Monday, December 8, 2014

Lakhon mein ek


LAKO PHUTI SHARES THE EXCITEMENT OF PLAYING FOR TEAM INDIA
“It was a matter of great pride and honour for me to wear the Indian Women’s football team jersey and be a member of the winning team at the 3rd SAFF Women’s Championship 2014,” shares the right-back of Indian women’s football team Lako Phuti Bhutia.
21-year-old Lako Phuti is back home in West Sikkim on a month-long break after having played for the country at the 3rd SAFF Women’s Championship held in Islamabad, Pakistan. During her visit to Gangtok earlier this week, Lako shared stories of her initiation into football, the experience of playing international football and her future goals.

Missing Oranges

SIKKIM’S MUCH SOUGHT AFTER MANDARIN ORANGES ARE IN LOW SUPPLY THIS SEASON

SUBASH RAI
Orange sellers, with their dokos filled with the famed Mandarin variety of Sikkim oranges, should have become a common sight around town by now, but even a visit to the haats will offer only scant pickings at present. The Orange harvest has been poor this season, with growers from most parts of the State reporting that the fruit is not ripening properly this time and has not bulked to its usual size either. Except the growers from Dzongu everyone else is complaining of poor quality and smaller size oranges in the orchards this season. The effect can be seen in Lall Bazaar, where, at this time of the year, the stalls would be overflowing with oranges, but now very few hawkers have the Mandarin oranges on sale. The token presence of Sikkim Mandarin at the organic stall at Lall Bazaar in Gangtok is sourced from orchards in nearby 32 Mile, Sang, Martam, Sumik Lingzey and surrounding areas. The oranges are not even close [in looks or taste] to the tempting appeal of the Mandarin.

Awaiting Rejuvenation

A feature on the state of orange farms in Turuk-Ramabong GPU in South Sikkim, researched and published in the year 2013 rings as true a year later. It is reproduced below…

The Turuk-Ramabong GPU in South Sikkim is known for its oranges in the district. Roughly 350 households in the GPU are engaged in orange farming which means that orange is the main crop cultivated in the area. Although most orchards in Turuk are doing fairly well, farmers inform that orange plantations in most of the lower belt in the region which include Billing, Daragaon, Lower Ramabong, Teendharey, have been totally wiped out.

Reviving Orange Farms


TSHERING EDEN
Who doesn’t like oranges, right? The Suntala has forever been part of our lives here in Sikkim, going a little beyond being merely a fruit one eats. The Suntala arrives with the bright sunny days of early winter which is also when the schools are closing for the winter vacation. So, children, their mothers, uncles, aunts and everybody else can be seen sitting out on their front yards or rooftops chatting along while their hands are busy peeling the fruit. Childhood memories are replete with such images and times spent pinching orange peels to squirt the juice at each other and teasing each other with the line, “khuching tala mai tala, das paisa ko suntala”… And then there is relishing oranges cut down the centre and garnished with some salt and chilli powder.

Social Media/ Social Service

GOOD SAMARITANS COLLABORATE WITH SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM TO RAISE FUNDS FOR BURNS VICTIM

SAGAR CHHETRI
While there may be innumerable arguments for and against social media the fact is that the world has certainly become smaller with the increasing use of the internet. This also means that communication has become that much easier and much faster. From spreading word [even propaganda], to garnering support for social causes online, social networking sites have come to play a significant role, leveraging their reach, the immediacy of the medium and the guarantee of instant sharing – to motivate wider social responsiveness. Sikkim got to experience one such engagement in a recent case when the Marwari Yuwa Manch, Gangtok branch, and Voice of Sikkim, an online social media site, came together to gather support and funds for a burns victim from West Sikkim.

Theatre’s here, now for the patrons to arrive

TSHERING EDEN

Theatre may not have been a part of Sikkimese culture, but it has found takers in the state with the establishment of the National School of Drama Sikkim Training Centre in the capital in 2011. Sikkimese theatre is fast making inroads in the national arts and culture scene. That said, the road towards a vibrant theatre culture in the state will be a long one given the lack of support from the state government and the alien nature of this form of art to local audiences.

Women’s Commission meeting on study of status of women in Sikkim

Sikkim State Commission for Women organized a meeting of its Sub Committee and Members of the Commission on 04 December at its office in Gangtok to finalize strategy for undertaking a study of socioeconomic, political and legal empowerment of women in Sikkim. The study is being commissioned by National Commission for Women and is being undertaken by Sikkim State Commission for Women.

Kool Kamp for kids this winter

Kool Kamp for kids is back this year with the first camp scheduled to be held from 10-19 December near Saramsa, Ranipool. A camp with a cause, Kool Kamp is an initiative of Skill-ED an Authorised Training Partner of Peoplepro International, Bangalore. Last year, two such camps had been organised in Sikkim.

World Disability with Sikkim Viklang Sahayata Samiti

The Sikkim Viklang Sahayata Samiti [SVSS] observed World Disability Day on 03 December at its office here at Zero Point with Governor Shriniwas Patil as the chief guest. Also present were Prabhakar Verma [DC- East], R Telang [Secretary to the Governor], Tempo Bhutia [President, SVSS] and other dignitaries. After the short programme, the Governor handed out appreciation letters to the people involved in helping differently abled children, chaired a formal interaction with the differently abled children and inaugurated the Khada-making unit started by SVSS and the vehicle donated by Pareekh Foundation, Agra to SVSS.
In his short address, the Governor shared that he had been involved in work with differently-abled children for quite some time now through NGOs in Maharashtra, his home state, and was also conferred the Apang Pitra Puraskar for his work there.
These differently abled, he stressed, need to be provided an opportunity to showcase their skills by the state government and the NGOs working with them. And to assist this process, he assured that the Governor and the Raj Bhawan were always ready to help.
Earlier, the SVSS President Tempo Bhutia presented the annual report of the organisation. He also informed the gathering about the boarding school coming up at Tokal Bermoik in South Sikkim for the differently-abled children.
The Governor donated Rs. One lakh to SVSS on the day and assured continued support to organization. Meanwhile, it was also informed that the Health Department had contributed Rs. 6 lakhs out of the Rs. 8 lakhs required by SVSS to make eight pairs of artificial hands needed for the differently abled children in Sikkim. Further donations are being sought to meet the shortfall.

Also on the day, SVSS felicitated the following people and organization: Sherab Lepcha [Casino Mahjong], Urban Development & Housing Department, HK Sharma [Capacity Building], Mimani Enterprises, Dental Department [STNM Hospital] and others.

Boys' Club to take on Sikkim Police for Veterans' top honour

Boys' Club Veterans will take on Sikkim Police Veterans in the final match of the Sikkim Veteran’s Football Tournament 2014 in memory of Late Pintso Lepcha, Late Nim Tshering Bhutia and Late Gyaltsen Lepcha here at Paljor Stadium on 06 December [Saturday].
Sikkim Police Veterans secured a berth in the finals of the tournament edging past another strong team, Darjeeling Town Veterans, in a tie-breaker while Boys’ Club Veterans defeated Namcheybong Veterans 3 goals to 1 in the second semi-final.
The tournament, which is being organised by Dzongri Club in memory of three ex-footballers, had kicked off on 23 November at Paljor Stadium.  23 teams from Sikkim and the neighbouring hills participated in the tournament.

Coming back to life

SIKKIM UNICORN FOOTBALL CLUB HELPS RECOVERING USERS LIVE STRONG

The stigma attached to those addicted to drugs haunts them through the recovery process and hamstrings their futures as well. The society continues to look at recovering users with suspicion with most mistakenly convinced that they cannot lead normal lives. To change this perception of people and to engage recovering users in sports and healthy living, a football club was formed aimed exclusively at them recently.
Initiated by Khituk Tongden with support from friends, the newly formed Sikkim Unicorn Football Club [SUFC] seeks to spread the message that “recovering users can do well in life”. The club was formed in July this year and has been participating in tournaments within and outside the state.
Speaking to NOW!, Mr Tongden, who is the SUFC Manager, said that the club seeks to convey the message that recovering users can recover well and do better with their lives. The club, he believes, will help demolish long held prejudices of the people when it comes to addiction and addicts.
“SUFC has been helping recovering users live a normal life by boosting their self-esteem through sports,” he shared. The club is self supported by its players.
At present, the SUFC has 14 recovering users registered with it as players. They have been supported by a few professional footballers. The players are in 21 to 30 years age group.
SUFC practices at Paljor Stadium every evening and plays friendly matches with Gangtok-based clubs and teams every week. The club played its first tournament outside the state in Darjeeling in July this year and managed to reach the semi-final round. SUFC also reached the quarter-final round in a tournament in Kurseong and was the runners-up team in another tournament at Lebong in Darjeeling. More recently, SUFC secured the runners-up position at a tournament in Salghari, Siliguri last month.  SUFC is presently sweating hard to play in the C Division Sikkim-League in 2015.
Mr Tongden mentions that the club has also been getting a lot of support from senior footballers and professional clubs of the state. He informed that the SUFC has requested different rehab centres to send good footballers from their centres to join the club.
One of the players expressed his happiness on getting a chance to play football once again. “I’m very happy to play since it also helps us to live a normal life once again,” he shares. He also stated that loneliness leads to a lot of negative thoughts, so a team sport like football helps the players to steer clear of any negativity.

