Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sikkim votes today. All the best! RANJIT SINGH

GANGTOK, 11 Apr: Come polling season and the stakes go high, and this time around, the contest is clearly keener than it has been at least in the last decade. The way 3.69 lakh people vote on Saturday is going to play a deciding role in the direction the state takes in the near future and will also be a proclamation and legal stamp given by the people in the direction they want to go.
A total of 118 candidates from 32 constituencies belonging to 5 political parties and Independents will be tested for their political acumen and bankability when it comes to delivering on promises. In addition to this are 6 candidates contesting for the lone Lok Sabha seat.
All political parties including the Sikkim Democratic Front and the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha have encapsulated their programmes and policies in their respective party manifestos; the Congress and the BJP too have distributed their manifestos among the public. It remains to be seen whether the electorate can be swayed by promises contained in party manifestos or convinced by campaign speeches or tantalized by the spectre of change or are comfortable in the domain of stability.
An influential component this election will be the nearly 70,000 new voters. Both the major political parties, the SDF and the SKM have developed their agenda and manifestos with an eye on this chunk of young voters. There is no doubt that this youth brigade can swing the vote and play a decisive influence on the nature of the new government of Sikkim. And it is expected that they will come out in droves to have their first experience of adult franchise.
As it is, Sikkim is known to vote whole heartedly. Last elections Sikkim had among the highest voter turnouts in the country at 81.79% [the highest turnout thus far for Sikkim]. It will not be surprising if Sikkim records a new high in Elections 2014.
The Election Department here has been reasonably proactive in spreading the message of Right to Vote and information dissemination when it comes to voting, ballots, EVMs, voter cards and other paraphernalia related to elections and voting. There have been numerous drives for the enrolment of new voters which saw a few thousand more voters added to the total electorate in just the past few months. Also influential will be the women voters who comprise almost half the electorate at 1.79 lakhs voters in Sikkim with four constituencies – the three in North Sikkim and Namchi Singhithang having more female voters than males.
Polling begins 7 a.m. Saturday and will continue till 5 pm. Two hours additional time has been given for voting by the Election Commission of India this time around.
The commencement of voting will be preceded by a mock drill conducted by the Presiding Officer of the respective polling stations. This drill will be done in front of all candidates and it is to ensure that the EVM used for voting is sound and in good technical condition for the voting process. 
There are a total of 538 polling stations this time compared to 493 polling stations last elections. East district has the highest number of polling stations at 180 followed by South district with 154, West with 133 and North district with 44 polling stations.
Rhenock in East District has the highest number of polling stations with 26 followed by its neighbor, Chujachen with 25. Incidentally Rhenock also has the highest number of contesting candidates at 6. Another interesting piece of statistic is that Rhenock also has the second highest number of voters at 15153; the highest belonging to its neighbouring constituency of Chujachen which has 15402 voters.
The least number of polling stations are in Upper Tadong which has only 8. The Sangha seat has 51 polling stations housed in all the empanelled gumpas located throughout the state.

The territorial constituency of Lachen Mangan has the least number of voters with 6868 voters. Sangha constituency has 2904 voting monks. 

SKM youth survives brutal attack in Gangtok

GANGTOK, 11 Apr: An SKM youth was brutally attacked in the dead of the night on 10 April in Gangtok allegedly by SDF supporters. Jigme Lepcha of Development Area was attacked with a bamphok and again with a knife on his head repeatedly, it is informed. He was bleeding profusely when he was rushed to the STNM Hospital at around 1 a.m. this morning. The attack took place at DPH Road, Gangtok.
According to Mr. Lepcha, he was attacked when he had gone to DPH Road to drop off a party colleague, something he has been doing daily for the past few days. According to him and his party colleagues, this was a pre-planned attack with SDF youth waiting for him in the alleys and by the buildings in the area and as soon as he got off the vehicle he was pounced upon.
At the STNM Hospital, where he is now stable, he received 15 stitches on his head. SKM’s Gangtok candidate, Pintso Choppel Lepcha, also came to visit him in hospital [see pic].

The Sadar police have arrested 4 youth for the assault - Ranjan Tamang, Deepak Pradhan, Tekendra Rai and Deven Gurung. 

VoterSpeak....What the Sikkim Voter wants from next government.

“Government should upgrade drinking water supply facilities in areas with water shortage. There should also be more emphasis on health, education and roads.”

YANGANATH DANGAL, 78, Lingmoo Kothang

Parked tourist vehicle slides off near Tsomgo, army rushes to the rescue

GANGTOK, 11 Apr: In a freak mishap, seven tourists seated in a parked Tata Sumo Registration No SK01 S 2171 had a narrow escape when the parked vehicle rolled off the road down a slope this evening near Tsomgo Market. All occupants escaped with minor injuries courtesy the proactive and timely intervention of army personnel of Black Cat Division deployed at Tsomgo who promptly evacuated the victims to the nearest Army Hospital. 
A press release from the Army informs that one of the occupants might have accidentally disengaged the gear of the parked vehicle following which the vehicle started moving and tumbled down around 20 feet off the road.
Major Arun Balakrishnan of the Black Cat Division and his driver were travelling along that route when they saw a commotion near the accident site. He and his driver immediately rushed to the rescue of the vehicle and evacuated the tourists to the Army Hospital at Milestone 17, the release informs. 

The critically injured - M Sarkar (38), M Sarkar (35), N Kumar Singha (32) and R Singha (56) were immediately attended to by the Army medics while the remaining three, S Begum (38), S Bose (38) and A Begum (14) were given first aid. They were later evacuated to Gangtok. 

