Saturday, September 20, 2014

Yangang stays with a Chamling



IN HINDSIGHT, THE RESULT POSTED IN THE RANGANG-YANGANG BY-ELECTION MIGHT HAVE BEEN OBVIOUS, BUT IT STILL THROWS UP SOME INTERESTING POSSIBILITIES

PURAN TAMANG
Although his direct opponents were not political heavyweights themselves, but because he successfully campaigned against the collective might of everybody who is anybody in the current political space, RN Chamling, the new Member of the Legislative Assembly representing Rangang-Yangang constituency of South Sikkim, has earned himself the medal of being a giant killer. But he was more than that because it was not individuals he was really contesting against but established political entities – the ruling Front’s campaign for Kumari Mangar [who lost by around 700 votes] was led from the front by the Chief Minister himself and the Opposition SKM, still fresh from its impressive poll debut three months ago, had allied with BJP whom it also gave its former candidate Bikash Basnet and the campaign time of all 10 MLAs.
At the end however, it was two-way contest between SDF and the Independent, who was, till the last moment, lobbying for an SDF ticket himself. Mr. RN Chamling’s candidature, since he is the SDF party president, Chief Minister Pawan Chamling’s younger brother and hails from and has worked in Yangang all these years, clearly confused the SDF supporters enough for their votes to get split. The vote-share of the bye-election reflects that of the five candidates in the fray, three did not tickle the people’s interest at all. Mr. RN Chamling and Ms. Mangar split 95% of the votes cast between them, the winner pulling clear with 51.33% of the votes and Ms. Mangar securing 43.22% of the votes. The remaining three lost their deposits, and the surprise was especially shocking in the manner in which the SKM-BJP alliance collapsed. Mr. Basnet, who, as an SKM candidate from the same constituency in April 2014, had received an impressive [given that he was going up against Chief Minister Chamling] 3,201 votes, this time, as an SKM-BJP consensus candidate, polled only 315 votes.
Although Mr. RN Chamling’s campaign and supporters had attracted big crowds and made strong claims, his was always considered a doubtful candidature primarily because he was contesting as an Independent in a political environment which has been an SDF versus SKM battleground for a while now. Also, SDF, despite the aggressive and media savvy campaign of the SKM in the run-up to the bye-elections had managed to hold on to South and West districts where SKM had drawn a blank. It was perhaps from this performance that the party, which had brought back its veterans for the April elections, felt emboldened to field a first-timer for the bye-elections. In that sense, the Rangang-Yangang bye-poll was also unique in that all five were debutants [Mr. Basnet being the only one who had already contested an election, but that was technically the same poll].
The polling on 13 September drew a handsome 79% turnout, only marginally lower than the 82% who had voted in April. When the votes were counted on 16 September, Mr. RN Chamling won all the four rounds as well as the postal ballots. Although there is no way of knowing how individual people voted, if one were to surmise that Ms. Mangar’s 4,080 votes were from the 6,343 votes polled by the CM in April, and lost the remaining around 2,300 voters to Mr. RN Chamling, then these, added to the complete exodus from the SKM camp [which fell from 3,201 to 352] neatly ties up to the votes that won the contest for the Independent.
Though little was known of Mr. RN Chamling in the rest of Sikkim, it was clear that he was a favourite for Rangang-Yangang which has decided to stay with a Chamling [the seat was vacated by Mr. RN Chamling’s elder brother after he won from here along with Namchi-Singhithang in April].
The counting began at the Namchi DAC at 9am on Tuesday, and the quickness of EVMs ended the suspense within forty minutes. His supporters, who were gathered at the Namchi Public Ground erupted in celebration.
Interestingly, Mr. RN Chamling, while he was being escorted to Yangang from Namchi, stopped at the SDF party office at Namchi and exchanged greetings with SDF supporters there. There was no animosity on display.
In his short conversation with media personnel after winning, he said that he was grateful for the people’s mandate and that now not only he as the MLA, but all the people of Rangang-Yangang will collectively work for the development of the constituency.

THE RESPONSE
The verdict has clearly surprised everyone and only the Sikkim Democratic Front has officially responded to the results through a press communiqué.
KT Gyaltsen of the SDF, in a press release issued on the evening of 16 September, while congratulating Mr. RN Chamling on his victory, has underlined that this was also an ideological victory for the SDF party president, who, despite knowing that his younger brother was a popular choice and confirmed victory, did not compromise on his stand of not promoting dynastic politics in the party. Delegations seeking the SDF ticket for Mr. RN Chamling had started approaching the senior Chamling since even before he had announced plans to relinquish Rangang-Yangang, it may be recalled.
“Some ideological underpinnings have thrown a new dimension to this election and more importantly to the rock-like principle and ideology of President SDF and Chief Minister Shri Pawan Chamling,” Mr. Gyaltsen details in his press release.
He highlights that not only did the Party President not give the ticket to his younger brother [despite knowing that he would win], but also spared no quarters for him by deploying all senior leaders to the campaign which he himself led from the front. “All this because he stood firm on a principle and ideological point which goes beyond electoral politics and even family obligations. No one can challenge the fact that Shri Chamling and SDF did not campaign hard,” Mr. Gyaltsen details.
He also highlights that the party’s stand on social equity was also reinforced in the ticket being offered to Kumari Mangar. “Hailing from a humble family background, Smt. Thapa Mangar will continue to represent the political ideology of SDF under the President Shri Pawan Chamling where all sections of population find honourable place within the party establishment,” he states.
He then goes on to take on the Opposition for the drubbing it received and rubs some salt on what should be still smarting wounds. “The outcome of this bi-election reflected how completely ineffectual, unreliable and irrelevant the Opposition SKM and other Opposition parties have become within three months of the last elections and also how uninspiring national parties continue to be in Sikkim,” he comments.
Sikkim Krantikari Morcha party spokesperson, the Syari MLA Kunga Nima Lepcha, when contacted, welcomed the result and congratulated the people for voting for an Independent candidate “showing the people’s might and the real meaning of democracy.”
Speaking to NOW! over the phone, he congratulated Rup Narayan Chamling for having “inspired the people to reject the Pawan Chamling dictatorship”.
About the SKM-BJP alliance, he said that the alliance will continue “as both the parties are working for the welfare of the people and consistently working to eradicate corrupt practices”.
The BJP has not issued an official comment on the results as yet.
Supporters of the winning candidate when contacted highlighted that he being a social activist had become popular with his diligent work and sincerity towards the interests of the people of the constituency. They now wanted him to continue his work for the development of the area by remaining an independent voice and speaking for the people.
The SDF supporters had a different story to tell when asked why they thought the party lost. They said that the public had voted for an individual this time and not ideology allowing their personal interests and feelings to decide their vote. Mr. RN Chamling was individually popular, they admit, and this is what the people voted for. They said that the SDF would continue to bring development in all spheres of the state and convince the people that they were committed to work for the best interest of the people of Sikkim and were the only party to strive for this.
Bikash Basnet, the BJP candidate, commented that elections were like battles and that he was happy with the results as this was what the people wanted and he was for the people and glad that SDF did not win.
Now, the Legislative Assembly has seen the SDF strength decrease from 22 to 21 and in its next sitting, will receive only the fifth Independent candidate ever to sit in the Assembly. The last time the SLA had an independent MLA was in 1999-2004 when Palden Lachungpa won from the Sangha seat. The Independents before that were Ashok Tsong [1994], Balchand Sarda [1985] and Lachen Gomchen Rimpoche [1979]. Now to see which direction Mr. RN Chamling’s political future takes and what having an Independent representative means for Rangang-Yangang.

Aiming for Zero

ZERO WASTE HIMALAYA VOLUNTEERS PETITION CHIEF SECRETARY WITH 3-POINT SOLUTION TO ADDRESS LITTERING AND BANE OF PLASTICS
Zero Waste Himalaya volunteers from Sikkim Government College, Tadong, recently submitted a petition to the Chief Secretary regarding issues of solid waste management practices that required the State Government’s immediate attention. This was a follow up to an earlier petition submitted to the Government by the group last year on the previous Zero Waste Himalaya Day [08 August, 2013].
The petition focuses on three major issues- recommending a ban on use of disposable materials at all eateries and switching to reusable options for serving food; review of the Plastic Bags Ban Rule in the state for improving its effectiveness and implementation; and putting an end to the practice of using packaged drinking water at Government meetings.
A recent study made by the ZWH Group on the plastic bag ban has reportedly indicated that it is not being implemented strictly. Also, the popular alternative to plastic bags in many cases is the polypropylene nonwoven bag or PP bag which is being wrongly portrayed as cloth, but is in fact just another form of plastic.
A report highlighting findings of the Plastics Bags Ban survey was also presented to the CS along with a report of the awareness programme carried out by the ZWH group at MG Marg on Zero Waste Himalaya Day last month. The group also presented a sample cloth bag with a Zero Waste message that could be used as a reusable shopping bag in lieu of the plastic shopping bag.

