Saturday, July 19, 2014

Now, arsonists try to set fire to a private residence in Gangtok

TENANT INJURED IN ATTEMPT TO SET ABLAZE ADDL SECY CP DHAKAL’S HOUSE -
VISHNU NEOPANEY
GANGTOK, 18 July: As yet unidentified miscreants tried to set fire to the house of Additional Secretary, Health Department, CP Dhakal, in the wee hours of Friday morning. Although they failed in causing any major damage to the house, one of the tenants sustained burn injuries while trying to douse the fire.
The incident occurred at around 1:20 a.m. this morning at Baha’i School road here in Tadong. The arsonists clearly used kerosene and petrol to fuel the fire as their smell hung heavy on the spot even later in the day.
The arson was attempted on the third floor [on the road level] of the building. The miscreants, it appears doused the walls and corridor of the road-facing section of the house and then set it alight. Some of the incendiary material also spilled into the flat, and caught fire.
Bimal Sharma lives in this flat as a tenant along with his family and woke up breathless as smoke engulfed his flat. Thinking quick, he rushed his children and wife into the bathroom, away from the smoke and fire and returned to fight the flames.
Soon, neighbours were also alerted to the fire and rushed to help and the fire was put out before the fire brigade reached. The road is extremely congested with parked vehicles, especially at night.
After the fire was put out, Bhawani Sharma was rushed to the Central Referral Hospital and is currently receiving treatment there for the 25 per cent burns suffered in the incident. His two children, although traumatised, were not injured, although his wife suffered minor burns on her hand and was discharged after first aid.
Mr. Dhakal lodged an FIR on the incident in the morning. Police said that investigations are underway into the case.

Chamling calls on DoNER Minister

New Delhi, 18 July [IPR]: Chief Minister Pawan Chamling called on the Union Minister of State for DoNER, General (retd.) VK Singh, today.
The CM congratulated the Minister for assuming the charge of Ministry of Development of North East Region and expressed confidence that under his stewardship, development of the NE States shall be further consolidated promoting further development and mainstreaming of the people of the region with the nation.
During the meeting, the Union Minister and the Chief Minister discussed deficiencies of the region in terms of lack of adequate infrastructure and the problem of connectivity with the rest of the Country.
The Union Minister assured full support to the Chief Minister to tackle the problems in the State and in the development of the State in various sectors.
The Chief Minister offered a suggestion with regard to the development of the North East region and said that due to rich natural resources and conducive climate, the region could be developed as organic zone of the country. The region could also be promoted collectively as floriculture zone, apiculture zone.
Promotion of eco-tourism in the region holds unlimited potential, the Chief Minister pointed out.
The Union Minister gave a patient hearing to all the points offered by the CM and assured his full cooperation for development of the region. The Chief Minister extended invitation to the Union Minister to visit Sikkim which the Union Minister accepted. The Chief Minister was accompanied to all the meeting by the Principal Secretary to Chief Minister and Principal Resident Commissioner, Sikkim House, New Delhi.

Tourism awareness and sensitization held for stakeholders at Uttarey

GANGTOK, 18 July: The Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation, organized an awareness an sensitization programme for tourism stakeholders from the Dentam-Uttarey-Hee Bermoik region of West Sikkim on 17 July at Gumba Dara, Uttarey, an official press release informs.
The programme had UD&HD Minister NK Subba, who also happens to be the area MLA, present as chief guest, accompanied by Zilla and Gram Panchayat members.
A total of 85 stakeholders comprising of hotel operators, shopkeepers, pack animal operators, porters, mountain cooks, homestay operators, trekking guides, assistant guides, etc. actively participated in the daylong programme, the release adds.
The training, the release states, was organised by Mingma Wangdi, Deputy Director (West) T&CA Deptt, and Tsewang Ngodup, Trekking Officer, T&CA Deptt, and had Manil Raj Rai, a freelance motivator, TseringDorjee, vice-president TAAS, and Raju Rai, vice-president, Paragliding Association of Sikkim, as resource persons.
The following topics were covered in the programme: Overview of Tourism, Adventure Tourism, Tourism Oriented approach, Positive attitude, Etiquette and grooming, Character, Integrity, Time Management, and Marketing.

Titanic Drivers’ Org denies involvement in Wednesday violence

GANGTOK, 18 July: Titanic Drivers’ Organization of 5th Mile, Tadong, has stated that the organisation neither supported nor participated in the events that took place on 14, 15 and 16 July in Gangtok.
Condemning the incidents that occurred on these three days, the organisation has said that it has no problem with the police arresting those taxi drivers who were involved in the violence. Further, the organisation will expel any members if they are found to have been involved in the string of violence. It has also requested the state administration to allow innocent taxi drivers to continue with their work.

The Youth Question- SONA RAI

This is an essay of mostly questions. Questions we should have asked ourselves long back and hopefully not too late to ask now. The past few days have been a tumultuous one for the youth in particular and the public at large. It has also revealed certain aspects of student issues that are pertinent for parents, educators and civil society members to address immediately. With the majority of the people focusing on the (probably) larger issues of police brutality and indifferent bureaucracy, I fear what might get lost is what is happening in the minds of our students and how capable are they to stand up for what they believe is right and how effective are their ways to bring about the best possible outcomes. To answer these questions, we must ask first is whether we are doing a decent job of educating our children as parents, as teachers, as community members and as a society.
Speaking of home first, one can never be sure of what exactly are the dynamics of parent-child relations inside anybody’s house, but speaking from personal experience and understood experiences of those around me, we, as a society, where the young are at large, first generation learners, have the experience of our parents having high expectations from us without a concrete plan of how to realize it; we are given freedom to make life-changing decisions, regarding our education, our career paths and our futures, with ample amount of parental emotional baggage and  no tools or skills to actually help us achieve our goals; we are taught high moral ideals but the pathways to make it in life seems impossible without dishonesty and preferential treatment. In short, the young are growing up being pulled from all directions and under extremely contradictory terms, so the logical consequence that can follow is being pulled apart.
At educational institutions, the young are being introduced to concepts of freedom, democracy, equality and justice and they do not see that being enacted in front of them. Most of what they are taught seems irrelevant and therefore, they do not learn. Seriously, how free, democratic, equal and fair are our classrooms and educational institutions? How exemplary are the images of educated people around them? Instead of student development being the main issue discussed in educational institutions across the state why do most educators sound more like contractors, politicians, bureaucrats, housewives,  ardent reality-show viewers, or embarrassingly, flirtatious nymphets and potential sexual harassment perpetrators? What we do and who we are is what most of them learn and emulate.
Coming to the teaching-learning process, are our classrooms interactive enough about the material being taught? Can teachers distinguish between what the students need rather than what the students want? Are the prime concerns of teachers to make students understand, read, write, express rather than completing the syllabus, circulating the teachers’ worn-out and crumpled M.A./ B.A. notes, making everything seem easy and light, awarding of marks which the students have not earned? Are we making sure that the students are working hard instead of being worried about how popular are we with the students and fellow colleagues?
When we teach children the definition of any concept instead of telling them how difficult it is to define anything; when the examination questions which are set, are to enumerate factors, characteristics, features (since they are easier to evaluate) instead of showing them the complexity, the contradiction and the problematic associated with the ‘ultimate truth’; when we teach them dominant discourses as the legitimate knowledge system instead of making them debate the pros and cons of various alternative ways of thinking, then the end result is surely going to be youth who are easily misled, who adopt extreme measures, who do not recognize the value of responsible action and responsible speech, and who are malleable to manipulation and deceit.
Coming to society, when we surround our young with mindless consumerism; instant gratification; rampant corruption; monolithic idea of success, beauty and status; sense of humour promoting communalism, sexism, discrimination, devaluation of hard-work and idealism; domination of common-sense knowledge; lack of critical thinking; hypocrisy; encouragement of shrewd and illegal dealings; religious maintenance of hierarchy; a show of politeness to inefficiency; lack of dignity of labour or work ethic; paternalistic attitudes to women, children and the downtrodden; and, insensitivity to social issues then can we expect them to learn any better?
What we need to do is facilitate the best ways of educating our children, we need to accord them more responsibility and make them actively participate in the functioning of society; democratize our homes, educational institutions, and neighbourhoods; encourage them to debate and express their opinions; guide them to be coherent, just and compassionate; help them acquire problem-solving skills; make them understand the value of hard work; create avenues and spaces for them to just be; reduce the formalities and increase the essence of student activities; teach them less but teach them well; equip them with the tools of empowerment; and mold them into leaders and conscious citizens of tomorrow.
I know what I have written so far may seem crude and generalised (and what I am going to write, as truistic). There are structural constraints of living in a developing country which compel us to do what we do, behave how we behave, and be who we become. I am also aware that there are individuals who are trying their best to create a better society out of our small state, however, they are surely outnumbered and marginalised. What needs to be pointed out is that we collectively need to start taking responsibility for what is happening to our society instead of constantly playing the blame-game. Probably needless to say, every little thing we do makes an impact on the society around us, sooner or later.
[The writer is Asst. Professor, Department of Sociology, Government College Rhenock, E. Sikkim.]

