Saturday, October 18, 2014

Teohar- When the Good Times Begin

Intro: The mythical roots of Teohar run deep, and before the profligacy of the current times make it impossible for us to trace them back, Dr. HARKA BAHADUR CHETTRI takes us on a journey of discovery. This is the story of Teohar...

Sagar, the King of the Ocean, had two daughters. The elder, who symbolised progress and prosperity, was named Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth; the younger, Alaxmi, or Dhumawati, stood for despair and destruction. Both wanted to rule the world and Sagar had a crisis at hand which offered no easy solutions. Finally, Sagar worked out a compromise, he temporarily divided the world into two unequal halves – the first half comprised of four months which begin towards the middle of June and ends sometime in October. This period is considered ‘bad’ because it not only brings disasters like landslides and floods, but also a host of lethal diseases. The land suffers the onslaught of rains and actually loses its brightness. Against such a dull backdrop, Goddess Laxmi takes charge of the affairs of the planet from her less virtuous sister, Dhumawati, sometime in October. Lights are lit all over to celebrate this exchange of power and welcome the Goddess of Prosperity.
India and Nepal are two countries where Teohar/ Deepawali is a major occasion. Spread over five days, the festival is also known as ‘Yamapanchak’. A festival common to Hindus, no doubt, the manner in which the Nepali community observes it, has however something unique about it which separates it from the manner in which Hindus elsewhere celebrate the festival.
The first day is observed as the Festival of the Crow. Called ‘Kak Teohar’, it is followed by ‘Kukkur Teohar’, the Festival of the Dog, and ends on the fifth day with Bhai Teohar or Bhai Tika. According to Devi Bhagwat Puran, the Hindu holy book about Goddesses, the Crow is the messenger of the God of Death, Yama.
Taking a minor digression, the Devi-Bhagwat Puran, which translates as “the Old Book of the Goddess”, is one of the most important work in Shaktism, the veneration in Hinduism of the divine feminine. It is one of the Puranic works that are not necessarily authoritative for all Hindus, but that have special importance for the Shakti sect within Hinduism. The text describes the Devi, the Goddess, as the foundation of the world and as identical with Brahman, the Supreme Being. The Devi-Bhagwat Puran also deals with topics like spiritual knowledge, social and personal ethics, and holy places.
It is a popular belief among the Nepalese that the crow always carries messages, hence no one should throw stones, shoo it away or try to kill the bird if it is heard cawing in the vicinity. Modern interpretations of the practise look at the bird from a more utilitarian point of view. The crow is nature’s scavenger which removes the dead and decaying organisms, thereby minimising the possibility of the spread of epidemics. It also guards the crops by preying on rats and insects which are major pests for crops. So, Kak Teohar is a means used by humans to express their gratitude towards this bird.
The same is true of Kukkur Teohar. The dog is among the most faithful animals. There is also an incident in the Mahabharata where Yudhistra, still alive, begins his journey for heaven. The only company he has on this journey is a dog who later turns out to be none other than Yama himself.
The cow is worshipped on the third day on Gai Teohar. Leftovers of the special food prepared for the cow are later taken as Prasad. Nobody eats anything before this Prasad on the day. The worship of the cow leads us to an insight that the practise is a result of agricultural civilisation when the cow was the most valued of all animals. On this day, the cow is worshipped in the morning (again, an aspect unique to the Nepalese in how the festival is celebrated) and Goddess Laxmi propitiated later the same evening with the decoration of lights and bursting of firecrackers.
The fourth day, Goru Teohar, sees the ox being worshipped. The importance of Goru Teohar is not only due to the fact that the animal is used to till the fields, but also because it helps continue and multiply the generation of cows. Goru Teohar is also known as Govardhan Puja or Halli Teohar.
The fifth and final day of Teohar is Bhai Teohar or Bhai Tika.
There are still more myths associated with different aspects of this festival and although all of them will not be possible to be included in this essay, we delve into some of them here.
The practise of singing Deosi and Bhailey when groups of boys and men [Deosi] and girls and women [Bhailo] move around the locality, singing songs from door to door, is traced back to the western Khasland of Nepal. The practise apparently developed and spread to various parts of Nepal from Khas, albeit with some alterations and adaptations, and thence onwards to wherever the Nepalese settled.
In the Karnali region of northwestern Nepal, for example, the festival’s Bhailo singing has two divisions – Sani Bhailey and Thuli Bhailey. Sani Bhailey is celebrated during the full moon of December during Mangshir Purnima. Fifteen days later, i.e. from the New Moon till five days, Thuli Bhailey is observed. The fifth day of Thuli Bhailey is also called Chhada Bhailey since it is played by young boys and girls as a single group.
The Khas society, among whom the practise is believed to have originated, also celebrates Deepawali as the festival of Gender Worship. A long bamboo pole is fixed near a Tulsi plant and the top of the Bamboo Pole carries a burning candle. Such lights are popularly known as Aakashdeep. Tulsi is a sacred plant and believed to be an incarnate form of Vishnu who had taken the form of a Tulsi to oblige a certain Sati. This worship is also known among the Nepalese as Linga Puja, the phallic worship. Shiva Linga is also worshipped throughout the Khas province.
The singing of Bhailey on Laxmi Puja and Deosi on the following two days is also traced back to the mythical Kirat king Balihang, who is also described in various Hindu scriptures as Asura Raja, the king of demons. Balihang was famous for his generosity and legends narrate that when this Kirati king became immensely popular and powerful, Indra, the King of Gods, began feeling insecure. His insecurity growing with Balihang’s increasing influence, the terrified Indra turned towards Lord Vishnu for help. Vishnu, after a patient hearing, worked out a plan to save Indra’s pride and throne. Disguised as a poor Brahmin, he went to the pious king and asked for some alms. The Kirati king was prepared to give anything, but the disguised Vishnu asked for land that he could cover in three steps. Once Balihang agreed, Lord Vishnu regained his original form and within no time, the pygmy figure of the Brahmin grew to such a size that his head disappeared behind the clouds. In a single stride, he covered the whole earth and with his second, heaven. With no where left to place his third step, the virtuous king placed his head in front of the mighty Brahmin and said: “Lord, let your third step be on my head.” Thus, Balihang was pushed into the ground. Lord Vishnu, however, promised to guard the King till he remained buried. This is the reason why performing any kind of religious rites is forbidden between July-August because all the Gods are believed to be underground guarding Balihang and there is no one in heaven to receive the offerings made by the pious. Though the modern Deorsi and Bhailo singing carries hardly anything of this story, it is believed that they were mythically devised to spread this story as far and wide as possible.
The other version of the genesis of Deosi and Bhailo is also related to same Kirat king. It is believed that he fell grievously ill once and showing no signs of recovering. The God of Death, Yama, started sending messages of his impending death in the form of dogs and crows, but Balihang’s sister, who was guarding him, sent back the messengers with word that Yama could take her brother after he fulfilled certain conditions. Yama was told to wait till Panchami, i.e. Bhai Tika. He could take Balihang away only after the colour of the Tika had faded away, or the water she sprinkled around her brother, dried, or the flowers with which she had prepared the garland, wilted. She was only buying time and Yama was confident that the few extra days she had negotiated would not lead to anything miraculous. He granted her wish. Balihang’s sister was, however, mush more ingenious than Yama had given her credit for. She carefully chose the ingredients of the Tika to make sure that it did not fade. She applied a Tika of rice grains, which she knew would not lose their colour in a hurry, giving her brother enough time to recover from his illness and thwart death. The next day, she mixed oil in the water she sprinkled around him to keep it from drying, and on the third day, she stringed a garland made of Makhamali, a flower of the aster family, whose fibrous and robust petals do not wilt for years.
In the meanwhile, Yama’s messengers kept close watch on the developments so that he could be intimated the moment any of the conditions imposed by Balihang’s sister were met and he could arrive and take away Balihang. However, none of the conditions were met and soon Balihang began to recover and when he had fully recuperated, thereby providing no opportunity for death to visit, his sister sent the same messengers across the kingdom to announce Balihang’s recovery. Deosi and Bhailo, which still celebrate Balihang in their lyrics, are believed to be these messages.
Nowadays, however, very few people are aware of the actual story behind the tradition which has changed beyond recognition. Makhamali has been replaced by Saipatri which has of late even given way to artificial flowers made of plastic and paper. Obviously then, very few sisters still string the garlands themselves. The rice tika has been replaced by brightly coloured chemicals. The purity of feeling between brothers and sisters that manifested once, has degenerated to cheap fashion devoid of the essence of tradition that helps build a community.
Of late, there have even been concerted moves to disassociate Teohar from its Kirati ethos. This, most believe, stems from a certain section’s commitment to do away with anything Aryan, which, for them, carries with it implicit connotations of “developed” which could go against the much sought after tribal status. Such considerations are ironic because the whole concept of Teohar draws its roots, among the Nepalese, from the life of a Kirat king.
[This article was first published in the Weekend Review, Oct 27-02 Nov 2000, Vol 2 No 15]

