate communal harmony during Sakewa at Saramsa

GANGTOK, 16 May: The Rai festival of Sakewa will be held at Saramsa here on 27 May, with the Akhil Kirat Rai Sangh, Sikkim, announcing that the celebration will be held on a grand scale.
Addressing a press conference here at the Press Club of Sikkim today, the AKRS president, Dr. SK Rai, informed that the state-level celebration of Sakewa-2013 was being organized at Saramsa as the Rai Gaon project coming up at Ranka was still under construction. “Last year, the state level celebration of Sakewa was held in South District, this year we are holding it in the East District, next year we plan to hold it in West Sikkim and in the fourth year, will hold the celebrations at the block level,” he said.
Sakewa will be celebrated this year as “Sadbhawana Diwas”, AKRS informs.
The conference was also addressed by Mohan Dungmali [president, Sakewa Organising Committee 2013], who informed that the event will feature cultural programmes, food stalls and displays of the cultural wealth of the Rai community.
This year’s Sakewa celebration will have the Governor as the chief guest and the Chief Minister as guest of honour accompanied by the Minister for Tribal Affairs & Panchayati Raj [Government of India] Vyricherla Kishore Chandra Suryanarayana Deo as special guest. AKRS also plans to felicitate five persons - PR Bhutia, Tenzing Loday Lepcha, Dhurba Lohagan, PB Muningla and PM Rai - for their contributions towards their respective communities. In keeping with the theme of this year’s Sakewa – Sadhbhavna - AKRS will also be handing over tokens of appreciation to the presidents [15] of organizations and associations representing the various ethnic communities of Sikkim.

SKM rallies in Mangley to protest vehicle vandalism incident

GANGTOK, 16 May: Sikkim Krantikari Morcha took out a rally at Mangley in West Sikkim on Thursday to protest yesterday’s incident in which SKM core member RK Waling’s vehicle was vandalized at Reshi, near Mangley. The protest rally was led by SKM’s women’s wing, the Nari Morcha. The party is convinced that the vandalism was the handiwork of ruling Sikkim Democratic Front party youth.
The rally took a round of Mangley bazaar raising slogans against the ruling party and demanding the immediate arrest of the perpetrators of the act of arson and blaming the ruling party for having vitiated peace in Sikkim, an SKM press release issued by Jacob Khaling informs.
When the rally arrived near the SDF party office at Mangaley bazaar, the situation grew very tense but the SKM party leaders managed to cool down their supporters, the release informs.
Bhojraj Rai, the SKM vice president, insists that while SKM believes in peace, the SDF was instigating violence.

Mr. Sikkim on 25 May

GANGTOK, 16 May: Sikkim State Body Building Association is organizing the 13th Mr Sikkim Bodybuilding Championship on 25 May here at Mannan Kendra. The association has invited all affiliated gyms and clubs to register for the championship.
An SSBBA press release issued by its general secretary, Anil Raj Rai, informs that the usual rules and regulation of the association will be followed in the championship. The preliminary rounds are scheduled to be held at 9:30 AM followed by the final pose down at 4 PM on 25 May.

4th State Finance Commission submits report to Governor

GANGTOK, 16 May: AK Chettri, Chairman of the 4th State Finance Commission called on Governor Balmiki Prasad Singh at Raj Bhavan on Wednesday and submitted the Report of the Commission.
The Governor complimented the Commission on the timely delivery of the Report and further inquired about the recommendations of the Report and laid stress on the importance of augmenting resource for the urban and rural local bodies, a Raj Bhavan press release informs.

13 year old commits suicide in Sisney

NAMCHI, 15 May: Suicides continue to rob Sikkim of people, and the age-groups remain as erratic as the trend remains unexplained. In the latest instance, a 13 year old girl committed suicide by hanging at home at Sisney in West Sikkim near Jorethang on Tuesday night. The suicide was detected early this morning. While a police case has been opened to look into the suicide, it is obvious that there can never be any convincing answers to explain a suicide by a 13 year old. It is time that the civil society realized that suicides are not police cases of “Unnatural Deaths” for the cops to investigate, but a challenge which needs to be addressed in a collaborative effort between the government and civil society organizations.

Karuna Devi Smarak Guthi to publish “Sharad Chettri Smritigranth”

GANGTOK, 16 May: Karuna Devi Smarak Darmarth Guthi has announced the publication of ‘Sharad Chettri Smritigranth’, its homage to the oeuvre of respected Nepali litterateur, the late Sharad Chettri.
A press communiqué issued by Rajiva Shanker Shresta of Karuna Devi Smarak Darmarth Guthi informs that the book is slated for release on 20 June, the late writer’s 66th birth anniversary. The book, he informs, is a compilation of well researched papers of the late Chettri’s works and will also include some of his unpublished writings along with photographs.
The passing away of the writer was an irreparable loss to the Nepali literary world and the society, the Guthi states, while adding: “We do sincerely believe that such a work dedicated would not only give solace to the bereaved family but would also be our befitting tribute to the departed soul in the true sense. We are grateful and humbled with the kind gesture of literary stalwart like Sri Indra Bahadur Rai along with many others including the news-papers and periodicals without which it would not have been possible for us to accomplish this great task.”
Mr. Shrestha adds that the publication will be a limited edition release and has invited queries at karunaguthisikkim@gmail.com / 9434022677

North gets new SP

GANGTOK, 15 May: BK Tamang, Sr. SP of North district has been transferred and posted as Commandant of Police, IRBn, New Delhi and Senior SP Prawin Gurung from Reserve Lines has been posted as the new Senior SP, North district.