No order issued on mass transfer of teachers, HRDD clarifies

GANGTOK, 18 July: HRDD officials have denied having issued any notification on mass transfer of teachers. This follows rumours and allegations about the department having notified mass transfer of teachers. A group of teachers had issued a press release yesterday claiming that the Department had notified a mass transfer of teachers and had questioned why the teacher association was keeping silent on it.
Speaking to NOW! today, HRDD officials said that thus far, only those teachers who had applied for transfers citing medical grounds and had submitted the required documents have been given postings accordingly. Also, Headmasters who had been posted to schools where school headmasters were already posted have also been shifted to other schools which have vacancies, officials inform.
The officials further stated that the ad-hoc teachers who had passed their Teachers Eligibility Tests [TETs] exams through the Sikkim Public Service Commission [SPSC] will also be absorbed in various schools taking into consideration the availability of vacancies of Post Graduate Teachers [PGTs] and Graduate Teachers [GTs] and subjects for which they have applied for in the schools. This is especially for the excess teachers available in the East District to other districts, where there is a shortage of teachers, they added.
Sources meanwhile inform that a major transfer was discussed to balance teacher deployment since there are still several schools with many more than the prescribed number of teachers and several schools which are understaffed. No final decision has however been taken on the matter yet, sources inform.

SSP condemns police action

GANGTOK, 18 July: The Sikkim Sangram Parishad today strongly condemned what it sees as the “rampant” arrest of “innocent persons” by the Sikkim Police in connection with the rioting of 16 July in Gangtok. The party, while alleging that the arrested persons have been “assaulted”, has condemned that as well.
SSP working president Rajendra Upreti has demanded that the Government immediately stop the “police activities as the Sikkimese people who are peace loving, Religious in Nature and as well as Law abiding”.
Mr. Upreti goes on to point out that the SDF party, in its election manifesto for the 2014 elections had promised to provide free education up to college level, and rues that what the party did upon forming the government was hike the fees instead.
The party has appealed on the Governor to intervene and resolve the matter.

SKM forms new committee

GANGTOK, 18 July: Sikkim Krantikari Morcha has formed a new committee today with the party president, PS Tamang [Golay], nominating members to the new committee.
As per an SKM press release, the new committee has Dilip Rai [Assam Lingzey] as general secretary-I and press and publicity, Kunga Nima Lepcha [Upper Shyari MLA] and Bhoj Raj Rai [former MLA] as spokespersons, Bikash Basnett [Yangang] as secretary press and publicity, Navraj Gurung [Jorethang] as general secretary social media, Minjo Lama [Gangtok] as secretary social media, Adup Tshering Bhutia, Tul Tul Gurung and Ashok Subba as legal cell incharge and Kamal Neopaney as office secretary.

SKM takes up students’ protest issues with Governor

GANGTOK, 18 July: A delegation of Sikkim Krantikari Morcha MLAs led by their party president PS Tamang [Golay] called on the Governor today at Raj Bhawan here to take up various issues related to the recent students protest here.
A press communiqué received from Mr. Tamang informs that the delegation argued that the lathicharged on the college students was unprovoked and illegal. They further contended that due to use of such force on a peaceful protest of the students led to an eruption of violence in the state and even after the situation had normalized, the police were still arresting people and torturing them.
The delegation has demanded immediate legal action against guilty officials involved in the lathicharge and also submitted an independent report on the incident and unedited video of the entire incident, the release states. The release informs that the delegation also informed the Governor of reports that the students were pressurized into signing an agreement with HRDD on 16 July.
After listening to the delegation, the Governor expressed deep concern on the student protests and arrests and assured to take full information on these from the concerned officials, the release contends.
The release further informs that after returning from Raj Bhawan, a meeting of SKM MLAs and senior members of the party, PT Gyamtso, TN Dhakal and Bikash Basnet, was held under the presidentship of Mr. Tamang and discussed the students protest and passed a resolution to support all efforts to maintain peace to bring back normalcy in the state. On the basis of this resolution, the SKM party has appealed the people of Sikkim to keep the peace series in the state.

SIMFED holds coordination meeting

GANGTOK, 18 July: A coordination meeting was convened by the Chairperson of the Sikkim State Cooperative Supply and Marketing Federation Ltd (SIMFED), Girish Chandra Rai on 15 July.
As per a press release, the SIMFED Managing Director, Kuber Bhandari, welcomed Mr. Rai back to a fresh term as the SIMFED chairperson and said that during his earlier terms on the post, SIMFED had progressed by leaps and bounds and now with him coming as the Chairman again, SIMFED could reach newer heights. The Managing Director appealed to work as a team to achieve the primary objectives of SIMFED.
The Chairman in his address to the officers and staff of the federation urged them to be dedicated in their duties. In order to achieve the Organic Mission by 2015, he directed the officers of the Federation to have a marketing strategy ready for the marketing of the organic produce. He also suggested that all the loss making units of SIMFED should be examined and ways found to correct the same and avoid losses. If the same was not possible then those units needs to be shut, he added.
Mr Rai requested all the employees to be serious in their work and be punctual and regular for their duties.  He urged all to work in the interest of the farmers of the state.
At the end of the meeting, the Chairman informed that he would have a separate meeting with the senior officers of the Federation to revamp the working of the Federation and to work out strategies to improve the marketing network of the organic produce of the state, the release adds.

Sanskar Bharati winds up exec committee, appoints adhoc body

GANGTOK, 18 July: The executive body of the Sanskar Bharati’s Sikkim-chapter met on 14 July at the residence of its advisor to discuss various issues of the organization and more specifically the winding up of the present executive committee and formation an adhoc committee in response to the State Government’s decision not to allow govt employees to become members of any non governmental organization.
The meeting was presided by Mitralal Sharma and unanimously appointed the following executive members: Puspa Raj Adhikari as president, Tara Sharma as general secretary; Anusikha Timsina as treasurer; Krishna Dungel as culture secretary; and Pratima Naubag as publicity secretary.

Sikkim to host National Sports Festival 2015

WORKSHOP DELIBERATES MANDATE AND MODALITIES FOR YOUTH ENGAGEMENT AND SPORTS PROMOTION
GANGTOK, 18 July [IPR]: Minister for Sports & Youths Affairs, RB Subba, today announced that Sikkim will be hosting the National Sports Festival 2015 and urged the administration, Panchayats, students, the civil society, NGOs to extend active cooperation and coordination to make the weeklong festival a grand success.
Mr. Subba made this announcement while addressing a workshop, “Mandate and Modalities for Youth Engagement and Sports Promotion”, and workshop-cum-awareness on Rural Sports competitions under RGKA/ PYKKA and NSS, organized by the Department of Sports & Youth Affairs at Chintan Bhawan here today.
Stressing on skill development initiative launched by the State to empower youth, he said that the National Youth Policy 2014 has now been prepared wherein people aged between 15 to 29 years are included in category of youth which means that 40% of Sikkim’s population is now counted as youth.
Speaking on the need for human resource for the state, he urged students to opt for Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics to meet the increasing demand and also underlined the scope of Nursing, GNM and Laboratory Technician to meet the requirement of the multi-specialty hospital being constructed at Sichey.
Highlighting opportunities available to students, he informed that the concerned Department has sent 152 students to study engineering, architecture etc. while around 248 seats were left vacant because of insufficient applicants. He further informed that 8,000 youths from North-Eastern state will be trained through DoNER at ITFT Chandigarh on government expenditure and that a large number of youth from Sikkim can undergo through this skill development training programme.
Detailing the schemes and programmes, he informed that in India altogether 6,545 Blocks and 634 districts are incorporated under Rajiv Gandhi Khel Abhiyan under which Rs. 1.60 crore will be given to each Block to carry out indoor and outdoor sports activities.
Addressing the workshop attended by Zilla Adhyakshas of East, West and North districts, Secretaries from RMDD and Land Revenue Departments, GVAs, Principals and HMs, Panchayats, youth from NYK, NSS, NGOs, ANOs, students and officials, Principal Secretary Sports & Youth Affairs Deptt., Dr. K. Jayakumar, focused on the need for a “Youth Development Model” to channelize youth towards output-oriented and productive society.
Highlighting the purpose of the workshop, he said, the programme was organized to understand the mandate for engagement of the youth, nurture a vision and instil a set of shared values in them. He urged the participants for partnership and collaboration between stakeholders, Head of the Educational Institutions, Panchayats to shoulder the responsibility for sustainable development. He also stressed on making effective systems, policies, guidelines, practices and mechanism for youth empowerment and put suggestions for Physical, Mental, Technical, Tactical & Social development amongst youth.
The programme also included an interactive session, distribution of cash incentives to meritorious sports persons achieving gold, silver and bronze medals in Zonal, National and International level.