Other players also expressed their satisfaction and happiness on getting the chance to play as a team. They also added that everyone has been supporting the club and each other to live a healthy life.

SU workshop on Legal Aid Clinics

The Department of Law, Sikkim University organized a workshop on ‘Legal Aid and Awareness’ on 22 November at the Conference Hall of the Barad Sadan Academic Complex at 5th Mile, Tadong.
Resource person for the workshop, Member-Secretary Sikkim State Legal Services Authority, Karma Wangchuk Bhutia, who is also the District & Sessions Judge, Spl Div-II, Gangtok, explained the various aspects of Legal Aid Clinics. Justice (retd) AP Subba, Mentor, Department of Law, Sikkim University chaired the Session.
The Department of Law in consultation with the Sikkim State Legal Services Authority has established “Legal Aid Clinic” at its campus in Tadong near Government Senior Secondary School. The ‘Clinic’ is operated by the final year students of the Law Department who will be guided and supervised by the faculty under the aegis of the SSLSA. The Legal Aid Clinic, Department of Law, Sikkim University, can be contacted at 05392-231548.

Winter TT Coaching Camp for kids

Sikkim Table Tennis Academy [STTA], Tadong is organising a month-long Winter Table Tennis Coaching Camp for U-14 years children here at Paljor Stadium table tennis hall from 20 December. The forms for the coaching camp are available at Asha Medical Shop near Kanchenjunga Shopping Complex and Planet Sports, Paljor Stadium.
The last date for the submission of forms is 15 December. Interested persons can also contact Table Tennis coach, Norden Bhutia for further details.  STTA is organising the winter coaching camp for the second time.

National Lok Adalat to be held today

The National Legal Services Authority [NALSA] is holding the National Lok Adalat on 06 December, 2014 throughout the country which will be inaugurated by Justice, Anil R Dave, Judge, Supreme Court of India and Chairman, Supreme Court Legal Services Committee from Supreme Court Lounge after which the Lok Adalats across the country will start their sittings.
The inaugural program will be webcast through Government webcast portal [webcast.gov.in] and all the State Legal Services Authority at High Court/High Court Bench/District Court locations will be connected through Video Conference from 09:00 am to 10:00 am.
The inaugural function of the National Lok Adalat at Delhi will be viewed by the Lordships of the High Court in the Video Conference room in the High Court premises with effect from 09:00 am to 10:00 am and in the district through web-cast.
After the inaugural function “National Lok Adalat” for settlement of cases in all the Courts in the four districts and the office of Sikkim State Legal Services Authority, Sichey, will be held. The Lok Adalat Benches constituted across the State by the Sikkim SLSA will be sitting in the following places:-
High Court Lok Adalat:- In the office of the Sikkim State Legal Services Authority, Bye-Pass Road, Near Power Station, Sichey, Gangtok.
East District:- 1] Court of the Ld. Principal District & Sessions Judge, [East], District Court Complex, Sichey, Gangtok. 2] Court of Ld. Lok Adalat Judge, District Court Complex, Sichey, Gangtok. 3] Court of Ld. Judicial Magistrate [East/North] District Court Complex, Sichey, Gangtok.
North District:- Court of Ld. District & Sessions Judge [North] at Mangan. 2] Court of Ld. Civil Judge-cum-Judicial Magistrate [North], Civil Court, Mangan.
South District:- Court of Ld. District Judge [South], Namchi, South Sikkim. 2] Court of Ld. Civil Judge-cum-Judicial Magistrate [South], Civil Court, Namchi.
West District:- Court of Ld. District & Sessions Judge, [West] at Gyalshing. 2] Court of Ld. Civil-cum-Judicial Magistrate [West], Civil Court Gyalshing.

More challenges than disabilities for the differently-abled

 ANAND OBEROI
The International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2014 was observed on a grand scale at Khelgaon near Gangtok on 03 December. Around 80 differently-abled persons from the Special School for Autism (run by Spastics Society of Sikkim), JN Memorial Institute for the Visually Impaired, and Special School for Hearing Impaired participated in the event. The theme this year was “Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology” for the 3.48 percent differently-abled out of the total population in the state.

SMIMS docs in training deliver festive cheer to Old Age Home

The Department of Community Medicine at the Sikkim Manipal Institute of Medical Sciences (SMIMS) was at the Old Age Home at Jalipool on 03 December, Wednesday, to reach gifts and assistance worth Rs. 30,000. The initiative was not a one-off engagement, and the Department of Community Medicine had been on the project for a while, having organized a charity show in July to raise funds for the venture. The fund was then used to procure materials for the elderly inmates at the Home. The gifts included blankets, shawls, materials for daily use and ration. The handing over was held in the presence of Dean, SMIMS, Air Marshal (Retd) Dr. GS Joneja, and administrators of Old Age Home. The initiative was facilitated by the 2012 Batch MBBS students. Earlier, in July 2014, the Department of Community Medicine, SMIMS had also organized an eye camp at the Old Age Home.

Sericulture Awareness cum Beneficiary Empowerment Prog

Directorate of Sericulture, Forest Environment Wildlife Management Department conducted Sericulture Awareness cum Beneficiary Empowerment Programme (BEP) for Mulberry farmers in different places at East, West and South Sikkim.
The main objective of BEP is to make Sericulture stakeholders more aware of centrally sponsored schemes like Catalytic Development Programme which has been financed by the Central Silk Board, Ministry of Textiles, Govt. of India.
The programme was held for 28 farmers in Amba & Taza in East district and 60 farmers in Sikkip GVK in West district.
During the programs work order for the construction of Mulberry and Eri Silkworm Rearing Houses of the Catalytic Development Programme (CDP) 2011-12 backlog was issued to the stakeholders to complete construction within stipulated time.

RTI training concludes

Three-day training programme on Right to Information Act (RTI), 2005 and Record Management organized by Accounts and Administrative Training Institute (AATI) concluded on Friday at the training hall of AATI.
The Training, sponsored by Department of Personal and Training, Government of India which commenced on 03 December 2014 was attended by 42 trainees comprising of designated Public Information Officers (PIOs), Assistant Public Information Officers (APIOs) and other officers and staff from various departments under Government of Sikkim.
During the Training programme, Resource Persons, Deepak Darnal [Principal Director, AATI], KK Kafley [former Special Secretary to the Government of Sikkim], Bhim Thatal [Director (PE), Human Resource Development Department] enlightened the participants on the various subjects of Right to Information Act.
During the valedictory session, Panel of resource persons interacted with the participants wherein Principal Director Mr. Darnal focused on importance of devolving records and responsibilities properly to the successor at the period of leave, transfer or retirement. He also suggested maintaining transparency in functioning of activities. Later, certificates were also handed over to the trainees. [IPR]

Panchayati Raj’s new field functionaries introduced to tasks and responsibilities

The newly appointed Panchayat Development Assistants, IT Assistants and Junior Engineers, along with other field functionaries of Panchayati Raj Institutions underwent a daylong orientation course at Chintan Bhawan, Gangtok, on 01 Dec. Organised by the Panchayat Directorate of the Rural Management & Development Department, the programme was chaired by East Zilla Upadhakshya Kalpana Tamang and also attended by Secretary RM&DD Secretary RM&DD, DR Nepal. In her address, the Upadhyaksha highlighted the reasons constraining Panchayats from discharging their responsibilities optimally and went on to invite the field functionaries to take inspiration from the State of Kerala which is the best performing state in India when it comes to Panchayati Raj. She urged the functionaries to strive to be as good if not better than Kerala by improving on the internal monitoring process and management of Panchayats. [IPR]

Farm School on Orange Rejuvenation opened in Mamzey

A farm school on Orange Rejuvenation was inaugurated on 30 November at Mamzey, West Pendam at the field of Tika Lal Pokhrel. The programme was organized by the Agricultural Technology Management Agency for East Sikkim.
Around 25 orange growers from Mamzey village and surrounding areas along with the officials PW Bhutia (Deputy Director- Horticulture), DK Rai (Horticulture Development Officer), Darshan Upreti [Block Technology Manager], Village Level Workers and Field Assistants attended the said programme.
During the first half of the program, the farmers were introduced to the various functions and activities of ATMA. Here the Officers explained how a farmer gets benefitted through ATMA and SAMETI.
HDO, DK Rai highlighted about the importance of Farm School, Role of a Farm School Teacher, Cooperation within the members of the Farm School, etc.
For quality and maximum productivity of orange, a short training on care and cultivation of orange using organic methodologies was held for the farmers present in the function. For smooth marketing and for large scale productivity the importance of cluster approach to increase the productivity along with the importance of formation of Community Interest Groups (CIG) and Farmers’ Interest Group (FIGs) were also highlighted.