Raj Bhavan grants for 9organisations

GANGTOK, 15 May: Nine social organizations from different parts of the State were handed over cash grants from the Governor’s Discretionary Fund by Governor Balmiki Prasad Singh at Raj Bhavan here today.
The discretionary grants were in recognition of the activities and significant achievements of the nine organisations and to provide encouragement, an official press release informs. The grants are to be kept in fixed deposit for ten years, with the interest component utilized towards meeting recurring expenses in the running of programmes and activities of the recipient organizations.
The organizations which received grants today are: Wangdi Faith Mission Home, Mangan (Rs. 1 lakh), Sikkim Kalyan Ashram, Ranipool (Rs. 1 lakh), Sikkim Viklang Sahayta Samiti (Rs. 1 lakh), Inner Wheel Club of Gangtok (Rs. 0.5 lakh), Press Club of Sikkim (Rs. 1 lakh), Spastic Society of Sikkim (Rs. 1 lakh), Duga Sr. Sec. School (Rs. 1 lakh), Sikkim Archery Association (Rs. 1 lakh) and Scheduled Caste Welfare Association (Rs. 1 lakh).
Meanwhile, a Press Club of Sikkim press release has conveyed its sincere and heartiest thanks to the Governor for the kind contribution. Last year, the Governor has released Rs. 1.5 lakh to PCS to institute the Grameen Patrakarita Puraskar. PCS had earlier submitted a detailed performance and the activities report to the office of the Governor, the release informs.
“I am very happy with the performance of the press and media fraternity in Sikkim, keep up the good work”, the PCS release quotes the Governor as saying.
The grant today was received by the PCS president, Bhim Rawat, who was accompanied to the brief interaction with the Governor by executive members Joseph Lepcha, Arjun Piyush, Babbo Tamang, Nirmal Mangar and Sagar Chettri.

NASBO boycotts State Day

GANGTOK, 15 May: Arguing that political security was more important than economic or infrastructural development, National Sikkimese Bhutia Organization, in a press statement issued today, contended that due to “submissive and ignorant approach” of successive political leadership of the State, the people were losing their political rights and hence the organisation has decided to boycott this year’s State Day.
“It is at this point, we need a real change, a transformation,” states NASBO president Sonam Lama Kaloen in a press communiqué issued today, adding that the organization regards State Day as “Fooling Day, another occasion to fool the Sikkimese people”.
The organization plans to boycott State Day celebrations till such time that “both the Indian and Sikkimese government acknowledges and incorporates the significance of Article 371 F for all purpose, till the political rights of the Sikkimese people are adequately restored, or else, the posterity would only regard the State Day as ‘Black Day’.”
The organization believes that expenditure on State Day celebrations was an avoidable expense since, as per NASBO, “the observation only represents senseless exercise and lip service wherein the political future of our people is completely at the mess.

LETTER: Congratulations to Temi Team fraternity

KC Pradhan, Former Chief Secretary, Sikkim
Having had a hand in the establishment of Temi Tea Garden in its formative stage, it was heartening to learn that Temi Tea fetched the highest price of Rs 2,600 per kg at the tea auction in Kolkata. Congratulations to the establishment and every individual, including the 600+ labour force employed in the garden, involved in the success! Not forgetting the veteran tea planters like Terry Young, Sonam Topden, HN Bista and Mohan Chamling who laid a solid foundation to get the Temi Garden established and processing of green tea leaves perfected to cater to the most sophisticated markets worldwide. Temi Tea was rated Number 2 after Castleton of Kurseong that I know of after a brief survey in the German market many years back. But to know that it is the best now is a matter of pride.
What made Temi Tea the real champagne of tea is moot question. When the establishment of the Tea Garden was mooted in 1968 after the Rabongla/ Kewzing initiative failed to take off due to wrong site selection on one hand and workers alien to tea on the other, Temi was identified as an alternative. About 400 families had to be moved out to Forest land where cardamom did well making way for establishment of the tea estate on acquired land at Temi - around 200 hectares now producing more than one lakh kilos of finished tea. But in the world market, I am told three-times this produce is being sold as Temi Tea. So be aware when you buy Temi Tea from odd sources…
Most tea gardens in India are established from seeds and later poly-clonal seeds were used but none exclusively from clones. But we had strict orders that the Garden should be clonal. The process is to select the best bearing and flavoury bush in the old Tea Gardens and they are propagated vegetatively, either by leaf cuttings or stem cuttings, so that it will be true to their mother plants. The contribution of forest officers of the yesteryears in LC Simick, SK Rai and PS Subba in sourcing the clonal materials from various tea estates in Darjeeling with their personal contacts is great. This is the secret, as far as I know, in its consistent quality of tea combined with fine techniques of processing mastered over decades of trial and error.
Today, Temi Tea is synonymous to Sikkim. Once you are hooked to Temi Tea, no other tea will be able to measure up. And when looking for presents for guests and friends from outside Sikkim, Temi Tea is an automatic choice! Congratulations and Good Luck to the Temi Tea fraternity. It is our flagship and should continue to be so.

“Political discourse should prioritise People’s issues”