Gangtok to Tadong on Wednesday - TSHERING EDEN

At around 12 noon on 16 July, Wednesday, as we approach Hospital Dara, a boy in his late teens or early twenties waves for the car to stop and politely requests us to support their cause. Unsure of what kind of support is being referred to, we head on. A little further down, near the traffic point at Titanic, a few more youth are waving at cars to stop. It is not a request anymore and only a tad short of an order. We still head on. Just before reaching Hotel Hungry Jack, a still larger group, this one made up of men, is shouting at cars to stop and blocking those on the move, thumping at bonnets and banging on windows. It is no longer a request or an order but a threat.
I get off the car and decide to walk down to my office at Tadong.
Meanwhile, the group of men has grown larger and is now hooting and banging on a taxi that is headed uphill. The traffic cop stands by listless. The van is allowed to pass and the group starts moving down. I catch up with this group and ask one of them, “Why are you doing this?” He says, “Tei ni abo”. Of course he is talking about the Monday lathicharge on college students down at Tadong.
I prod further, “What are you demanding?”
“Suspension.”
“Not termination?”
“Ah yes, yes, termination.”
College students protesting fee hike and later police action against the protest had demanded the termination/ suspension of the police head of the east district and the Sadar Thana in-charge.
Just short of the Lall Bazaar flyover, the group stops a private vehicle with two women in the back seat. They are let off after some heavy banging on all sides and sloganeering and cheering. I glance at the women, one of them is half smiling perhaps out of shock, terror and of not knowing what was happening. This generation of the Sikkimese has never experienced what was to come.
Few more join in as the group moves further down. A police vehicle comes down heading towards Deorali. It is also stopped and let off after the usual procedure. The group now has about 20-30 people in it. As we move past Café Coffee Day, I realise I will have to overtake this group to have any hope of finding a vehicle that would take me to Tadong. I also curse myself for forgetting my phone in a colleague’s car the day before. I could have taken such great photographs I think to myself.
After overtaking the group near Pani House, I turn back to see a white Scorpio with a VIP light coming downhill. It is stopped by the group and the banging and the hooting begins, and this time it is louder. The VIP vehicle wrests itself from the group and tears down the road. One from the group hurls a stone at the vehicle fleeing away but it is too late. A taxi coming uphill is stopped and asked to “chase” the VIP vehicle. The driver says “sure” and makes a u-turn.
Seconds later, I manage to find a ferry; there are two other women in this taxi which is only going till Daragaon according to the driver. One of the women has a 6-7 year old child with her. As we head towards our destination, this woman says she heard one student died on-the-spot in the Monday lathicharge. The driver dismisses it as a rumour and the other woman seconds it. This woman also criticizes the whole affair of the protest and the rumours and the inconvenience caused to the public. The other woman wants to know if she will get a vehicle from Tadong for Manipal. The driver replies that it is highly unlikely since that is the ground zero of the protest. The woman is worried because the child is unwell and they were headed to Manipal hospital. We tell her that walking is the only alternative. She asks the child “Can you walk?” The child says no.
The taxi stops at Convoy Ground and I start walking towards my office. I run into a retired government employee who is returning home after watching the situation further down the road. I voice my fears of violence erupting and inform him of the group heading towards Tadong. He says, “Yes they should destroy only government vehicles, not the private ones since they are bought with people’s hard earned money”.    
As I approach ground zero, the crowd of onlookers that the “protest” has attracted suddenly starts stampeding towards me. It turns out to be a false alarm and the crowd falls right back. On reaching office I am told I was lucky to have forgotten my phone because the crowd was attacking people who were taking photographs. Shortly after, the third and hopefully the final of the lathi-charges begins.

State Govt rejects Maoist involvement in Gangtok breakdown news-reports

GANGTOK, 18 July [IPR]: The State Government has refuted news reports appearing in some sections of the local media that claim that the State Government has blamed Maoists for the unrest in the capital. These reports claimed that the state government had submitted a detailed report to the Centre in Nepali/ English languages on the college students’ unrest in Tadong, East Sikkim as the handiwork of the Maoists.
The state government vehemently denies any such report being sent to the Government of India and further reiterates that such reports are totally false, baseless, malicious and unfounded.

NHPC Rangeet donates computers for schools, ambulance for the people

LEGSHIP, 18 July: NHPC’s Rangit power station, as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility and Community Development initiative, provided various items like computers, furniture and sports items to various government schools in the area at a function held at the NHPC colony here at Legship. The function was attended by the Power & Energy Minister, DD Bhutia, as chief guest, a press release informs.
An ambulance was also handed over to Manav Sewa Samiti, Legship, for the people living in the surrounding areas. The ambulance is now available for use by the underprivileged on nominal payment to cover only the fuel cost, it is informed.
In the address, Mr. Bhutia welcomed the NHPC initiative for people of the area and schools in the area. Such gestures create a good impression about NHPC in the society, he highlighted.
He further underlined that all power developers and companies and industries located in Sikkim should assist the social and economic development of Sikkim and fulfill all the CSR commitments properly and in a transparent manner.

Rs 233.83 lakh allocated for Sikkim under Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram

New Delhi, 18 July [IPR]: During the financial year 2013-14, a total of Rs. 1176.37 crore was allocated for implementation of RBSK programme, out of which Rs 233.83 lakh was allocated for Sikkim.
Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram was launched in February 2013 under the National Rural Health Mission. This initiative aims to screen and manage children from birth to 18 years of age for Defects at Birth, Deficiencies, Diseases and Developmental Delays including disabilities. Around 27 crore children are projected to be covered in a phased manner.
Under this initiative, all newborns delivered at public health facilities and homes are screened for birth defects by health personnel and ASHA. The children in the six weeks to six years age-group include those attending  Anganwadi centres and children in the age group of 6 years to 18 years enrolled in government and government aided schools are screened by dedicated Mobile Block Health Teams consisting of two AYUSH doctors (one male and one female), one ANM and one pharmacist.
The children identified with any health condition are then referred to an appropriate health facility for further management and linking with tertiary level institutions. The establishment of District Early Intervention Centre (DEIC) is also one of the components of the RBSK. The programme is monitored through the Health Management Information System of NHM and periodic visits to the states by central and state level teams.
The Health Minister informed this in a written reply in the LokSabha here today.

Enough!

Editorial:-
Arsonists, who had thus far only targeted parked vehicles in lonely corners with their demented attempts at “teaching lessons”, have now, emboldened perhaps by the feeble public censure and amateurish police action of their past deeds, have graduated to attempting to torch a home in one of the more densely built-over sections of Gangtok. The Baha’I School road in the capital is packed with buildings and vehicles, a congested jumble with a dead-end road which constricts access for rescue and emergency vehicles. It was into such an already dangerous layout that some reprehensibly vicious hands attempted to set a building on fire. They failed… this time... But they managed to injure and traumatize a family which was caught in their macabre plan and they also managed to terrorise an entire neighbourhood which will now forever be suspicious of every stranger they spot loitering in their area. Gangtok has already been unsettled by the events of the week and now has a new concern in evidence of increasing disregard that people with violence on their minds have for property or life. It is important that people, at the individual and also at the community level, resolve to condemn violence wherever and whenever it occurs. Every time people hesitate from condemning violence straightaway, they end up conveying a suggestion that they somehow condone it. No one deserves it [violence], and people need to be better than succumbing to it. Every time people scoffed at reports of vehicle burning, they encouraged miscreants to expand their list of victims. Every time an act of violence passed without condemnation, the perpetrators were encouraged to push the boundaries. Take the rioting of 16 July for instance [and what happened on Wednesday is different from and needs to be viewed separated from the student protest of the previous two days]. In some ways it is already too late for people and their groups to condemn the madness, but they should still find ways to decry it in the strongest words. Don’t do so and a dangerous precedence will have been set. The rioting this time targeted mostly government vehicles and public property. If a strong enough and collective condemnation is not issued and convincingly conveyed, the next time, more properties [like those of political opponents to begin with] will be brought into the crosshairs and by the third time, such segregations as public and private, political and nonaligned will be lost and everything in the sweep of the violently inclined will get targeted. The rest of the country has already reached this disturbing stage as one sees in the litter of ruins that every clash and riot leaves behind. Sikkim can still salvage the situation if its deafeningly silent civil society stands up and screams, “enough”.