SKM youth charged with assault

NAMCHI, 11 Apr: One Amit Tamang, an SKM supporter, was arrested this evening by Namchi Police on charges of having assaulted the Panchayat President of Sorok Shyampani GPU Chandrakala Biswakarma. 
The husband of the Panchayat President, Ganesh Biswakarma, informed this reporter that it was around 3.30 PM when his wife was returning from the Namchi SDF party office that she was attacked by Amit Tamang of Sorok. The couple then filed an FIR at Namchi PS after which the accused was arrested. 

Mr. Biswakarma has accused SKM of spreading violence in villages and disturbing the peace of the area.

SIBLAC condemns Chamling’s comments

GANGTOK, 11 Apr: Sikkim Bhutia-Lepcha Apex Committee [SIBLAC] today criticized and condemned the SDF president, Pawan Chamling’s allegation that the opposition was displaying a Taliban-like streak with its divisive politics. Mr. Chamling, who included groups like SIBLAC in such categorization was addressing his party’s campaign meeting at Jorethang on Thursday.
SIBLAC convener, Tseten Tashi Bhutia, today alleged that Mr Chamling’s use of the word “Taliban” in bracketing organizations like SIBLAC was “immature and inflammatory”. In this regard, an organization, Monks of Sikkim, has filed a complaint against Mr. Chamling with the Chief Electoral Officer. The organization has alleged that Mr Chamling’s statement just before elections was irresponsible and goes against the provisions of the relevant laws of the Election code and manuals.
SIBLAC has also condemned statements made by the SDF spokesperson, Bhim Dahal on Thursday.

SKM files FIR against allegedly doctored video on social media

GANGTOK, 11 Apr: Sikkim Krantikari Morcha [SKM] has filed an FIR at Sadar Thana for an attempt to defame the party president, PS Tamang [Golay] on a social media site. According to the FIR filed by SKM vice-president [legal cell], some doctored audio-video clips of Mr Tamang have been uploaded on social media under fake IDs.
Addressing a press conference today, SKM general secretary [women’s cell], Pabitra Bhandari has condemned the act and demanded immediate legal action against the culprits. She also condemned the attack on an SKM youth Jigme Lepcha last night allegedly by youths of SDF Gangtok candidate, Hishey Lachungpa. She alleged that Jigme was attacked while he was trying to stop the SDF youth from distributing money in DPH area.
Ms. Bhandari also condemned the SDF president, Pawan Chamling’s statements at Jorethang on Thursday while SKM spokesperson, PT Gyamtso said that fear of losing has got the SDF president giving such condemnable statements. He also alleged that making announcements not included in the party manifesto is a violation of the model code of conduct.

Accusing SDF of trying to buy votes, Mr Gyamtso urged election observers to be more vigilant. 

North ready for poll day

MANGAN, 11 Apr: The Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) for different polling stations of North District were dispatched from the Zilla Bhawan today. EVMs for the three constituencies of the district - Dzongu, Lachen-Mangan and Kabi-Lungtsok - have been disbursed to the concerned presiding officers and polling official in the presence of Returning Officer, TN Kazi, ARO, Raj Yadav, SP North, RN Yadav, Nodal officials and AROs. The dispatch session was also attended by General Observer, Debabrata Chattaraj.

South prepped for polls

NAMCHI, 11 Apr [IPR]: Returning Officer South, Prabhakar Verma informs that the election event of distribution of polling materials and dispatch of polling teams to the 154 Polling stations of South District took place in a smooth and peaceful manner. He added that the teams reached their respective polling stations without any disturbance.
With regard to few imperative features of Polling Stations in South District, the RO informed that the farthest Polling Station in the district is 81 kms which is Sokpey under Tumin Lingee constituency.
The constituencies having the highest number of Polling Stations in South Sikkim are Namthang Rateypani and Tumin Lingee with 22 polling stations each and the constituency with the fewest is Rangang Yangang with only 14 polling stations, informed the R.O. He further said that the constituency with no record of critical polling stations is Tumin Lingee while Rangang Yangang and Namthang Rateypani have 4 and 5 critical polling stations respectively.
While informing about the Web-Casting service to capture polling activities taking place in South Sikkim, Mr. Verma said that this service is provided in 8 polling stations under Namchi Singhithang constituency, 3 under Temi Namphing and 2 under Rangang Yangang.
The Returning Officer also informed that out of 1700 forms, 12 for postal ballot have been received by the office of South District Election while 1692 has been submitted so far by the South District voters.


The poll campaigning has come to an end; so have presumptions and assumptions. The last few weeks made most of us political analysts and experts. We made tall claims, gave hints, argued, discussed and tried to lobby for this party or that. Social media has been a major facilitator for expressing our views, ideas and opinions. But what compelled me to write this letter was an incident that somebody I know narrated on Facebook. A co-passenger presumed that the lad was going to vote for XYZ just because he is from that community. The young boy writes: “Every Community is all above Politics. Community sentiments and affiliation is an innate human behaviour but I am educated enough to understand and analyse things crucially. My title does not guarantee my vote at all nor it does to anyone I truly believe. To support d political leader (any) is citizen's democratic right and no where title defines one's vote. If someone is a leader he/she is a leader of all people irrespective of caste, colour and creed. He is peoples man... Not the man of one single community but even if u feel so then my mom is Rai n dad is Tamang and  I love them equally so whom should I love or favour more??? stop communifying  people for now.”
I quite liked the word ‘communifying’. But at the same time I am extremely worried as a Sikkimese. Have we really communified elections? It would be a big blow to democracy and its tenets if I or anybody for that matter opts for caste or community instead of peace and development.
When we leave the voting booth, we will leave our differences behind and remember what unites us.
Let’s in all fairness vote for a party that works for peace, prosperity, development and future of the Sikkimese people and not merely on lines of community or caste.