The SAD Act


The Sikkim Anti Drugs Act, when tabled in the State Legislative Assembly in the year 2006, was heralded as a path-breaking initiative to combat substance abuse in the State and was universally lauded for the sensitivity with which it proposed to address the problem – being firm with peddlers and empathizing with addicts. The Act understood the societal challenge posed by addiction at its various facets and was expected to serve the State well for the years to come. However, eight years down the line, SADA, aimed at rescuing addicts and punishing dealers, has lost that very essence of what it was planned as - a strong and humane law and has become the SAD Act headlined here.
SADA which was passed as a “one of its kind initiative” seems to have failed in reducing the number of addicts and has [hopefully inadvertently] driven far too many “addicts” to become peddlers after this Act has left no other door open for them after having once ensnared them. Clearly then, the Act, put together as a means to make Sikkim a “Drug Free state” is proving counterproductive.
SADA was drafted to tackle the problem of drug abuse and of other controlled substances that are being peddled with alacrity in the State in the absence of any strong enough laws to curtail their sale or penalize the traffickers. Most of the common substances of abuse are prescription drugs, which until SADA came about, were not recognized as “drugs” making policing against them impossible to deliver. While SADA brought the peddling of such substances within the ambit of cognizable offences, what it proposed to achieve was even more significant. The original Bill aimed to come to the rescue of addicts and punish dealers who put the substances on the streets. The plan was to reinforce rehabilitation infrastructure and reinvigorate social and governmental involvement in rescuing the young from addiction. When the rules were framed into law, however, the Act was stripped of all such nuances, and what is being implemented is a harsh and insensitive rule which is perpetuating prejudices and stigma, a combo made more dangerous because it comes jacked up with the backing of the law.
It is bad enough that addicts are irresponsibly branded as “antisocial” by a disinterested society at large, but what is worse is that SADA, not the Act but its implementation, is now conspiring to make their rehabilitation into society even more difficult.
Take this disturbing story for instance.
“I was first arrested in possession of seven capsules of Spasmo-Proxyvon and four tablets of Nitrosun-10 in the year 2010 at Rangpo check post when I was a class IX student in a government school,” states a youth now working as a counselor helping other addicts kick the habit. But that is now. In 2010, he was “advised” to plead guilty under SADA and accept a “punishment” of two and a half months in Rongyek Jail. The quantity found on him clearly proved him to be an addict and not a peddler. But whoever advised him to plead guilty without challenging the charges was either ill-informed or clearly perpetuating the prejudice which sees no difference between an addict and a peddler and believes that both need to be “punished”. Be that as it may, the lad pleaded guilty, served his time, and returned to the same environment which had made him an addict and this time with the stigma of also being a convict.
Not very long after his release, he was “caught” in Gangtok in possession of contraband substances. This time, he was in possession of 1,650 capsules of spasmo proxyvon, 33 bottles of a cough syrup and four tablets of N-10. As the haul proves and as he admits himself, this was for “dealing” and not for consumption alone.
Inexplicably, his second tenure at Rongyek was a short one month. “Does the law not differentiate between a dealer and a consumer? The punishment I received for the first offence as an addict was longer and harsher than the term I got for peddling!” shares this now recovering addict who doesn’t want to be named.
“There is no differentiation [between peddlers and addicts] and no real humanity in SADA. The law has given the police the long hand and the act is violating the fundamental rights of a citizen. This first time offender was literally driven into becoming a hardcore addict and a dealer since there is no differentiation between an addict and a dealer or any clause in the act that could get him into recovery when he was first caught by the police in possession of controlled substance,” rues Khituk Tongden Lepcha of Life Living Free Society, an NGO working with detoxification and rehabilitation since 2008.
Senior Advocate and Human Rights Lawyer, Dr. Doma T Bhutia, agrees. She states, “The objective of the Act was to reduce the trafficking of substances of abuse and bring down the number of addicts, but on ground, the effect has been the opposite.”
Instead of the numbers having come down, she states that the courtrooms are flooded with SADA cases and the worst part is that the accused persons are mechanically pleading guilty without understanding the consequences. The young offenders whose future prospects have already been put into jeopardy are the worst affected, she states.
She further argues that as per the Act, “illicit traffic” in relation to controlled substances also means production, possession, sale, purchase, transportation, warehousing, concealment use or consumption, import or export inter-state of controlled substance. “Production is clearly mentioned but still there is no provision in place to regulate pharmaceutical companies producing these very substance of abuse in our very own backyards,” states Dr. Bhutia.
She also states that in Chapter II Section 3 subsection 1 states that the government shall take all such measures for the purpose of prevention and controlling abuse of substance of abuse. She adds here that why has the government failed to lay down rules that ensure measures of prevention and why has no rule that facilitates the same have been framed till date.
“No one knows where the funds collected as fine paid by the convicted person under SADA go. How  and where it is being utilized since as per the Act the funds should be utilized for the rehabilitation of the drug users  and their reintegration into mainstream society, as it was supposed to do in the first place,” states the senior advocate. As already mentioned, unfortunately, the humane aspects of the Act have long been subsumed by uninvolved implementation.
But the Act was clearly not envisioned as such and was in fact proposed as an organic process open to tweaking and corrections to be made more effective and more considerate in consultation with the people and in service of the society. Towards this end, the Act mandated that a recommending/ review committee be instituted to keep track of SADA and keep it responsive and its implementation responsible.
In this regard, what is unfortunate is that this committee, chaired ex officio by the Chief Secretary, remains defunct at most times and only token when it has to meet and make the pretense of conferring.
Drishya Foundation’s counselor, KC Nima, who along with the Recovering Users Network, an organization with over 300 recovering addicts as members, has been pursuing ways and means of getting this committee to make some meaningful recommendations and corrections but such efforts have fallen on deaf ears.
It may be informed here that the Bill, when tabled in the SLA in 2006, had a humane side under the section “Authorities and Offences” where it is recorded that the state government will coordinate action with various offices, departments and authorities for “identification, treatment, education, aftercare, rehabilitation and social reintegration of addicts”. However, the state government even after eight years has failed to open even a single counseling centre for addicts, leave aside the rehabilitation centres. Further, the Act also proposed that “controlled substances, flexible to cover for future exigencies will be the substances declared as such by the government by notification published in the official gazette”.
“The Bill clearly states that there has to be a recommending committee but as of now there has been no official intimation received in this front. When there is no review committee present that will look into the reintegration and rehabilitation part, how can we expect the Act to deliver what it was supposed to do when it was first drafted,” questions Mr. Nima.
Further, chapter IV of the Act deals with offences and penalties and its Section 9 (b) points out that if the user is young, unmarried or unemployed higher is the penalty of cost of Rs. 10,000.
“One cannot marginalize anyone in combating drug addiction and how is it important that the act marginalizes anyone as unmarried, unemployed or young. Is the Act targeting young people who are involved in drugs? Section 9 Clause (f) where a person who has been convicted for an offence under the Act and if such person is unemployed in such cases, conviction shall be a disqualification for employment under the State Government and will also be deprived of facilities like driving licenses etc,” informs RUN President, Sachin Subba, pointing out that such an approach defeats any attempts at rehabilitation.
Here, Dr. Bhutia, the Human Rights Advocate, points out that the fore-mentioned section is disturbingly contrary to Section 3 sub section (2) (b) that talks about rehabilitation and reintegration of the addicts into mainstream society. “Such provisions push people further into the offence of trafficking or using substance of abuse,” she states.
Here, she also adds that as of now she as an advocate has observed that the Courts are mostly full of accused under SADA, who are basically from financially poor backgrounds, however, she mentions that till date “no big fish” like owners of vehicles, producers and traders have been brought to trial in any local court. This opens another aspect of the problem. While addiction is admittedly “universal” in its footprint in Sikkim, and since the enforcers of the law remain largely incapable of differentiating between an addict and a peddler, it is indeed surprising that the well heeled and well connected don’t end up in court as SADA accused in as many numbers as they are initially “nabbed” or even proportion to their numbers in the pool of addicts.
Be that as it may, what was originally a humane effort, is now bordering on barbaric.
“Look at Tihar jail today, the accused persons were allowed to pursue their education through distance education courses and further link them to job placements after the period of conviction is over. However, in Sikkim under SADA, once you get caught, your life in the mainstream is over because too many doors are slammed shut with conviction,” the advocate rues. She adds, “To curb any critical issue the approach has to be humane.” Ironically, that is how SADA was conceived and drafted. Unfortunately, that is not how it is being implemented…