STATE DAY 2013 MESSAGE OF THE CHIEF MINISTER
My fellow Sikkimese citizens,
On the auspicious occasion of 38th State Day, I offer my hearty greetings and congratulate my fellow citizens of Sikkim for attaining commendable progress under the democratic dispensation as provided under the Constitution. The collective decision to embrace democratic form of governance was largely due to yawning socio-economic divide in the people resulting in mass clamour for democracy. Now that we are under the democratic system, we must see that freedom and equality in its multi-dimensional forms must also generate an equal and even outcome for all our people across the social spectrum irrespective of their caste, creed or sex. Here lies our challenge as the democratic citizens of this great Nation.
Sikkim, after its formal integration with the largest democratic Nation, has moved ahead by leaps and bound in all spheres of development. Fully utilizing our democratic privilege, we have designed our development strategy based on natural resources and human resource. This has been necessary for long-term progress and development as that responsibility to design our own future lies with ourselves.
At this juncture, it may be emphasized that government formed and conducted immediately after the appointed day till the early 1990s was almost an extension of the feudal governance treating people as subservient to the wishes of the people in power. However, on formation of the Sikkim Democratic Front government on December 12, 1994, we took extra care to impress upon our people to view themselves as supreme in democracy and offered myself as the ‘first servant’ of the people. Today, while we observe our State Day, I am very pleased to know that our people, the fountainhead of all power in a democracy, have vindicated the efficacy of the decision so taken in 1975 by assuming a more responsible role to develop, sustain and promote democratic system and values in the State.
Fellow citizens, Sikkim has made tremendous progress on all fronts. Under education and health sectors, we have been a model State investing as high as 20 percent budget annually on education alone. Through introduction of large number of incentives, from free education to ambitious scholarship programs, we are preparing our younger generation to become global citizens, competing at the national and international level. We have programs and schemes that fit into all seasons and address the aspiration of all sections of population with different aptitude level and intelligence. For example, under the Capacity Building program, we have set up a total of 41 Livelihood Schools across the State to train our youths, the school drop outs in basic trade like carpentry, masonry and the likes. One of the most futuristic programs has been training of our young graduates in IAS and allied courses etc. in reputed institutes in the Country. I congratulate the three proud daughters of Sikkim who made their mark in the national level by clearing the IAS examination 2013 and got selected this year.
There is definite improvement in life expectancy level by over 2 years among the Sikkimese. Through the CATCH program, we have revolutionalized the concept of health care in Sikkim by offering preventive care through early diagnostics and care. By constructing the 575-bedded multi-specialty Hospital in Gangtok, we will fully modernize health infrastructure in Sikkim.
In the area of rural housing, we have remained a pioneer in the Country. In fact, we provide free modern dwelling house with all basic amenities costing over Rs. 5 lakhs to all the needy people. This we have accomplished by duly dovetailing all central flagship programs like Indira Awas Yojana with state program to provide concrete dwelling house to our people. In fact, I am happy to recall the observation of Planning Commission in New Delhi proposing similar replication and integration to be achieved by all other States in the Country to follow Sikkim’s model. Sikkim perhaps is the only State in the entire Country to provide for free distribution of rice to the BPL family and subsidised rice @ Rs. 1 per kg to the marginally poor family. Sikkim has already established its flower power to mesmerize the visiting tourists and also harness this natural endowment to decorate homes across the Country and across continents. Marketing of flower as commercial products has been successfully tapped in the State and large numbers of flower growers in the State are earning good revenue to improve their living condition.
You are aware that Sikkim has been the only State in India to propose for organic farming with larger aim to transform Sikkim into a total organic State. We are in an advanced stage of organic certification of our cultivable land. The decision to go for organic farming was taken after long deliberation. We have limited land for cultivation so cannot possibly augment volume after certain limitation. Therefore, the idea has been to add value to our products nationally and internationally. Our farming community would also learn new skills, new technique to enhance productivity. And this will provide them with new profession as well as impact the longevity of the people positively.
People from far and near have appreciated our initiative and State of Kerala deputes officials and growers on a regular basis to Sikkim to learn our organic model. Authorities in Argentina have evinced keen interest to work jointly for mutual benefit as large number of farming community are also adopting organic farming in that Country. I have a firm conviction that the whole of India would take lesson from our experience to adopt this farming method so that we can get a niche in the world market on organic products.
The State Government has successfully introduced the concept of eco-friendly tourism with promotion of all arms of tourism like home stay, village tourism, culture tourism, adventure tourism and concept of ban bas, akanta vas in Sikkim. On a very conservative estimate, more than five thousand Sikkimese youths are gainfully engaged directly in running homestays in Sikkim which are proving to be great success. Introducing unique tourism concept, we have developed the Char Dham complex, 150 feet tall statue of Guru Padmasambhava, 137.50 feet tall statue of Lord Buddha and the 150 feet tall statue of Chenregiz being constructed at Pelling. This has not only provided spiritual sanctuary to the world full of worldly sorrows and grief, but also brought about cultural integration of the State with the Indian mainstream.
The investment scenario in Sikkim has been very encouraging. However, stringent conditions have been laid down to ensure that environmental sanctity of Sikkim remain undisturbed with sustainability as the basic mantra. In a special gesture, we plant 10 more trees against cutting down of one for bona fide use or for institutional expansion which are deemed unavoidable. Therefore, in the area of nature conservation, we have been regularly recognized regionally, nationally and internationally.
As a Special Category State, we enjoy certain exception in terms of fiscal devolution. However, we must continue to devise our own strategies to expand internal revenue generation base. I am very pleased to share with my fellow Sikkimese that the overall economic growth with regard to the State of Sikkim recorded the highest in the Country at 22.8 percent during the 11th Plan period. This was owing to our committed efforts, steady policy interventions and socio-political commitment forthcoming from the Sikkim Democratic Front government over the last 19 years. And in real terms, commissioning of 510 MW Teesta-IV and the 60 MW Rangit-II Hydro-Electric Projects and setting up industrial units including pharma units, breweries, hotels etc. brightened up our economic prospect. Development of the 99 MW Chuzachen Hydro Electric Power Project is all complete and ready to be commissioned later this year, which is expected to add another over Rs. 50 crores annually into our kitty. Nine mega hydel projects are under various stages of construction.
In the absence of airways and rail head which are yet to be completed, connectivity problem generally posses hardship in Sikkim. In spite of hilly and inhospitable landscape, the Sikkim Democratic Front government added an additional 1900 kms new roads (in terms of length) compared to 1994. The State of Sikkim was pleased to receive Bharat Nirman Award received from the Central Government for this achievement. Construction of new Greenfield Airport by Airport Authority of India shall be completed for operation by March 2014. Rail link upto bordering Rangpo town has been sanctioned and work started.
Respected fellow Sikkimese
Sikkim surrounded by three international borders and troublesome neighbouring district is always exposed to nefarious activities that may spill over into our peaceful State. However, against all odds, we have consistently maintained peace and tranquillity in the border state offering a rare example in the Country. The fact that Sikkim is free from any unrest should be fully appreciated by our fellow Indians.
As democratic citizens living in the largest democratic Nation, we need to be wholly responsible to the task of state. A task also to reinforce the power of the people and in fact, make our people aware of their crucial role and responsibility in the running of the government that they chose and designing the future that lay ahead.
Nationally and at the State level, elections is due in April-May next years. This is constitutional requirement and this will surely happen. But there has been deep speculation, hectic parleys and the hushed voice and the careless whisper floating in the air.
I for one, have no time for foolhardy statement and action because I have to invest my time and energy to serve my people more and in a more comprehensive manner and I will forever stand in favour of the people who are at a disadvantaged position, to secure for them greater peace, progress and prosperity.
Respected fellow Sikkimese
Based on the collective decision in the past, we are duty bound to serve the larger cause of the people and constitutionally enjoined upon to safeguard interest of the people, the freedom and liberty so essential for human growth. As a democratic nation, we must continue to struggle to ensure that issues concerning the interest and well being of the people find prominence in our political discourse and call upon all my fellow compatriots belonging to different political parties to have supreme faith in the Constitution to conduct ourselves in a more responsible and ideal manner.
On this auspicious occasion of 38th State Day, I once again congratulate all my fellow citizens and wish them all the best in days to come.
Thank you
Jai Hind