Border Traders elect office bearers

Following the closing of Nathula Border Trade for the current season on 27 November, a get-together was organised by the Nathula Border Trade Welfare Association at Marchak, East Sikkim on 30 November and elections of the association held on 01 December. 97 members were present for the election, an NBTWA press release informs, and following three member traders were elected for the next two years: Nimaphuty Lachungpa as president, Sonam Bhutia as vice president and Anil Kumar Gupta as general secretary. Advisors and Executive Body members were also nominated for the year 2015 and 2016. 

World AIDS Day at Namchi

A district level awareness program was organised on World AIDS Day at Namchi. On the day an Open Marathon was conducted in three categories wherein the winners were awarded cash prizes sponsored by Sikkim State AIDS Control Society.
A free blood analysis booth was set up in the venue for HIV/AIDs test intended for the local people as an initiative of the program by the SSACS Gangtok and Namchi. Number of local people showed up in the stall for the free test. A folk song and a short play on HIV/AIDS was presented by the artists of Folk Media Campaign alongside theme based dance by Beacon Dance Crew were the other elements of the awareness program.
Health Minister, AK Ghattani was present as the chief guest for the programme.

Nagi Pokhari to end year with Tourism & Organic Festival

Namthang Rateypani constituency will be organising the first Nagi Pokhari Tourism & Organic Festival 2014-2015 from 31 December 2014 to 02 January 2015 at Nagi Pokhari. The festival is an initiative of Nagi Tourism Development Committee under the Chief Patron and Parliamentary Secretary cum Area MLA, Tilu Gurung.

The festival will highlight the organic produce of the constituency as well as boost tourism in the area. Traditional dances, food, culture of Sikkim, short hikes, bird watching, marathon and many other events will be part of the festival.

Sikkim Kickboxers to battle in national c’ship

A 20-member team of the Sikkim Association of Kickboxing Organisations [SAKO] will represent the State in the WAKO India Cadet & Seniors National Kickboxing Championship 2014 to be held at Haryana State Sports Complex in Faridabad from 18 to 20 December. The team is scheduled to leave on 15 December for the championship.
The state team will be accompanied by Taraman Gurung as the team coach and Ganga Prasad Rai as the team manager and five other officials.
The state team members have been undergoing through a 15-day long coaching camp under the chief coach, Bidhan Ballav Subba [6th Dan black belt] here at Paljor Stadium complex, which will continue till 14 December.
The state team comprises of 5 cadet, 7 senior women and 8 senior men. For most of the team members this will be their first participation in a national championship.
The cadet team has five girls; Namkit Lepcha, Passangkit Lepcha, Ranjita Limboo, Smita Rai and Babyana Gurung.
Speaking to media persons, the chief coach, Mr Subba said that this time SAKO has given chance to new and young kick boxers of the state in this championship.

A Day for the Differently Abled at Khelgaon

Social Justice, Empowerment and Welfare Department celebrated International Day of Differently Abled persons 2014 in collaboration with Spastics Society of Sikkim at Khelgaon, Resithang on 03 December. The programme was held on the theme of “Sustainable Development: The promise of Technology”. During the programme, Principal RP Dhakal, Principal Jeewan Rai, Special Educator Norbu Doma Bhutia were felicitated with certificate of recognition for their meritorious service. Winner of the Special Olympics Nirmal Chandra Dahal, Jiwan Mishra and Manish Dhakal were also conferred with the certificates. Artist Bikram Bhattarai and Ganesh Bdr. Chettri [Post Graduate Teacher of Mamring Sr. Sec. School] were also felicitated for their achievements along with the staff of different centers.
[IPR]

Lokayukta passes away

Sikkim’s first Lokayukta, Justice [retd] AN Ray passed away on the night of 30 November at his residence in Kolkata following a cardiac arrest. He was 68 years old. Justice Ray, who was appointed the Lokayukta of Sikkim in March earlier this year, began his association with Sikkim much earlier, on 12 January, 2007 when he was transferred to the Sikkim High Court. He assumed office as the Chief Justice, High Court of Sikkim, on 27 January 2007 and retired on 31 October, 2008.
Justice Ray was appointed as Sikkim's first Lokayukta on 02 March earlier this year and had heard three corruption cases since he assumed office. The Sikkim Legislative Assembly had passed the Sikkim Lokayukta Bill on 26 February, 2014.
Before his appointment as the Lokayukta, Justice Ray had also served as the first Chairman of the Sikkim State Human Rights Commission, a post he held till November 2013.
His death has come as a shock to all here in the state and condolence messages have poured in from all quarters.
In his condolence message, the Governor of Sikkim, Shriniwas Patil, conveys, “I am deeply shocked and saddened by the news of sudden demise of Shri Justice A.N. Ray, Hon’ble Chairman, Sikkim Lokayukta following cardiac arrest on 30 November, 2014 at Kolkata.
Late Justice Ray was a Jurist with impeccable integrity and demeanour. His demise is a great loss to Sikkim’s judicial fraternity which will be difficult to compensate in immediate future.
At this time of bereavement, I join the people of Sikkim to offer my deepest condolence. I pray to the almighty for bestowing strength to his family members to cope with this great loss”.
Condoling Justice Ray's passing away, Chief Minister Pawan Chamling remembered him as a respectable person with high professional ideals, adding that his demise has left a huge void in judicial circles
Sikkim Krantikari Morcha party spokesperson Kunga Nima Lepcha has also condoled the passing away.
General Secretary, Bar Association of Sikkim, Advocate Jorgay Namkha has also expressed deep sorrow and condolences on the demise of Justice Ray on his behalf and on behalf of the Bar here.

Justice Ray was born on 31 October 1946 in Kolkata and was enrolled as an Advocate in the Calcutta High Court on 04 August 1970 and practiced in Calcutta High Court in Civil matters. He was appointed as a permanent judge of the Calcutta High Court on 06 August, 1990 and served as the Acting Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court from 07 June, 2004 to 10 Jan, 2005. He was later appointed as the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court on 2005 and was transferred to the Sikkim High Court.

New Civil Judges in training

GANGTOK , 29 Nov [IPR]: The first Institutional Training for the newly appointed Civil Judges-cum-Judicial Magistrates that begun on 01 November concluded on the 29th at the State Judicial Academy in the Sikkim High Court complex. The Civil Judges-cum-Judicial Magistrates will now be proceeding for the second round practical training at the District and Sessions Court at Gangtok. This, instead of their original postings, as the nature and number of cases in the East district is much larger in comparison to the other districts and hence, would provide an effective learning experience for the new appointees.
The valedictory ceremony on 29 Nov was chaired by Chief Justice SK Sinha and retired Judge AP Subba.
In his address, Justice Sinha informed that the training module for the new Judges was “carefully prepared” on 52 topics relating to Judicial Curriculum. He also lauded the efforts of the State Judicial Academy in providing the best resource persons and ample opportunities in gaining first-hand experience and knowledge.

Justice Sinha felicitated the new Civil Judges Jwala D Thapa, Bebika Chettri and Ranjita Pradhan and also presented them copies of “Law’s Clarion Call”, a book authored by District & Sessions Judge Prajwal Khatiwada, and “Do’s and Don’ts Manual on Judicial Ethics, Values and Conduct”.