Social Justice Minister chairs review meeting

Gangtok, 17 Oct: A review meeting of Social Justice, Empowerment & Welfare Department was organized at its office at Lumsay here chaired by the Minister Tulshi Devi Rai today.
The Minster briefed the meeting and took stock of the various schemes and works which the department has undertaken. She advised them to come up with solutions for the different problems which the department was facing and suggested that a toll-free helpline number be opened for the public so that they could directly contact the department for quick and early redressal of grievances.
Earlier, Secretary K. Jayakumar gave a detailed power-point presentation on different systems which the department could undertake to make work flow quick and easy. He emphasized use of modern technology for faster service delivery to beneficiaries. Also on the day, all the divisions of the department placed their quarterly reports and highlighted problems they are facing at different levels.

All the Senior Welfare Officers, CDPOs and Inspectors from four districts also attended the meeting.

Keeping Ebola at Bay

Editorial published in The New York Times
The Ebola cases in the United States show that American hospitals and public health officials have much to learn about effective ways to protect health care workers and the public from possible infection.
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, the first hospital put to the test, failed to protect two nurses, who had cared for the Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan, from becoming infected. Perhaps more alarming are the stumbles by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the lead federal agency for fighting infectious diseases.
One of the nurses, who was monitoring her own temperature, called the C.D.C. and was allowed to take a commercial flight from Cleveland to Dallas-Fort Worth even though she had a slight fever, which did not violate current guidelines. That was an incredible lapse in judgment by the C.D.C.
Health officials and the flight’s airline are now scrambling to notify passengers, crew members and janitors who cleaned the planes she traveled on of possible exposure. While the danger to those people appears slight, this incident shows that the C.D.C. needs to lower the fever threshold in its guidance and advise against any travel on public forms of transportation for 21 days by people who have potentially been exposed to the virus.
There is more the agency ought to do. It should be increasing the rigor of its guidelines on protective clothing for health care workers, hospital readiness, and training on the handling of Ebola cases. President Obama said on Thursday evening that he is considering appointing an “Ebola czar” to manage the government’s response.
The C.D.C.’s inadequate advice to hospitals on how to protect health care workers may have contributed to the latest cases. An expert who oversaw the treatment of two American missionaries flown from West Africa to Atlanta for treatment at Emory University Hospital told The Times that he had warned the C.D.C. repeatedly that its guidelines were irresponsibly lax. The guidelines allowed protective garments that left the neck and other areas exposed. It was not until Tuesday night that the agency — essentially acknowledging its error — issued new, stricter guidelines requiring full-body suits covering the head and neck, as well as close supervision of the risky process of taking off protective gear.
Unless the C.D.C. can help hospitals prepare properly, every new case will result in improvised responses that may not work. The hospital in Dallas has sent one of the nurses to Emory and the other to the National Institutes of Health, two of the nation’s four specially designated high-containment hospitals. But there are only a limited number of beds in these institutions (N.I.H. has only two such beds), so other major medical centers must be ready to accept cases if necessary. Some hospitals in cities with large West African populations are taking steps to train their staffs.
While the chance that an infected patient will show up at any particular hospital or clinic is very small, health workers should still know the basics of what to do if a patient arrives at their door. National Nurses United, the country’s largest union of nurses, says there has been almost no hands-on training, just easy-to-ignore guidance documents.
The advice now from the C.D.C. is for emergency room staff to take travel histories, isolate patients who have fevers and have been in West Africa, and call the C.D.C. if Ebola is suspected. Once a case is diagnosed as Ebola, the C.D.C. will fly in a swat team of experts within hours to oversee treatment.
At a congressional hearing on Thursday, House members asked whether the United States was adequately protected against people who might have been infected in West Africa but did not yet have symptoms. The current system relies on screening before they are allowed to fly out of West Africa and again when they reach airports in this country. So far, only one infected patient — the man who was treated in Dallas and later died — escaped detection at the airports since the epidemic was first identified seven months ago. There should be some comfort in knowing that that part of the system is working.
Even so, some members of Congress, mostly Republicans, have called for barring entry to all people who have been in the Ebola-stricken countries as a way to keep the virus out.

The danger is that if other nations followed an American ban with bans of their own, economies in West Africa would be crippled. That could only reduce the ability of those nations to fight the epidemic, and make it even more likely the disease would spread through porous borders to other African nations and beyond.

Cabbies checked against overcharging

GANGTOK: The Office of Senior RTO, East district, of the Motor Vehicles Division of the Transport Department conducted surprise checking of vehicles following allegations of charging of excess fare by some of the drivers from tourists during peak tourist season. Around 1,500 vehicles were reportedly checked between over the past month of so, out of which 252 vehicles were challaned for violation of various section of the Motor Vehicles Act 1988, an official communiqué from the Sr RTO informs. Such checking will be done at regular intervals, it is further informed.

RTI training for PIOs

GANGTOK, 17 Oct [IPR]: A three-day long training on Right To Information Act, 2005 and role of PIOs organized at AATI concluded today. The training was organized by Accounts and Administration Training Institute (AATI) and was sponsored by Department of Personnel and Training, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
The Principal Director of AATI, D Darnal and Director of Primary Education, Human Resource Development Department, State Resource person for RTI, Bhim Thatal were resource persons for the training.
A total of 29 PIOs from various departments of east district attended.

Mamley-Kamrang wins Block Level Rural Sports in Namchi

Mamley-Kamrang GPU emerged the overall champion at the Block Level Rural Sports Competition held for Namchi Block under the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Abhiyan held from 14 to 16 October. A total of nine GPUs participated in sporting disciplines ranging from Archery to Boxing to Football, Table-Tennis and Tae-Kwon-Do, Assistant Director-I Gangtok Sports & Youth Affairs Department, CL Rai informs. The final day had South Zilla Upadhakshya Devi Maya Baraily present as chief guest.