Jashoda Chettri, Gangtok [recvd on email]


East officials on job to manage 207 polling stations
GANGTOK, 11 Apr [IPR]: The East District Administration is all set for the General Elections 2014. The Polling Parties for 207 polling Stations of East District have received the polling materials and have reached their respective polling stations.
Altogether 207 sets of polling material for Sikkim Parliamentary Constituency and Assembly Constituencies and 12 sets of Polling materials for Sangha constituency have been dispatched from the Tashi Namgyal Academy auditorium which is designated as Distribution Center of Polling Materials cum Counting Center of East District for General Elections 2014.
Along with this, 26 Reserve Machines for each Parliamentary Constituency and Assembly Constituency, and 4 Reserve Machine for Sangha Constituency has also been dispatched. All the Reserve Machines are with the Sector Magistrates of the respective Sectors.
All the Sub Divisional Magistrates are stationed at their respective jurisdiction to help police avert any law and order problem and ensure strict compliance of Model Code of Conduct as per the instructions of Election Commission of India.
One Additional District Magistrate is camping at Rangpo to strengthen the assistance and compliance. Proper police deployment has been done in all the critical polling stations and sensitive areas.

Web Casting in all 49 selected Polling Stations has been tested and working well. Two Polling Booths viz. Sun Pharma Guest House, Ranipool and While Memorial Hall, Zero Point, Gangtok have been declared Model Polling Booths as per the instructions of Election Commission of India.

Khukuri-bearing youth nabbed trying to enter Hissey Lachungpa’s home

GANGTOK, 11 Apr: A youth was intercepted late tonight while allegedly trying to enter SDF’s Gangtok candidate, Rajya Sabha MP Hissey Lachungpa’s, residence here in Sichey. As per a complaint filed with the police on the incident, the accused was allegedly carrying a Khukuri and a knife on his person which has led Mr. Lachungpa’s supporters to believe that he had come with violent intentions.
The gate was shut at the time when five youth from Baluwakhani arrived to meet Mr. Lachungpa tonight. This was at around 9:30 p.m. They were told to return the next day as Mr. Lachungpa had retired for the day. The group however returned later and was allowed in this time. The accused in question is reported to have entered Mr. Lachungpa’s residential complex with the group.
As per Pema Leyda Shangderpa, Mr. Lachungpa’s PSO grew suspicious of the youth in question and accosted him short of the main door. When he was searched, a khukuri and a knife were recovered from his person. He was then taken into custody and handed over to the police at Sadar Thana where has been booked under sections 457/ 506/ 25 of the Arms Act and for trespass.
Mr. Shangderpa added the election expenditure officials and a videographer deputed there are also witnesses to the incident.
An FIR has been filed and SKM blamed for the attempt. Among those named for scheming this alleged attempt to attack Mr. Lachungpa are SKM’s Gangtok candidate Pintso Chopel Lepcha, former Gangtok Mayor and other leaders.

Mr. Shangderpa then launched into a searing tirade against Mr. Lepcha, leveling several allegations against him and demanding that his candidature be cancelled.