SNPP demands answers from President and Governor

GANGTOK, 15 May: Addressing a joint press conference on the eve of State Day today, Biraj Adhikar and Delay Namgyal Barfungpa of the Sikkim National Peoples’ Party returned to the party’s position on the Merger and demanded answers from the President of India and the Governor of Sikkim since they occupied constitutional posts and were seen as guardians of the Constitution of India.
The duo and their party remains convinced that Sikkim was served a raw deal in 1975, in the commitments were not lived up to. SNPP, it may be recalled, sees 16 May as marking not a Merger but an annexation.
Mr. Adhikari contended today that the Constitutional provisions made for Sikkim have been violated too often and for too long and that it was time for the President of India and the Governor of Sikkim to give the people some answers.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sikkim Sewa Ratna to be conferred on NB Khatiwara and Sherab Palden

SIKKIM SEWA SAMMAN TO CELEBRATE YOUTH AND FETE ELDERS FOR CONTRIBUTIONS TO SIKKIM
GANGTOK, 15 May: The State government has announced the highest civilian award of the state- the Sikkim Sewa Ratna – for two personalities this year: Nar Bahadur Khatiwara and Sherab Palden. While Mr. Khatiwara was a youth leader during the movement for democracy led by LD Kazi in the early Seventies and was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1974 and then again in 1979, Mr. Palden was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1979 from Assam-Lingzey.
The award will be conferred on them by the Governor during the State Day celebrations scheduled to be held at Chintan Bhawan here on Thursday, 16 May. The Sikkim Sewa Ratna, instituted only last year, comprises a shawl, a silver medal, a citation and Rs. 2 lakh cash.
Meanwhile, 21 achievers will be conferred the Sikkim Sewa Samman on the occasion of State Day as well. The 21 are: Dup Tshering Lepcha, TR Poudyal, Dr. Rajendra Bhandari, Dr. Ghanashyam Sharma, Pravin Rai Jumeli, Bhaichung Tsichudarpa, Kunzang Gyatso Bhutia, Yangdi Sherpa,  Amit Patro, Yishey Doma Bhutia, Deepraj Rai, Yougan Tamang, Arjun Kumar Rai, Sushil Tamang, Denzong Foning Lepcha, Passang Sherpa, Dewaker Basnet, Remanti Rai, Ganga Mukhia, Robin Mukhia and Geeta Sharma.
The Sikkim Sewa Samman carries a citation, Tamrapatra and cash component of Rs.1 lakh each.
An official press communiqué received from the Cultural Affairs & Heritage Department informs that this year, the State Government has focused on “Youth Empowerment and Self Reliant Mission” and has chosen some of the most enterprising and talented youth for the State Civilian Awards along with the stalwarts of the past who have dedicated their lives to the cause of the State.
The release adds that the State Government had instituted the Sikkim State Civilian Awards last year to recognize the sterling contribution and achievements made by individuals in various disciplines. The objective behind instituting these awards was to felicitate those people who have immensely contributed in their respective fields so that they are encouraged to rededicate themselves with renewed vigour and in the process serve as an example for others to follow.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Sneha Kinetic surge shaft pours out a slide


MANGAN, 14 May: The accompanying photograph is not of the one of many ‘natural’ landslides which litter Sikkim’s slopes and hills, but is evidence of a manmade, or rather ‘project-triggered’, slide of excavated muck irresponsibly dumped. This is the under construction 96M W Dikchu Hydro-electric Power project site at surge shaft below Ramthang village in North Sikkim.
Project developer, Sneha Kinetic Power Project, is allowing excavated muck to slither down, snowballing into a major slide, imperiling the village across the Dikchu Khola. The river marks the district boundary and while the work is underway in North Sikkim, villages on the left bank, East Sikkim, have to suffer the risk of shooting stones [due to blasting works], extensive dust [on dry days] and enormous slush when it rains.
The people of Lower Rakdong, 12th Mile, and Raidang villages have been complaining of the unhealthy volumes of fine dust which settles on their homes nowadays and complain that the project developer’s recklessness was even constricting the flow of the river. As the water starts hitting the left bank harder [because of obstructions on the right bank], villages on the left bank are fearing increased scouring below them.
As the villagers watch the much roil away larger slopes and tear down trees, they wonder why the Forest Department is not taking any action, pointing out that even remote villages know that excavated muck needs to be dumped at earmarked locations and cannot be allowed to slip away so irresponsibly.