Workshop on sanitation held for religious institutions and school heads

RABONG: A district-level workshop on Sanitation specifically targeting religious institutions and Heads of Schools organised by the office of the ADC (Dev), Ravangla under Rural Management & Development Department and Kapinzal Social Foundation was held at Community Hall, Ravangla on 17 Oct, 2014.
Participating in the workshop were Heads from 44 Senior Secondary, Secondary and Junior High Schools and representatives from 36 religious institutions. Others present were Tashi Chophel, ADC (Dev) Ravangla, Yishey Yongda, ADM, Gyalshing, Prem Kamal Rai, GVA, Temi, Sangam Rai, GVA, Ravangla, Karma Samten, AD, HRDD, Ravangla, Yogendra Pradhan, AE, GVK, Ravangla and resource persons from Pemayangtse Monastery, Zebanoor Ansari, Drishti, Namchi and Arjun Rai, Kapinzal Social Foundation, Ravangla.
In his welcome address, the ADC Ravangla stated that the need of the hour was to help make Sikkim a Zero Waste State and India a Zero Waste country. Cleanliness is a state of mind and effort needed was to change the mindset of the people and as Heads of Schools had the ear of the next generation and Religious Institutions like monasteries, Temples and Churches had a large following their support in the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan would go a long way in helping solve the country’s waste problems.
Lama Rigzing Yongda from Pemayangtse Monastery shared his experience with the participants detailing how Pemayangtse monastery had banned the use of offerings which had plastic packaging, plastic carry bags and packaged drinking water and how devotees were now offering locally available products. Similar practises could now be adopted by the other institutions he said as the common goal was a clean planet.
A presentation on WASH (Water, Sanitation & Hygiene) for Schools was made by Zebanoor Ansari, Drishti, Namchi who outlined the various practises that could be followed in the schools thereby addressing a child’s right to both health and education. A presentation on practises to reduce and recycle waste was made by Shri Arjun Rai, Kapinzal Social Foundation, Ravangla.
Yishey Yongda, ADM, Gyalshing spoke on her eight-year experience in the Sanitation Cell and of the various sanitation activities undertaken by RMDD and of the way forward towards  Zero waste.
During the open discussion Heads of Schools spoke of the various practises being employed by them to reduce waste and how the models could be shared.
Sangam Rai, GVA, Ravangla thanked all for their participation and once again reiterated the need to work in synergy. A similar Workshop for Panchayats, Hoteliers and Taxi Drivers of Ravangla was held a day earlier on 16th Oct at the same venue.

New DGP takes charge

Avinash Mohananey, a 1985 batch IPS officer of Sikkim Cadre who has been on deputation to the Ministry of Home Affairs since 1991, is back in the state to take charge as the Director General of Police here. The previous incumbent, Jasbir Singh, retired on 30 September, and ADGP SD Negi was acting DGP in the interim until Mr. Mohananey took charge on 12 October.
Avinash Mohananey, born in Rajasthan on 19 August 1957 was inducted into IPS under Sikkim Cadre on 26 August 1985 and has been on central deputation since June 1991.

Namchi safai for Swachh Bharat

NAMCHI, 17 Oct [IPR]: A clean up drive at the Car Parking Plaza here under the National Sanitation Campaign was organized on Friday by RM&DD in coordination with Namchi Municipal Corporation for Swachh Bharat Mission, Swachh Namchi. UD&HD Minister NK Subba was present as chief guest accompanied by STDC Chairperson RN Rai, Chairperson Scheduled Tribe Welfare Board Lama Pem Tshering Bhutia, Advisor to the PHE Department Binod Rai alongside Zilla Adhakshya (South) CL Gurung, DC (South) Prabhakar Verma, ADC (Dev) Benu Gurung, Nodal officers from various Departments and members of Local and Mainline Taxi Drivers Association, Fire Brigade and Business Community.
Addressing the gathering, the chief guest underlined the importance of Swachh Bharat Mission. He emphasized that each one’s assistance will be essential in making Swachh Bharat Mission successful. Mr. Subba also suggested formation of a smaller committee from the bazaar area to monitor cleanliness. Mr. Subba informed the gathering that due to rise in population, an efficient and effective waste disposal system should be put in place by the authorities. The Minister also spoke about the importance of the use of dustbins and segregation of waste.
In addition, Mr. Subba spoke about the various amenities required at the plaza and if the amenities were available upgradation of the same to be done. He also spoke about the Nirmal Rajya Award that the state has acquired along with encouraging the gathering to work towards maintaining and sustaining Swachh Bharat Mission in the state through various awareness and reliable programs.
Subsequently, the Minister along with a team of officials conducted a thorough inspection of various parts of Namchi such as the Car Parking Plaza, Central Park, Kazitar Children’s Park, Krishi Bazaar, Dambu Dara. The Minister interacted with the various vendors and highlighted the need to ensure quality control standards laid down for the vendors.
DC (South) welcomed the gathering and spoke about the importance of Swachh Bharat Mission and the commitment to devote 100 hours a year towards cleanliness.

Prepping Sikkim for Mansarovar Yatra

Chief Secretary R Ongmu led a high-level delegation comprising of senior officials of the State Government, the Army, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, and Customs & Immigration to take stock of infrastructure in place and the improvements required along the Gangtok-Nathula corridor in the event that the pass is opened for pilgrims travelling to Kailash-Mansarovar in Tibet. The findings and recommendations worked out from this visit will be discussed at a meeting scheduled with the Ministries of Home and External Affairs in the first week of November to discuss this project.
This was the first visit to Nathula by any high level delegation led by the Chief Secretary to check on the preparedness of the State to host the alternate route agreed upon by India and China for pilgrims travelling to Kailash-Mansarovar. In contrast to the route through Lipulekh in Uttarakhand which requires a trek over difficult terrain and is open for a limited period in a year, Nathula, when it opens for this pilgrimage, will allow pilgrims to travel in the comfort and safety of an all-weather road.
An official press communiqué informs that the CM was accompanied by the Additional Chief Secretary cum Home Secretary SC Gupta, Heads of concerned departments, and senior engineers and officers of concerned departments like Roads & Bridges, PHE, Commerce & Industries, Tourism, Forest & Wildlife, IPR, Energy & Power, and Ecclesiastical.
At Nathula, she inspected the consolidated centre for Immigration and Customs and discussed the possibility of constructing parking facilities at the adjacent area. The team then carried out a recce of stretches of land under Forest Department for the development of an acclimatization centre for pilgrims and tourists.
At Sherathang, the Chief Secretary took detailed stock of the progress of infrastructural works under the Commerce & Industries Department.  She visited the Hotel which is nearing completion. She also visited the Trade Mart Building, the adjacent Conference Hall, and inspected the Parking yard for traders. She issued directions to ensure that all infrastructure should contribute towards the upcoming pilgrimage route.
The team stopped at various key points along the highway and discussed in detail ways to augment resources like forest, lakes, soil and other natural resources of the State and deliberated on how these could be used effectively in the overall development of the region, especially keeping in mind the Mansarovar Yatra. She also directed the Forest Department, PHE Department and Science & Technology Department to carry out a detailed study of the possibility to augment the level and purity of water at Tsomgo and Tamzey lakes and also ways and means to tap these resources to meet water requirements.
The Additional Chief Secretary, who also holds charge of Home Affairs, confirmed to NOW! that the State Government has received a communication from the Government of India in regard to the Mansarovar Yatra possibility and is hence preparing a blueprint to facilitate the yatra. The state government will bear all the infrastructural support to meet the pilgrimage tourism and required facilities at the earliest, Mr. Gupta said, adding that a detailed project report will be prepared after consultation with all the stakeholders and Government of India.
GoI officials are scheduled to visit Sikkim in the first week of November when they will hold detailed discussions on the preparedness part, the Additional Chief Secretary said.