Going over 40 years of electoral democracy in Sikkim
On Saturday, the almost 3.7 lakh voters registered in Sikkim will get a chance to decide who represents them in the Assembly and in Parliament for the next five years. It is an important moment for Sikkim and voters here have always been energetic about exercising their right to vote and the State has consistently posted very high voter turnouts. Polling can be expected to be even more frenetic and active this time around, and in about a month, the world will know how Sikkim voted.
Although making predictions is very tempting, we engage in a different approach here and go over how Sikkim has voted in the past and what the important poll issues were in the fray. Going over past electoral performances is an interesting exercise in itself and viewing them in retrospect, weighing them against the dominant issues of the time, can also help engage in some projections on what will happen on 12 April, 2014.
1974 was the first time that the Sikkimese voted to elect representatives. The voting process was complex and the deciding of winners even more so, but this was still a major victory achieved by the LD Kazi led Sikkim National Congress. Sikkim, after all was not ignorant of the arrival of electoral democracy in India, and the SNC was rewarded for its achievement secured for the people with a clean sweep – it bagged 31 of the 32 seats, with the Sikkim National Party winning only one seat.
This pre-merger council was allowed to continue as the Legislative Assembly of Sikkim after 1975 and the next elections – the first as a part of democratic India were held in 1979. This was an interesting election. The present president of the Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee, Nar Bahadur Bhandari, was fronting the Sikkim Janata Parishad at the time. He was campaigning on the plank of de-merger. Also the same year, a Bill seeking amendments to prepare Sikkim for its first elections as a part of India was placed in the Parliament. This Bill, which was to become infamous as the “Black Bill”, released the seats reserved for the Nepali community in the Assembly as general seats. The LD Kazi Government, already on extension, collapsed over night and the dissolution of the Nepali seats became an emotive political issue.
It thus so transpired that there were two major issue in the air in 1979, each promoted by a different political outfit and the results reflected this. The Bhandari-led SJP struck the halfway mark with MLAs, winning in 16 constituencies. RC Poudyal’s Sikkim Congress [Revolutionary], which had taken up the restoration of the Nepali seats as its main agenda, came in second with 11 MLAs. While SJP received 31.49% of the votes SC[R], received 20.58%. Mr. Bhandari went on to form the Government with the support of the One elected Independent and the 4 MLAs of the Sikkim Prajatantra Congress. This alignment would go on merge into the Congress [I].
Just as 1974 had won the people of Sikkim the right to vote, in 1979, the people realised that they could also contest, even as Independents. It has to be the excitement of exercising this new right that saw a staggering 108 Independents contest the 1979 elections. What is more, one of them even won. Between themselves, the Independents accounted for 16.50% of the votes, slightly fewer than Mr. Poudyal’s party and slightly more than the Janta Party into which LD Kazi had by then merged his party.
In 1984, Mr. Bhandari was dropped by the Congress high-command on corruption charges [resolved only recently with his conviction on two counts]. The move backfired politically and the Congress was soon reduced to a minority by a near complete defection into the new party launched by Mr. Bhandari - the Sikkim Sangram Parishad. In a way, the 1985 elections were about getting Mr. Bhandari back into power and the campaign was run in a strong anti-Delhi tone. It was thus a head-on collision between the SSP and the Congress [I] and the strong play on regional pride won – 30 SSP candidates won and the party polled 62.20% votes. The Congress could muster only one MLA with 24.15% of the votes and from among the 94 Independents, one won.
The 1989 elections in Sikkim are widely believed to have been less than fair with the rampant electoral mechanisations, dominant elsewhere in India at that time, also alleged in Sikkim. The list of candidates in fray reflects this to some extent. Till 1985, parties of all colours and a strong number Independents jumped into the electoral fray, but in 1989, the numbers dwindled drastically. In 1979, there were 244 candidates in the fray, in 1989, this dropped to 118. Only three regional political parties and Congress [I] fielded candidates. SSP bagged 70.41% of the votes.
When elections came calling again in 1994, the Chamling-led Sikkim Democratic Front wave had swept through Sikkim with its “Bhandari Hatao, Sikkim Bachao” slogan and promise of returning democracy to an oppressively stifled Sikkim. This wave was peaking at the time when the Income Tax issue ambushed Sikkim and Mr. Bhandari was dethroned by his own legislators. The SDF battle-cry against Bhandari lost some sting because he was already ousted. There were however two more issue in the electoral fire – Income Tax and a parallel move by Bhandari-adherents to get him back to power. Those must have been confusing times for the voters on how to vote and also the politicians on how to rally support. The confusion reflects in the vote-share because there appeared to be enough voters who wanted Mr. Bhandari’s second mid-term eviction from power to be avenged. The SDF wave however held strong and it emerged as the party with the largest vote share of 42% and 19 MLAs. SSP was close second with 35.08% of the votes and 10 MLAs and Congress, which was the caretaker government in power at the time, managing 15.02%. The number of candidates swelled to 186 in 1994.
The 1999 elections were seen as a vote on SDF’s performance in government and whether it had succeeded in institutionalising democracy as it had promised. The election was also promoted as a test on whether Mr. Bhandari still commanded a following in the State. SDF received a thumbs up with a majority shares of the votes at 52.32% and five more constituencies. The results also reflected that SSP was also still relevant because even it improved its vote share, although it recorded a drop in the number of MLAs this was good for. The Congress was no longer relevant, managing only 3.67% of the votes. Although 1 Independent candidate won, their participation had dropped to only 9 in 1999.
The elections in 2004 elections were still livelier in comparison. Free expression had gained ground in the 10 years that SDF had been in power and a healthier media had developed to report more extensively on the elections. There were many daily newspapers in Sikkim by 2004 and a resurgent Congress [I], with Mr. Bhandari in its fold along with a slew of disgruntled former SDF members kept up a ‘silent wave’ murmur. Its planning however left a lot to be desired and disorganisation led to 4 constituencies being won by the SDF without a contest even before the State went to polls. The list of candidates, apart from the heavyweights was lackluster across the board, but the contest was violent [by Sikkim standards till then] and the rumour mills kept busy. The electorate, however, had made up its mind. 71.09% of the votes – a record endorsement in Sikkim’s electoral history - were cast in favour of the SDF. The Congress managed only 26.13% and the others – BJP, CPM, SHRPP and SSP did not even break the double-digit mark, in fact, the other parties could not even convince 1% of the voters to vote for them.
2009 saw a replay of 2004 with SDF improving on its presence in the Assembly from 31 to a complete rout of 32/32. It is still fresh enough in people’s mind to require a recount at present. In a way, the situation from 2004 onwards has remained more or less unchanged with only the belligerence of campaigning and the aggression on display raised some notches and the rebellion from within SDF adding a new dimension to the equation. Media has also changed in the years and while this has definitely improved on the speed at which information is shared, it remains to be seen whether media has any influence on how Sikkim votes.
The state will vote today, Saturday, and aptly again [as in 2009], their verdict will be known on State Day, 16 May…

[The above is an edited and updated version of the article first published in NOW! issue dated 29 April 2009]

Sikkim National Congress: 31
Sikkim National Party: 1
Total: 32

Party name           No. of              Number    No. of         %
                             Candidates       elected      Votes          share
CPI-M                  02                    00                  241             00.33%
INC                      12                    00                1,476           02.04%
JP                         30                    00                9534            13.18%
SSCL                    02                    00                   85               00.12%
SCR                      27                    11            14,889            20.58%
SJP                      31                    16            22,776         31.49%
SPC                     32                    04            11,400         15.76%
Indp                     108                  01            11,938             16.50%
Total:                   244                  32            72,339

CPI                       02                    00            25               00.03%
CPI-M                   01                    00            336             00.35%
INC                       32                    01            23,440         24.15%
JP                         20                    00            913             00.94%
SPC                       14                    00            438             00.45%
SSP                       32                    30            60,371         62.20%
Indp                      94                    01            11,534         11.88%
Total:                    195                  32            97,057

INC                       31                    00            24,121         18.05%
RSP                       31                    00            11,472         08.59%
SSP                       32                    32            94,078         70.41%
DPC                      04                    00            298             00.22%
Indp                      20                    00            3,650           02.73%
Total:                    118                  32            1,33,619

BJP                       03                    00            274             00.16%
CPI-M                   02                    00            270             00.16%
INC                       31                    02            26,045         15.02%
RSP                       11                    00            2,906           01.68%
SDF                      32                    19            72,856         42.00%
SSP                       31                    10            60,851         35.08%
Indp                      76                    01            10,255         05.91%
Total:                    186                  32            1,73,457