India must look beyond just disability laws if it wants to become an equal opportunity nation

Each law must be studied first to see how it impacts persons with disability, argues NIPUN MALHOTRA in a special feature for scroll.in

It is difficult to imagine a person with disability rising very high in India the way Franklin D Roosevelt did to become president of the United States. Despite being paralysed waist down from polio, he famously guided his nation through the Great Depression and World War II. In India, persons with disability are generally uncared for, and the government makes only feeble efforts at their emancipation.
The first legislation for persons with disability was the Persons with Disability Act of 1995. Though an amateurish and toothless attempt, officially recognising only seven disabilities, it did take one big step forward: 3% reservation in all governmental institutions. It asked that every institution identify the posts to accommodate the reservation. But the authorities failed to comply, countering that the posts could not be offered because they were not identified. This, until a bench of the Supreme Court stated that the “identification of the posts is not a precondition for reservation”.
The next step in disability legislation was the Persons with Disability Bill 2012. Still waiting to be tabled in Parliament, this too is far from perfect. It does not deliver on the promises made when India became a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Signatory. Still, at least it recognises 19 disabilities, while making both accessibility and reservation more binding on government institutions.

CORPORATE INITIATIVES
However, a disability law is not enough to make a difference in society for persons with disability. Like everyone else, they are stakeholders in the community influenced by each and every policy. We need to gradually move towards a position where each ministry is given guidelines and each law considers both how it impacts persons with disability and how it can help in their emancipation. Let me illustrate.
As per the new Corporate Social Responsibility law, it is mandatory that companies spend 2% of their net profits on CSR initiatives. Given the challenges faced by persons with disability in getting employed, it might be a good idea that the cost to company of persons with disability be covered by, but not be limited to, the mandatory CSR spend.
Also imperative is making all private and public infrastructure accessible to persons with disability. There shall be no legal impediment in this since even private buildings require a completion certificate and occupation certificate from the government. These certificates are granted only after various norms are complied with, fire norms being among them. We merely need to add a norm on Universal Access.

UNCARING SUPERPOWER
This last provision’s criticality cannot be emphasised enough. I was at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad earlier this year and fell short of cash. Most people in such a position would have just visited an ATM and withdrawn money. Being wheelchair-bound, this option was not available to me since ATMs in India are too high for a wheelchair user to access, and there is no leg room for them to operate. While I eventually found a way to electronically transfer funds, Universal Access would have eliminated this trouble.
It is embarrassing that India, a country that claims to be on the path to superpowerdom, treats its persons with disability the way it does. Reforms will not only help persons with disability, but also the elderly who move from being abled to fully or partially disabled with passage of time. I hope to see India becoming a true Equal Opportunity country in my lifetime.
[The writer was born with Arthrogryposis (a rare congenital disorder that leads to a lack of muscles in arms and legs), due to which he is on a wheelchair. He is an alumnus of St Stephen’s College and the Delhi School of Economics. He was awarded the Navratan award 2013 for community work and social service. He is currently pursuing an Executive Masters from the Indian School of Business.]

Education Minister tours West Sikkim

Minister for HRDD, RB Subba paid a surprise visit to Karji Secondary school in West Sikkim on 02 December. The Minister interacted with the teachers and students of Karji Secondary School. He further listened to their opinions and grievances and has assured of solutions. The Minister was accompanied by, Deputy Director, HRDD, West District, KC Gyatso. The HRDD Minister has undertaken this initiative to visit schools in the remotest parts of the state in order to improve education in the state. The Minister also visited his alma mater Pelling Senior Secondary school in West Sikkim on 03 December.

High Court passes Full Court Reference on Justce Ray’s passing away

The Sikkim High Court suspended all proceedings for a day on 02 December after passing a ‘full court reference’ on the passing away of former Chief Justice of Sikkim High Court, Justice Ajoy Nath Ray. He passed away on 30 November at his residence in Kolkata.
Acting Chief Justice Sushil Kumar Sinha, while speaking on the reference on late Justice Ray, explained that court proceedings were suspended as a mark of respect to the Late Justice Ray, highlighting that he was a gem of a man and had good knowledge of legal proceedings and administration.
Justice SP Wangdi remembered him as a very charismatic judge, a nature lover and one who had earned huge knowledge on Sikkim and its mountains, nature and environment.
Senior Advocates B Sharma, A Moulick, Sikkim Bar president DR Thapa and Santosh Chettri, Assistant Government Advocate also spoke in the full court obituary reference.

Members of the Superior and Junior Judiciary of Sikkim, including members of the Bar and High Court Registry, also attended the full court obituary reference.   

Footballers for Roshnee

Footballers from Sikkim also extended a helping hand in the treatment of the burns victim, collectively donating Rs 20,000. Five footballers from Sikkim who are currently playing for big clubs of the country, ISL players Sanju Pradhan, Nirmal Chettri and Robin Gurung along with Salgaocar Goa player, Bikash Jairu and former captain of United Sikkim Football Club, Nim Tshering Lepcha came forward to help Roshnee. The amount was handed over by Nim Tshering Lepcha to the 18-year-old Roshnee on 25 November at STNM Hospital.


World Disability Day in Mangan

The Human Resource Development Department’s North District office observed the World Disability Day on 03 December at the HRDD Conference Hall in Mangan, North Sikkim. Ravindra Kumar, Additional District Magistrate, was present as the chief guest accompanied by DB Biswakarma who is serving as a Physiotherapist at the North District Hospital present as the guest resource person.

Mr. Biswakarma underlined the importance of the day and gave examples of differently abled people who have set examples in the society with their contributions. He is himself 100% visually impaired. Mr. Biswakarma, in his address, stressed on educating all children [including the differently-abled] together, under the same roof. (from an official press release)

Speak to Me

Editorial:
LANGUAGE SUSTAINS CULTURES, NUANCES IDENTITIES
The many communities of Sikkim are not alone in the worry that their way of life is at risk of becoming extinct. This is a worry that grips communities across the world. Fact also remains that for many, their way of life is already in the past, its people having adjusted into accepting something else as their cultural heritage. But we leave that discussion for some other day, for now, let us proceed by first accepting that before one even begins trying to salvage what remains of a culture, one should first agree that no culture can survive once its language is lost. There is nothing new in this acceptance. The value of language to identities is what Sikkim celebrates when it observes a holiday on 06 December, Saturday, for Teyongsi Sirijunga Sawan Tongnam. Sirijunga was a Limboo priest in 17th Century Sikkim who was put to death for his efforts to revive the Limboo language and script. He is believed to have been a reincarnation of the Sirijunga who gave the community their script in prehistory. This day then becomes apt to discuss languages.
While earlier, indigenous communities could rely on traditional education systems to ensure their linguistic and cultural survival, this support system does not exist anymore. In the past, the language would get passed down around kitchen fires and along with it would slip through the essence of ethnic cultures and traditions, nuances which made the people unique and belong to each other. As Sikkim grows more cosmopolitan, outside influences have edged out this form of learning. The formal education system, which, although it includes many indigenous languages in the curriculum, cannot include the subtlety with which cultures were earlier fostered by the continuance of languages; that is something which only a lived experience can ensure and cannot be mimicked by dictated syllabus. What learning a mother tongue in school can achieve though is set up the young for a better introduction to themselves. For that, unlike the present trend, where the learning curve ends with the schooling years, the learning will have to begin once the language has been mastered. The continued engagement will also keep the language relevant because its users will then keep their language “up to date”. Don’t do that, and one runs the risk of the language become archaic or getting reduced to an incomplete dialect. Not all archaic languages have the literary or philosophical wealth to become classical like Latin of Sanskrit, which leaves on with the situation where the language will first degenerate into a dialect and then become incapable of even keeping conversations alive anymore and fade away. It then falls on the existing language users to use their language more often in more expressive ways because indigenous languages are already finding fewer and fewer people using them and the few who have mastered the tongue need to record whatever it is they can cull from the older generation so that some element of their identity survives the march of time. In fact, this is one aspect of the attempts at cultural revivalism afoot all over the Hills that needs to be paid special attention to. While it is all too easy to play the role of the victimised and collect sympathy, it is in substantiating these voices of concern with real action that the Hill communities are failing. This applies not just to the minority Lepchas and Bhutias but also to the Nepalis, who, in the national context, are speakers of a minority language even if they enjoy recognition under the VIIIth Schedule of the Constitution of India. All three are equally at risk of being swamped out of their individuality. This, not because the majority is Evil, but because the minority is not honing its survival skills well enough.
It needs no reiteration that language is the link to identity. It is the language that keeps cultures alive. For example, the differences in the way Nepali is spoken in the Hills here and in Nepal where it was born, nuance the differences in the identity of Indian Nepalis and the Nepalese from Nepal. The inflections of each language highlight the influence of the past which shapes the present of individual communities. Languages are more than just tools for communication and it is not enough to just be able to speak and understand them. To sustain cultures, they need to be written and read. Do we have enough of that happening around us, or is everyone fine with only rhetoric?