Two years and counting…

SPSC IS TRYING TO GET THINGS RIGHT, BUT THE BUREAUCRACY WILL STILL HAVE TO WAIT SOME MORE MONTHS FOR ITS NEW BATCH OF UNDER SECRETARIES

It is two years almost to the day since the SPSC invited applications for filling up of 25 State Civil Services and two State Police Service posts back on 12 September 2012. Held on the UPSC format for Indian administrative services, the process this time included a prelims, mains and interview. The mains have still not been called, and officials inform that it will take at least four more months for the process to complete, provided no new complication crops up for this “recruitment drive” which has had its share of drama. In comparison, the UPSC completes the civil services exams - from call for applications to interview - within barely a year. While there is no denying that the State Public Service Commission could benefit from some professional management, it is also a fact that it is understaffed, overworked, under prepared and logistically challenged.
Things started slow at the State Public Service Commission, which, after having announced the exams in September 2012, conducted the prelims slightly over a year later in October 2013. This exam did not go too well, with candidates crying foul over the careless manner in which it was held. An uproar later, the SPSC scrapped the exam and the wait began for a retake. In the interim, the general elections happened and the prelims happened only in July 2014.
Originally, 5,431 candidates had registered for the preliminary examinations, of whom 3,189 took their admit cards and 2,679 eventually took the exam [in July 2014]. In the prelims held in October last year, which was later cancelled by the SPSC, 3,611 candidates had taken the exam.
The results were tabulated in quick time and a shortlist of 373 candidates released for the mains. Last week, on 14 September, the SPSC held the Physical Efficiency Test [PET] for the selected candidates who had opted for Sikkim Police Service. With this evaluation over, the decks are cleared for the holding of the mains.
OH Subba, the Chairman at SPSC under whom the current sequence of exams are being held, explains that as per the directives of the Department of Personnel setting the guidelines for selection, 1:13 ratio on vacancies to candidates was taken in preparing the list of selected candidates after the prelims. And then there is the roster system which also needs to be worked in.
The Sikkim Public Service Commission was set up in 1982 with the appointment of a Chairman and deputation of staff from the State Government and is charged with conducting direct recruitments in state civil services and the 40 other services through competitive examinations.
It is clearly very tough for the SPSC to manage this responsibility specially since it is also straddled with manpower shortfalls and ironically has vacancies in its own ranks which await to be filled up. Incongruously for an organization charged with conducting entrance exams and one which has already bungled seriously in recent times, the posts of Joint Examination Controller and Assistance Examination Controller remain vacant at SPSC. Surprisingly, the Commission also lacks the services of experts to prepare the question papers and conduct evaluations. This leads to further delays.
The SPSC is doing its best to conduct the examinations in time and without any controversy, the Chairperson Mr. Subba however underlines. He shares that among the more immediate challenges facing the Commission is in preparing question papers for those who have taken state government notified languages as their optional subjects.
The prelims, he points out, are relatively simple to conduct [with its multiple choice format and optical marker corrections], but conducting a main examinations is much more complicated. The SPSC has enlisted services of experts from different subjects and a variety of courses and has to coordinate their availability. However, the Commission is hopeful of getting its own question bank in place in due course of time for such examinations.
Since the state government does not have separate halls for holding of such examinations, the SPSC has to also coordinate with schools and institutions which also accommodated national level selection examinations, examinations for open school and other competitive examinations in the same facilities.
It also needs to be accepted that the SPSC had remained a token organization for most of the past years and has only recently been shaped into a working unit tasked with ensuring fair selection of candidates for government jobs at all levels. Where employment was cornered by the privileged and the well connected in the not so distant past, things have now changed in Sikkim, and as aspirations and confidence grows and spreads, favouritism is being increasingly challenged and every appointment scrutinized. For instance, an RTI has already been filed [and responded to] on the prelims held in July. SPSC will come under even more scrutiny as it conducts more exams. In that sense, it is still in the process of understanding the seriousness of its task and is on a learning curve still but will hopefully learn fast and well. Should the present exam indeed get completed in the next few months, it would already been an improvement over the “US Exams” held in 1998, the successful candidates from which were inducted into service only in 2002, four years later [and they had to given only one exam and then interview at that time]…

SPEND THIS WEEKEND

At the album release of hip hop crew ‘Urban Inc’ at Lounge 31A Studio. The three-member band will be performing live at the release of their second album ‘Dream High’ on Saturday.
WHEN: 20 Sept, 8 pm onwards
WHERE: Lounge 31A Studio, SNOD Complex

Students give blood

Students of Sikkim Government College organized a blood donation camp commemorating the third anniversary of the devastating earthquake of 18 September, 2011. 110 students voluntarily donated blood in the drive. “We want to bring awareness on the importance of donating blood among the students. We also dedicate this drive to the memory of lives lost in the quake,” said student organizer, Krishna Gurung.

State’s Bank struggles with bad loans and poor accounting

STATE BANK OF SIKKIM STARES AT FAILING FISCAL HEALTH - VISHNU NEOPANEY
The State Bank of Sikkim is under a fresh cloud of suspicion of misappropriation at some of its branches, and even as these allegations are being investigated, there is further bad news for the bank in that it has also started running up losses. As they say, when it rains, it pours, and the string of bad news for the bank continues with a realization that a majority of its cash credit loans have become non-performing assets, as have an unreasonably high number of construction loans. Unfortunately, the slipping fortunes do not appear to have triggered any major worry at the bank where it continues to be business as usual with the statement of accounts not having been reconciled for the past three years and the Board of Directors not having met for the past year.
Readers will recall that the last big scandal at SBS was the Sombarai Bank embezzlement suspected to have cheated the State exchequer of around Rs. 2.56 crores. That was back in the year 2001. In the latest instance, the Bank has reportedly been informed of suspected embezzlement of around Rs. 42 lakhs at four of its branches.
The SBS Managing Director, Hem Karki, when contacted, confirmed that such a report has reached his table and that the bank was re-verifying the facts to check whether there has really been misappropriation or misuse of money or not. He stressed that as things stand, the suspicions were speculative and that the Bank is convinced that there has been no misappropriation.
The SBS was established as the state treasury bank on 19 September 1968 by a proclamation of the Chogyal and continues to function as the lead bank for all State Government transactions. It is vested with the responsibility to receive money on behalf of the Government and make all government payments and keeping custody of the balances of the Government in current account as well as fixed deposits.
The Bank currently has 35 branches across the State. Despite these times of instant connectivity and online transactions, SBS has no facilities for even realtime connection between the branches and the headquarters. Needless to add, this leads to poor accounting and conflicting records. Take for instance the record on cash balance of the government at SBS as on 31 March 2013. As per the bank, it had Rs. 65.36 crore of govt money in cash balance while the Finance Accounts 2012-13, there was a balance of Rs. 19.50 crore, leaving an un-reconciled balance of Rs. 45.86 crore!
Needless to add, given such a scenario, Rs. 42 lakhs in unexplained expenses suspected to be embezzlement is hardly shocking.
What is a bigger worry though is that Bank, which was posting profits till 2009-10, reported losses for 2010-11. Its balance sheet for later years have not been reconciled yet and only once that is done will it become clear whether 2010-11 was an aberration or the start of a new trend.
As per data available with NOW!, the State Bank of Sikkim posted a loss of Rs. 705 lakhs in 2010-11; this, within a year of having posted a Rs. 567.46 lakh profit in 2009-10.
The Bank’s failing fiscal health is expectedly a result of increasing operational costs and falling revenue, but it would have easily tided over this situation if it had displayed more financial prudence and not allowed a staggering 82% of its cash credit loans to become non-performing assets.
Where the bank’s operational costs increased from around Rs. 7,875 lakhs in 2009-10 to Rs. 8,798 lakh in 2010-11, its revenue fell from Rs. 8,442 lakh in 2009-10 to Rs. 8,093 lakh the next year.
As mentioned, this would have been an inconsequential blip in the balance sheet if the bank’s debtors had not defaulted so astronomically. It is learnt that out of the 460 cash credit loanees [as of 31 March 2013], 380 have become non-performing assets collectively posting an inexcusable Rs. 188 crore in bad loans.
And then there are the 1,385 construction loans given out by the bank. Of these, 352 have become non-performing assets accounting for around Rs. 116 crore in bad loans.
The suspected misappropriation of around Rs. 43 lakhs currently being looked into by the bank pales in comparison.
The bank has not ascertained the annual loss from provisional accounts for the financial year 2011-12 and 2012-13 as of now. In the last session of the Legislative Assembly, SBS had tabled financial report for the financial years 2006 to 2008-09.
Cash credits, loans frequently taken out by contractors and business houses against work orders [in anticipation of business and not against any mortgage as such], are clearly a major concern, having consumed Rs. 188 crore in bad loans.
And before one jumps at SBS with more allegations to add to its already overflowing bag of woes, a short digression on how loans and finances are managed by the State Government might prove an enlightening experience. As per the CAG Report of 2013, departments [like Animal Husbandry, Agriculture and Forest] which disbursed loans to “beneficiaries” and the Finance Department [which maintains accounts of the Government], “do not even have information relating to details of the loanees, actual dates of loans, terms and conditions of the loans, schedule of recovery, rate of interest, penal interest for default in repayment, fulfillment of objectives for which the loans were given, etc.”
SBS is only continuing this casual approach, and while this cannot excuse what is happening at the treasury, it at least explains it.
Meanwhile, in response to queries from NOW! on why the annual summary report of the Bank has not been taken up for the last three years and what was happening with the alleged misappropriation, State Bank of Sikkim Board Member, Secretary MG Kiran, who is also Principal Secretary, Finance, Revenue and Expenditure Department, explained that the Board meeting could not be held in time due to enforcement of Model Code of Conduct earlier in the year and then the government formation process after which a new Chairperson of the Bank was appointed. This meeting, he adds, will now be conveyed shortly.
He also reassured that if any substance is found in the allegations of misappropriation, it will be taken up at the meeting.
When asked about the loss and non-recovery of loans, the SBS MD said that issuing of a series or notices and even publication of Notices in newspapers has had a good impact and a large number of loanees have come forward to settle their dues.
Mr. Karki further said that the Bank is trying its best to introduce Core-banking system at SBS as well and will have the system in place by next year, and that after obtaining the approval of Board of Directors, the Bank will float open bidding for supply software containing RFP [Request for Financial Performance]. Banking processes will be better managed then and proper and timely reconciliation of accounts will also flag worries and concerns before they become debilitating as the situation appears to have become now.