One booked for rash driving

GANGTOK, 18 July: A 26 year old resident of Dikling, Pakyong was arrested by Pakyong Police on charges of having hit a lady with his taxi at Pakyong Bazaar, The victim was immediately evacuated to the Pakyong PHC and later referred to CRH Tadong for further medical treatment. Medical report of the victim confirmed that she sustained a fracture on her right leg.
A case under section 279/ 336/ 338 [rash driving or riding on a public way, act endangering life or personal safety of others and causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others] of the Indian Penal Code has been registered against the driver and is under investigation.

SADA booking

GANGTOK, 18 July: Melli Police arrested one person in possession of contraband substances on 17 July. The accused, a 19 year old, was travelling from Siliguri in a taxi jeep and was caught during a routine checking of vehicles at Melli Check Post. Police recovered 77 capsules of Spasmo Proxyvon from his possession. A case under section 9/ 14 of the Sikkim Anti-Drugs Act has been registered against the accused.

3 girls reported missing

GANGTOK, 18 July: Three teenaged girls have reportedly gone missing from Namchi in South Sikkim.
Sonal Bania/ Chettri [16], Shivani Giri [14] and Tshering Lhamu Bhutia [14], all residents of Gangtok have been reported missing. The three girls were staying in the hostel of their school, New Light Academy, Namchi. Efforts are on to trace the missing girls police sources inform.

Suicide

GANGTOK, 18 July: A 56-year-old man has reportedly committed suicide by hanging at Middle Sichey, Gangtok. The house owner discovered the body of the deceased and informed the police. 

CORRIGENDUM

This is with reference to the news-report headlined, “24 yr old arrested on charges of raping 5 minors over past year”, published in the Sikkim NOW! edition dated 18 July, 2014. The report erroneously mentioned the place of occurrence [of the crime] as Lower Pakyong, when in actuality it was Lower Payong in South Sikkim under Melli Police Station. The error is deeply regretted and we apologise for any offence or hurt caused due to it.
-Editor

Vandalism accused released on surety bail bond

GANGTOK, 18 July: The around 35 persons picked up in different operations carried out since yesterday in connection with the rioting of 16 July were released on surety bail bond today by the Chief Judicial Magistrate.
Sikkim Police had arrested more than 35 persons till this morning in connection with a total of seven cases of vandalism registered in the Sadar Police Station relating to the violence of 16 July against multiple accused. They were produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate here at Gangtok today.
All were picked up from in and around Gangtok. Officials inform that most were identified from videos and photographs taken by the police throughout the events of the day. It may be recalled that 33 vehicles and two motorcycles were vandalized in the rioting of Wednesday.
When contacted, the DIG Range confirmed the release of the accused on surety bail bond and pointed out that the accused have not however been discharged from the case and will face trial once the chargesheet is filed against them.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Gangtok down, but not out

Normalcy limped back into Gangtok on Thursday after a Wednesday of madness. There was no picketing but traffic was thin on the roads. Seen here is Hospital Dara which saw some disturbing acts of violence yesterday, the scars of which still blacken the tarmac. Shops at MG Marg also remained closed, but there were no rallies anywhere.



NORMALCY BEGINS TAKING TENTATIVE STEPS BACK TO TOWN 

RANJIT SINGH
GANGTOK, 17 July: A day after Gangtok was overwhelmed by an uncharacteristic near collapse of law & order, the first signs of normalcy made a brave comeback on Thursday. The public at large, too, heaved a collective sigh of relief, and probably for the first time too, got to see a significant police presence along the national highway and bazaar area.
The Sikkim Police also seemed to be getting its act together after it had been totally worsted for a better part of the day by certain elements on Wednesday. The police urged drivers to hit the road and also began the crackdown on those suspected to be involved in the mindless mayhem of 16 July. By 3:15 p.m., 25 people had already been picked up and by 4 p.m. the figure had crossed 30 and is expected to rise further.
As informed, these people have been picked up from various areas in and around Gangtok. With limited space in the Sadar lock up, it was expected that some of those picked up would be taken to a lock up appointed at the SAP camp at Pangthang. A total of 7 cases of vandalism have been filed in the Sadar thana relating to the events of 16 July against multiple accused.
It may be recalled that 33 vehicles and two motorcycles were vandalized on Wednesday by violent protesters.
A senior official of the Police Department stated, “There has been police deployment in various Sectors in and around Gangtok. This was put into place on the evening of 16 July itself. Things are returning to normal as is visible today.”
Senior officials while accepting that the student protest could have been handled with more tact, also believed that the demand and protest of the students has been hijacked by “vested interests” leading to the vandalism witnessed yesterday.
“The mob started the violence and not the police. When they started pelting stones, the police had to respond,” stated a senior official, pointing out that the police did not move out even when targeted with offensive and demeaning heckling and moved out only when physical violence was unleashed. The official put emphasis on the importance of the cooperation of the public in order for peace to prevail and to overcome unruly and vested interests.
In fact members of the public seemed supportive of the police presence and action in restoring peace and initiating arrests of those people who had been involved in the mayhem and vandalism of 16 July.  Several members of the public, inconvenienced by the events of the previous day had no hesitation in condemning it as hooliganism by vested interests. It is important that the police and the administration marshal this rare goodwill well, and not squander it with pointless arrests and over bearing crackdown.
Some of the most inconvenienced by the events of the previous day were a section of taxi drivers who today were uncertain of resuming their services after the police had identified that a certain section of the taxi drivers had come out in support of the demonstrations started by the student body and were clearly identified as being among the rioters.
Early morning Thursday saw the police, led by IG [Law & Order], Akshay Sachdeva, emerge to see to it that adequate police presence was around to ‘reassure’ the people. Flag marches were conducted.  The police also went on to ‘urge’ taxi drivers to resume business.
There was apparently some gap in communicating with the drivers who when told by the police to put their taxi stands to use interpreted it to mean that they were now to run without taxi stands. Road signs, including taxi stop signs, were popular among the picketers yesterday and at many places, the taxi stop signs are now missing. This presents some delicious opportunities to invoke unauthorized parking penalties and will be overlooked by the people for a day maybe, but will become a nuisance if stretched any longer and squander the goodwill because people will be the most inconvenienced.
While the police presence was reassuring most shops and business establishments in MG Marg and along the national highway in the bazaar area remained closed. Shops towards Deorali and Tadong, however were largely open.
There was substantial police presence today with the police getting its act together. Gangtok town upwards of Ranipool is divided by the police into 8 sectors for the sake of convenience. As the DIG [Range], Dr. MS Tuli informed, each sector was stationed with armed police, civilian police, women police personnel and a sector magistrate.
Flag marches were conducted in each of the sectors. Members of the public were urged to report any antisocial elements to the police. In Tadong there was an additional deployment of civilian police under the SDPO. As DIG Range stated, the police appreciates peaceful demonstrations by the people but violence and damage to public property is not acceptable.

MG Marg remains shut for second consecutive day

WEDNESDAY SHUTTERS IN SUPPORT OF STUDENTS, THURSDAY BECAUSE EMPLOYEES DID NOT SHOW UP
GANGTOK, 17 July: Shops at MG Marg remained closed for a second consecutive day today. While the shops had closed yesterday in support of the student protest yesterday, they remained shut today as well despite police officers assuring security and there having been no appeal from anywhere to keep shops closed.
When contacted, the Sikkim Chamber of Commerce explained that almost all businesses at MG Marg are employee-dependent and could not open today because the employees did not turn up for work today after the confusion and fear of Wednesday’s events.
The SCC explained that yesterday, the students of Sikkim Government College, Tadong, had appealed to them to support their cause and the situation was also not permitting them to open their businesses.
Kailash Agrawal, the SCC general secretary, confirmed that the state administration urged them to open the business establishments but that they were unable to do so since their staff could not come to duty in time.
The state administration has deployed enough police personnel to ensure the safety and security of the business hub of the state along with one Additional District Magistrate deputed to the sector to ensure safety, he said.
He assured that from Friday, all the business establishments will open in time as usual now that normalcy has been restored.