CM recommends better security coordination between NE States

Chief Minister Pawan Chamling attended the annual meeting of DGPs and IGPs on security related challenges chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Guwahati.
In his address at the meet, the Chief Minister called for better coordination among states, talks with insurgent groups and creating opportunities for the youth to create a peaceful atmosphere in the region. He cited the example of Sikkim where, he said, peace and tranquility is maintained through various measures like ensuring that the basic minimum needs are met, cultural freedom ensured and by promoting the interests of every section of the population through regular state patronage.
Earlier, the Prime Minister called for the creation of a “SMART” police force: a police which is Strict yet Sensitive; Modern and Mobile; Alert and Accountable; Reliable and Responsive; Techno-savvy and Trained.
The Chief Minister in turn started his speech by thanking the Prime Minister for giving an opportunity to CMs of North Eastern states to participate in this conference. He then highlighted the geo-strategic significance of Sikkim and importance of maintaining peace in the state.
The CM thanked the Prime Minister for the historic decision of opening up Nathula-Mansarovar route for pilgrimage and emphasized the need for upgrading infrastructure and connectivity including strengthening security related infrastructure along the India-China border in Sikkim. The CM also highlighted the huge infrastructure deficit i.e road connectivity, lack of alternate highway, lack of rail and air links to Sikkim. [IPR]

Bojoghari students observe AIDS Day

Students at the Bojoghari Senior Secondary School here joined the rest of the world on World AIDS Day, 01 Dec, in pledging support to the battle against HIV and in registering unanimity with the people living with HIV AIDS. These, the students achieved with such expressions as unfurling a seven metre long Red Ribbon and making and wearing masks “to show unity in not only fighting HIV/ AIDS but also letting the PLWHA  know that we care and support them.”

BL Protection Force campaigns for protection in New Delhi

A seven-member delegation of the Bhutia Lepcha Protection Force led by its president, Phigu Tshering Bhutia has been camping at New Delhi for the past one week to draw the Centre’s attention towards matters pertaining to Bhutias and Lepchas of the state. As per a BLPF press release, the delegation has called on various Ministries and officials of the central government appraising them about what the organization sees as the “hidden agendas to do away with the rights and benefits enjoyed by this minority community in the state and the gross violation of the very spirit of Article 371F”.


A Search for Justice in the Eric Garner Case

Editorial/ The New York Times

The Staten Island grand jury must have seen the same video everyone else did: the one showing a group of New York City police officers swarming and killing an unarmed black man, Eric Garner.
Yet they have declined to bring charges against the plainclothes officer, Daniel Pantaleo, who is seen on the video girdling Mr. Garner’s neck in a chokehold, which the department bans, throwing him to the ground and pushing his head into the pavement.
The imbalance between Mr. Garner’s fate, on a Staten Island sidewalk in July, and his supposed infraction, selling loose cigarettes, is grotesque and outrageous. Though Mr. Garner’s death was officially ruled a homicide, it is not possible to pierce the secrecy of the grand jury, and thus to know why the jurors did not believe that criminal charges were appropriate.
What is clear is this was vicious policing and an innocent man is dead. Another conclusion is also obvious. Officer Pantaleo was stripped of his gun and badge; he needs to be stripped of his job. He used forbidden tactics to brutalize a citizen who was not acting belligerently, posed no risk of flight, brandished no weapon and was heavily outnumbered.
Any police department that tolerates such conduct, and whose officers are unable or unwilling to defuse such confrontations without killing people, needs to be reformed. And though the chance of a local criminal case is now foreclosed, the Justice Department is right to swiftly investigate what certainly seem like violations of Mr. Garner’s civil rights.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton responded quickly to Wednesday’s development, as they did in July, when anguish and anger flared. Mr. de Blasio went immediately to Staten Island to meet with elected officials, clergy members and other community leaders, and he issued a statement urging that New Yorkers outraged by the grand jury’s failure express themselves in peaceful ways.
Protests in New York City on Wednesday unavoidably echoed those in Ferguson, Mo., where an officer escaped indictment for fatally shooting Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. Protesters in both places have every right to deplore both outcomes, as well as the appalling frequency of fatal encounters between black men and the police.
New Yorkers, at least, have a mayor and Police Department that have not fully squandered their credibility with the public. Mr. de Blasio’s and Mr. Bratton’s vows to retrain the police force top to bottom in defusing conflict, to reduce unwarranted arrests and restore community trust, remain credible, if far from fulfilled.
Those who seek justice should remain hopeful, if skeptical and wary. Indeed, if not for a bystander with a cellphone, the police officers’ version of events would have been the prevailing one: that Mr. Garner “resisted arrest” and had to be subdued.

Mr. Garner, who was 43, and left a wife and six children, cannot speak for himself. But the video, at least, speaks for him. It’s a heartbreaking, damning exhibit, showing Mr. Garner’s final moments alive, and his final words: “I can’t breathe.”

No end in sight for Nau Mile drama

Project Swastik realizes that long span bridge is not feasible, so it’s back to drawing board to dream up another solution

The 9 Mile conundrum on National Highway 10 [erstwhile NH 31A], a few kilometers out of Ranipool, continues to confound the Border Roads Organisation. Efforts of the BRO to tame this slip zone remain Quixotic with fantastic solutions projected on paper and then thumbed down upon evaluation; as a result, the only work on site then remains the depositing of still more rubble and stone to raise the road after every sink. It was clearly this stopgap approach towards resolving Sikkim’s road connectivity woes that convinced the High Court of Sikkim to open a suo moto PIL against BRO and other concerned agencies to take stock of road conditions in the State. The situation at 9 Mile was part of this PIL, and little over a month back, Project Swastik, the Border Roads Organisation agency responsible for the national highway and other strategically important roads in Sikkim, had informed the High Court that it had submitted a proposal to span the 9 Mile sinking section with a “Long Span Bridge” to be commissioned under the SARDP-NE project. It now appears that this option has been rejected by experts. It is then back to square one at Nau Mile.
The Project Swastik submission on installing this ambitious long, single span steel bridge had come about after the High Court pulled up the DG, BRO and Project Swastik for their continuing delay in implementing a more durable solution for the 9 Mile troublespot. And now this. A a High Court hearing in follow-up to the submission that a long span bridge was being considered for 9 Mile, the Director, Project Swastik under Border Roads Organisation, reportedly informed the High Court that the proposed bridge across the sinking zone at 9 Mile has been deemed not feasible. Interestingly, against the 150 metre long bridge proposed by Project Swastik, the actual length of the sinking area has been established to be more than 300 mtrs!
The Ministry of Roads, Transport and Highways has reportedly submitted an affidavit with the High Court submitting that the “…earlier proposal of construction of a long span steel bridge at 9th Mile has been held not feasible, wherein it has been mentioned that looking to above situation, the ministry will initiate the proposal from the consultants to suggest the remedial measures and prepare a project report for the same to construct a bridge at km 77.65 [9th Mile] on Sevoke-Gangtok National Highway-10.”
Earlier, in follow-up to the Project Swastik project report for a long span bridge, the Regional Officer, Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways, keeping in mind the PIL pending in the Sikkim High Court, the strategic importance and likely start of Kailash Mansarovar Yatra from Sikkim, directed Project Swastik to go ahead with the second proposal of “short term measures by way of treatment of slopes with Geo Cell or Geo Web and sub surface drainage to arrest or minimize the sinking on experimental basis”. The Regional Office cited a similar case of a sinking area at 4.9 KM on Rangpo-Rorathang road which was treated with this Geo Cell concept and where the slope has been “performing satisfactorily” for the last two monsoons and is stable at present.
The Regional Office has also said that the approximate cost based on short term treatment of 9 Mile on will be Rs. 2.50 to 3 crores, adding that incase this concept was adopted, immediate sanction and implementation will be required as monsoon will be here in April next year, making road works difficult.
Sources inform that the single long span bridge option was not feasible because of site peculiarities and the findings of a detailed site inspection. They however add that the proposal of a bridge or cable-stayed bridge can be considered for technical feasibility study through consultancy services. These however are very expensive to construct and may take a few years to complete. Project Swastik, it appears, does not have specialization for construction of viaduct/ cable stayed bridges.
The High Court is clearly not taking the latest twist too lightly and has directed the Ministry to show how and why - when the Government was already aware of the matter [vide its letter dated 22 October last] – was a joint site inspection carried out on 01 November and on whose instructions, the two suggestions [proposal for 150 mtrs long single span bridge and short term measures including treatment of slopes and sub surface drainage ] contained in the affidavit were made to the government. The court has also sought all related documents in this regard.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Youth Development Board meets