SC directs Centre to complete exercise to consider tribal list expansion and seats for STs by 30 Nov

Following intimation by the Government of India, the Supreme Court has granted the Centre time till 30 November to “complete the exercise” of exploring the possibility of declaring all the indigenous communities of Sikkim as Scheduled Tribes and taking a call on seats to be reserved in the legislative assembly for Scheduled Tribes [at present, Assembly seats are reserved only for BLs, SCs and Sangha in Sikkim].
The Ministry of Home Affairs is reported to have informed the Supreme Court that seat reservation for Limboo and Tamang communities in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly by virtue of their having been declared ST was about to be resolved and also sought more time to take appropriate decision on inclusion of more communities into the Scheduled Tribes list. The former issue is significant in light of the still awaited ST reserved seats for the Limboo and Tamang communities even though they were included in the Scheduled Tribes list as far back as in 2002.
The Supreme Court has accordingly granted the Government of India a “last chance” to complete the due exercise on the consideration of other indigenous Sikkimese communities into tribal category.
The result of the deliberations and the exercise conducted by the Union of India should be filed by way of an affidavit well before 30 November 2014, the Court has ordered.
A division bench of the apex court comprising of Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice C Nagappan, in an order passed on 16 September 2014, has directed for the “exercise” detailed in a letter submitted to it by the GoI to be completed forthwith and granted two months time to the Union of India i.e. till 30 November 2014 further making it clear that no further time will be granted for this purpose.
The Apex court has further directed the Union Government that the result of the deliberations and the exercise conducted by the Union of India should be filed by way of an affidavit well before 30 November, 2014. The matter itself is listed for final disposal in the first week of December 2014.
The senior counsel appearing on the behalf of Union of India had placed on record a letter dated 02 September 2014 which details that: “O/o Registrar General of India (RGI) on 02 June, 2014 have forwarded the population details of STs in Sikkim on the basis of 2011 census (copy enclosed) and the same has been forwarded to Ministry of Tribal Affairs on 13 June 2014 (copy enclosed) for their necessary action regarding declaring the remaining entire indigenous Sikkimese Communities as Scheduled Tribes.”
The third paragraph of the letter forwarded to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs further states that “…any possible increase in the number of seats /proportionate increase in   the   seats   of Limboo-Tamang, Bhutia-Lepchas are possible only after a decision by Ministry of Tribal Affairs regarding categorization of all the remaining indigenous Sikkimese as Scheduled Tribes.  Further, the issue would also require a wider debate with all the stake holders in the State of Sikkim.”
The Limboo and Tamang communities have been awaiting reservation of seats in the legislative assembly ever since they were accorded ST status in 2002. The 32-member legislative assembly of Sikkim has 12 Bhutia-Lepcha reserved seats, two for Scheduled Castes and one for the Sangha.
LN Rao, Additional Solicitor General for the Union of India has reportedly assured the court that the required decision would be taken in the two month time allowed to the Centre.
The case itself relates to a petition filed by Harey Ram Pradhan, former BJP president for Sikkim, challenging the delimitation process demanding seat reservation to Limboo and Tamang communities. However, after the notification published new delimitation of constituencies ahead of the 2009 general elections, the challenge to the delimitation process became redundant but the seat reservation issue remains.
The Government of Sikkim, it may be recalled, has proposed that the legislative assembly’s strength be increased from the present 32 to a minimum of 40. This will allow for seats to become available for Scheduled Tribes. The SDF government has adopted four resolutions passed by the State Legislature of Sikkim on 16 September 2004, 06 June 2008, 30 March 2011 and 30 January 2013 in this regard.

Justice Jain in new Human Rights chief in Sikkim

Former Chief Justice of the High Court of Sikkim, Justice Narendra Kumar Jain, has been appointed the State Human Rights Commissioner for Sikkim. The post had been lying vacant since the incumbent, Justice Ajoy Nath Ray, was appointed the Lokayukta of Sikkim on 05 March earlier this year.
Justice Jain demitted office as the Chief Justice of Sikkim on 02 October.
Additional Chief Secretary, Suresh Chandra Gupta, confirmed that the State government appointed Justice Jain as the second Human Rights Commissioner on 08 October for a three-year term.
Justice Jain was appointed Chief Justice of Sikkim on 06 January earlier this year and was transferred as Judge to the High Court of Sikkim from Rajasthan in September last year.

IPR Minister meets media organisations

GANGTOK, 17 Oct [IPR]: A coordination-cum-familiarization meeting of the Information & Public Relations Department and representatives of Press Club of Sikkim and its sister organizations was held today at the conference hall of Soochna Bhawan here. The meeting was chaired by IPR Minister AK Ghatani and was also attended by Secretary IPR Department CC Wangdi, senior officers of the department, and representatives of various press organizations. The organizations represented in the meeting were Press Club of Sikkim, Sikkim Press Association, Mahila Patrakar Sangh and Weekly Editors’ Forum.
Speaking on the occasion, the Minister acknowledged the contribution of the press in the collective process of spearheading development of the State. He hailed organizations like the Press Club of Sikkim for providing leadership to journalists from across the State.
Addressing the journalists as ‘first class citizens of the country’, the Minister called for the need to shift the focus of journalistic writing from regular run-of-the-mill stories to factual issue-based reporting. He urged all the four organizations to identify journalists from among them and assign them specific departments or issues. He added that a feedback mechanism be created where content is thoroughly checked and verified before it went for publishing. This process would ensure quality and address issues like adverse reporting or mis-information.
The Minister urged the journalists to focus on the key initiatives of the Government. Elaborate work needed to be done by journalists to highlight the Organic Mission of the Government, he said. He urged the organizations to form specialized teams focusing exclusively on the Organic Mission. The Minister called on the journalists to focus more on real stories that have occurred in the society and urged them to verify the contents before publishing them. The minister categorically stated that journalists should avoid any kind of mistakes in their writing. The Minister touched upon all the issues raised by the journalists and assured timely redressal.
Secretary Ms Wangdi in her address appreciated the positive role played by the press in Sikkim in disseminating information about the programmes and policies of the Government. She appealed to the press to take the occasional adversities in their stride and work towards an amicable environment between the press and the department to serve the larger interest of the people of Sikkim. She urged the press to verify the facts and figures from multiple sources inorder to ensure balanced reporting in their publications, notwithstanding the freedom of speech and expression which the fourth pillar always enjoys. She maintained that there should be cordial relation between IPR department and the press fraternity and both should work as a cohesive unit to collaborate for the development of the State.

Local weekend at Governor’s Gold Cup

GANGTOK, 17 Oct: In what is shaping up to a historic development for football clubs in Sikkim, two local teams have secured a berth each in the semifinals of the 35th All India Governor’s Gold Cup Football Tournament underway here at Paljor Stadium. While some might see the absence of “big” clubs in the tournament as having paved the way for local teams to proceed so far, it needs to be reiterated here that both clubs have played exceptionally well and vanquished some spirited opponents to make it this far. With their outstanding performance, Sikkim Himalayan Sporting Club and Sikkim Boys [Sikkim Football Association White] have entered the semifinal round of the tournament.
Sikkim Himalayan Sporting Club will now take on ONGC-Mumbai in the first semifinal match scheduled for 18 October, Saturday, while the other semifinal will be played between Sikkim Boys and Manang Marsangdi Club of Nepal on 19 October.
The 35th edition of the tournament was kicked-off by the Governor Shriniwas Patil on 10 October at Paljor Stadium. Thirteen teams, including three local teams, participated in the tournament The third local team was Sikkim Youth XI made up of players selected from different schools from the recently held LD Kazi Memorial Interschool Football Tournament. Sikkim Youth XI went down to Sikkim Boys in the qualifying round of the tournament.
The other participating clubs were Kalighat MS Football Club, Kalimpong XI, Shillong United Football Club, Aryan Club [Kolkata], TATA Football Academy, Army XI, Tollygunge Agragami and Three Star Nepal.
In the first quarter final match played on 14 October, Sikkim Boys, comprising of experienced and young local footballers, outplayed the defending champions Three Star Nepal by a solitary goal. In the second quarter-final match, SHSC, a set of young footballers supported by few experienced ones, comfortably knocked out Tollygunge Agragami of Kolkata 2 goals to nil.
ONGC-Mumbai in turn outplayed a strong Shillong United FC in a tie-breaker in the third quarter-final on 16 October and in the last quarter-final match played today, crowd favorite, Manang Marsangdi Club, knocked out Army XI.