CM calls on Union Ministers, takes up pending issues, seeks new projects

New Delhi, 17 July [IPR]: Chief Minister Pawan Chamling called on Union Minister of Home, Rajnath Singh, Union Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, Union Minister of Road, Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari and Union Minister of State (IC), Information & Broadcasting, Prakash Javadekar on 16 July here in New Delhi.
During his meeting with the Home Minister, the Chief Minister congratulated the Union Minister for assuming the charge of Union Home Ministry and expressed his confidence that under his stewardship, people of India will have an increased sense of security and that the integrity and sovereignty of the nation would be further cemented for the benefit of all citizens.
Talking about the socio-political and economic rights of the people of Sikkim, the Chief Minister informed the Union Minister that there are some issues which are still pending with the Government of India. In the connection, the Chief Minister reiterated the State Government’s persistent demand for providing early reservation of seats in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly for the Limboo and Tamang communities and granting permission to 17th Gyalwa   Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje to   take seat at Rumtek Monastery. The Chief Minister also placed the State Government’s demand for inclusion of left out ethnic Sikkimese Nepali communities in the list of Schedule Tribe. The Union Home Minister gave a patient hearing to the demands placed by the Chief Minister. On the matter of His Holiness Karmapa, the Union Minister assured to consider the matter positively to allow His Holiness to take seat at Rumtek Monastery at the earliest.
The Chief Minister also called on Union Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley and apprised him about fiscal position of the State. Sikkim has recorded one of the highest growth rates in the country and the State is making all efforts possible to develop the State, the Chief Minister said. During his interaction, the Chief Minister also handed over a Memorandum to the Union Minister requesting him to grant income tax exemption to the left out communities including the business community living in Sikkim.
The Chief Minister also called on the Union Minister of Road, Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari. While congratulating the Union Minister for assuming the charge of central ministry, the Chief Minister held a detailed discussion about road sector in Sikkim and the role of Border Roads Organization and all other agencies responsible for with construction and upkeep of the border roads and other state and national highways.
Among others, the Chief Minister reiterated the requirement of construction of alternative national highway for the State of Sikkim, re-strengthening of existing national highway.
The Chief Minister also proposed construction of strategically important roads to connect different locations in the State including double laning, blacktopping, upgradation, geometric improvement and replacement of old existing bridges and landscaping of road stretches.
The Chief Minister also placed demand for construction of new roads under Tourism Purpose Roads with special features like ropeways, cable cars, resort and snow sports. Under Road Infrastructure Development, the Chief Minister proposed construction of infrastructure involving construction of improved administration offices, quality control laboratories, a very strong Mechanical wing, strengthening of all administration and establishment in the district including the head quarter in Gangtok.
The Chief Minister requested for a special dispensation of over Rs. 7,500 crore in a phased manner for construction work under the Holistic Road Network Development Programme. The Union Minister held a detailed discussion with the Chief Minister with all the Secretaries and officials looking after the road sector and assured full support to the demands and proposals submitted by the State Government.
The Chief Minister also called on the Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan. The Chief Minister congratulated the Union Minister for assuming the charge of Union Ministry and held a long discussion on the development of State and the priority sectors in the State. The Chief Minister renewed his commitment towards development of the State and the North East region contributing towards the nation building process. The Union Minister applauded the effort of the State Government in organic farming, tourism and floriculture sector.
The Chief Minister also called on the Union Water Resources Minister, Uma Bharati and congratulated her on assuming the charge of Union Ministry. The Chief Minister had a long discussion on the issue of water security in the State. The Union Minister enquired about the natural features of the State, the flora and fauna and the river lifeline of Teesta and Rangeet.
She evinced keen interest to visit Sikkim and see the Sikkim Himalayas which has the highest peak in the country, the river tributaries and the natural beauty.
The Chief Minister also called on the Union Minister of State (IC) of Information and Broadcasting, Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Parliamentary Affairs, Prakash Javadekar. The Chief Minister congratulated the Union Minister and wished him a very successful tenure as Union Minister of State. The Chief Minister placed a long pending demand of the State Government for inauguration of the Doordarshan Kendra at Gangtok and posting of requisite staff and other manpower. He requested for the personal intervention of the Union Minister to inaugurate and commence full operation of the Kendra to provide encouragement to local artists and also facilitate better understanding of the way of life, dreams and hopes and aspirations of the people of Sikkim. The Union Minister has assured to look to the matter for early action.
The Chief Minister extended invitation to all the Union Ministers to visit Sikkim which the Union Ministers have accepted. The Chief Minister was accompanied to all the meetings by the Principal Secretary to Chief Minister and Principal Resident Commissioner, Sikkim House, New Delhi.

Student group rejects agreement with Govt, will continue protest till SP and PI are suspended

GANGTOK, 17 July: A section of the college students has thumbed down the agreement drawn up with the State Government and rejected it, announcing that as far as they are concerned, their protest continues till their main demands are met. They are demanding that the SP [East] and the OC Sadar Thana be placed under suspension until the completion of the enquiry on the incidents of 14 and 15 July. They are also demanding that no police or legal action be initiated against any student for incidents which occurred between 14 to 16 July.
Addressing a press conference today, a section of students who had also attended yesterday’s negotiations with the State Government, they expressed that around 30 students attended the meeting but after long discussion no concrete decision emerged out. They now claim that they are “totally dissatisfied” with the agreement and claim that it was signed by just two students among whom one is an ex-student.
A student, Prakash Parajuli, stated that since there was no Students’ Representative Council, at present, they were representing students. He mentioned that after the whole day’s discussion, no conclusion came out and that they were not satisfied with the meeting.
Bimal Neopaney claims that the agreement was signed by just two students from among the 30 who attended the meeting.
Tshering Denka Bhutia, in turn, alleged that students did not a get chance to place their views at the meeting.
Poonam Chettri stated that when their demand that the SP [East] and the OC Sadar Thana be suspended from service was turned down, the students started to leave the conference hall but were stopped.
They are also now demanding that no police case or legal action be taken against any student for incident that took place between 14 and 16 July as they never wanted such a situation to transpire. About the one-man committee, like was demanded by SKM yesterday, they also today suggested that the committee have more members including a representative from the civil society, a retired government servant, a parents’ representative and be headed by a retired judge.
They also clarified that while they did not belong to any political party, all political parties, NGOs and people should support them.
Immediately, after this press conference, Neelam Gurung, one of the signatories of the agreement, along with Gyurmie Rinchen, who also attended the meeting, addressed the press. She clarified that she was an ex-student and with the permission of the Principal and lecturers of the college, was wearing the college uniform to support the students. She also stated that she was in unanimous support of the demands made by the students.

Sikkim University revises admission schedule

GANGTOK, 17 July: Citing “unavoidable reasons”, Sikkim University has revised the admission schedule for the academic session 2014-2015. As per the revised schedule, collection of admission slips and payment of fees by candidates selected in the first list will be done on Monday, 21 July (10 am to 5pm) and Tuesday, 22 July (10am to 3pm).
The University will publish the second list of selected candidates on Wednesday, 23 July 2014 at 11am. The last date for collection of admission slips and payment of fees by the candidates in the second list is Monday, 28 July.
Further, the University has also rescheduled the walk-in interview for Guest Lecturership for Thursday, 24 July 2014, which was to be held on 17 July.

SSB’s Samajik Chetna Abhiyan concludes in Darap

GANGTOK, 17 July: The valedictory function of the three-day “Samajik Chetna Abhiyan” of the Sashastra Seema Bal, Sikkim Area was held at Darap on Wednesday with the West Zilla Uapadhakshya LP Kafley present as chief guest and PL Subba, Principal, Govt. Sr. Sec. School, Darap, as guest of honour.
The valedictory ceremony was also attended by DK Thongon, Offg Area Organiser, SSB, Sikkim Area; S. Halder, Sub Area Organiser, SSB, Sombaria; H. Konwer, Circle Organiser, SSB, Darap (Geyzing); CS Patil; Asstt Comdt, 19th Bn SSB, Gangtok; Deepak, Asstt Comdt, 36th Bn, SSB; Secretary and Members of Darap-Nambu GPU, Principals and Teachers from nearby schools and a large gathering of locals from Darap and nearby villages, besides a host of SSB officers, a press release details.
A cultural programme and activities such as Sit & Draw competition, Elocution Contest, Inter-School Quiz Contest, Passing the Ball for Ladies were held besides sports and games like Volley Ball Tournament for local clubs and schools, Tug-of-War, sports and games for children and ladies organised.
Medical and Veterinary civic action works were also undertaken in the villages and medicines provided free of cost. While 333 patients were treated under MCA, 466 livestock were attended to under VCA, the release adds.