The first meeting of the Sikkim Youth Development Board was held on Thursday, 27 Nov, here at Gangtok.
The meeting unanimously decided on the convergence of livelihood skill developmental schemes being carried out by the various government departments and agencies through the Sikkim Youth Development Board as the nodal agency providing overall guidance.
The meeting was chaired by the SYDB chairperson Khem Prasad Dahal and was also attended by the HRD Minister as a special invitee.
“The role of the Board will be to decide policy issues and the actual implementation shall be carried out by the concerned Government agencies. The Board will exercise overall supervision and give away direction so that duplication of Scheme is also avoided apart from carrying out identified trainings programme that will complement the ongoing programmes,” an official press communiqué details.
A presentation on the National Youth Policy 2014 and Mission for Empowering Sikkim Youth 2020 was made by Principal Secretary, Sports & Youth Affairs, Dr. Anil Mainra while Rachit Dewan and Jigme Bhutia, livelihood experts from the State Level Nodal Agency, Forest Department, made a presentation on various capacity building programme undertaken at villages under the Integrated Watershed Management Programme.

 [IPR]

V for Veterans

SIKKIM VETERANS’ FOOTBALL TOURNEY WINS OVER FANS AND PLAYERS

Sikkim Veterans Football Tournament 2014 was an ambitious undertaking when it was mooted, but the organisers were treated to an overwhelming response and 23 teams signed up for the tourney within days of Dzongri Club having announced the tournament. So much so that entries were closed ahead of schedule. And now, the fans too are taking to the tournament and turning up in handsome numbers to cheer favourites from yesteryears and reliving football rivalries from the past.
An appreciable number of spectators are turning up on a regular basis at Paljor Stadium for the tournament which has teams of football veterans from across the State and the neighbouring regions. The spectators, across the board, have welcomed the opportunity to witness once more the game of former football stars of the region.
The veterans too have expressed gratitude towards the organisers for creating a platform for them to play again at competition level and for having provided a stronger reason for them to stay fit and healthy. 
62-year-old Arun Kumar Rai of Namthang Veterans is all praises for the tournament and wants it to be organised regularly. He believes that such tournaments would encourage older players to stay fit and that the veterans’ football format will further inspire more youngsters to take up sports to stay fit and healthy.
Likewise, 53-year-old DB Gautam of Dzongri Club also appreciated the initiative. What excites him as much as the chance to play competitive football again, is the opportunity created to catch up again with players from his time.


The first edition of Sikkim Veterans’ Football Tournament 2014 in the memory of late Pintso Lepcha, late Nim Tshering Bhutia and late Gyaltsen Lepcha kicked off at Paljor Stadium on 23 November. The inaugural day of the tournament has the former STCS MD, SG Pulger as the chief guest. A total of 23 teams from Sikkim and neighbouring hills are participating in two-week long tournament.

TNSSS celebrates Annual Day

Tashi Namgyal Senior Secondary School celebrated its Annual Day 2014 on Friday. T'Nites Alumni Association president, Thukchuk Lachungpa, was present as chief guest accompanied by principals of other schools of the capital.
Cultural programme presented by the students, grand school idol finale, release of school magazine, prize distribution ceremony were among the highlights of the day's programme. Kumar Biswakarma was adjudged the winner of the school idol contest.
Principal KB Chettri presented the school annual report highlighting the achievements of the school in the field of academics, sports and others, during the academic session 2014.

He applauded the school for retaining the prestigious best school trophy (AISSCE Result). "Our students topped the state among the government schools securing 1st and 2nd position in the Science stream and 2nd position in the Commerce stream. In AISSE -2014, all students passed with good grades. 

Sikkim Police celebrates 118th Raising Day

GANGTOK: Sikkim Police celebrated its 118th Raising Day on 27 November with a Blood Donation Camp, Pipe & Brass Band display and a musical programme here at MG Marg.
The Blood Donation Camp was held in the Police Head Quarter [PHQ] where 30 police personnel donated blood. The first blood donor was Assistant Inspector General of Police [Head Quarter], Hemraj Rai, followed by other police personnel. Additional Director General of Police, Head Quarter, TT Tamang was present as the chief guest.

The Pipe and Brass Band display at the Titanic Park and MG Marg was followed by a musical program by the Sikkim Police Orchestra. The musical program was attended by the IGP, Law and Order, Akshay Sachdeva as the chief guest accompanied by other officials. 

Refresher for Para-vets

GANGTOK: A six-day residential refresher training on “Clinical Treatment and Application of New Medicines” for Para-veterinarians under the “knowledge upgradation/ skill development” initiative of the Animal Husbandry Department began here at the Veterinary Complex Training Centre on 24 November.
The training is being organised by the Extension & Training Cell of the Animal Husbandry, Livestock, Fisheries and Veterinary Services Department [AHLFVS]. 20 para-vets, five each from all four districts, will undergo this training.
The inaugural function of the training programme was chaired by AHLFVS Commissioner-cum-Secretary, SK Jha, who underlined that para-veterinarians were the backbone of the department as they have direct access to farmers.
Earlier, in his welcome address, Additional Director [Extension & Training], Dr PK Pradhan mentioned that this was a “need-based training programme being held on the demand of field functionaries”.
On the occasion, the Commissioner-cum-Secretary also released the 19th Livestock Census report. Additional Director [Statistics], Dr NT Bhutia gave a brief presentation on the census report.

Organic veggies on wheels!

NEED FOR EFFECTIVE MARKETING OF ORGANIC PRODUCE HIGHLIGHTED
Agriculture Minister Som Nath Poudyal has sought preparation of effective marketing mechanisms to promote organic farming in the state with the view to ensure benefit to the farmers, traders and the customers. Speaking at a Buyers & Sellers Meet organized by Sikkim Organic Mission at the Gangtok Municipal Corporation conference hall on Thursday, 27 Nov, Mr. Poudyal assured that the grievances and problems of farmers and traders will be solved through such a new policy, an IPR press release informs. He announced establishment of vegetable collection centers in all districts for the convenience of sellers and buyers and instructed that a committee be formed under the chairmanship of Chairman, SIMFED, to oversee these plans.
Earlier, Minister Poudyal flagged off a mobile vegetable distribution van for the GMC area.
The SIMFED chairperson, G. Rai, suggested that pricing of vegetables recognize the difference between organic and inorganic products so that farmers earn a premium for organic farming.

Earlier, the Horticulture Secretary K. Bhutia highlighted the importance and benefits of organic farming and informed that the state produced 1,811 metric tonnes of organic vegetables in East district, 1,490 MT in South, 108 MT in North and 529 MT in West Sikkim in the recent year, the release details. He also informed that recently, 21 farmer clusters were formed so that traders could acquire farm produce information more conveniently.