940 rural houses inaugurated on Earthquake anniv.

15 REDRH and 3 CMRHM houses were handed over to the respective beneficiaries at Ranka BAC on the third anniversary of 18/11 Earthquake on Thursday. The handing over ceremony was attended by Gram Vikas Adhikari, Ranka BAC, NT Bhutia, Zilla panchayat, Surya Bahadur Rai, panchayat members, AE and JEs and other officials of the Ranka BAC. 

Owning a home of our own is a dream often not easy to achieve. But for 940 rural households of Sikkim, this dream will turn into a reality as they moved into their new homes on 18 Sept 2014 in a mass inauguration function organized to mark the third anniversary of the devastating Sikkim Earthquake of 2011.
Out of the 940 rural houses inaugurated, 665 houses have been funded under the Reconstruction of Earthquake Damaged Rural Houses (REDRH) project and 275 under the Chief Minister’s Rural Housing Mission (CMRHM).
The philosophy of Build Back Better has been the guiding strategy for both these projects. The homeowner-driven implementation model has been adopted and it has helped to establish a sense of ownership and identity with the beneficiaries. An efficient and transparent mechanism of beneficiary selection, stock material management, physical progress monitoring and simplification of the technical elements has been established. The core house design, building standards, construction material (cement and steel), technical supervision and capital has been provided by the project. The home-owner undertook the actual construction, procured local construction material (stone, sand, timber etc), arranged for mason and labour and also added their own finances. Skills upgradation trainings for the masons and engineers were specially organized in partnership with IIT-Delhi.
In order to make this approach effective, the provision of grant was made contingent upon meeting minimum standards for good construction quality.

[from Rural Management & Development Department]

Bon appetite! REBYNA RANA

The latest addition to MG Marg, "Yummy Tummy", has opened on the first floor of the building opposite SBI's Specialized Personal Banking Branch. Apart from the usual momos and Chinese staples like Chow Mein and Chopsuey, the restaurant also serves Newari treats like 'Buff Bhutuwa' - fried buff. There is also the delectable 'Sungur Khutta ko Achaar' or pickled pork trotters on the menu.
An open space overlooking the market seems to be a hot design trend with restaurants in town these days. Like many other places at MG Marg, Yummy Tummy also offers tables on the balcony. Owner of the restaurant, 32-year-old Mitush Gurung, says that he had seen such design at a restaurant in Pokhara [in Nepal] and had always wanted to replicate it at his own restaurant some day. Mitush took it upon himself to design this space while the rest of the restaurant has been designed by architect Anup Tamang.
"The location certainly helps since it is right in the middle of the market. We are getting a lot of locals as well as tourists", says Mitush. The young entrepreneur, who also runs Club King B at Hotel Mayur [Hospital Dara], says there is a lot of scope for the youth in the private sector, adding that a government job would never have given him the kind of independence and satisfaction that he now enjoys.
Yummy Tummy is open from 10 a.m. till 9 p.m. Buff Bhutuwa and Sungur Khutta ko Achaar are priced at Rs 150 per plate.

Service regularizations finally

…BUT SOME NIGGLES STILL REMAIN, AS EXPECTED WHEN MORE THAN 3000 TEMPORARY EMPLOYEES ARE BEING FINALLY REGULARISED - RANJIT SINGH
While the entire service regularization process of temporary employees under the State government has been mired in confusion and even controversy the past few months, the State government seems to be finally getting its act together in terms of ironing out issues as well as concerns of the process and those of the employees. However, it has to be said that resolution of these issues and concerns does not necessarily mean closure of the process or even that all regularized employees will go laughing to the bank to collect their dues.
In terms of getting the process underway again and getting a move on, the state government has ordered the regularization of 3,093 temporary employees presently under muster roll and work charged dispensation. In fact the Cabinet, as per officials, has ordered the process be complete by 20 September, Saturday, in order that these employees get their due salary according to the regularized structure from October onwards. These 3,093 employees are only from the total of those who have completed 15 years of service. That is to say, those completing 10 years of service have a further waiting period to endure. A more pertinent concern that has cropped is the doubt among some of the Work Charged category of employees that with the regularization of their services their total monthly pay packet was likely to get diminished.
The entire regularization process has been undertaken afresh by the government with deserving employees being given new office memorandums.
DoP Secretary, AK Chettri, informs that the departmental committees set up to verify documents have finished their work and forwarded their reports which were put up to the government. The Government then approved the regularization of 3,093 employees having completed 15 years of service and now, as per the Secretary, it is up to the individual department heads to execute office memorandums with their employees.
In the notification issued in February this year, prior to the general elections, the state had ordered the regularization of 4,002 employees having completed 15 years of service. With the re-verification process the departmental committees had to follow a format designed by the Department of Personnel and, as informed, there were particularly 3 columns in this format pertaining to whether the employee had a Certificate of Identification, a Sikkim Subject Certificate or an Indian Birth Certificate as per notification of the state government. Only those with a ‘Yes’ for an answer in all three columns have been cleared for regularization as of now.
“Those with anomalies will be further examined by the concerned departments,” explained the Secretary.
The details of ‘anomalies’ are not available but it is obvious that these pertain to non possession of the documents mentioned above or doubts regarding those. Other anomalies or doubts pertain to the length of service put in by the particular employee which requires even further verification. What is clear that the number of employees with 15 year of service to be regularized has come down drastically from the earlier figure of 4,002.
Meanwhile, a more pressing concern among a section of the Work Charged category is the confusion over their monetary emoluments once regularized. Pema Doma, the erstwhile president of the MR/WC Employees’ Association shares that the DoP has decided to club the grade pay of the WC employees with that of Junior Driver rank. This is one of the 3 new nomenclatures introduced by the DoP for the posts to be held by the employees who are being regularized. “The grade pay of junior driver is Rs. 2,800 while most of us [WC employees] have a grade pay of Rs. 3,400 over the tenure of our 15 years of service. This means that we will get a reduced monthly salary according to the new pay structure,” Ms. Doma states.
According to her, this bracketing will cost those WC employees having a higher grade pay about Rs.2000 – Rs.2500 per month. This clubbing is apropos rules of the department. A group of employees had also visited the DoP officials on this matter however they were told that these were the rules and any grievance as such can be put up to their department head. On the other hand, Secretary, DoP was of the opinion that there should not be any such decrease in pay as there was provision of “pay protection”. And this is what even the aggrieved employees point out as the same is mentioned in the notification. “We were assured of pay protection but it seems that the rules will have to prevail”.
The employees point out that the increments they have received over the years of their service which has resulted in an enhanced grade pay will all come to naught.
While the departments have been directed to issue memorandums of appointment immediately the
Office Orders are to be issued to the employees only on their acceptance of the terms and conditions contained in the memorandum. And the date on which the new, read regularized, salary becomes effective, will be from the date the office order is signed. The memorandum states that the post is temporary and in the event that it becomes permanent the claim of the appointee will be examined on the basis of rules in force. It also mentions “…protection of pay in the form of personal pay”. Finally, employees have been 20 days from the date of issue of the memorandum to accept or decline the offer.