Allow Shamar Rinpoche’s remains into Nepal, urge Western Buddhist organisations

GANGTOK, 17 July: In an effort to fulfill the wishes of tens of thousands of Buddhists in Europe, the Americas and Asia, three Western organizations representing Buddhism have asked the Nepal Government to permit the remains of the 14th Shamar Rinpoche Mipham Chokyi Lodro to enter Nepal, where foreign and local devotees want to pay their last respects.
A press release from the Diamond Way Buddhism Foundation informs that originally, the Nepal Embassy in India had issued a “no objection letter” allowing for the remains of the Shamar Rinpoche to be taken to Nepal from India for the last rites but the Nepal government later retracted its permission.
Bodhi Path Buddhist Centers [Germany], Dhagpo Kagyu Ling [France] and Diamond Way Buddhism Foundation [Germany] have written to the Nepal government asking for the Rinpoche’s mortal remains to be allowed into Nepal.
The release informs that numerous followers of the Karma Kagyu lineage from the Western world have already organized their trips and bought tickets to fly to Kathmandu from as far as Europe and America. Retracting the permission would deny devotees from Nepal, as well as many international followers and benefactors, the opportunity to meet their teacher for the last time.
“Spirituality is beyond nationality. Shamar Rinpoche was a great example of that, devoting his life to work for the benefit of others in the whole world – be it Nepal, Europe or America—without discriminating who comes from where. His last wish to rest after his passing in Kathmandu should be respected. His resting place will become an international pilgrimage place important not only to Rinpoches’s followers but to all Buddhists. Thus everybody, including Nepal, will benefit. It is actually an honor for the country”, said Caty Hartung of the Board of Directors of the Diamond Way Buddhism Foundation.

SDF condemns violence planned to unsettle Sikkim

GANGTOK, 17 July: Sikkim Democratic Front has accused party functionaries of “an opposition party” and its leaders of joining hands with antisocial elements to unsettle Sikkim’s prevailing peace to serve their own selfish political ends.
An SDF press release insists that the state government had come to an amicable agreement with the students, and rues that some antisocial elements continue to fan confusion and derail the settlement. The release states that the students were informed that the one-man committee would conduct an unbiased enquiry and action will be taken accordingly and that the fee hike has already been rolled back. Some groups however continue to try and upset the prevailing peace, the release adds.
The release further states that it was antisocial elements aligned with the opposition party [and not students] who blocked the national highway, attacked the police escort of a High Court Judge’s convoy, attacked RMDD Minister SB Subedi’s car, attacked the DGP, assaulted the DM and smashed the SDM’s vehicle yesterday and assaulted several policemen in a bid to create a law and order situation in the state.
The SDF party has condemned what it sees as the hijacking of the students protest by antisocial elements [as revealed in Wednesday’s events in Gangtok] to create lawlessness in the State.
The party goes on to commend the district administration of having consistently tried to negotiate with students. It has also thanked the administration for having dealt firmly with the situation and restoring normalcy after Wednesday’s incidents.
The SDF party has also appealed to the people not to tolerate antisocial activities or condone violence and has urged that peace and tranquility be maintained.

Rankey Mela at Namchi

NAMCHI, 17 July: A celebration unique to the South District headquarter town – Rankey Mela - which falls on the first day of the month of Sawan of the Vikram Sambhat calander, was celebrated with much gusto and excitement here at Central Park today.
Rankey Mela, a celebration of monsoons, is also known as Sawaney Sankranti, and is believed to be a ritual observance that prays for good fortune in the form of a fine harvest after the monsoons. Rural folk have traditionally celebrated this day with rural sports, traditional dance and song and attendant rituals.
Like every year, an effigy of ‘Rankey Bhoot,’ the devil that destroys harvests, was lit up last evening at Singithang ground brightening up the Namchi sky. The tradition of burning an effigy of Rankey Bhoot began in Namchi in 1985.
The effigy burning is a grander representation of the original practice in which farmers would light flaming torches and toss them into the fields to the beat of drums and general cacophony in a bid to exorcise the fields of the evil influence that ruins crops. Tradition also has it that entering the fields the next day would give the exorcised demons a chance to return. Since the farmer got a day off, they would spend the day in festivities and games around which the Rankey Mela developed.
The Rankey Mela celebrations featured different rural sporting events which were followed by traditional cultural programs to mark the celebration. The winner of the events was awarded with the prizes by the committee.

24 yr old arrested on charges of raping 5 minors over past year

GANGTOK, 17 July: A 24-year-old was arrested on Wednesday on charges of having raped five minor girls in Lower Pakyong, East Sikkim. He is accused to have visited the horror on the minors for the past one year.
The accused, Yogen Pradhan, 24, was arrested on charges of raping five minors aged between 8 to 14 years over the past nearly a year. The arrest was made after the parents lodged an FIR against the accused.
Today saw angry parents demanding justice for the five minor victims and taking out a protest rally in Pakyong bazaar.
The accused has been booked under section 376 [rape] of the Indian Penal Code, Protection of Children from Sexual Harassment Act and other relevant norms, Pakyong Police Station sources informed adding that the accused was produced before the Judicial Magistrate and has been remanded to police custody for another five days.

Organic training held at Nazitam and Patium

GANGTOK, 17 July: A ward-level training on Organic Farming and its Certification process was organized by International Panaacea Limited [IPL]in association with Sikkim Organic Mission at   Nazitam and Patium on 16 July, an IPL press release informs.
Deputy Director Churamani Upreti, Agriculture Development Officer Dr. Pratap Subba, and IPL’s Cluster incharge Pushpa Lal Dahal were present as resource persons for different topics taken up during the daylong training.

Namchi college students condemn police action, express hope that one-man committee will deliver justice

NAMCHI, 17 July: Namchi Government College students and student representatives of South District have condemned the police action against college students in Gangtok on 14 and 15 July and demanded the strict and immediate action from the state government of Sikkim and said that “ issue had not been settled yet, student will wait for 15 days for the investigation of the incident and if the justice will not come they will continue their agitation and for this time students of four district will join in this agitation seeking for the justice”.
They have demanded strict action against the SP East and the Sadar Thana PI for the lathicharge of 14 July and have also demanded there be no bias in the investigation into the incident and that all the police and IRBn personnel involved in the incident be punished accordingly.
The students also expressed dissatisfaction with HRD Department’s style of functioning, and remarked that if the fee hike had been announced more in advance, a solution would also have been worked out earlier and things would not have come to such a pass.
The students were forced to protest the fee hike and the lathicharge was hence wrong, the students said. The State Government should also have intervened immediately into the matter instead of allowing it to become critical.
Meanwhile, the students of Namchi Government College had also placed their representation letter regarding the Tadong incident to DC [South] which had been forwarded to the Principal Secretary.
The students also appealed to all political parties to stay away from the issue and not politicize it since all that the students want was justice from the concerned authority against a wrong. The students also thanked the State government for bring back the earlier nominal college fees and setting up a one-man committee to enquire into the incident and expressed faith that the committee will deliver justice.
The students also called on the HRD Department to improve its system so that such manageable issues are not allowed to snowball into such vexed situations. They also informed that the Namchi Government college is facing huge problems in the admission procedure for this session and demanded that the department come up with immediate solutions for this problem also.

Minister chairs review meeting with ICDS functionaries from West Sikkim

GYALSHING, 17 July: A review meeting of grassroot level ICDS functionaries was held here at the Community Hall today. The meeting had Minister Tulsi Devi Rai, who is also the Minister for Social Justice, Empowerment and Welfare Department, along with the other officials from the Social Welfare Department.
The meeting discussed the various problems being faced by the ICDS Centers in the region and what actions needed to be taken to upgrade them. The program saw a handsome participation of the ICDS functionaries who raised various issues related to their way of functioning.
Many ICDS functionaries raised the issue of what they see as the paltry salary they are being paid in return of their dedicated service and requested the government to look into the matter seriously.
Leela Hangma Limboo, an ICDS teacher, raised the issue of irregular delivery of food items for students and poor packaging of food items and requested the authorities to take note of this problem.
Pushpa Kala Gautam, a 60 year old lady who is working as a teacher in an ICDS center at Middle Chongrang, also sought details on whether there was a pension plan for ICDS workers. The ICDS workers have not been brought under the pension plan yet either by the central government or by the state government. She said that throughout their life, she has worked hard to improve the education sector in the state, yet, she will be retiring from service without any incentives. She urged the government to look into the matter.
Other ICDS functionaries raised issues like uneven distribution of uniforms to ICDS students. It has been informed that the government had distributed uniforms across the state in 2012 for infants at the ICDS centres. No uniforms have been issued to them since then.
They have further demanded that there be proper cooking facilities at each ICDS center. They have demanded for the issue of an LPG cylinder at each center.
Minister Tulsi Devi Rai, while responding to the points raised, assured that the demands placed by the ICDS functionaries will be given the utmost attention by the state govt.
Speaking on women’s empowerment, she said that the women have played the role of constructive protagonist in every field and declared that the ICDS has been the best forum through which the women have been able to transform the society. She said that the women participation in the said scheme has been fruitful as the children from the lower strata of the society get blessed with education. She was all praises for the functioning of ICDS workers.
The Minister further informed that a model ICDS center will be established in every district where all the facilities will be made available to the students and depending on the functioning of such model ICDS centers, other centers will be opened. She said that she is optimistic about the better outcome of the project that is likely to be initiated so soon.
Today’s meeting was well attended by ICDS functionaries from all over the district and they attested it as a fruitful one during which they could share their opinions in a better way. They said that they are hopeful of getting their problems so soon.