Nathula continues to make sense; Border Trade more than doubles this season VISHNU NEOPANEY

GANGTOK: The ninth season of border trade between India and China across Nathula closed on Thursday, 27 November. Trading, despite being hamstrung by poor roads and a lethargic bureaucracy, continues to thrive, having registered an impressive doubling of volume this season. Against a total trading of slightly over Rs. 8 crores in the 2013 season, border trade over Nathula this year registered an impressive spike and notched up a grand Rs. 16.04 crores in exports [from Sikkim] alone. The official figure for imports from the Tibetan Autonomous Region are staggeringly lower in comparison – Rs. 1.02 crores this year, lower even than last year’s Rs. 1.17 crores.
The closing ceremony of trade in this season was organized by Tibetan traders at Rinchengang, the trade mart on their side of the border. Unlike in the past where the closing ceremony was organised on the Indian side by the Department of Commerce & Industries, Government of Sikkim, the Chinese have this time opted to organise the programme on their side of the border, as a goodwill gesture, an official press communiqué from the Department of Commerce & Industries informs. More than 150 traders from Sikkim travelled to Richengang on Thursday to participated in the closing ceremony which was presided by senior officials from TAR and hosted by Tibetan traders.
As mentioned earlier, this season saw the most prolific scale of exports from Sikkim. Traders from Sikkim shipped goods worth Rs. 16,04,43,830 to TAR. This is a 107% increase over last year’s Rs. 7,84,96,435 in exports. Imports from TAR were to the tune of Rs 1,02,53,400, a 12 percent decrease from last year’s Rs. 117.30 lakh.
Sikkim traders imported primarily six items - carpets, readymade garments, blankets, shoes, Jacket and quilts, and exported more than 13 items - Vegetable Oil, Rice, Processed Food, Canned Food, Textiles, and Copper items.
Border Trade over Nathula is clearly finding its rhythm, now consistently posting impressive figures. When it had started in 2006, exports barely crossed Rs. 27 lakhs while imports did not even break the lakh mark. Further, there were two trading seasons [2010 and 2011] when the official scale of imports was nil! The import list was expanded in the year 2012 and imports promptly crossed the Rs. One crore mark. All this while, exports had been climbing despite the weather, roads and babudom. All of these continue to remain areas of concern, but so long as the border remains open for trade, trading will find a way to sustain itself. The spirits are even higher at Nathula now given that the border pass will soon also be sending across pilgrims from India to Kailash-Mansarovar in Tibet…

Namchi walks for cleaner roads

Green Walkathon, with the message "A simple Walk to Make a Big Difference, Clean your Roads, We Want Tourists not Trash, Swaccha Sikkim Swastha Sikkim", under the Swaccha Bharat Campaign” was carried out by the District Administration in collaboration with RMDD and SDZP at Namchi in the premises of District Hospital on Friday.
The marathon was participated by SDZP Adhakshya CL Gurung, Upadhakshya DM Baraily, DC (South) Raj Kumar Yadav, CMO (South) Dr Bimal Rai, GVA (Namchi) Bimal Rai, Doctors, Officials & Staffs of RMDD Namchi GVK Hospital and SDZP. The basic idea of the walkathon was to encourage the participants of the walkathon to clean up the litter or trash lying along the path or road as they walked and create mass awareness on the same.
The route for the green walkathon participants started from District Hospital premises which then proceeded towards the road near Tourism Office to DC Office up till Municipal Office finishing off at RMDD office.
ADC (Dev) RMDD, Benu Gurung while welcoming the guests apprised that today’s program named Green Walkathon is an initiative to create awareness on keeping the environment clean particularly the pathway (roads & footpath) utilized by the commuters on a daily basis. Ms Gurung called for positive participation of all including officials & employees of all departments, schools, students, civil society, NGOs, panchayats and private organizations to combine forces to make this initiative a regular event in South District by conducting it on a monthly basis.
In view of the fact that there is no strong or particular mechanism to keep the roads/footpath clean at all times, the walkathon if conducted at least once a month would help a great deal in realizing the objective of “Swaccha Bharat Campaign” thereby keeping the roads clean and green, added the ADC.
[IPR]

Organic orientation held for South farmers

An orientation programme on Organic Farming Systems, organized by Horticulture and Agriculture Departments, was held at the Community Hall, Namchi, on Friday, 28 November. Mrs. Tika Maya Chamling was present as the chief guest for the programme attended by 480 farmers from the South District.
Mrs. Chamling spoke about the advantages of Organic Farming and shared tips on organic farming techniques with the farmers. She emphasized the need for farmers to be well informed about the use of organic fertilizers and also informed the participants about the latest initiative of the State Government to provide one-time compensation to farmers who face crop failure. Underling the need for effective marketing mechanism to promote local organic products, she urged eco-tourism stakeholders to endorse Organic Farming by using only local organic products in their home stay and other village tourism businesses.
During the programme, Secretary of Horticulture and Cash Crop Development Department Khorlo Bhutia informed about the recent Bill passed by the Legislative Assembly to regulate sale, distribution and use of inorganic agricultural inputs and livestock feed to prevent risk to human beings or animals and environment. He informed that the Kisaan Bazaar located in Namchi will soon be functional and that the farmers can sell their organic produce in the bazaar without any hindrance.

Sikkim leaders call on Tribal Affairs Minister

Tourism Minister Ugen Gyatso Bhutia and Members of Parliament from Sikkim, Hishey Lachungpa and Prem Das Rai, called on the Union Minister for Tribal Affairs, Jual Oram, in New Delhi on Wednesday, 26 November.
A press communiqué received from the office of the Lok Sabha MP Mr. Rai informs that the members extended their best wishes to the Union Minister and the Government for the ongoing Parliament session and appraised him regarding the demands of the Government of Sikkim pending with the Centre and requested that the necessary processes be expedited.

The Union Minister, assured the delegation that their demands are already under process and that matters related to States will be taken up as per the priority accorded by the State Government. He said that this was the directive given by the Prime Minister, the release adds.

Teesta Stage-IV landowners want acquisition rate resolved before any further discussions

Landowners and other stakeholders affected by the Teesta Stage-IV hydroelectric project registered their complaints, reiterated their demands and then walked out of the Special Gram Sabha convened in Mangan for the project on 25 November. The special Gram Sabha convened as per requirements of the Forest Rights Act of 2006 for the 520 MW hydel project was called for three Gram Panchayat Units - Singhik-Sentam, Ringhim-Nampatam and Thingchim-Chandey. It lasted barely an hour.
Representing the Left Bank Land owners committee, Lobzang Tenzing, who is the committee’s president, pointed out that the landowners have left their lands barren for the past eight years since the lands were demarcated and marked for acquisition. However, despite several meetings in which the landowners have given the go ahead for the project, no progress has been made, he said.
The landowners have already submitted a demand seeking land acquisition at Rs. 200 per square foot, but no intimation has been received either from the state government or the project developer, he announced.
He further pointed out that work on the project could be initiated with an interim payment even as the final revision of rates is being processed by the State government.
Such suggestions having been consistently ignored, the landowners staged a walkout from gram sabha, demanding that these issues be sorted out before the Gram Sabha was reconvened. The next gram sabha, they said, should be held in the presence of the Power and Forest Ministers, and Secretary Land revenue, Executive Director, NHPC and the District Collector (N).
A memorandum was also placed with the chairperson of the Gram Sabha, reiterating that the affected landowners and other stakeholders of the Teesta Stage-IV project from the three GPU’s in question objected to the holding of the Gram Sabha until the vital issues of land compensation, demarcation of lands to be acquired and other issues are sorted out.
Meanwhile, NHPC officials informed that the project was being delayed due to some clearance pending from Forest Department and further informed that the NHPC was ready to pay any rate for land acquisition prescribed by the State Government.
DFO-T, Sugen Saring, in turn informed that the Gram Sabha was convened to hear claims and objections of the affected people and to solve their problems for resettlement, if required. 143 hectares is to be acquired for the said hydel project, of which 45 hectares falls under the Department of Forests.
The Gram Sabha Sabha was organized by Ringhim-Nampatam GPU and chaired by Panchayat President Pinky Bhutia. Also present were Chief Engineer, NHPC Stage IV HEP, along with other officials, all Pancayats, DFO (T), President and members of Mangan Nagar Panchayat, officials from line departments and the landowners.

Mental Health Awareness program at Lingdong

A program on “Mental Health Awareness” was held at Lingdong Secondary School organized by the Hee-Gyathang PHC, Lower Dzongu recently. During the programme MO I/C Hee-Gyathang PHC, Dr. Prabhat Mokktan spoke about the importance of mental health and the role of the family and community in helping mentally ill people. The program also dealt with Cancer awareness. Interactive quiz for students was also held.