Minority Affairs Secretary on four-day visit to Sikkim

The Secretary to the Government of India in the Ministry of Minority Affairs Dr. Lalit Pawar accompanied by Director in the Ministry, Anurag Bajpai is on a four-day visit to Sikkim from 18 to 21 September 2014. The Ministry of Minority Affairs in Government of India runs two important programmes for the welfare of minorities like Muslims, Jains, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Parsis – the first being Multi Sectoral Development Programme which provides health, education and other required infrastructure towards reducing the development deficit in the Minority Concentrated Blocks in the identified backward minority concentration districts and other being administration of PM’s 15-point programme for welfare of the minorities. The Buddhist and Christian communities from Sikkim are being covered under these programmes.
The Ministry has already sanctioned funds which is more than Rs 20 crore for the North District which is the only identified backward minority concentrated district in Sikkim. The sanction has been accorded towards provisioning of additional class rooms, Public Health Sub Centres, provision of Indira Awas Yojana, construction of Anganwadi Centres and construction of weaving and dyeing centre etc. The new projects that are in the pipeline for approval and sanction of the Ministry are Polytechnic for North District, provisioning of additional class rooms, Public Health Sub Centers, Multi Purpose hall, stadium, hostels etc. This is the first ever visit of the Secretary of Ministry of Minority Affairs to Sikkim.
Under the PM’s new 15 points programme for the welfare of Minorities scheme like scholarship for students of Minorities communities, ICDS, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya Scheme, Swarnajayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojana, Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rojgar Yojana, Sampurna Grameen Rozgar Yojana, SRGP, Skill Development and Indira Awas Yojana are monitored to ensure that benefit of these schemes reaches the minority communities. The state Level Committee headed by Chief Secretary along with Secretaries of various concerned departments, Zilla Adhakshya, Upadhakshya of North District, District Collector (North) etc reviews the implementation of PM’s new 15 point programme. It is expected that this visit by the Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Minority Affairs will give a boost to the development efforts of the State Government towards bridging various development deficits in these schemes and provision of required infrastructure in the North District.

To the Centre of the World, via Sikkim!

THE KAILASH MANSAROVAR YATRA COULD FINALLY MOVE THROUGH THE SAFER OPTION OF NATHULA
The Memorandum of Understanding signed on Thursday between the Ministry of External Affairs of the Republic of India and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China on opening a new route for the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra via Nathula comes as welcome news for the tourism stakeholders of the State as well as pilgrims across the country who now have another, shorter, safer and easier alternative. The agreement was among the 12 MoUs inked after delegation-level talks between India and China on Thursday.
The MoU provides for conducting the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra through Nathula in addition to the existing Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand. “The route through Nathula will augment the capacity and reduce the hardship and journey time enabling many more pilgrims in particular aged pilgrims to undertake the Yatra,” the MoU states.
Although a significant announcement, the MoU appears to have excited the rest of India more than Sikkim, where responses needed to be invited and were not spontaneous as one would have expected on a development which has been on a demand list for several years now. Expectedly, the Sikkim Democratic Front was the first off the block and welcomed the signing, pointing out that this has been a consistent demand of the SDF with the Central Government.
Although it is still early days, and the details of the new development are still sketchy at best, the stakeholders, when contacted, were exuberant.
JN Road Drivers cum Owners Association president, Phurba Sherpa, through whose beat the new traffic will ply when it does, expressed that the association welcomes this MoU which will be especially beneficial for the areas along JN Road [to Nathula].
“This decision was the most important for our area especially for the tourism stakeholders and this route will help for the progress and development of these areas and its people,” he added. The Association has also conveyed its gratitude towards the Central Government and the Prime Minister and to the State Government and the Chief Minister for their respective roles in the development.
“We, the people of these areas welcome this agreement and we are ready to extend our full help and support for the success of the decision of the government,” Mr Sherpa expressed. He added that the decision was in the favour of the economic development of the state and its people.
Similarly, the Travel Agents Association of Sikkim president, Satish Bardewa, mentioned that the opening of this route was a long-cherished dream of the tourism stakeholders of the state. He added that TAAS and other stakeholders had also presented memorandums seeking the same to the Parliamentary Committees when they had visited Sikkim.
“This is a historic event for the state of Sikkim as this will project Sikkim in a still better way in the international map apart from the economic benefits to the state and neighbouring areas,” he added.
Mr. Bardewa stated that this development will also help promote Sikkim as a tourist destination in the international level and would help in the economic development of the state and the neighbouring area.
He expressed that the tourism stakeholders of the state were very much thankful and happy and excited at the same time with this MoU. On behalf of the TAAS and stakeholders, TAAS president expressed his gratitude to the vision of the Prime Minister and the Chinese President. He also thanked the State Government for its part in the historic event.
He also urged the State government that it ensure local participation in this route.
Sacred to Hindus, Jains and Buddhists across the world, the journey to Mount Kailash and Mansarovar Lake located in the Himalayan mountain ranges of the remote Southwestern corner of the Tibetan Autonomous Region is usually undertaken from Uttarakhand via Lipulekh Pass or overland from Nepal.
While Delhi-Kathmandu route by air takes 10 days and the ardous trekking route via Uttarakhand takes 27 days, the newer route via Nathula will take only 8 days to complete the yatra, according to sources. Nathula route was closed by China in 1962. After a decade of talks, Nathula was opened for trade on 06 July 2006.
The opening of the new route via Nathula could also mean that the yatra can now be undertaken from the country from March till November. The Lipulekh route is only open for four months in a year from June to September. Also, there is a limit on the number of pilgrims allowed to take the Lipulekh route every year. Normally there are 16 batches of 35 pilgrims every year. This year, 18 batches, each with a maximum 60 Yatris, are planned to be sent for the Yatra between 08 June and 09 September.
The Nathula route will make it possible to complete the Kailash Mansarovar yatra in around Rs. 60,000 cost. At present, the same yatra costs around Rs. 1 lakh. Nathula Pass was a major corridor of passage between India and Tibet before it was closed in 1962. Located around 56 kms from Gangtok at an altitude of 14450 ft, the road to Nathula passes through the Tsomgo lake. Nathula is presently open for trade on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays just on Indian side of the border. Foreign nationals are not allowed to visit Nathula.
Nathula route will pass through the city of Shigatse, which is part of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. The path that the Chinese have made after the Nathula Pass (a mountain pass between the north eastern province of Sikkim and Tibet) is a motorable road where pilgrims will be able to take a car.
The Kailash Parvat or Mount Kailash along with the holy Manasarovar lake is deeply integral to the heart of spiritual Asia, capturing the imagination of human beings since time immemorial.
According to Hindu legend, the lake was first created in the mind of the Lord Brahma. Hence, in Sanskrit it is called Manasarovar, which is a combination of the words ‘Manas’ (mind) and ‘Sarovar’ (lake).
Hindus also believe Mt. Kailash to be the abode of Lord Shiva, the holy centre of the earth and the manifestation of heaven itself.
Tibetan Buddhists profess that Kailash is the home of the Buddha Demchok who symbolizes supreme harmony.
The Tibetan religion of ‘Bon’ believes Mount Kailash as their spiritual seat of power.
In Jainism, Kailash, referred to as Mount Ashtapada, is the place where the creator of their faith, Rishabhadeva, attained freedom from the cycle of life and rebirth.
Just 20 kilometers away from Mount Kailash, the sacred blue and emerald green Manasarovar lake that lies at a height of 15,015 ft, is known to be an epitome of purity, containing healing properties and the power to wash off all mortal sins.



fotoCaption: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Chinese President Xi Jinping witnessing the historic signing of an MoU between the Ministry of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China Wang Yi on opening a new route for pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar in the Tibet Autonomous Region through Sikkim.