CPI-M                   02                    00            398             0.19%
INC                       31                    00            7,512           3.67%
SDF                      31                    24            1,07,214      52.32%
SSP                       32                    07            85,827         41.88%
Indp                      09                    01            3,976           01.94%
Total:                    105                  32            2,04,927

BJP                       04                    00            667             00.34%
CPI-M                   01                    00            144             00.07%
INC                       28                    01            51,329         26.13%
SDF                      32                    31            1,39,662      71.09%
SHRP                    09                    00            1,123           00.57%
SSP                       01                    00            90               0.05%
Indp                      16                    00            3,450           01.76
BJP                       11                    00            1,966           00.78%
CPM                      03                    00            272             00.11%
INC                       32                    00            69,612         27.64%
NCP                      11                    00            1,065           01.19%
SDF                      32                    32            1,65,991      65.91%
SGPP                    27                    00            2,909           01.34%
SHRPP                  20                    00            5,516           02.19%
SJEP                     06                    00            497             00.20%
IND                       25                    00            4,023           01.60%
Total                     167                  32            2,51,851     
[CPI-M- Communist Party of India (Marxist; INC- Indian National Congress; JP- Janata Party; SSCL- Sikkim Scheduled Castes League; SCR- Sikkim Congress (Revolutionary); SJP- Sikkim Janata Parishad; SPC- Sikkim Prajatantra Congress; Indp- Independents; SSP- Sikkim Sangram Parishad; RSP- Rising Sun Party; DPC- Denzong Peoples Chogpi; BJP- Bharatiya Janata Party; RSP- Revolutionary Socialist Party; SDF- Sikkim Democratic Front; SJEP- Sikkim Jan Ekta Party; Sikkim Gorkha Prajatantrik Party]

ASGPF condemns Bhandari’s statements on BL seats

GANGTOK, 11 Apr: All Sikkim Gorkha Protection Force [ASGPF] held a meeting today to discuss the statement given by Sikkim Sangram Parishad president Nar Bahadur Bhandari on 09 April at Rangpo. The meeting has strongly criticized and condemned Mr. Bhandari’s statement supposedly in defence of the BL seats in his speech.
A press release of the ASGPF convener, KB Rai informs that in the hearing of the case between RC Poudyal and Union of India in 1992 Sikkimese Nepali were termed immigrants. The release further says that if Mr Bhandari had put his efforts to win this case, then the Sikkimese Nepali would not have been branded foreigners.
In the absence of seat reservation, the majority Sikkimese Gorkhas are living like second class citizens in the state and such statements by Mr Bhandari would further affect the political future of the majority community, Mr Rai states.

ASGPF has further termed 09 April a “black day” for the Sikkimese Gorkha community. 

Allow Sikkim to Vote in Peace


Electoral democracy is now 40 years old in Sikkim. Poll violence, at least of the viciousness now on ugly display, is however of much more recent make. Admittedly, Sikkim is not unknown to political violence and has seen its share of it in the past, but the campaigning this time appears even more violent, perhaps because it has taken spite and dislike to a whole new level and also because instigation appears to be proving more effective this time around. Needless to add, this is serving no one’s interest and the only people who will emerge smiling from this muddle will be the agent provocateurs. One can understand differences of opinion and ideological conflicts, but nothing, not even provocation, can justify violence. But it is increasingly being resorted to even in Sikkim now and appears to be spiking as the day of voting nears. This surge in violence at this time is clearly from a sense of righteousness which the two sides engaged in the slugging have appropriated. Both sides – SDF and SKM – appear convinced of their own virtue and have demonized the other. Carrying such a mindset in the politically charged environment of the present leads to paranoia and the two sides start patrolling their turfs as vigilante groups. The moment they spy supporters from the other side, they are convinced that some sinister scheme is afoot and take it upon themselves to take action. This is clearly what has been happening and why there have been such frequent collapses into violence. Not every group of party supporters is looking for a fight, not every bundle of cash in someone’s pocket is there to buy votes and not every appeal for peace is a call to ignore code violations. But too many are seeing it as such. A week down the line the shortsighted responses and the impropriety of several actions will become obvious, but it would have been too late even by the time you are reading this because too much violence has been allowed to transpire already. By the time this day ends, the votes would have been cast and sealed and there will be no more rewards for violence. At this juncture, that can be the only hope we sign off with – a hope that better sense prevails through voting day so that the electorate is not scared off voting; a hope that the police do their job and reassure people and keep them safe; a hope that the agent provocateurs take a day off; a hope that people get to vote without worrying about walking into fighting mobs; a hope that people give a clear verdict; a hope that their verdict is respected; a hope that people are respected and spared the violence… Too much to hope for? We will know by later this evening.

Bear attacks WB cop on election duty at TNA

GANGTOK, 11 Apr: A service personnel from the Kolkata Armed Police was attacked by a bear in the wee hours this morning. RB Adhikar, an ASI with the Kolkata Armed Police deputed on election duty to Sikkim, was attacked by a Himalayan Black Bear at around 5 a.m. this morning at the TNA complex.
Mr. Adhikari, along with other KAP personnel, had been stationed there to guard the EVM strong-room and was detailed on ballot box security duty. The EVMs are being housed at the auditorium at Tashi Namgyal Academy and KAP is the force deployed by the Election Commission of India to Sikkim as security for the elections as well as for guarding the strong rooms.
Mr. Adhikari, it is informed, suffered serious injuries in the bear attack with the skin on his face and head partially peeled off. He has also suffered injuries on his thighs and legs. He was taken to Siliguri by the KAP later in the day.