Addiction has ploughed through generations now, but still remains largely unaddressed

Sikkim has been grappling with substance abuse for a while now, for a very long while. Unfortunately, much remains to be understood about this malaise in Sikkim even though it has already struck very deep roots here. A beginning was made little over a decade ago when recovering addicts and socially responsible few got together to open the State’s first rehabilitation centre for convalescing victims of substance abuse. A few years later, the State Government responded to the crying need for effective laws to deal with the nature of addiction in Sikkim and gave the State the Sikkim Anti-Drugs Act in 2006. This Act, as a special report in this edition details, when it became a law, lost most of its compassion and has become problem in itself. On a brighter note though, the recovering users have become a more organised collectif and make up for societal ennui with their commitment and passion to help others still struggling with chemical dependency. In the absence of any other silver linings, one hopes that their initiatives continue further.
As for the rest of the State, before Sikkim can progress any further with combating drug abuse, it will first have to understand the fundamental and essential questions about drug abuse and addiction, which range from understanding how drugs act on the brain; to identifying and minimizing the role that stress can play in drug use and relapse; to detecting and responding to emerging drug use trends. It should also be understood that addiction is not a “high-society” infliction even though police action might be limited to the economically underprivileged. Take a look around and you can easily spot the nervous stutter of a habituated substance abuser in the most unlikely of places, but before one starts stereotyping addiction, accept it that it is dangerously widespread in Sikkim. A senior politician recently remarked that the Sikkim society has come to a stage where parents are known to buy their teenaged child a ‘quarter’ every evening in hopes that it will keep him off the harder stuff. This definitely is not the way to rehabilitation. So poorly are even literate parents informed on addiction that they fail to understand that the dependence is chemical and requires professional help after a certain stage. They can at best provide the cushion, the support base that a recovering addict requires. They can’t treat it. At least not the way they have been trying to. Deaths due to overdose are no longer rare in Sikkim and now even have a euphemism of their own and this makes the hesitancy among parents and wards to seek professional help even more difficult to understand. Agreed, the society still attaches a stigma to addiction, but there is no escaping such branding by trying to cover-up. Given the rather small society Sikkim moves in, no addiction remains secret for too long so why hide behind the fig-leaf of denial? In fact, denial is something that parents should help the addict overcome. Researchers claim that most addicts remain untreated because they convince themselves that they are not addicted - that they can kick the habit whenever they want. Rarely is this the case. Tantrums and threats don’t work as deaddiction tools. If anything, they aggravate the situation. Only professionals, and now we have some in Sikkim, can help. The Government, on its part, can help by arming the rehabilitation workers with infrastructural support and faith. SADA had these provisions, but it has unfortunately been allowed to become a weapon exclusively deployed by the police instead of being allowed to grow into the tool that was collectively used to save youth, punish peddlers and reclaim a generation. Rehab workers can work out a plan of action to combat both addiction and peddling, but that cannot happen if the policy makers refuse to listen to the people who understand the problem the best. Recovering users need to invited in as consultants to nuance the State’s response to the problem of substance abuse.
Meanwhile, the fight against drug abuse, and it is a fight mind you, is not just about curing addicts, it is also about protecting first-time users from experimenting with it. This cannot be achieved by a stray rally once in a year and a couple of posters and hoardings spread around the State. It needs some more human touch. Rehabilitated addicts and social workers need to constantly interact with the most susceptible section of the society and constantly speak of horrors that follow the initial high of substance abuse. The ugly side of addiction has to be propped up in the form of first-hand narratives often enough to have any impact on a generation reared on images which romanticise the experience. All these measures could still fail and there could be many who end up caught in the dizzy spiral of addiction. For them we need a stable society, a concerned community and of course professionally trained therapists; not a law that makes criminals out of addicts.

Dog Whisperer from Down Under REBYNA RANA

“When you have a dream and decide to follow it, you are going to hit obstacles but its how you react to those obstacles that matters. Working with dogs is a wonderful life, it brings enormous satisfaction rewards,” shares dog trainer cum Animal Behaviour expert, Gary Jackson, who is in Sikkim, volunteering here with SARAH on a two-week stint.
Mr. Jackson, who arrives here from Australia, is working with dogs here accompanied by his colleague, Kerstin Keimling. Both are on their first visit to Sikkim.
In a well received move, he also organized a workshop here to provide wider awareness on the need for dog training, stressing to dog owners that this training was as much for well disciplined pets as for the owners to understand how to care for and love their pets better and also be able to recognize dog behavior and the body language of their pets. It is important for dog owners to understand canine communication signals, he stresses.
Mr. Jackson arrived here on 12 October and has also conducted a workshop on dog bite prevention and management at local schools here like Modern School and TNA where more than 500 students were addressed.
He shared tips on dog training with the students and introduced them to methods of interacting better with their pets.
It’s been almost 28 years that Mr. Jackson has been training dogs. He acquired a dog trainer certificate in the USA in 1990 and also a volunteer with the National Dog Training Federation, Australia.  During his brief visit of Sikkim will be focusing more on sharing details on understanding their body language, behavior, and about how to reduce dog bite incidents.
It is clear that he loves dogs [no surprises there], and Mr. Jackson can be seen stressing to pet owners that dogs should be loved, need to be taken out for regular walks and provided proper exercise and training. Keeping a pet is a serious responsibility, he stresses.
He also insists that wider public education, even among those who do not have pet dogs, is also important specially among school going children. Such workshops on dog training need to be provided in schools because children are generally closer to pets and dogs and should be helped to understand them better.
“I am blessed to work with dogs because from an early age I was attached to them and keen to learn more. Working with dogs doesn’t necessarily mean giving up your job, perhaps you can achieve what you are looking for by volunteering at a shelter for a few hours or week. Working with dogs is rewarding in so many ways,” he says.
He adds that whether you work with dogs for a living or just have dogs as companions, knowing how to communicate with them is an amazing gift. “In this regard I find myself blessed and lucky that my career with dogs has always been exciting, allowing me the opportunity to not only train dogs and their people, but also to help train dog trainers as well”.
During the few days that he has been here, Mr. Jackson has trained around 15 dogs free of cost. As for his career record, that totals to around 20,000 dogs that he has worked with!
Such initiatives are always welcome since our country records around 15 million dog bite incidents a year with someone getting bitten by a dog every two seconds. Most of these incidents could have been avoided if the people were made more aware or the dogs better trained. “We have seen here in Sikkim that 50% of the pet animals are not trained and very aggressive and unsociable because of irresponsible pet owners who keep their pets locked at home and don’t train them,” states Dr. Thinlay, Programme Co-cordinater for SARAH, Sikkim.