Scientists complete another study of glacial lake at Lhonak


EXPERTS FIND THE STILL GROWING SOUTH LHONAK LAKE TO BE RELATIVELY STABLE
GANGTOK, 19 Sept [IPR]: A team comprising of scientists and experts from the Sikkim State Remote Sensing Applications Centre [under Sikkim State Council of Science & Technology], Snow and Avalanche Study and Establishment of Chandigarh and State Disaster Management under Land Revenue Department completed a study of Lhonak lake in extreme North Sikkim.
The scientific expedition was carried out to undertake “Electrical Resistivity” survey of the moraines damming the South Lhonak Lake and the bathymetry survey which was finalized by the working group members constituted for the study of the South Lhonak Lake in 2013 by Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.
The study was supposed to be undertaken in the year 2013 but due to non availability of instruments, the expedition was undertaken only now. The window period for the study of the glaciers and glacial lakes is limited to two to three months (July to September) in a year.
Lhonak Lake is one of the largest glacial lakes formed in South Lhonak Glacier and its area has been rapidly increasing for the past few decades. At present, the lake has total area of 126 hectares with length of 2.30 km and breadth varying from 600 to 700 meters. The rapid increase of the lake volume and its area has drawn a serious concern in the state.
During the study, 3-D Electrical Resistivity survey was performed in the moraines to get resistivity characteristics against GLOFs. The survey was supposed to be conducted by SASE scientists but as they could not reach the lake, it was carried out by a team from Sikkim State Remote Sensing Applications Centre.
The data collected will be again processed for the final results.
The scientific team also conducted Lake Bathymetry with the help of rafts and Ultrasonic depth sounding equipment to calculate the depth of the lake. The maximum depth of the lake was recorded at 259 feet in the interior location of the lake.
High winds, continuous calving of glaciers, frequent snowfall and chilling cold during rafting on the lake has made Lake Bathymetry survey a risky and challenging task but despite the heavy risks, the scientific team from State Remote Sensing Applications Centre successfully completed the task.
Despite its huge size, the lake has shown good outlet which is a positive sign in terms of stability of the lake. But as the lake is in its formation process, a certain risk will be there as long as the lake does not attain complete formation. It will take another few years to shape complete formation of the lake.
The scientific team included Narpati Sharma (Assistant Scientific Officer), Pranay Pradhan and Radha Krishna Sharma (Project Scientists, Glacier Dynamics and Climate change studies), Mrs. Kesang Nima Bhutia, (Training Officer from Sikkim State Disaster Management Department).
During the expedition, the team from SASE-Chandigarh- Rajendra Parshad (Scientist), Reeta Rani and  Vikash Rana (Senior Research Fellows) returned from Muguthang due to ill health. They were evacuated from Muguthang by Army Helicopter to Gangtok on emergency basis. The Scientific expedition to the lake was started on 31 August and completed on 14 September 2014.
Sarla Rai, Special Secretary, Department of Science and Technology & Climate Change, Sikkim and Ambika Pradhan, the then Member Secretary, Sikkim State Council of Science and Technology were also the part of expedition team.
The Scientific team would like to thank ITBP and Defense personal based in Chaten, Thangu, Muguthang, 20-R, and Janak-2 for their outstanding support to the team during the expedition and special thanks to Kaushik Das, AIML, Kolkata for technical support during the entire field work in South Lhonak lake. Contributions of Rafters, porters, kitchen staffs etc in the field are highly acknowledged by the team. This is second visit of scientific team of State Remote Sensing Applications Centre to the lake after 2012.
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LATE LD KAZI MEMORIAL GOLD CUP

Interschool football tourney completes cluster leg
The Cluster Level Championship of the ongoing Late LD Kazi Memorial Gold Cup Inter School Football Tournament has concluded and the champions of the 16 clusters will now fight it out at Chakung Ground, West Sikkim from 19 September onwards. It may be mentioned that Late LD Kazi, the first Chief Minister of Sikkim hailed from Chakung.
The winners of the Cluster Level Championship are; Central Pendam Sr. Sec School, Sang Sr. Sec School, Tashi Namgyal Academy, Tashi Namgyal Sr. Sec. School, Assam Lingzey Sr. Sec. School, St. Xavier's Pakyong, Jorethang Sr. Sec School, Temi Sr. Sec School, Namchi Sr. Sec. School, VCGL Ravangla Sr. Sec. School, Daramdin Sr. Sec. School, Sombaria Sr. Sec. School, Tashiding Sr. Sec. School, Pelling Sr. Sec. School, Mangan Sr. Sec. School and Phodong Sr. Sec. School.
The final match of the tournament will be held on 30 September.
Officers of the Sports Department who are coordinating the sporting event, alongside the Panchayat members and School authorities are scouting for talented footballers in order to put together a team from Sikkim for the Subroto Mukherjee Cup, under 17 tournaments and School National Games. Feedback has also been received that this tournament should be extended to Secondary School level in the coming years besides the Sr. Secondary Schools.

3rd Inter Departmental Football Tournament finals on Saturday

HRDD GANGTOK VS ROADS & BRIDGES
It is Human Resource Development Department, Gangtok versus Roads & Bridges Department in the finals of the 3rd Inter Departmental Football Tournament to be held on 20 September [Saturday] at Paljor Stadium.
HRDD, Gangtok secured its berth in the finals of the tournament defeating the State Bank of Sikkim in the first semi-final, while Roads & Bridges knocked out Power Department in the second semi-final.
This time the defending champion, Forest Department, which was also the winner of the first edition of the tournament, could not even make it to the last 16 [knock-out round] of the tournament.
SBS and Power Department played for the third place on 19 September where SBS emerged as the winner outplaying Power Department 2-1. Dawa Norbu Lepcha of Power Department was adjudged as the Man of the Match.
For the Top Scorer title of the tourney, Jigmee D Bhutia of Higher Education [HRDD] is still leading with his 9 goals while Karma Jigmee and Pema Bhutia of Roads & Bridges are in second place with 8 goals each.
Arun Kalikotey of HRDD Gangtok has scored the Fastest Goal [35th second] against the Rural Management & Development Department on 13 September so far in the tournament, while Bishal Tamang of HRDD Pakyong has scored the second Fastest Goal [40th second] in the match against Forest Department on 29 August.
Some other interesting records registered by the Organising Committee- [as on 19 September 2014]:
Total Goals scored- 245
Yellow Cards- 76
Red Cards- 1
Double Yellow- 2

Disaster Management gets a logo

NAMCHI: The Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority logo was unveiled by Chief Minister Pawan Chamling at a meeting held in Namchi on the occasion of Disaster Risk Reduction Day which marks the third anniversary of the 18 September 2011 Earthquake. Also released was a Disaster Safety Handbook under Sikkim School Safety Programme prepared by the Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority in collaboration with Human Resource Development Department. Addressing the meeting, the Chief Minister highlighted the State Government objective behind observing the Disaster Risk Reduction Day was to generate wider awareness and disseminating information about disaster management and mitigation predominantly at the school level. “Everybody has the right to live a safe life. But it is also our responsibility to ensure the safety of others by being thoughtful by following the do’s and don’ts while constructing houses and keeping our surroundings clean and green,” he said in his message on the Day.

Nisaar Ahmed’s lonely walks with a trunk full of treats TSHERING EDEN


75-year-old Nisaar Ahmed walks 12-13 kilometers everyday carrying an aluminum trunk on his head. Wearing rubber slippers, white cotton pajamas rolled up to his calves and a cream coloured top - a cross between a kurti and a shirt, he walks with his hands folded behind him and the trunk balanced perfectly on his head. He is one of the few, perhaps even the only “roti-wallah” left in Gangtok.
While rich pastries, flavoured breads, mousses and cheesecakes excite the present day palate, it was the roti-wallahs who serviced every nook and corner with baked delights in the years gone by. Sadly, even with the last remaining few roti-wallahs, the “swiss” buns, nariyal puffs and color coded biscuits are gone and Nisaar sells only pyaajis and phulauras. The “bhatti” or bakery at Tibet Road near Sadar Thana no longer exists and this is why there are no baked goodies in his trunk, he explains. The bhatti had to shut down due to the diminishing firewood supply and also because it emitted too much smoke, and also market realities of changing tastes.
Nisaar wakes up at 4 every morning to prepare the two items he sells and leaves home by around 8. Roadside workers are his main customers but as we are talking, a taxi also pulls up and the driver buys some phulauras.
“Others have stopped buying since there are so many shops and companies who sell baked items now,” says the roti-wallah. He earns between Rs 250-300 per day but informs that earlier he used to earn upto Rs. 600.
He starts his daily journey from his home located at Helipad covering Bojoghari, 3 Mile, Burtuk and returns by 4-5 in the evening. Nisaar, who hails from Motihari in Bihar, lives alone here while his family is back home. He used to work in Jalpaiguri as a roti-wallah before he came to Sikkim some 20 years ago. “Business was not that great in Jalpaiguri since customers would mostly buy on credit. They would pay us at the end of every month. A friend called me here since he said business would be better here,” shares Nisaar.
It is good to be living and working in Sikkim since it is peaceful here and there is no “loot-mar”, he adds.
Roti-wallahs are a dying tribe even in its place of origin - Bihar. “There are shops everywhere now,” says Nisaar before adding that at one time there were 24-25 roti-wallahs who would sell goods baked at the bhatti on Tibet Road. Now, he says he doesn’t know of any other roti-wallah working in Gangtok.
Even though he plans to retire next year as he can’t walk like he used to, the 75-year-old refuses a ride in the car and walks on.