USFC’s I-League berth uncertain, but no uncertainty on commitment to Sikkim

BHAICHUNG SAYS HE HAS NO REGRETS FOR BACKING USFC AND SIKKIM; LOOKS FORWARD TO WHAT FUTURE HOLDS
GANGTOK, 14 May: His club’s I-League debut ending in relegation notwithstanding, United Sikkim Football Club co-owner, Bhaichung Bhutia, shared today that he was proud of what the club, its management and its players managed to achieve despite their lack of experience and paucity of funds. Addressing a press conference here today, Bhaichung said that he drew deep satisfaction from his Sikkim club having broken into the elite club of I-League teams, having played against the best in the country and hosted them at Paljor Stadium. Some of the bigger clubs were returning to Sikkim after nearly a decade while some other had never even played here, Bhaichung pointed out.
As for relegation from senior division I-League, which should have been automatic, Bhaichung informed today that this was still uncertain because of some new developments at AIFF which was dropping ONGC and Air India for failing to meet some criteria and also likely to give direct entry to two new franchise teams. The AIFF is the process of inviting bids for the franchise teams and in this fluid scenario, relegation options too are uncertain, he said.
A final picture should emerge over the next two weeks, Bhaichung informed, stating that there was still an outside chance that USFC will remain in the senior division I-League.
Bhaichung also mentioned that the USFC was a private company now with around 70% of its shares with a Dubai-based company, Fidelis World.
“The club might remain in the I-League or not, but will always remain in Sikkim and continue to give priority to local footballing talents by providing them with a good platform and better exposure,” he assured.
In fact, Bhaichung shared today that the club’s relegation from the I-League would be a blessing in disguise for him as this would free up his scheduled enough to allow him to spend more time in Sikkim and work on his vision and dream for football in the state.
He said that he saw it as his duty to reach the interiors to promote football and tap rural talent. He pointed out that he himself hails from rural Sikkim and benefitted from opportunities opened for him. He was to reciprocate his gesture many times over for the current crop of football talent in rural Sikkim.
“I will dedicate much more time to youngster and talented footballers especially those from rural areas to provide them a better exposure and platform and if possible send these children outside the state for better training,” Bhaichung said. 
He mentioned that the club has been helping out football academies around the state and would continue to support them and raise funds for them.
“My ultimate dream is to have all eleven players in the USFC squad from Sikkim and see that team as among the strongest in the country,” he said.
On the club’s rather disappointing debut in the senior division, Bhaichung mentioned that lack of experience was one reason since no one in the USFC line-up, including its foreign players, came with an I-League experience. And then there was the question of finances, with the club not being as flush with funds as they would have wanted to be, primarily because corporate sponsorship did not deliver as required.
The foreign players and coach have already been released with the end of the I-League season and the fate of the club, in as much as the scale of its future endeavors, remains uncertain.
Responding to media queries on whether USFC will play in the second division to work its way back to I-League, Bhaichung said that it was a big struggle for the team especially in terms of money as it was difficult to convince big companies from outside to invest in football. He said that this was not only a problem in Sikkim, but a situation across the country. He said that earlier, even in the second division the team had good players and investors.
Responding to a question, Bhaichung added that being a private company the club has never expected or depended on the government but if the government was to support the club, it would be welcomed because it would directly benefit local footballers and other people earning their livelihoods from the club.
On the question on the progress of his proposed football academy in Sikkim, he informed that the file was still under process with the government department. He mentioned that if the sports academy came up, it would be good for the state and for football in the state.
“I have no any regrets on setting up the club in the state despite the many big challenges we faced in bringing the club to this position. I am also really sorry to hardcore fans of the club for having been relegated in the I-League,” he said.

Suicide in Middle Tarku

GANGTOK, 14 May: A 37 year old is reported to have committed suicide in Middle Tarku, South Sikkim yesterday. The suicide was reportedly discovered by the father who went out in search of the victim when he was noticed missing from home. The victim, it is informed, has been undergoing neuro-psychiatric treatment since 2010. The victim committed suicide by hanging inside the cardamom dryer shed near his home at around 8:30 a.m., it is learnt.

SKM delegation calls on Governor with complaint against pamphleteers

GANGTOK, 14 May: A Sikkim Krantikari Morcha delegation called on Governor BP Singh at Raj Bhawan today and submitted a memorandum seeking immediate action on circulation of anonymous pamphlets aimed at character assassination of its leaders.
The SKM working president Bharati Sharma led a 13-member delegation to meet the Governor and urged him to initiate immediate action on circulation of such pamphlets, which she highlighted, were written in extremely poor and offensive language and were disturbingly disrespectful of women.
An SKM press release informs that the Governor gave a patient hearing to the SKM delegation and assured to look into the issues raised by them. The release contends that the Governor told the SKM team that he has invited Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Sikkim to hear out public grievances himself, suggesting that one day be devoted to this exercise without the presence of any State Government representatives.

Janta Mela to begin 18 May

GANGTOK, 14 May: Chief Minister Pawan Chamling chaired a meeting of SDF legislators last evening at Mintokgang and discussed various issues including that of empowerment of Local Development Committee at every gram Panchayat unit.
The legislatures meet also agreed to hold the Janta Mela series over 42 days in three phases across Sikkim starting 18 May. The itinerary, it is informed, will be chalked out by the Rural Management & Development Department in consultation with the Chief Minister’s Office.
It is informed that the post of the Panchayat Secretary will be upgraded to General Secretary of Gram Panchayat and the assigned tasks of Panchayat secretary be handed over to the Panchayat Assistants [PA] with the Panchayat Secretary supervising the PAs.
Meanwhile, an SDF press release informs that the legislature meet also too various decisions including those to strengthen the party in rural areas and at the block level.
The legislature meet also unanimously decided to construct new Gram Prasashan Kendras at all recently upgraded Gram Panchayats. The meeting has also endorsed PMGSY roads to the tune of Rs. 112 crore at Paney-Phensung, Chungthang, Upper Rongong, Kabi-Chungthok in North Sikkim, Upper-Lower Syari, Lingdum, Tumlabong, Dikchu-Seley, Chuba-Namrang, Rabdang-Jilang, Chanka Gonpa, East Pandam, Rorathang-Kaputhang, Gairi-goan-Sudunglakha, Dalapchand-Aritar in the east district, Rangbul-Maniram, Phungrong-Ruchung, Upper Poklok-Borung, Mangbrung, Lingding in South district and Nadang-Bhirkuna Singdrong, Saprenagi, in West.