The ASI had gone to the toilet at the TNA complex at around 5 a.m. and was pounced upon by the bear as he was emerging from the toilet. According to reports, the ASI tried to fight off the bear and was soon joined in by his KAP colleagues. They managed to chase the bear away and Mr. Adhikari was rushed to the emergency ward of the STNM Hospital and later transferred to the surgical ward where he was bandaged and stitched up.  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Chamling completes election campaign with more commitments and appeal to vote responsibly -PURAN TAMANG

JORETHANG, 10 Apr: Sikkim Democratic Front held its final state-level campaign meeting here at the Jorethang public ground today. The meeting, which featured the party president, Pawan Chamling’s last campaign speech for elections 2014 since campaigning ended today at 5 p.m., was well attended even as numerous supporters got stuck in monumental traffic jams and motorcades could be seen heading for the venue till late in the afternoon even after Mr. Chamling had finished his speech. Several groups returned without even reaching the venue today. Traffic was especially bad at sections between Singtam and Rangpo and Melli to Jorethang today, with some groups travelling from Gangtok taking eight hours to reach Jorethang!
Be that as it may, the day saw Mr. Chamling reiterate his call to the lay people and party supporters to vote responsibly and underlined that his detractors were unleashing unethical ploys like playing the communal card to distract people from noticing that they had no issues or plans.
The day also the CM make some new announcements [see box]. For government servants, he announced extension of retirement age from the present 58 years to 60 and an end to service extension.
He also announced today that police personnel up to the rank of ASI will be provided promotional increment along with scale, a benefit currently not available to them. With this move, police personnel will no longer have their increments and scale tied to post [which requires vacancies] and will receive increments in time-bound manner irrespective of whether they pick up the rank or not.
Also today, Mr. Chamling assured to work in housing options for Temi Tea Estate workers for their post-retirement days.
A significant announcement saw the Mr. Chamling announce that should SDF return to government, it would declare the Muslims and Christians of Sikkim as minorities [as was the practice at the national level], and with this initiative extend all attendant benefits and protections to the two communities in Sikkim. He assured to look into the logistic problems being faced by the two communities in Sikkim like the lack of burial grounds and said such aspects will be resolved soon.
Mr. Chamling expressed confidence that, “People of Sikkim will cast their vote to maintain the peace, prosperity and development in Sikkim and reject divisive politics”.
He went on to lambast the opposition SKM party of trying to divide the Sikkimese people on religious, caste and communal lines by playing up conspiracies and fanning paranoia among the people. He cautioned people against getting divided into segments created by the Opposition and underlined that communal amity was boon enjoyed by Sikkim which should not be squandered.
The Opposition was displaying a Taliban-like streak with its divisive politics and spite, he said.
SKM, he went on to add, was full of rejected leaders who were indulging in a “politics of violence” in a desperate bid to confuse and disorient people into voting for them.
The SDF government in Sikkim has always been constructive, maintained peace and unity in the state and also secured brotherhood between Bhutia, Lepcha and Nepali communities. Here he alleged that the SKM party was targeting this unity and brotherhood of the Sikkimese people by fanning communal fears among the people and sowing divisions.
SKM has leaders who never believed in unity between the different communities of the state, said Mr Chamling further adding that SIBLAC has always protested provision of equal rights to other communities like the Nepalis and Limboos and Tamangs. A member of such an organization is the SKM candidate for the Sangha seat, so people should think carefully before casting their votes this election, he said.
On Sikkim-Darjeeling relations, Mr Chamling said that Sikkim has always supported the Gorkhaland demand of the people of the Darjeeling hills. “As for ourselves, we want to keep Sikkim as Denzong, not Gorkhaland,” he said.

During his speech, he also made a number of announcements and assured that all the demands placed by the people of Zoom Salghari constituency will be fulfilled. 
  • Muslims and Christians in the State to be declared as minority communities at par with the Centre.
  • Police personnel upto the rank of ASIs to be given promotional increment along with scale.
  • Ownership quarters to be allotted to the workers of Temi Tea Garden who are presently occupying it.
  • All departmental employees’ retirement age to be extended to 60 years from 58 years at present and the same shall be applied to all new recruits in the future.
  • Extension of service to be stopped.
  • All rented shops at shopping plaza across the State to be granted ownership.
  • Issues of all C and D grade government employees to be addressed
  • Amusement Park to be developed at Jorethang.
  • Surya Mandir to be built at all bazaar areas for Chhat Puja

Campaigning over, it’s just the people and their votes now RANJIT SINGH

GANGTOK, 10 Apr: With the operation of the deadline for the end of all official and unofficial political campaigning comes the moment of truth. Campaigning by all political parties in the state of Sikkim for the elections to be held on Saturday, 12 April closed at 5 pm today, that is, 48 hours before voting begins.
The last day of campaigning today saw all candidates campaigning in their respective constituencies in a final effort to woo the electorate. The last month witnessed hectic and intense politicking by the main players in the Sikkim political firmament, the SDF and SKM; there were clashes, assaults – both verbal and physical, complaints and allegations, arrests, rallies and meetings and most of all, propaganda and intense speculation among the public. 
The next 48 hours, will no doubt see some backroom ‘campaigning’ by both parties but there will be none of the above mentioned attractions. The public will have some well deserved rest to finally make up its mind on which button to press.
And with the end of campaigning also begins the ‘dry day’ period which will last till 12 April and during which no liquor can be sold or bought from liquor shops.
Election Department officials inform that while there will be no campaigning by political parties, their officers will be busy as usual on the field. Expenditure observers, sector magistrates, the micro observers and other surveillance staff which the ECI has mandated to be on the field will still be around to make sure that the electoral process is free, fair and transparent.
While the Election Commission of India has already issued directions that no elected person whether Panchayat or Minister can be any candidate’s election agent in a new directive issued on 09 April there can be no canvassing inside any polling station on poll day.
This effectively means that all campaigning and canvassing has come to an end today itself. The ECI has clearly stated that no person shall canvas for votes or exhibit any notice or signs relating to elections within the polling station on the day of voting. Furthermore, the Election Commission has directed that items such as caps, shawls etc with any political party’s name, symbol or slogan will not be allowed inside the polling stations on the day of voting.
On the other hand, today was also the last day for the government employees and service personnel to cast their postal ballots via the drop box maintained at facilitation centres. It needs to however be clarified that today is not the last day for the casting of postal ballots. There was much confusion among service personnel over this issue on whether today was the last date for the casting of postal ballots. Election Department officials clarified that the last date for the casting of postal ballots by government employees and service personnel is 16 May.