Taking ill at EMRS-Swayem

CLASSES WERE SUSPENDED AND ASSURANCES MADE AFTER STUDENTS TOOK ILL, BUT NOTHING ELSE CHANGED
Three students of Eklavya Model Residential School at Swayem in North Sikkim suffering from diahorrea and vomiting had to be admitted to the district hospital at Mangan last week. As many as 25 students were said to be suffering from the same symptoms. The incident also led to DC North TN Kazi dismissing classes for students of classes up to class VIII till 22 September.
While the students blamed fried rice served for breakfast in the hostel as the possible cause, the guardians alleged unhygienic conditions in the hostel and unsafe drinking water to be the reason. The school authorities had their own speculations of children having eaten something outside the campus.
The incident, however, has brought to light various other problems and needs of the school; from lack of funds, lack of even a Principal, lack of communication and coordination between the school authorities and guardians to the need for a proper sewerage system.
The sewerage line under the kitchen is informed to be leaking and hence posing is a major hygiene concern.
Following the incident, Deputy Speaker Sonam Gyatso Lepcha who is also chairman of the School Managing Board visited the school and inspected both the boys and girls hostels.
He directed that the sewerage system be repaired and announced that school will soon get a Principal, an administrative requirement to iron out management wrinkles.
Deputy Director Social Welfare Department North, Norden Lepcha [the school operates under Social Welfare funding], has said that the drinking water supply line to the school has been connected directly without a filtering tank which should not be the case.
Also, the School in-charge, Diki Doma Bhutia said that due to the lack of a stationery shop in the vicinity of the school, students have to travel some distance to buy stationery items. She pointed out the possibility of students eating junk food on such occasions which could have caused the illness.
Dr. Dichen Ongmu Bhutia, MO Phodong PHC, under whose jurisdiction the school falls confirmed that the students had taken ill with water borne diseases and advised for the provision of water filters for hostel and also suggested maintenance of proper hygiene in the campus and clean urinals.
As of now, the school has been provided two water purifiers and classes upto VIII will resume on 22 September. However, classes for IX & X are continuing as only students of class VIII and below had taken ill.
The school is yet to get a filtering tank for its drinking water supply line.

Totaliser to protect essence of Secret Ballot

WORRY OVER EVM-WISE DISCLOSURE OF VOTES COULD END SOON -SUBASH RAI
The disclosure of EVM-wise pattern of voting has become a cause for concern in recent times with increasing incidents of targeted post poll intimidation and victimization of voters. In this context, the Supreme Court, only last Wednesday, questioned the Centre as to why it had “slept over” the Election Commission’s five-year-old suggestion to amend the law to stop revealing EVM-wise votes garnered by candidates in an election.
In the days when paper ballot was used, the ballot papers for a polling station would get mixed and then counted, making ward-wise [mostly an EVM per ward in Sikkim] calculation of votes impossible. This changed with EVMs which are individually counted revealing voting patterns [at the smallest voting unit of a ward] in such clear detail that it makes the secret ballot concept redundant and makes it possible to single out opposition supporters for “sidelining”.
This has been a worry in Sikkim, but is not limited to the State and has grown as a concern at the national level as well. Now, a bench comprising of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice NV Ramana has allowed a PIL filed by advocate Yogesh Gupta, who had cited the alleged threat by Maharashtra deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar to cut off water and electricity supply to a Baramati village if the residents did not vote for his cousin and sitting NCP MP Supriya Sule.
The potential for mischief by politicians had made the bench seek answers from the EC on not making the vote count of every EVM machine public. The bench even recalled the good old days when ballot papers from all booths were mixed before counting.
As per the EC’s suggestion, a new machine called ‘Totaliser’ will enhance secrecy in voting and the mixing of votes at the time of counting will be achieved, which will prevent the disclosure of pattern of voting at a particular polling station.
The EC had prepared the proposal in 21 November 2008 and was referred to a Parliamentary Committee in 2009. The proposal seeks amendment of the Rules to provide for the use of totaliser for counting of votes at EVM elections.
The EC believes that by using the totaliser, it would be possible to take out the results of votes polled in a group of 14 EVMs together as against the present practice of counting votes polling station/ ward-wise. In such a system of counting, the trend of voting in individual polling station areas would not be known. This will prevent intimidation and post election victimization of electors.
The present system of counting is particularly troublesome for the voters of Sikkim because except for some, a majority of the polling stations have less than thousand voters.
“Our ward has just over 400 voters and there have been instances in the past when some voters were victimized for not voting for a particular party by having their names cut off from the list of beneficiaries of government schemes,” said Sunil Sundas, a voter from Martam Rumtek constituency.
Another voter from Upper Burtuk says, “The number of voters is very low in the villages and when EVM counts are revealed individually, it becomes easy to work out who voted for whom and they can be easily victimized”.
While the voters voice concerns, those belonging to political parties are supportive of the present system.
“This system enables us to understand voting behaviour of public of a particular area. This technology gives us statistics which are important to understand and prepare for future elections,” said a member of a regional political party.
Similarly, in August, the Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in his written reply had said that the government has “not taken a considered view” on introduction of the machine [Totaliser]. “Secrecy of votes being the essence of India democracy will certainly be ascertained before introduction of any technological advancement in the voting or counting,” he said.
A college going young voter in Gangtok brings a new attitude to the debate when he says, “Gone are the days when threatening yielded more votes. People today are more informed and aware about their rights. A smart politician would never force anyone to vote for them in the first place. Even after defeat/win, the sensible thing to do is to persuade voters who didn’t vote in their favour, by working for their good. This will ensure victory next time.”
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has directed the competent authority of the Union of India to file its response so that the steps taken by the government can be made clear to the EC and accordingly, if required, appropriate steps can be taken.

DISASTER RISK REDUCTION DAY OBSERVED


District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), East in coordination with Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority, Land Revenue and Disaster Management Department observed Disaster Risk Reduction Day on 18 September at the auditorium of TNSSS, Gangtok. On this day in 2011, a devastating earthquake had hit the state of Sikkim and the day had since been declared Disaster Risk Reduction Day.
The programme was organized with the objective to disseminate key message of disaster awareness to the public through Skits, Speeches, live demonstrations and appeals. Gangtok Mayor, Lassey Doma Bhutia, chief guest of the occasion, urged students to disseminate and multiply the educative information to every nook and corner of the state.
Addressing the gathering District Collector East, Chewang Gyatso Bhutia said, "We cannot prevent natural disasters or calamities but at least we can contribute towards mitigating its impact through active and quick response systems which can be attained by conducting such programmes frequently".