EIILM Univ moves High Court against new FIR

GANGTOK, 14 May: The Eastern Institute of Integrated Learning in Management [EIILM] University, Sikkim, has challenged the police action and sought the quashing of the FIR against its senior officials against which arrests were effected last Friday. This, in a petition moved in the High Court. The senior EIILM Univ officials have meanwhile since been released on bail.
While hearing the plea on Monday, the single bench of Justice SP Wangdi allowed for notices to be issued to the state respondents.
In a Criminal Miscellaneous case, the EIILM University has challenged the suo-moto FIR by Sadar Police Station at Gangtok. It has contended that the police action was “purely an abuse of power” in as much as the selling of degrees, diplomas and certificates of various courses without conducting classes on the basis of field verification report of the Additional District Collector Gangtok.
In the field verification report of the ADC, it is alleged that there was neither a department nor faculty in the University campus and no record to indicate the stay of Mandeep Kaur in Sikkim to pursue her course of Master of Arts [Education] in 2010-2012, though the University has maintained that the certificate is genuine.
The ADC, Gangtok, in his field verification report, stated that there was no department for Master of Arts [Education] course being run in the campus of the said University, besides, no approval of the Distance Education Council [DEC] has been accorded to this University for running the said course in distance mode.
“However, ADC has not cross verified the genuineness of the certificate issued to Mandeep Kaur such as answer scripts and enrollment adding that the certificate awarded to her was under distance course, which was reflected even in the verification report of ADC,” the University is now countering.
The EIILM University has said that the certificate awarded to Mandeep Kaur in 2011 and there is no complaint from the private person alleging the issuance of false and fake certificates by the University.
While challenging the police action and second FIR in Gangtok [the University was already booked on similar charges by South District cops last year], it is alleged that since the police officers were fully aware of the previous FIR, a second FIR in Gangtok was highly motivated as no offence was committed within the jurisdiction of East district.
The second case stems from the case of Mandeep Kaur [mentioned earlier] against whose degree, the Minerva College at Haryana had sought information through RTI on genuineness of the certificate awarded to her by EIILM Univ.
The EIILM Univ counsel has argued that the Supreme Court in 2001 laid down the law, wherein it was held that there can be no second FIR and there can be no fresh investigation on receipt of every subsequent information of the same cognizable offence or the same occurrence or incident giving rise to one or more cognizable office.

NASBO conveys complaints against hydel developer from Sumin

GANGTOK, 14 May: A delegation of monks from Sumin basti, East Sikkim, once again approached the Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee convener Tseten Tashi Bhutia and National Sikkimese Bhutia Organization [NASBO] president Sonam Lama Kaloen at Gangtok yesterday “expressing their fear and displeasure over the manner in which the Madhya Bharati Company Ltd developing the Rongnichu Hydro Electric Project in the area, is forcefully imposing acquisition of the private land of the local monk community”, a NASBO press release informs.
The release states that most of the land owners in question have less than five acres and goes on to allege that representatives of the power developer have created nuisance for the people with their persistence.
The release informs that when last approached by the landowners, the two organsiations had approached the State Government following which the Chief Secretary [on March 12, 2013] had directed the DC [East] to look into the matter.
“After this, it appears that the matter is put to the administrative dustbin thereby lending the innocent lay and monk community to the hitherto mental agony of all sorts, almost every day,” the release contends.
NASBO has appealed afresh to the State Government “to ensure that mental peace and order is restored amongst the lay and monk residents of the Sumin”.

Temi Tea first flush receives highest bids in Kolkata auction

GANGTOK, 14 May: Temi Tea fetched the highest price at the auction market in Kolkata on 08 May among all Darjeeling Teas. The first flush of Temi Tea was sent to Kolkata recently for auction conducted electronically by J Thomas Company at Kolkata. The first flush of Temi fetched Rs. 2,600 to Rs. 2,500 range/kg, informs a release issued by Ravi Kumar [General Manager, Temi Tea Estate].
Temi Tea is one of the most preferred Orthodox Black Tea among the tea lovers in India and overseas. Temi Tea gained its popularity due to its consistency in flavour, aroma, taste and the organic nature. Temi Tea Board entrusted on its quality than the quantity.
The Chairman of J Thomas auction house expressed to the management of Temi Tea that the quality of Temi tea may be attributed to the quality of plucking tea leaves and processing methods in the Temi tea factory, an official press release informs.
Since the Temi tea garden received good rainfall in the current season, the production is expected to cross 100 tonnes in the financial year 2013-14, the release adds. At present around 70 % of tea produced by the Temi tea estate were disposed through auction house based in Kolkata and 30% sent to retail market to meet domestic demand.

SADA booking in Singtam

GANGTOK, 14 May: Three persons were arrested by the Singtam police on 13 May after they were caught in possession of contraband substances. While two have been booked for possession, one has been charged with peddling, it is informed.
At around 10 a.m. the bazaar police patrol intercepted Raju Kumar Saha and Pema Tamang and brought them to the thana where a search led to the recovery of 122 loose capsules of Spasmo Proxyvon from them. They are further informed to have tattled on one Yona Subba of Lall Bazaar, Singtam, as the dealer, who was also rounded up. They have been booked under section 9 (b)/11/14 of SAD Act.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Lingzya-Bey stretch restored, finally


MANGAN, 13 May: North Sikkim was the worst hit by the 18 September 2011 earthquake and in the district, it was Dzongu which took the severest blow. Among the infrastructure lost to the earthquake on the day was the Lingzya-Bey road in Upper Dzongu. The stretch had been ruthlessly devastated by the earthquake with even walking across the stretch being fraught with risks.
Today, more than a year and a half since the earthquake, the Roads & Bridges Department, North district, opened this road for light vehicular traffic right up to Bey today. While this stretch had been opened in mid-Feb, it had not settled down properly, and kept acting up. The earthquake had triggered 15 troublespots on this stretch especially inconveniencing people from Bey, Sakyong and Pentong.
This was never an easy task to accomplish. Just as the terrain was difficult, the weather was hostile and the working conditions difficult. Even clearing away debris from the road was not easy and here was a challenge to cut out fresh alignments.
The Department managed somehow, paying road gangs extra wages.
The inclement weather of the recent weeks kept things difficult, but today, the JCV pushed through to Bey and is clearing its way through to Pentong, the last village reached by road in upper Dzongu.