Unfortunate…

Editorial-
Sikkim is unfortunately making it a habit of allowing substantial victories to lapse into muddled lost opportunities and major successes to fritter away uncelebrated and unacknowledged. One saw this happen with Sikkim’s most earnest movement to date - the ACT-led anti-hydel protest some years ago - and revisited the wreckage of promising possibilities this week with the manner in which the college protest sank after reaching a remarkable high.
To go over the sequence of events: student protest over the college fee hike by the HRD Department simmers on Saturday; On Monday a large delegation of students confronts the department, nothing materialises; On their return to campus, as they sit in protest on the highway, the police, in what is unanimously accepted as unnecessary and unprovoked, lathicharge them; Students fight back and a standoff sets in which is broken with a more aggressive lathicharge later in the evening. Meanwhile, the root cause of the student protest – the fee hike – is rolled back. This is a major achievement, but by the time the announcement limps into public domain, the students don’t even get to celebrate their victory because the protest has grown to include the police lathicharge. The students want action taken against the SP and the Sadar Thana in charge. The fee hike and the eventual roll-back lose prominence as the students versus police confrontation gains primacy. The next day, the cops are more controlled and an offer arrives of setting up an independent enquiry into the events of 14 July, day-One of the student protest, and the police action. This again is a major moral victory because students have secured a rare first of staring down the administration and pushing it to the back feet and into instituting a committee of enquiry. But there is either a communication gap or a major trust deficit when even this offer is rejected and the demand for the SP’s removal insisted upon. The district administration which showed impressive control and did not take action against the students despite the mob manhandling the DC and a group attacking his car in full public view earlier in the day, finally loses restraint when the DC is pushed around again. There was however only tear gas used this time to disperse the crowd. The stand-off continued, and on day-Three, many more groups and several more people marched to the college in support of the students. The college students decided to accept the offer for talks with the State Government and while they stay in campus, groups supporting their protest take over the highway. The supporters far outnumbered the protesters by now and the sloganeering and heckling of the police grows louder and more aggressive. The supporters expand the protest from the college and stretch it right up to the main town area. Shops are shut and traffic stalled. It is only a matter of time before violence arrives, and it does, starting with isolated incidents of moving vehicles being targeted by the protesters into a string of anarchic arson stretching the length of town. This is new to Gangtok, and ironically comes at a time when the students have finally been officially brought to the negotiation table. The protest on Wednesday slipped out of the control of the students and was battled by their supporters. Even as they grow restive in the college campus, violence rages outside.
This has now become something else and instead of a closure, what Sikkim and the protesting college students will receive is a festering wound of all round distrust. What happened in Gangtok on Monday in the hands of the police and Wednesday in the hands of protest supporters was wrong. Violence should not be condoned and cannot be justified irrespective of who unleashes it. Meanwhile, the gains, which, let’s accept it, were substantial, and were about more than just the commitments won and were also about a reiteration of youth power, a genuine support of the people at least on the first two days and a required humbling of the administration and the police which is always healthy in a democracy from time to time. But because the situation was allowed to keep deteriorating, it will now become more about frustrations, paranoia, anger, distrust, score-settling and suspicions. Unfortunate…

Bar Assc demands action against SP and his subordinates for having beaten up court officials

GANGTOK, 17 July: The Bar Association of Sikkim has called on the High Court of Sikkim to take immediate action against the SP [East] Manoj Tiwari and his subordinate officers for having allegedly beaten up two officials of the Subordinate Court while they were returning from duty last evening.
The Bar Association of Sikkim has resolved to stand up against the violation of the fundamental rights of the two members of the Court fraternity.
In a memorandum submitted to the Chief Justice of Sikkim High Court along with the companion judges, BAS has urged that cognizance be taken of the incident and a Judicial Enquiry initiated into what it sees as the merciless beating up of Karma Tshering Topgay and Chung Chung Bhutia by the SP and subordinates under his command.
The Bar members further prayed the court to take such action against SP East and suspend him to ensure that the judicial enquiry is conducted in a free and fair manner without the said person being able to influence witnesses or tamper with evidence.
Both the victims have lodged FIRs against the SP and his subordinate officers.
The BAS members have unanimously condemned the police action against the members of the Court fraternity as barbaric.
This afternoon, the District Magistrate, East visited STNM Hospital and met with the injured and enquired about their health. He also ensured that all necessary treatment was provided to them.
BAS plans to wait for another two days for action on their request and if not satisfied, will pursue the matter legally, it is informed.

AIDSO calls for All India Protest Day on Friday

GANGTOK, 17 July: All India Democratic Students’ Organisation [AIDSO] has called for an All India Protest Day on 18 July.
In a press release, general secretary AIDSO, Ashok Mishra, has said that the All India Protest Day is being observed to demand the immediate arrest and stringent punishment of the police officers responsible for the violence against students of Sikkim, release of all students and public arrested for their participation in the “movement, against commercialization of education and withdrawal of all fee hikes”.
He informs that a team of AIDSO Sikkim Unit went to the spot and expressed solidarity with the movement. AIDSO has strongly condemned the “onslaught on students' movement”.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

DAY-03 OF COLLEGE PROTEST



33 vehicles, 2 bikes, an ambulance vandalized; Tear gassing resorted to again
GANGTOK, 16 July: The protest against the fee-hike by college students with which the week, and incidentally the new academic session began on Monday, had multiplied into a protest against a police lathicharge at the college gates by the evening. On Tuesday, yesterday, the police showed restraint and resorted to tear-gassing the mixed crowd of students and their supporters in the evening. Today, the scale of protest grew phenomenally, as did the nature of violence. And it was mostly tear-gassing again today, but this time at more locations than Tadong [to which it was limited yesterday] and reaching up to Hospital Dara where a police vehicle had been torched by protesters.
Till yesterday, it was mostly college students and police confrontation, but today, most of the college students stayed inside the campus, having turned out “non-students” from the college premises early in the day following which police bandobast at the gate kept them in for most part of the day and their supporters out.
This did not however keep the highway free as several groups started rallying down to the college in support of the students, protesting police action against them and demanding action against the SP [East]. It is clear that rumours of a student fatality [which were proven wrong] had fuelled passions and drawn bigger crowds to the college. It is also clear that the groups knew the rumours to be false by the time they arrived here because it did not figure in their slogans.
Meanwhile, after a student delegation had agreed to meet with the State Government representatives to discuss their demands, the HRDD Minister and the Principal Secretary, it is learnt, advised the district administration not to take any action against the protesting college students down at Tadong.
The police presence around the college began thinning accordingly.
Even as this was happening, groups arriving in support of the protesting students started swelling in numbers, anger and aggression. The larger groups came down from the main town area and were joined by groups from below Tadong which had earlier taken out a procession to CRH where they were told a fatality had occurred. Their misconception was cleared and they returned protesting the lathicharge to Tadong.
The crowd swelled at Tadong and the protest grew loud and as they were allowed free movement around the area in the absence of a police cordon, they started marching up. It then collected outside the Tadong Police Outpost and started raising slogans against the SP [East] and the police action on students. The heckling was getting intense and unnerving.
The situation had become tense and the outpost had only a skeletal anti-riot team and SAP personnel led by their Commandant Tashi Wangyal at the spot. The situation collapsed when a Sikkim Police vehicle arrived with two personnel on board and was set upon by a section of the crowd. The two occupants escaped, but the vehicle was turned over. The situation had turned violent and as the vehicle was being smashed, some stones were also lobbed from the back and the order to release tear gas was issued.
The police squad and the protesters engaged in a pitched exchange of tear gas and stones and eventually the riot police pushed forward and dispersed the crowd. The police strength at the venue was clearly inadequate to clear too large an area and as the crowd dispersed, reports of arson started coming in with a parked bus set on fire at Convoy Ground.
The situation in the main town area also deteriorated into violence with even the DGP’s vehicle stoned at Hospital Dara.
Through the day, 33 vehicles were vandalised in Gangtok. Of the 33 vehicles, five were set on fire.
Speaking over the phone, District Collector [East], AK Singh, informed that 33 vehicles, two motorcycles on police duty [at Tadong], and one ambulance were damaged. 16 police personnel were also injured today, of whom five sustained head injuries.
Besides Gangtok, no reports of such damages have come from other parts of East district thus far, he added.
The district administration is on full vigil and prepared to tackle the situation, said Mr Singh, expressing hope that the law & order situation will be restored within the next 24 hours.
DIG [Range], Dr. MS Tuli, stated that after the mob turned violent and indulged in vandalism damaging government and private properties, the police administration was forced to use tear gas to disperse the crowd and bring the situation under control in Tadong.
He has appealed to the people not to take law into their hands and maintain peace in the state further adding that the police administration was fully cooperating with the people for their safety and security.
DGP Jasbir Singh, who returned today from Delhi, drove down straight to Tadong to talk to protesting students and their supporters. His vehicle was attacked on his way down at Hospital Dara. There was much chaos on the roads and it took rather indiscriminate tear-gassing to disperse the crowds and clear the roads and end the violence. By late in the evening, those who risked taking their vehicles out could drive around town but the traffic was thin. Even the army took out a march around Tadong to reinforce that it had installations here and would keep them safe.
Media-persons, who had been heckled yesterday, continued to be challenged by different groups today as well with a government cameraman roughed up and his camera smashed, another journalist assaulted, the first at Tadong and the latter at Hospital Dara, and several others told off.