Free Tibet to Secure Border BIRENDRA SHANDILYA

Tibetan hunger strike at Chowrasta on Thrusday.
The Tibetan Youth Congress has requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and mediate on the Tibet issue. The appeal comes in the wake of the Chinese President’s three-day visit to India which commenced on 17 September.
TYC is the largest NGO of Tibetans in exile with over 35,000 members the world over working for Tibetan freedom. While the boundary dispute and transgressions by Chinese troops occupied centre stage of the New Delhi-Beijing bilateral talks, the TYC has stressed that only a free Tibet can ensure lasting peace and security for India.
The TYC letter to Modi states, “We believe that a lasting peace and security for India along her Himalayan borders lies only in a Free Tibet. A Tibet without China’s military presence is the best guarantee for an India free from constant Chinese incursions, threats and ludicrous claims of the Indian land.”
The TYC has blamed the Chinese Premiere and his hardliner regime for the unrest in Tibet.
“Chinese President Xi Jinping and his regime are responsible for the current spate of tragic events unraveling inside Tibet. More than 130 Tibetans have self immolated leading to 102 deaths in Tibet,” argued Diki Dolkar, the TYC Darjeeling Chapter president.
The TYC states that protests are taking place all over Tibet demanding the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama along with freedom for Tibet from Chinese occupation. “Beijing’s response- violent crackdowns, shooting, arrests resulting in death and disappearance of protestors. Tibet is literally blacked out with a ban on media along with foreign tourists,” TYC alleges.
“On behalf of all the Tibetans all over the world and in exile, we urge you to kindly speak up for Tibet. When you speak for Tibet you stand on the right side of history and humanity. Today you have the opportunity to make things right. Tibet needs you now,” stated the TYC letter to Prime Minister Modi.
There were widespread protests by the Tibetans and Free Tibet support groups in Delhi. Protests took place outside the Hyderabad House,Chinese Embassy, Taj Palace and Dhaula Kuan. Many Tibetan protestors were detained by the Police. Protestors also demanded that President Xi must meet Dalai Lama and discuss Tibet.
In Darjeeling, Tibetans sat on a token hunger strike from 10am to 4pm at the Chowrasta on 18 September. Thursday’s protest was organized by TYC (North East chapter). In the evening, a candlelight rally was also taken out through all the major thoroughfares of the Hill town.
“The Chinese should immediately climb down from their present hardliner policy and open dialogue with HH the Dalai Lama,” demanded Dolkar.
HH the Dalai Lama, addressing media persons in Dharamsala, stated that sooner or later the Tibetan problem would have to be resolved. “This can happen only through sound understanding of this complex issue and not by force. It can be resolved only through dialogue,” remarked the spiritual head of the Tibetans.
However the HH the Dalai Lama banked a lot of hopes on Xi Jinping. “The present Chinese President is more realistic and open minded. Sino-Indian relation on the basis of mutual trust is very important,” He remarked.
During bilateral talks, a stern Modi asked Beijing to respect New Delhi's sensitivities. On the other hand the Chinese President Xi Jinping sought underplayed the incidents of frequent border transgressions describing them as "certain incidents" that could be managed by both sides.
Addressing the media jointly after a 90-minute talk, both the leaders listed out measures including emphasis on Bangladesh-Myanmar-India-China (BMIC) corridor along with the opening up of the route to Manasarovar and Mount Kailash through Nathu La near Gangtok, Sikkim.

Sikkim this week.

Laptops for EMRS-Gangyap students 
Minister for Social Justice, Empowerment and Welfare Department, Tulshi Devi Rai distributed laptops to fifty six Class XII students of Eklavya Model Residential School Gangyap under Yuksam Tashiding constituency on 13 September. Ms Rai announced pre and post matric scholarship for students of the school. The Minister also informed about the Rs 50 lakh funds sanctioned by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India to be released before Dussehra and urged SMC members and Teachers for the proper utilization of the funds.

Land for NIELIT centre at Pakyong
Principal Director-cum-Secretary, Information and Technology Department, Rajesh Verma informed on 15 September that the 9 acres (approx.) of land at Pakyong, East Sikkim has been allotted for setting up of a full-fledged National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology [NIELIT] centre. The land, recently mutated in the name of the IT Department, would be transferred to NIELIT, a body of Department of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India.

STNM Hospital to increase number of beds in Emergency ward
Health Minister, AK Ghatani issued directions to increase number of beds in emergency ward of STNM hospital to at least 50 in a meeting held on 15 September. It was decided in the meeting that the emergency ward would be extended by constructing new building in the area adjacent to the present emergency ward to house more than 20 patients.
The Administration section including office of the Medical Superintendent, Additional MS, Nursing Superintendent, Accounts Section would be converted to an Emergency ward wherein 20 – 25 beds are expected to be accommodated. The Administration section would be shifted to the National Health Mission (NHM) Building (European Commission Hall Building), STNM Complex. The NHM office would be accommodated at the present Health Secretariat which is undergoing repair works. The District Tuberculosis center will also be extended to the Accounts section.  

Sikkim Senior Citizen's Society elects new body
Sikkim Senior Citizen's Society [SSCS] elected its new body on 13 September. The new body has KC Pradhan as president, TR Poudyal as general secretary and Dr Bela Cintury as treasurer. Twelve executive members were also nominated along with nine Advisors, one Vice President and one Assistant General Secretary.

Tika Maya Subba Meritorious Award instituted
“Tika Maya Subba Meritorious Award Trust” was formed on 17 September at Kitam, South Sikkim. Class X and XII toppers of Government Senior Secondary School Kitam will be awarded cash prize of Rs 2000 each along with a certificate of appreciation every year. The award has been instituted by Suresh Kumar Subba in memory of his mother Late Tika Maya Subba.

Woman cheated of Rs 2.5 lakh
A lady was cheated of Rs. 2,50,000 by one Pankaj Baraho, proprietor of Hill View Real Estate Builder and Developer having its office at 5th Mile, Tadong, East Sikkim. The victim had paid the money to the accused as an advance amount to purchase a plot of land at Jogivitta, Matigara, Siliguri (WB) on 26 September 2013. However, the accused without providing the land registration certificate or a refund absconded from Sikkim. A case U/S 420 IPC has been registered against the accused at Sadar Police Station and is under investigation.

First Co-operatives Conclave held 
Minister for RMDD & Cooperation Department, SB Subedi chaired the first co-operative conclave of Apex Co-operatives of Sikkim on 18 September. Organised by Sikkim State Cooperative Union the conclave was attended by the apex cooperatives from all round the state. The Minister assured to take up the matter of exemption of SNT supervision tax for the cooperative input products to the government.

Disaster preparedness at Kabi
Familiarization Exercise and Community Awareness Programme (FAMEX) organised by National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) under District Disaster Management Authority, North District was held at Kabi BAC North Sikkim on 16 September. A mock drill of disaster like situation was conducted by the NDRF team along with the participation of students of the area.

CM meets govt servants in South Sikkim to discuss service issues

Namchi: A meeting with the intent to take note of and address demands and grievances of government servants posted in South District was chaired by Chief Minister Pawan Chamling at Namchi Community Hall on 18 Sept.
Earlier the heads of the departments highlighted various demands, grievances and problems of which the primary concerns for the district were shortage of vehicles, funds, staff and technical officers, doctors, nurses, JE office buildings and maintenances of existing buildings and employees quarters.  
Addressing the meeting, the CM announced that all the demands will be resolved.
He stated that regularization of Muster Roll employees possessing complete and genuine documents and who have completed 15 years of service and also informed that by 01 October, these MR workers will be entitled to salary as regular employees, an IPR Press release informs. He also assured regularization to the remaining MR workers in the second and third phase.
He further stated that all queries regarding transfers will be looked into after the Dasain holidays and announced that no transfer orders will be cancelled and that employees will have to mandatorily complete six months of service in the transferred place before individual demands for reconsideration are resolved, the release adds.
The Chief Minister also announced that all those left out from service cadres will be reexamined and brought under cader based service.
He also announced that the regularization orders for lecturers in various disciplines will be issued to ensure smooth operations in Government run colleges of the state.
The meeting was also attended by Ministers, MLAs and officers of the various departments.

Celebrating Buddhism at Namgyal Institute of Tibetology

The three-day Boudh Mahotsav/ Buddhist Festival at Namgyal Institute of Tibetology which started on 16 September concluded on Thursday. Minister for Tourism & Civil Aviation Department, Ugen T Gyatso was the chief guest at the valedictory function here at the NIT. The function was also attended by Secretary, Tourism and Civil Aviation Department.
The festival was a learning experience and a success that managed to attract quite a large number of tourists and locals on most days. Visitors were very appreciative of the various exhibits which introduced them to tangible aspects of Buddhism according to NIT officials.
As a tourist from Chennai, Badal Devi said, “I particularly loved the sand mandala. It's superb! I enjoyed the festival as a whole and don't feel like going back home”.
The Buddhist chams/ dances as well as the folk dances by troupes from various Zonal Cultural Centres of India added much flair and vivid pageantry to the proceedings. The dance repertoire was bulked up on the second and third days with the inclusion of Lepcha, Bhutia, Nepali and Tibetan dances by local clubs.
Minister, Cultural Affairs & Heritage Department was the chief guest at the inaugural function where he released the festival brochure. The Governor of Sikkim, Sriniwas Patil who is also the President of the NIT attended the second day of the festival.
NIT has especially thanked the Sowa Rigpa doctors led by Professor (Dr) Lobsang Samten who provided great yeoman service by examining over 200 patients during the three-day festival and providing one month’s medicines free of cost.
Organised by NIT under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, the festival intended to showcase some of the tangible aspects of Buddhism and promote the values of peace, non-violence, compassion and loving kindness practiced by the Buddha.

