Time for Sikkim to have comprehensive Rent Control & Eviction laws, High Court observes

GANGTOK, 13 May: In the absence of statutory legislation to deal with Rent Control and Evictions in Sikkim, the High Court of Sikkim has suggested that the State government legislate a comprehensive statutory law for Sikkim in this regard.
Several rent control and eviction suits have been reaching the courts of late, but in the absence of absolute and statutory laws, it was proving difficult to deal with the issues and rights of both landlords/ house owners and tenants in depth.
The single bench of the High Court of Sikkim comprising of Chief Justice Pius Chakkalayil Kuriakose, while dealing with an appeal instituted by Rajala Devi, wife of late Rameshwar Prasad, of Singtam Bazar, observed that “…the eviction of tenants in the Gangtok Bazaar area is governed by the Gangtok Rent Control and Eviction Act, 1956. As for the other areas of the State not falling within the Gangtok Bazaar Area, the rights and liabilities of the landlords and tenants in the matter of eviction are governed by Notification No. 6326-600-H & W-B. I must say that the position which obtains under the statute which governs the Gangtok Bazaar Area and the Notification which governs the other parts of the State is not satisfactory.”
The Gangtok Rent Control and Eviction Act, 1956 and Notification No. 6326-600-H&W-B were promulgated by an order of the Maharaja of Sikkim on 14 April, 1949.
Pointing out the limitation of this 64 year old piece of legislation, the Chief Justice observed that the very definitions of the terms ‘tenant’ and ‘landlord’ are “quite unsatisfactory and contrary to the definition given in rent control legislations prevailing in other parts of the country”.
The Gangtok Rent Control and Eviction Act and subsequent Notification dealt the tenant is defined as “persons in actual occupation” and landlord means “the owner of the premises”. In other words anybody in actual occupation including the trespassers and licensees can be a tenant who will be liable to be evicted only in terms of the notification. Going by the definition, only owners will qualify as landlords, the Court said.
Clause 2 of the Notification No. 6326-600-H&W-B states that “The landlords cannot eject the tenants so long as the scarcity of housing accommodation lasts, but when the whole or part of the premises are required for their personal occupation or for thorough overhauling the premises or on failure by the tenants to pay rent for four months the landlords may be permitted to evict the tenant on due application to the Chief Court.”
This clause, the High Court observes, is “quite unsatisfactory and outdated”, adding that to provide for the very valuable right of the landlord to evict his tenant on valid grounds and the equally valuable right of an entrenched tenant to deny existence of specified grounds. Unlike the case of various other rent control legislations prevailing in the country, the language employed in the notification is ‘unintelligible and capable of creating confusion to the parties’, the Court and to everybody else concerned, the court observed.
The Court also comments that even the Act, which deals only with the Gangtok Bazaar Area, does not provide for an ideal statutory situation. In these modern times, when the right to obtain eviction on valid grounds and the right to defend eviction on grounds which are not genuine, are valuable rights from the points of the landlord and tenant respectively.
Ideally, the Government will take requisite steps for legislating a comprehensive law on the pattern of any one of the rent control legislations prevailing in various States of India providing for clear grounds on which an eviction can be given and also for the valid defence to the tenants to resist eviction if the same is sought on insufficient grounds.