In fact the postal ballot has to reach the strong rooms by 3 a.m., 16 May to be valid. These can be sent by post and will be free of charge. Today was only the last date for the government employees and service personnel to avail the use of the drop box option for the casting of their postal ballots. The total strength of postal ballots for Sikkim is approximately 11,500. Till 09 April, 830 Assembly and 834 parliamentary votes had been cast through postal ballots. 

VoterSpeak...What the Sikkim Voter wants from next government.

“Government should provide free medicines at government hospitals. Road conditions in the state should be strictly monitored to ensure improvement. The growing unemployment problem should be addressed.”


United Christian Welfare Society of Sikkim distances itself from political ambitions of some members

GANGTOK, 10 Apr: The United Christian Welfare Society of Sikkim has stated that some statements made by pastors and other Christian leaders urging support for certain political parties are purely personal opinions and the Society does not subscribe to any such views.
In a press release the Society has said “this expression of the political vendetta and commitments of some isolated pastors and leaders are purely personal undertaken in individual capacity and in no regard does the Society subscribe to such outburst”.
The release refers to a press statement that has appeared in the 10 April 2014 edition of one of the local Nepali dailies and other fliers being circulated.
“We as citizens of this country are in an important moment where our role is to more prayerfully seek to exercise our franchise in the most responsible manner and not create undue bewilderment,” the release states.

The Society has appealed to its members not to use the church or its name for political or any other selfish interests. The Society has also urged citizens to exercise their franchise instead of tarnishing the sanctity of churches of Sikkim. 

South officials prepped for polls

NAMCHI, 10 Apr [IPR]: Updating about the dispatch of Polling Teams and Polling Materials for Friday to 154 Polling Stations in South District, the Returning Officer-South, Prabhakar Verma, informed that the overall arrangements have been completed. Polling Teams will be dispatched with the materials starting 8 a.m. on 11 April from the Control Room, he informed.
Mr. Verma further informs that 185 vehicles will be ferrying the Polling teams to their respective stations on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Polling Station at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Memorial Institute for the Handicapped (JNMIH) at Boomtar has been declared a model PS which has two polling stations with all basic minimum facilities like having separate entry & exit, drinking water facility, clean toilets, help desk with BLOs etc.
He informs that on the polling day, candidates are permitted to use only 3 vehicles, each carrying mandatory permits from the RO and no more than 5 persons are allowed in each vehicle on that day.
The Poll timings have been notified by the ECI from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., the RO highlighted, adding that the Presiding Officers will conduct a mock poll at 6 a.m. on the polling day one hour before the Poll in their respective Polling Stations. The candidates and their election agents can be present for the Mock Poll in their respective polling stations at 5.30 a.m. on 12 April, the RO added.
Special provisions have been made and special measures have also been taken for sensitive areas and in the 31 critical Polling Stations of South Sikkim.
Mr. Verma underlines that no canvassing will be allowed within 100 metres of the Polling Stations on the day of the election and that all political party offices should be closed within 200 mts radius of all polling stations.
He also emphasized that ferrying of voters to the Polling stations in any vehicle on the day by political parties was now an offence and penal action will be taken under section 123 (5) of the Representation of People’s Act,1951.
The RO also informed that there will be a prohibition on sending of bulk SMSes regarding elections till the end of Poll.
The Returning Officer has requested all candidates to send their Election Agents/ party representative on the dispatch and collection day - i.e. on 11 April 2014 at 8 am and on the evening of 12 April - to witness the opening and sealing of the Strong Room.

As for the issue of frequent power cuts, the RO has directed the Superintending Engineer, Power, to ensure uninterrupted electricity supply on 11 and 12 April 2014. He adds that after the arrival of all the Polling teams with the EVMs, the Strong Room will be sealed.

SMU celebrates Sikkim Manipal Swasthya Suraksha scheme

GANGTOK, 10 Apr: Sikkim Manipal University organized a programme to celebrate its health scheme ‘Sikkim Manipal Swasthya Suraksha [SMSS]’ today at Sikkim Manipal Institute of Medical Sciences. The scheme was launched by SMU at Central Referral Hospital, 5th Mile Tadong on 31 January 2014. The health scheme aims to cater to those Sikkimese not covered by any other health scheme and is valid from 01 March 2014 to 28 February 2015.
A press release informs that the event today was held to recognize the efforts and hard work put in by SMSS team in community mobilization, enrollment and most importantly, the beneficiaries of the SMSS scheme. Chairman Emeritus of Manipal Global Education Services and Pro-Chancellor, Sikkim Manipal University, Dr Ramdas M Pai was present on the day to celebrate a significant milestone of SMSS. It has been under the abled guidance and vision of Dr Pai that SMSS was envisioned for the larger benefit of the Sikkimese people, it is mentioned.
SMSS members form a diverse group, with members consisting of monks from the Rumtek and Ranka monasteries, members of the Press Club of Sikkim, taxi drivers associations, Old Age Homes, the business community, to name a few, the release informs.
Today, some of the privileged members of SMSS were felicitated and more importantly, recognized for the tireless effort and hard work put in by the SMSS team in making this scheme a huge success. SMSS members were handed out membership cards by Dr Ramdas M Pai, Vasanthi Pai and Dr Ranjan Pai, CEO & MD, Manipal Education and Medical Group [MEMG]. Team members of SMSS were also felicitated on the occasion.