Lepcha Assc forms adhoc committee

GANGTOK, 16 July: Renjong Mutanchi Rong Tarjum has dissolved its existing committee and formed an adhoc committee at a meeting held under the chairmanship of Minister DT Lepcha on Tuesday. The meeting was also attended by Minister TW Lepcha and members of central and district level committees of RMRT and members of Sikkim Lepcha Youth Association.
An RMRT press release informs that the main objective of the meeting was to dissolve the old committee and to form an adhoc committee. The meeting also discussed the celebration of Tendong Lho Rum Faat on 08 August and a celebration committee headed by DT Lepcha has been formed for the festival.
The release informs that in the meeting, government employees of the association tendered their resignations following the recent government notification barring government employees from being members of any association. The adhoc committee is headed by Dupden Lepcha as president.



Student delegation resolves confrontation with govt

ANOTHER GROUP DISSATISFIED WITH AGREEMENT, WILL MEET THURSDAY TO DECIDE NEXT MOVE
GANGTOK, 16 July: At the end of the third day of the student protest today, which was joined in by several other groups, the students remained divided on whether to accept the agreement signed with the state government or not.
A group of thirty college students were sent up to negotiate with State government representatives at Mannan Bhawan today. They went up to the meeting from Tadong in the college bus cheered on by fellow students who stayed back in college. Today, the college students stayed in campus and in the morning itself asked “non-students” to leave the campus.
The delegation held a marathon meeting with the government represented by five Ministers, the HRDD Secretary and the college principal. By evening, the negotiations succeeded and the two sides jointly signed an agreement titled “Decision arrived at the meeting held between the HRDD and representatives of the students of all Sikkim Government Colleges, Tadong”.
The agreement was signed on behalf of the State Government by HRDD Minister Ram Bahadur Subba, Ugen T Gyatso [Minister Tourism], Somnath Poudyal [Minister Agriculture], DT Lepcha [Minister PWD], SB Subedi [Minister RMDD], former Speaker KT Gyaltsen, Thomas Chandy [Secretary HRDD] and Dr. MP Kharel [Principal Tadong Degree College]. The student delegation to the meeting also signed the agreement which recorded the “joint decision drawn up to ensure that proper justice is done in the interest of the students and peace is immediately restored”.
As per the agreement, the government has agreed to provide medical reimbursement and bear the medical expenses of the students injured in the incidents on 14 and 15 July and provide legal assistance to the students during the course of enquiry by the one-man committee headed by Secretary Land Revenue and Disaster Management department, CT Wangdi, into the police action on students on 14 and 15 July.
The agreement states that demands placed by the students have been considered and necessary orders issued.
The students, it may be recalled, had already been informed that the fee-hike [against which the protest began] has been rolled back and a one-man committee of enquiry constituted to enquire into the police action of 14 July which triggered the larger protests.
Where one had expected the joint decision to have resolved the issue, that wasn’t to be. A section of the students refused to accept this agreement as did a section of the supporters, arguing that their demands have not been adequately addressed. The disagreement became rather heated in the evening [read accompanying report] and eventually one group decided to hold a meeting on Thursday at the college campus to discuss the matter and decide the future course of action.

Student negotiators assaulted on return with agreement

GROUP FILES FIR AT TADONG OUTPOST, SEEK POLICE PROTECTION
GANGTOK, 16 July: An FIR was filed by a group of college students at the Tadong Police Out Post, while also seeking police security, after some of them were beaten up by some “unknown” persons who were their “supporters” till earlier in the day through the three days of the protest.
A section of the delegation of 30 students which arrived at an agreement with the State government this afternoon, were beaten up by, as per their FIR, unknown persons, who turned hostile when they reached the Sikkim Government College here with news of the agreement drawn up the government.
The students say that as soon as they reached the college gate and started explaining the negotiations held with the State Government, some unknown persons attacked them using foul language and accusing them of having sold out the protest.
“We were talking to some of our friends when the same people who were earlier supporting us turned violent and started beating us while using abusive language. Even our college faculty who were with us including our principal had to run into the college campus to save themselves. These people came into the college and even beat us there, even girls were not spared, we ran and hid in the teachers quarters who shut the gates and we remained silent and with the lights turned off till we heard that some people had come to rescue us,” stated a student who was part of the protesting group and the negotiation team.
The students maintain that throughout they did not want the issue to go out of hand and did not want any politics to affect their cause.
“Many people came and showed their support, we had not called anyone and had told them to stay away from our cause but at the last moment some of the people in the same group who were earlier supporting us, questioned our decision and started manhandling us,” state the students.    
Of the 30, seventeen students were caught in the college violence and had taken refuge in the campus traumatized by the violence visited on them. Later in the evening, a group of well wishers from Tadong went into the campus, arranged police security and escorted them out.
The FIR filed, transport and security was arranged for the students and medical attention provided to the some who were injured in the incident.
“We have lost important documents and also the file that contained the agreement with the administration when we ran for our lives,” said a girl student who was part of the delegation. It may be recalled that a section of the students have also rejected the agreement and announced plans to meet and discuss the agreement in detail on Thursday morning and then deciding what to do next.

28 injured receive first aid at STNM Hospital

GANGTOK, 16 July [IPR]: Since 14 July, the STNM Hospital received 28 students and police personnel in the emergency ward in connection with injuries sustained in the police action at Tadong on 14 and 15 July. These patients had sustained minor injuries in the clash at Tadong and were released after being given first aid.
Only one student was admitted in the hospital for observation on 14 July and was discharged on 16 July. One adult possibly a bystander was admitted with injuries and was also discharged on 16 July.

SDF wants agent provocateurs identified and exposed

GANGTOK, 16 July: Sikkim Democratic Front has stressed that Sikkimese people should identify the antisocial elements who trying to take political advantage out of the protest of the college students since 14 July. The party states that the State Government fulfilled the demands of the students without any delay.
An SDF press release informs that the government was aware of the ‘clash’ between police and students on 14 July and has already constituted a one-member committee presided by Land Revenue Secretary, CT Wangdi to investigate the incident. The release informs that the committee, by investigating the incident properly, can recommend action against whoever is found guilty. The release further informs that the government will pay for the treatment of injured students and policemen by taking them to hospitals within and outside the state, as required.
The release informs that by respecting the students, a meeting was held which was attended by concerned Ministers, Principals and teachers of different colleges today at HRDD conference hall.
The release states at the meeting, it was noticed that many students were unaware that their demands had already been fulfilled which is when it was felt that irresponsible politicians and antisocial elements have been taking advantage of the situation.
The release alleges that at such a moment, irresponsible and antisocial elements have been instigating students by sending party-workers into student groups. The party has also appreciated the constructive steps of the students by indentifying such elements.

Schools and colleges to remain closed for one week

GANGTOK, 16 July: In view of the disturbed law and order situation, the Human Resource Development Department [HRDD] has shut down all government schools and colleges for one week.
Speaking to NOW! today, Principal Secretary [HRDD], Dr Thomas Chandy, informed that the Department had taken the decision to shut down all the Government schools for a period of one week [from 16 – 23 July].
“The security of the students is of utmost importance for us and safe passage of students while returning from schools has made it necessary for the department to take the necessary step. Till we are sure that the situation has been brought under control and there is no danger to the lives of the children we have decided to close down the schools,” he explained.
There is usually no problem for the children in the mornings while going to schools but when the children are returning home in the evenings, we need to be sure that they have safe passage without any incidents, the Secretary stated and added that the department had even advised the private schools to shut down looking at the situation at hand.
“The private schools can review the situation after a few days and can start operating their schools if they feel that there is no danger for the children. Looking at the situation we have even shut down the government schools and colleges for one week,” he stated.