No lessons learned, no priorities established

ACT WORKING PRESIDENT RELEASES FINAL INSTALLMENT OF STUDY ON 18 SEPT 2011 EARTHQUAKEGANGTOK, 13 May: Tseten Lepcha, the Affected Citizens of Teesta working president, in the concluding part if an expansive document – “Citizens Paper” - prepared by him on the 18 September 2011 earthquake in Sikkim, has rued that despite having suffered in the wake of the earthquake because of lack of preparedness, the lessons taught by 18 Sept 2011 remain ignored. Mr. Lepcha, it may be recalled had released his study - “Chungthang: The Kalapani of the 21st Century” arguing that although the worst hit, Chungthang and North Sikkim remained the least attended to in the relief and recovery process. Mr. Lepcha has put together the document from information collected through Right to Information applications filed with several departments and agencies and began releasing his compilation in a phased manner recently.
Mr. Lepcha begins his final instalment with the information that “few developments” have taken place in Chungthang in the past few months since the release of his report, adding however that a lot more needs to be done.
The construction of the SDM complex has been sanctioned and work commenced, while a new police station – a prefabricated structure – is being readied [“shapeless and without any aesthetic or traditional appeal”, he adds] even as the damaged food godown has not even been demolished yet, making its new construction a very distant reality.
The grand announcements of the UD&HD towards safe and aesthetic development and planning are unlikely to deliver since most of the new constructions have started and the site/ soil testing by Mines & Gelogy Department never having taken place. Similarly, repairs too have been undertaken without this essential data.
The telecommunication network has improved with AIRTEL providing reliable service, Mr. Lepcha informs, adding that the piggery farm along with the hospital remain in their desolate condition since funds initially marked for them have been since diverted to other projects.
The construction of the Chungthang monastery has begun while the gymnasium hall which is meant for the sporting events is now the food & feed godown, the roll of trucks moving to and from it disturbing the patients and perhaps wreaking further damage on the weakened structures.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the district, the Ringhem Gumpa committee has withheld further work after completion of first phase of construction, Mr. Lepcha updates.
There is no love lost between Mr. Lepcha, with his ACT affiliation, and hydel project developers and he complains of a false picture conveyed to the people with regard to the helicopter services plied in North Sikkim in relief and rescue operation works by Abir Infrastructure, a sister concern of Teesta Urja, the Stage III hydel project developer. Information sourced by Mr. Lepcha through RTI reveals that Abir Infra was paid Rs 3.09 crore by the State Government towards payment for the use of its helicopter.
Mr. Lepcha reiterates that reconstruction and rebuilding efforts suffered because the government did not prepare a proper ‘Priority List’ for utilisation of calamity fund. In this regard, he points out for the construction of the State Secretariat was recorded as Top Priority in all submissions followed by the REDRH “which”, Mr Lepcha states, “is continuation of Populist  CMRH scheme in a new name”, while essential services like  water supply, food, communication, health rank fourth in the priority list and Power comes last.
Out of the Rs. 1,000 crore Prime Minister’s special packages, Rs 193 crores was earmarked for the secretariat, out of which Rs. 15 crore has already been paid to the construction company (with Rs 9 crore being the consultancy fees for making the DPR), 100 Crores has been slated for payment for this project in this financial term, Mr. Lepcha shares. Reconstruction of 7,972 rural houses will receive Rs. 389 crore, repair of buildings and roads Rs. 216 crore, retrofitting of govt building Rs. 196 crores; “which meant that the most essential amenities came much lower in the list with very little fund due to which we are still suffering even after a year and half,” he points out.
Restoration of Power lines in North Sikkim “was hampered not only by natural calamity but the lack of intent from the Govt. in spite of best efforts of the officials on the field”, he adds, highlighting further that tourism remains similarly overlooked with the tourist waiting shed at Bim Kyong in Lachung still in the same condition as it was on 19 September 2011.
Similar disorientation in priority, Mr. Lepcha adds, has also befallen JICA funds for the Forest Department, all Rs. 17 crore of which, he contends have been expended on repair and renovation of the office and department quarters, with nothing done to take up schemes that could help stabilise landslide prone areas or restore earthquake ravaged zones.
Ditto for Public Health Engineering works no attention being paid to the fact that the water supply line from Pegong to Chungthang was already damaged due to uncontrolled blasting by GREF and usage of large machines in the road widening process. “The earthquake was more of a compounding factor only, whereas the damages were done and not much was done about it earlier on,” he states.
Mr. Lepcha also mentions the State Govt order directing all interested donors to contribute to the CM’s relief fund and that no cash donations be given to victims directly. This, he believes, was a big blow to the victims as a large number of people and organizations wanted to provide relief directly and this notification stopped them from helping people in the hour of need. “If left optional, much more support would have been provided. The govt should have monitored but not posed obstruction,” he believes.
He has held up the presence of Panchayats as via media for distribution of relief as a “hindrance”, arguing that since panchayats are party-based, “one upmanship and favouritism was evident in selecting the beneficiaries”.
“Everything was controlled by them which to a large extent became a hindrance in smooth relief operation. The civil society and independent govt employees were disconnected from effective decision making process due to which free and fair management was not possible. Most of the contract and supply works were captured by them or their close people, moreover since all the earthquake related works were taken up departmentally there was no information to the public and no free and fair tender,” he states, making a rather serious observation.
He argues further that lack of adequate training of officers despite a department for Disaster Management also affected the quality of relief works. “Over confidence” and “indifference” of the administration left it in complete disarray when the earthquake struck, he adds, pointing out that disinterest in preparedness led to a situation where decision-making suffered and was delayed in the absence of clear chains of command.
Mr. Lepcha admits that just as the administration was caught unprepared, so too was the society at large which sorely missed the structural solidity of established civil society organisations to deal with the calamity.
On the reconstruction specifics, Mr. Lepcha returns with elaborate details over the manner which the secretariat construction has been managed to favour the company which eventually bagged the prestigious project even though it has defaulted on some much smaller projects awarded to it in Sikkim.
He then takes up the Reconstruction of Earthquake Damaged Rural Houses (REDRH) scheme of the RM&DD for which Rs 389 crores has been earmarked. He recognises that while this is a very good scheme for the homeless and those whose houses were totally damaged by the earthquake, “it is seen more of an effort to continue the earlier populist scheme of Chief Ministers’ Rural housing Mission (CMRHM) than to provide relief to the people in distress”.
Mr. Lepcha’s complaint with this project is that it is uniform for all in its requirement for new constructions and does not provide for quick repairs of existing houses and also because the waiting period is rather long for beneficiaries. He also believes that the allotted fund is at least 30% lesser than actual cost of construction, which needlessly burdens beneficiaries.
This scheme, he adds, also overlooks the desperation of the middleclass families who suffered as anyone else, but find funds which could have helped them with repairs for their houses, blocked in projects [like REDRH and CMRHM] which they cannot partake. He adds that beneficiaries for these schemes have not been fairly selected.
Mr. Lepcha is convinced that at the end, the cement and steel manufacturing companies and their agents will make huge profits. Claiming that more than 23 lakh bags of cement and some 35lakh kgs of steel will be consumed in Sikkim for the two schemes, Mr. Lepcha speculates, “It also makes us believe that this could be also a reason for the scheme as all the method of procurement and other modalities are already there due to the CMRHM. The bulk of the money will go into purchase of material which is coming to approx Rs 188 crores after deducting the other half for payment to the beneficiaries.”
He also pulls up the Social Justice, Empowerment and Welfare Department for its failure to help in the rebuilding process. The Department should have functioned as the nodal agency to understand and deliver welfare measures, he shares, pointing out that it apparently never occurred to the Department that there were women and children who were faced with the worst possible calamity in the lives, the shock and trauma of having lost loved ones and also having lost hard earned properties. ‘Under such situation it is only natural that the Department provides a truly healing hand but as found from the RTI nothing of sort ever occurred to their mind leave aside doing anything in this line,” he informs.
The post earthquake days, he insists were a casualty of management with neither proper impact assessments undertaken, nor specific management plans worked out. And still no lessons have been learnt because even as reconstruction has begun, it is not informed by the available expert advise of Mines & Geology Department, which, at least in the wake of the earthquake, should have emerged as the Nodal Agency for rebuilding works. Even the UD&HD ‘master-plan’ for Chungthang, prepared a year after the earthquake, will be almost useless since a lot of legal and implementing issues are yet to be resolved, he adds.
Expert recommendations, the few which have been clearly made, remain ignored, Mr. Lepcha adds, adding that not a single Department “has bothered” to recognize, with award or felicitations, the role of different organisations or individuals in the earthquake relief and recovery efforts.