Fully appreciating and acknowledging the top priority given to health and education sectors by the Sikkim government, SMU has been making consistent efforts towards contributing to the development of Sikkim, especially in the health and education sectors since its inception. The scheme has been received very well by the people of Sikkim since its launch, the release further adds. 

SKM meeting at Lower Kambal

GANGTOK, 10 April: A meeting of Sikkim Krantikari Morcha party was held at Lower Kambal ward under Tumin-Lingee constituency, which was chaired by SKM general secretary [legal], TD Kazi.

An SKM press release informs that in his address, Mr. Kazi claimed that the people, youth and women of the area are now ready to support the SKM candidate Nedup Tshering. He alleged that the SDF candidate has been trying to lure people with money, alcohol and food. He further alleged that due to the absence of programmes and policies, the SDF party is playing such politics but the people will give their answer on 12 April, it is added. 

SKM to start Karmapa to Sikkim mission afresh, its Sangha candidate assures

GANGTOK, 10 Apr: Sikkim Krantikari Morcha’s Sangha candidate, Sonam Lama has stated that after coming to power, the party’s priority would be “to do away with all the hurdles and technical difficulties”, which, he alleges the SDF government has instituted. Next, will follow a fresh and efficient approach for the earliest arrival of the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Ugyen Trinley Dorje to Sikkim, he adds.

In a press release, Mr. Lama has further regretted what he sees as the “double standard approach” of the SDF government on the Karmapa to Sikkim issue. He has questioned the sitting Lok Sabha MP, PD Rai´s role in pursuing the matter at the centre for the past 5 years. Mr. Lama has also alleged that during Mr Rai´s tenure the old laws of Sikkim have been distorted.

SKM’s Dawa campaigns in Dzongu

MANGAN, 10 Apr: SKM candidate for Dzongu constituency, Dawa Lepcha and supporters held a public meeting at Mangshila, Dzongu on 08 April.
Addressing the gathering, Mr. Lepcha requested the public to support SKM and vote for the ‘table lamp’. He also announced that Mangshila will be provided a quality sports ground and community center, road conditions will be maintained well etc.
Alleging that the Primitive Tribe status accorded to the Lepcha community was just for name sake, he said that the SKM government would ensure the provision of tribal grants if voted to power.
Dzongu is still lagging behind in several developmental sectors so it is time for a positive change, said Mr Lepcha and urged for support from the public of the area to make the SKM candidates from North district and Lok Sabha candidate victorious in the coming election.

The programme was also attended by ex-Panchayat, Bandana Subba, Kado Lepcha, Chopel Lepcha and other active members.

SKM condemns Chamling´s speech

GANGTOK, 10 Apr: Sikkim Krantikari Morcha has strongly condemned the speech of Sikkim Democratic Front president, Pawan Chamling today at Jorethang. The party has alleged that Mr Chamling’s speech was communal in content.
An SKM press release alleges that the SDF president has violated the model code of conduct by talking about religion in his campaign meeting today. The party has quoted the guidelines of the model code of conduct and alleged that Mr Chamling has violated the very first point of the code.

SKM has further refuted all allegations leveled against it by the SDF party and stated that its leader, PS Tamang [Golay] in his 15 years as a minister had always given equal respect to all religions and placed religion above politics. The party has urged people to maintain communal harmony and peace in the state.

Two-month training on Agri-Clinic and Agri-Business Centre concludes

GANGTOK, 10 Apr: Two-month training on Agri-Clinic and Agri-Business Centre (ACABC) concluded today at SAMETI hall, ICAR complex, Tadong. The training was organized by State Agriculture Management Extension and Training Institute, (SAMETI), under FS & ADD, Govt. of Sikkim, which had been identified as the Nodal Institute by MANAGE, Hyderabad. The training commenced on 01 February 2014 and the valedictory function was held today.
A press release informs that the training was organized in order to supplement public extension by providing extension and resources to the farmers, to support agriculture development and to create gainful self-employment opportunity to unemployment agricultural graduates.
The valedictory function was attended by Secretary, Agriculture, Phetuk Tshering Bhutia, as the chief guest. Nine participants had registered for the training, out of which 8 candidates were selected to undergo the two-month training. Seven candidates were agriculture graduates while one was an animal husbandry and veterinary science graduate.
27 Resource Persons were invited to conduct the training from Sikkim University, Sikkim Government Law College, SIBIN, SMIT, ICFAI, ZED Career and from Agriculture and Horticulture Department, the release informs.
As part of the training programme the participants were also taken for field visit (study tour) to South and West Sikkim. There the participants got the opportunity to interact with some of the self employed progressive farmers cum entrepreneurs of the state like Anden Sherpa and Tarkershwar Sharma. The participants were also taken to Mother Dairy Farm at Jorethang and Food Preservation Factory, (Sikkim Supreme) at Singtam to understand the coordination of man and machine and the set up of the entire factory.
On the last day of the training programme the participants presented their Detailed Project Report (DPR) through power point presentation to the Secretary. Later the hard copy of the DPRs was submitted to the Director, SAMETI. As per the scheme these trained candidates will avail the loan only after submitting their Detail Project Report in an effective manner, which was also suggested by the representatives from the Commercial Bank Section during the training programme, it is informed.
Candidates having a proper project for their respective business will be supported by the lead banks with 40% subsidy loan. The Project cost ceiling is up to Rs. 20 lakhs for an individual project where the repayment has to be done within 5 to 10 years.
During the valedictory function today Director SAMETI, SL Dorjee, also the Nodal Officer for this training programme, highlighted the gathering regarding the information on ACABC. The function was also addressed by AGM, NABARD, GC Negi and Secretary, Agriculture, PT Bhutia.