The Changing Tunes of Deusurey SUBASH RAI

After the elaborate festivities of Dasain barely a fortnight back, Teohar/ Diwali, an important festival of the Nepali Hindu community, will be upon us within a few days. The festival, as everyone knows, plays out over five days, with each day having its own importance, and each day’s celebration having its own significance and even melodies. But most of us know of Teohar only for two days - Deusi and Bhailo, which fall on the third and fourth days of celebration.
These two days are also noticeable in the changes and modifications seen in the way they are celebrated. While the rituals for the other three days remain more or less the same, talk to the elders, and one will hear immediate complaints of how Deusi and Bhailo no longer ring as true and earnest as they used to the past.
Bhailo falls on the half-moon of the month of Kartik [around October] as per the Vikram Samvat calendar. On this night, Bhailinis [girls] sing Bhailo after offering prayers to Goddess Laxmi at dusk. Earlier, in the morning, they mke offerings to the Cow. The Bhailo ritual continues till the next morning, although girls no longer stay out singing Bhailo that long any more. After sunrise, the day is meant for Gobardhan puja  in which oxen are worshipped and then the menfolk march off playing Deusi which continues till the next day’s dusk.
“Deusi in earlier days used to be only for fun and entertainment,” recalls 69-year-old Som Bahadur Subba of Saureni, East Sikkim. He remembers carrying a Madaal and Jhyali in a group of 10-12 men [probably the entire male population of his village] and “playing” Deusi starting from the home where they had gathered.
“Chanting Deusi for half an hour, we used to sing and dance in jheurey taal for another two hours,” Mr. Subba recalls, adding that jaanr and rakshi with selroti and masu-ko-bhutuwa were the main source of energy.
After daan/ dakshina is brought in front of the Deusey, the Bhattauney [team leader] used to start giving aasish [blessings] which used to last for a minimum of half an hour. “Depending on the quantity and ‘quality’ of the daan [money, rakshi, jaanr, sayapatri ko mala and eatables], the aasish’s timing used to be extended or curtailed,” winks Balaram Rai of Lumsey. After aasish, again singing and dancing continued till the drinks and treats were polished off.
“We used to play around four hours deusi in one house which meant sunrise by the time we were done with the third house,” recalls Mr. Rai with a loud laugh. Another reason they covered such few houses in a night was because of the longer distances between houses at the time when people did not build homes cheek by jowl like nowadays, he adds.
“After finishing my house in Lumsey’s 5th Mile, we had to walk in the dark night without light for more than a kilometer towards 6th Mile to my friend’s home,” recalls Mr. Rai. The group had to disperse after sunrise because they all had to go to their homes of their respective sisters to receive bhai-tika.
According to them hardly, any cash was collected playing Deusi and on some occasions, the team leader would keep all of it for himself.
Nowadays, the duo rue, “Deusey and Bhailey have been commercialized. Very few elders play Deusi anymore.”  The duo reiterate that only young people are seen singing Deusi nowadays; for cash, they add. As per them the young deuseys hardly chant 10 minutes per house which enables them to cover 80-90 houses per night.
“Traditional musical items like maadal and jhyali have been replaced by guitars and congo and this could be the reason we find huge differences/ changes in the tunes and lyrics of Deusi-Bhailo at present,” they comment.
It goes without saying that the elder deuseys are not happy with the present form of Duesi and Bhailo, especially the ones which play out like musical extravaganzas with lip-syncing, sound systems and blaring CDs from the terrace of the buildings.
They are however not all about blaming the younger generation either. “They [the younger generation] must have shortened the proceedings because people have hardly any time to listen any more. Nowadays, people are seen busy playing marriage or entertaining guests during Diwali and not so much celebrating with each other,” comments CB Chettri of Lingdum. He believes that some the people treat Deusey-Bhailey as a headache/ nuisance which is probably why most families, especially in urban areas do not even open their doors for Deuseys and Bhailey.
The trio maintains that while changes and modifications are expected, even necessary, and hasten to add that some traditions must be conserved in as close an approximation of the original as possible for future generations.

Some of the noticeable differences in lyrics of Deusi as shared by some elders:

Old form:
Aah hai zhilimili zhilimili- deusiri ram
Aah hai key ko zilimili- deusiri ram
Aah hai phula ko zilimili- deusiri ram
Aah hai hajur ko gharma- deusiri ram
Aah hai barsa din ko- deusiri ram
Aah hai chadh parva- deusiri ram
Aah hai manuna vani- deusiri ram
Aah hai ayuin hai deusey- deusiri ram…

Present form:
Zilimili zhilimili- deusurey
Key ko zhilimili- deusurey
Phula ko hoina- deusurey
Batti ko zhilimili- deusurey
Steel ko chaamchi- deusurey
Uncle/aunti lai samjhi- deusurey
Aayeko hami- deusurey
Bhainsi ko kilo- deusurey
Key saro dhilo- deusurey…

MoEF thins down Sikkim’s ecological buffer zones

The Ministry of Environment & Forests, on the prodding of the Supreme Court, accepts that it needs to “conserve and protect” areas around nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries “to protect and propagate improvement and development of the wildlife therein and its environment”. These protected buffer zones are the Eco-Sensitive Zones bordering such reserves and while the Supreme Court had earlier mandated that this be an impractical [for small states like Sikkim] 10 km buffer, it allowed states and the central government to reduce this zone to smaller pockets in light of practicality and in consultation with experts. A drastic whittling was sought in Sikkim from the projected 10 kms to slivers of 25 metre strips. There were protests and objections, but the MoEF has clearly remained unmoved and has notified the eco-sensitive zones for eight nature reserves of Sikkim to bands ranging from 25 metres to 200 metres and an upper limit of 50 metres in some instances. In that sense, it has made no changes to the draft notification it had circulated in February 2014 and invited suggestions and objections.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests has conveniently gone ahead and reduced the protected area buffer in Sikkim from the accepted 10 km band around nature reserves to a narrow strip ranging from 25 to 200 metres. This was formalized on 27 August 2014, interestingly without disposing the objections and suggestions submitted by a number of people and organizations. The Ministry, in its notifications on the issue, puts on record that “…suggestions received in respect of the proposed draft notification have been considered by the Central Government”.
It has clearly affected no changes to the draft circulated in February and the publication of the final notification also bypasses the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) – which is under the same ministry but is chaired by the Prime Minister – and has also ignored an order of the Supreme Court, critics of the move allege.
The draft notifications were issued on 04 February inviting “objections and suggestions from all persons likely to be -Lachung in North Sikkim comes within the Eco-Sensitive Zone buffer of the Singba Rhododendron Sanctuary.
 - affected thereby, within a period of sixty days from the date on which copies of the Gazette containing the said notification were made available to the public”.
The notifications announcing the eco-sensitive zone details for Sikkim cover the Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary, Singba Rhododendron Sanctuary, Fambonglho Wildlife Sanctuary, Kyongnosla Alpine Wildlife Sanctuary, Khangchendzonga National Park, Mainam Wildlife Sanctuary, Kitam Bird Sanctuary and Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary.
Interestingly, Mainam Wildlife Sanctuary, Kitam Bird Sanctuary and Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary were not included in the original proposal and were apparently brought under the ambit of the new proposal later.

Needless to add, critics of the proposal have been quick to condemn the development. Tseten Tashi Bhutia of SIBLAC, members of whose organization had challenged the Tashiding hydel project on the grounds that it fell within the [original] eco-sensitive zone of the KNP and hence should be scrapped. SIBLAC had also petitioned MoEF, along with around 25 others including Affected Citizens of Teesta, with their objections to any drastic reduction in the expanse of the eco-sensitive zones.
Speaking to NOW! over the phone, Mr. Bhutia said that the Ministry had neither heard or paid heed to concerns of the people not intimated him or others about the reasons why their suggestions were not considered.
He sees this as “step-motherly” treatment of the people of Sikkim whose “genuine concerns” have been brushed aside.
“Our suggestions and complaints on the draft notifications were neither acknowledged nor were we informed of any action taken on the matter. People have voted BJP for change and uproot corruption from the country but it’s becoming bad to worse. If the Govt of India cannot save the future then they should return Sikkim to its earlier status. If not, they should also listen to us,” Mr. Bhutia said.
Meanwhile, ACT has already served a legal notice to the Ministry of Environment and Forests on the matter and is planning to take legal recourse.
The Supreme Court order had pegged a 10 km protective zone (technically called the Eco-Sensitive Zone under the Environment Protection Act) to be enforced around sanctuaries unless the Centre and the State governments notified a different perimeter based on scientific assessment. These buffer zones were mandated to ensure that the wildlife parks did not get affected by industrial and development activities to close to its borders.