The Torma offerings or butter sculpture crafted by monks of Karma Thupten Tashi Choeling Monastery, North Sikkim.
Kunrig or Vairocana sand mandala depicting the celestial mansion of the Vairocana deity made by monks of Sa-Ngor Chotshog Centre, Rongyek, East Sikkim.
Medicinal plants used in Sowa Rigpa or Ancient Tibetan Science of Healing on display. 

SHSC - Cultivating sporting talent SAGAR CHHETRI

Barely two years old, Sikkim Himalayan Sporting Club [SHSC] has been crossing milestone after milestone in its journey towards encouraging sports amongst the youth of Sikkim. After topping the Second Division Sikkim League in its very first appearance last year, the club is now emerging as a strong contender in the ongoing Senior Division Sikkim-League.
SHSC has played 3 matches so far in the league [as on 20 September], in which it has won two and drawn one. It thrashed Dzongri Sporting Club 8-0 in its first match and edged past the State Sports Academy 4-3. It drew 1-1 against Boy’s Club.
It has to be mentioned that here that the club started in October 2012 and has played the Second Division Sikkim-League in 2013. Also playing the Second Division League for the first time, SHSC finished the League as champions qualifying to play the Senior Division this year.
The present squad of SHSC is a set of young boys backed by few experienced players of the state. The team is led by a young promising footballer [who shares his name with another Sikkimese football legend] Bhaichung Bhutia as the team captain. The team members have been undergoing rigorous training sessions under the coach, Pranay Subba in the mornings at Paljor Stadium.
“This is our debut performance but we are all ready to give the best fight against all teams in the league to finish as the league champions,” says the coach.
SHSC president Dadul Bhutia stated that SHSC players have prepared and trained hard to give their best performance in the Senior Division Sikkim-League. “This good start has boosted the team's morale and they are eager to play harder in the remaining matches,” he added.
Mr Bhutia further added that it is a great achievement for the club to be playing Senior Division so soon after its formation.
“Senior Division League is not the destination for SHSC but it is just a milestone for the club in its journey,” the club management has said.
The club's next target is to play the qualifying round of the Second Division I-League next year with a set of local footballers. The club knows that this is not an easy task but it is committed towards creating a platform at higher levels for local footballers to excel in.
Keeping this target in mind the club has already started to prepare local footballers for the I-League. According to the club management, there are some financial challenges but the club has forged on despite such obstacles.
“In such condition to play in the I-League is a big challenge for the club so the SHSC has been looking forward to the State Government and local sponsors to support their players,” the club has appealed.
The SHSC has also been managing a hostel for its players from other districts and outside Gangtok at Tathangchen since April this year. These boys attend their schools and colleges during the day and practice in the morning and evening. The club has also been providing coaching, diet and other support to 50 boys and 20 girls. The club has thanked the Sikkim Football Association for its support to the club.
“Even though we are faced with many challenges and difficulties, the club has been trying to create a positive atmosphere for youngsters through sports by keeping them away from drugs, alcohol and anti-social elements,” said the SHSC president.  At present, the SHSC is providing coaching in football and archery and has plans to take up other sports in the near future.
THE CLUB’S ACHIEVEMENTS SO FAR
- The club finished the Second Division Sikkim-League as the league topper in its debut performance last year and was promoted to the Senior Division.
- It lifted the runner’s up trophy in the Independence Day Football Tournament 2013 in August last year at Paljor Stadium.
- One player of the club, Bishal Chettri was selected in the Gorkha Boys, Shillong same year.
- SHSC junior players have also represented the state in the 49th edition of Junior National Football Championship for Dr BC Roy Memorial Trophy 2013 held at Bokaro in Jharkhand in September last year.
- The club lifted the runners-up trophy in the CFC Cup at Bhutan earlier this year.
- It played in the All India Football Tournament organised by the AIFF in Bihar in May this year.
- SHSC girls team became champions of the Independence Day Football Tournament held at Kabi this year.

The trauma continues for Bey survivors

THE VILLAGE OF BEY WAS WIPED OUT BY THE 18 SEPT 2011 EARTHQUAKE AND THREE YEARS ON, THE DISLOCATION CONTINUES FOR MOST OF THE SURVIVORS

WANGCHUK BHUTIA

The North district of Sikkim, the area closest to the epicentre of the 18 September 2011 earthquake took the brunt of the temblor and even though it is the most thinly populated of all districts, North Sikkim posted the highest casualty of 42 dead. The earthquake claimed a total of 62 lives in Sikkim. Most of the damage and casualties were centred around the corridor of Chungthang, Saffo, Lachen, Lachung, Mangan and Dzongu in North district. Official figures attest that 80% of the houses in the district suffered damage of varying degrees and many families were displaced.
Bey village, falling under Sakyong-Pentong GPU in Upper Dzongu North Sikkim, was clearly the worst affected villages in the 18 September Earthquake. The tremors threw down a massive landslide into the village on that Sunday evening, burying a cluster of five houses and killing seven people. The village remained cut-off for months and surviving residents were evacuated. The slope has stabilized now, three years since the earthquake, but the people here are yet to recover from the trauma even as the village tries to make a fresh beginning from new addresses. The village has been relocated.
Bey is the last village on the way to Tholung Monastery and there is no habitation beyond this village until the monastery. Bey had 18 houses, the village divided in two by the Tholung Chu running through it. One part of the village consisting of five houses was swept away by the landslide triggered by the 18 September earthquake. The rest of the villagers have been evacuated and around 120 people, comprising of senior citizens, women and children, were initially shifted to a relief camp set up at Lingzya and at 4th Mile Mantam.
When they were first evacuated, the journey to the relief camp at Mantam took them two days due to destruction along the road. Later, some of the families have moved out, taking shelter with their relatives at Passingdang, Lingzya and other villages in Dzongu. Out of the 13 houses which survived the killer landslide, two houses collapsed to the earthquake and three houses were imperiled and in danger of coming apart while several other houses took multiple damages and were in the swathe of the active landslide right above. The villagers also lost standing crops of millet, paddy, cardamom etc. which were nearing harvest at the time. Also in the list of damages were 7 fish ponds and several vermi-compost structures.
On 19 and 20 September 2011, the villagers set their cattle and other livestock free since they did not have enough fodder or feed for them. Some male members of the affected families kept making quick visits from the relief camp to their abandoned homes. They did so at least once every couple of days. The road to Bey Village took two years to clear due to the many difficult and dangerous slides which have ambushed it.
Later, 14 houses from 4th Mile Mantam were also announced for relocation to a safer location. This number along with the displaced from Bey have had to grapple with the challenge of complicated logistics and also the trauma of coming to terms with memories of having lived in the last location for generations and moving to new settlements.
Be that as it may, out of the 19 affected families of Bey village, houses for seven families have completed under the Reconstruction of Earthquake Damaged Rural Houses [REDRH] scheme and were inaugurated on the third anniversary of the killer quake, 18 September 2014. These seven houses have been constructed on the right bank of Tholung Chu, the side spared by the slide but damaged by the quake.
The delay in construction was reportedly due to difficulties in transporting raw materials as the road link between Lingzya and Bey was disrupted at several places and was restored only earlier this year in March by the Roads & Bridges Department.
The seven families of Tshering Lepcha, Sangcho Lepcha, Gya Lepcha, Goruk Lepcha, Dupzang Lepcha Aprilmit Lepcha and Tshering Lepcha moved into their new homes on Thursday following the inauguration by their area MLA Deputy Speaker Sonam Gyatso Lepcha.
The beneficiaries thanked the Deputy Speaker, the State government and the department for the provision of REDRH houses which have been constructed at the cost of Rs. 4.89 lakh each.
Meanwhile, the rest of the affected families who have been provided land for their new homes at Chandey near Mangan are still awaiting completion of construction by the RMDD. And there is also the situation of six more affected families from Bey who have still not been able to begin construction. This group has been allotted plots at the back of the Chandey settlement and the land there is obstructed by huge boulders which make construction difficult. The sanctioned amount of Rs. 4.89 lakhs will not even be enough to cover even the clearing of the plots for the foundations, they share.
Now, the Department has assured to provide them land at Pentok, but here again there are hiccups in inter-departmental coordination with the proposed plot belonging to UD&HD and the transfer getting tied up in red tape.
The six affected families who houses have still not been initiated are of Rikden Lepcha, Kiki Zangmit Lepcha, Karma Lepcha, Ongchu Lepcha, Nedup Lepcha s/o late. Topden Lepcha and Samten Lepcha.  Only three houses are under construction at Chandey at present.