Workshop to empower Counselors & Teachers of Sikkim

GANGTOK [IPR]: Minister for HRDD, RB Subba, chaired the inaugural session of a three-day training workshop titled “Empowering Counselors & Teachers of Sikkim” here at Chintan Bhawan on 27 November. Ministers DT Lepcha and AK Ghatani along with senior officials of HRDD and teachers were also present.
Director General of International Chamber for Service Industry (ICSI), Dr. Gulshan Sharma was present as the chief resource person.
Addressing the teachers, Minister Subba stated, “In your charge are many lives in the making, each one different, everyone important, all with hopes and dreams for Sikkim. Dear Teachers, through your hands pass the future of Sikkim”.
While commending the teachers for their dedicated service, the Minister urged them to go a step further and impart humanity through balanced counseling.
Further, the Minister announced that upon the end of the workshop, a teacher each from each school of Sikkim would be identified to shoulder the additional responsibility of a counselor. He called on the participating teachers to take optimum benefit from this workshop and equip themselves with the necessary skills for counseling.
Earlier, addressing the inaugural session, resource person Dr. Gulshan Sharma laid down recommendations for the appointment of counselors in every school, orienting them for the task, and empowering and upgrading their knowledge through innovative training workshops at least twice a year, and imparting complimentary online digital programme in education and counseling management. He also suggested that the State explore assistance from the Rashtriya Uchattar Siksha Abhiyan (RUSA) of the Union Ministry of HRDD which facilitates appointment of full time counselors at schools across the country.
The International Chamber for Service Industry, during the three-day workshop, will be imparting training on such aspects as emerging trends in education and counseling, overview of multiple learning styles, introduction of various types of tests, activities based on psychometric/ aptitude test, understanding various learning disabilities, emotional and behavioral problems, digital education and IT skills, logical reasoning and abstract thinking, essential tools for counseling and education, roles, qualities and skills of counselors, ethical issues, role of social media and essential soft skills development.

Walk With the HIV+ve

Editorial:-
The trauma and privations of People Living with HIV and AIDS remain largely unaddressed because the society at large remains uninvolved, allowing them to struggle in the shadows

Someone in the corridors of power is taking the “getting to zero” call in the battle against HIV/ AIDS too literally and extending it to funding support for interventions by people living with HIV AIDS as well. This edition of the paper carries an update on the funds crunch that the Drop-In Centre for the HIV+ve being operated by the HIV+ve themselves is facing. The Sikkim Network of Positive People is offering to keep the Centre alive for as meager an amount as Rs. 3.6 lakhs per year. And yet, their proposal is being lobbed around from Cell to Cell of the Health Department without a final settlement. As things stand, a year since the Chief Secretary noted that “such an agency [Drop In Centre] is required to provide the necessary care and support to the patients living with HIV/ AIDS infection”, the funding has still not been committed to and the Centre continues to remain open only because those operating it, all HIV+ve people themselves, realize that to lose it would be to lose among the most effective venues to coordinate care and support for people living with HIV AIDS in Sikkim. By now, such centre should at least have been opened in the district headquarters as well; unfortunately, the planners are instead withdrawing funding even to the only such Centre in operation in Sikkim. This is not a condition unique to Sikkim, and it needs to be highlighted that the trauma extends to the entire nation where AIDS awareness suddenly found itself budgeted down to a sliver of what it was receiving till last year. That said, in Sikkim, a solution can be worked in much more easily because the finances in question are, let’s admit it, miniscule compared to the service that the Drop-In Centre delivers. It would perhaps not be out of place for everyone who participates in any AIDS awareness related activity on Monday to also consciously think about the privations of the HIV+ve in our society and discuss possible solutions for the more immediate problems like keeping the Drop-In Centre in operation.
What is happening to the Drop-In Centre for the HIV+ve is only one of the results of the change in the Central Government’s approach to addressing HIV AIDS in the country. International funding, which was lavish to say the least, was scaled down once the rate of infection came down. That was expected, since the immediate threat had been managed. And once the bushfire had been stamped out, the funding was expectedly diverted to other countries and regions where the problem continues to remain urgent. But that does not mean that HIV and AIDS have ceased to be issues of concern in the country. They might have stopped being on the top of priority intervention for international funding agencies, but as far as the nation is concerned, AIDS awareness cannot be allowed to slacken because if that happens, the disease will relapse and all gains made by the past decades of awareness and sensitization will have been squandered. The state exchequer thus needs to sustain the AIDS control mission. It cannot do that if it starts winding up dedicated cells just because USAID or the Bill Gates Foundation is not writing the cheques any more. It should not be allowed to do. But who will make some noise about it? The problem [of funding] has been around for more than a year now, but it has not really made news and headlines on a scale that it requires. That is clearly because like with most social concerns which don’t make the headlines, this situation lacks the titillation and sensationalism that would attract TRPs. Maybe the HIV+ve form neither a vote-bank nor constitute a purchasing pocket to receive attention. Maybe at a subconscious level, the society at large does not see anything wrong in such withdrawal of assistance for condition which most people still blame on lifestyle choices. Maybe these are the reasons why the condition of the Drop-In Centre and People Living with HIV AIDS is not receiving the attention it should… but these are not justified. And yet they happen, because when it comes to real work, HIV and AIDS continue to be battled in the shadows with only a sanitized version of awareness and empathy put out on display. Let’s try and change; let’s try and improve this World AIDS Day.

CM spells out development agenda for Namchi

NAMCHI: Chief Minister Pawan Chamling began the week in Namchi with a frenetic round of inspections followed by a detailed meeting with concerned officials who were handed over clear tasks and reminded them of the need to ensure quality delivery.
Among his various announcements, the Chief Minister declared the construction of flyovers at various points in and around Namchi; upgradation and construction of the community centre with car parking facility, library and a roof-top helipad service; completion of the ropeway from Namchi to Samdrupste by March 2015; completion of Bhaichung Stadium by 2015; pedestrian footpath; maintenance and enhancement of Char Dhaam; construction of an eco-friendly guest house; new taxi stand at Kopchey; construction of GVA office at Singthithang; food godown on Jorethang road;  shifting of NMC and UD&HD offices;  construction of a bus and truck stand; better road connectivity; construction of recreational parks and community centers.
The Chief Minister further stressed that it was extremely important for the people of Namchi to keep the town clean, plastic-free and eco-friendly.
Assuring to fulfill the various demands and grievances placed by the public of Namchi, the Chief Minister directed the respective departments to prepare DPRs on priority basis.
Earlier, the CM started the day with a visit to Chaar Dham where he attended a prayer ceremony and then chaired a brief meeting. The meeting focused on repair and renovation works and the upgradation of infrastructure at Chaar Dham. Addressing the members of the Chaar Dham Trust he pointed out various shortfalls noticed in the premises which were overlooked by the Trust members. Issues like insufficient utilization, improper maintenance and lack of protection of the assets at the Chaar Dham were highlighted.
He called for the active participation of all, including the pundits and members of the Trust for ‘social fencing’ of Chaar Dham to protect its sanctity and serenity.
The Chief Minister pointed out the unhygienic condition of the washrooms in the complex and urged the Trust members and concerned department to give priority to improve sanitation standards. In case more washrooms are required at the complex, DPR should be prepared and put up by the concerned department, he directed. In the same way shortage of parking space and other amenities required for the up gradation of the complex should be proposed by the Trust and the concerned department, he added.
Keeping in mind the number of complaints which has reached the Chief Minister from the visitors from outside the State regarding the inhospitality experienced by them in Chaar Dham, he advised all involved, including pundits, to give out positive message and good impression to the visitors through their conduct and service. Further, he stressed on proper use and planned disposal of water in Chaar Dham and at the same time he also directed the concerned department to conduct proper treatment of sewage discouraging the use of chemical fertilizer for its treatment. In this regard he asked the department and Dham Committee to go for an alternative method to treat the sewage.  
In the course of his address announcing some government policies, he stated that all the pilgrimage centers within the state will be brought under Tourism Department and similarly directed Special Secretary Sarala Rai to take up this matter immediately.
The CM also directed the Tourism Department and DC South to immediately remove the washrooms located below the statue of Guru Padmasambhava at Samdruptse as the present location was not in keeping with spiritual ambience.
The Chief Minister also announced exemption of entry fee to Chaar Dham for the Sikkimese [on the production of either voter card, COI, Driving license, Trade license or any other proof to support their Sikkimese identity at the main entrance].
The Chief Minister also inaugurated the CCTV installed at various spots on Central Park along with WiFi connection in the park installed by Namchi Municipal Council with the objective of making Namchi the first ‘smart town’ in Sikkim.
Addressing the youth of Namchi the Chief Minister encouraged the educated unemployed youth to establish tourism-based ventures. He also announced that the vacant shops in the car plaza would be handed over to the unemployed youth if they are not put to use within a month.