As things stand for nature reserves in Sikkim, the eco-sensitive zones have mostly been marked for corridors ranging from 25 to 200 metres. In most cases, the extent of Eco-Sensitive Zone is 25 meters from the border where the slope is more than 45 degrees, and, in the eco-fragile part of the sanctuary, the zone extends to 200 meters.
The gazette notifications come with detailed references and maps of the eco-sensitive zones and list villages which already fall within these areas.
The Eco-Sensitive Zones are to be managed better and for this purpose, the notification requires the State Government to Zonal Master Plans within two years from the date of publication of the notification for the consideration and approval of the Central Government. Unfortunately, while this master plan is to be prepared in consultation with the residents of the buffer zones, they will be clearly outnumbered by babus with as many as nine government departments to be included in the consultation process.
The Zonal Master Plans are to provide for “restoration of degraded areas, conservation of existing water bodies, management of catchment areas, watershed management, ground water management, soil and moisture conservation, needs of local community and such other aspects of ecology and environment that need attention”.
All mining and stone quarrying activities are to be banned in the eco-sensitive zones except when undertaken for domestic use of bonafide residents. The same applies to felling of trees as well. Industrial and commercial establishments already in operation in the buffer zones, while they can be allowed to continue, will not be considered for expansion within the eco-sensitive zones. No new hydel projects will be allowed in the eco-sensitive zones except micor and mini hydel projects [of up to a maximum of 2,000 KW] and even these only if they serve the energy needs of the local communities, subject to consent of the concerned Gram Sabha and all other requisite clearances.
Through the notification, the Central Government “for effective monitoring” of the Eco-sensitive Zones has also constituted an 11-member State Level Eco-sensitive Zone Monitoring Committee chaired by the chief secretary and including a representative of the MoEF. This committee is to submit the annual action taken report of its activities as of 31 March of every year by 30 June of that year to the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Sikkim has eight protected areas - one national park and seven wildlife sanctuaries - covering 2,183 sq km area of the state [which itself is spread over 7,096 sq kms].

- The Eco-Sensitive Zone varies from 25 metres to 200 metres from the boundary of the KHANGCHENDZONGA NATIONAL PARK. The extent of Eco-sensitive Zone sahll be 200 meters, where the area is contigous with the cold desert in the northern high reaches of the Ntional Park and the extent of the Eco-Sensitive Zone shall be 25 meters in the remaining portion of the park.
- The Eco-sensitive Zone for BARSEY RHODODENDRON SANCTUARY shall be 25 meters where the slope is more than 45 degree and the places where the slope is less than 45 degree, the extent of Eco-sensitive zone shall be 50 meters. There shall be no Eco-sensitive Zone in the western boundary adjoining the international border with Nepal. In the South-West and in the part of the Northern side of the sanctuary, the extent of Eco-sensitive Zone would be upto the outer bank of river Rammom and river Simpok.
- The extent of Eco-sensitive Zone shall be 25 meters all around the boundary of the FAMBONGLHO WILDLIFE SANCTUARY in East Sikkim.
- The extent of Eco-sensitive Zone is 25 meters from the boundary of the KITAM BIRD SANCTUARY and in the south-western part, the extent of Eco-sensitive Zone shall be up to the outer bank of the river Rangit.
- The extent of Eco-sensitive Zone varies from 25 meters to 200 meters from the boundary of the KYONGNOSLA ALPINE SANCTUARY. The extent of Eco-sensitive Zone shall be 25 meters where the slope is more than 45 degree and in the eco-fragile eastern part of the sanctuary, the extent of Eco-sensitive Zone shall be 200 meters. In the northern and north-western part, the extent of eco-sensitive zone shall be up to the outer bank of the river Ratey Chhu, which forms the boundary of the eco-sensitive zone.
- The extent of Eco-Sensitive Zone varies from 25 meters to 50 meters from the boundary of the MAENAM WILDLIFE SANCTUARY. The extent of eco-Sensitive zone shall be 25 meters where the slope is more than 45 degree and where the slope is less than 45 degree, the extent of Eco-Sensitive Zone shall be 50 meters.
- The Eco-sensitive Zone varies from 25 meters to 50 meters from the western boundary of the PANGOLAKHA WILDLIFE SANCTUARY. The extent of Eco-sensitive Zone shall be 25 meters where the slope is more than 45 degree and the places where the slope is less than 45 degree, the extent of Eco-sensitive zone shall be 50 metres.
- The Eco-sensitive Zone varies from 25 meters to 50 meters from the boundary of the SHINGBA RHODODENDRON SANCTUARY and the extent of the said Eco-sensitive Zone shall be 25 meters, where the slope is more than 45 degree and the places where the slope is less than 45 degree, the extent of Eco-sensitive zone shall be 50 metres.

Eco-Sensitive Zones as explained by MoEF
The eco sensitive zones need to be declared in order to provide better sanctity to protected areas; as an additional tool to strengthen the buffers and corridors around the Protected Area network; and to check the negative impact of industrialization and unplanned development in and around Protected Areas. In this background the Indian Board for Wildlife in its XXI meeting held on 21st January 2002 under the Chairmanship of Hon’ble Prime Minister had adopted a ‘Wildlife Conservation Strategy-2002’ in which one of the action point envisaged to notify lands falling within 10 km of the boundaries of National Parks and Sanctuaries as Eco-fragile zones under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
After concern raised by the State Governments like Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Goa, over applicability of the 10 Kms range from the Protected Area boundary and informed that most of the human habitation and other areas including important cities in these States would come under the purview of eco-sensitive zone and will adversely affect the development, it has been decided that the delineation of eco-sensitive zones would have to be site specific and relate to regulation, rather than prohibition, of specific activities. The decision was communicated to all the State Governments for compliance.
[This information was given by the then Minister of State for Environment and Forests S. Regupathy, in a written reply to a question by Shri Asaduddin Owaisi in the Lok Sabha on 12 March 2008].

Border Trade does good business GANGTOK:

The ninth season of border trade between India and China over Nathula, although still much short of its projected potential, continues to grow substantially despite being hobbled by a disinterested bureaucracy and an infrastructure in tatters. Border Trade broke into the eight-figure club in exports in the month of August [and sustained the volume in September], with the official record on imports noticeably lower in the six-figure realm.
As per the records with the Customs Division posted at Sherathang Trade Mart here, traders from Sikkim exported 13 items in August worth Rs. 2,00,22,150 and imported six items worth Rs. 8,10,250. Meanwhile, in the month of September, 12 items were exported worth Rs. 3,46,77,330 and the scale of imports grew as well to Rs. 18,72,000 despite the inclement weather and poor road conditions through most of the month.
Sikkim traders have imported carpets, readymade garments, blankets, shoes, jacket and quilts from the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China.
When it comes to official data, it is exports which rake in the proverbial moolah.
Sikkim traders exported vegetable oil worth Rs. 1.71 crore in the month of September with processed foods coming next at Rs. 55 lakh, Rs. 25.93 lakh worth of rice and blankets billed at Rs.20.03 lakh, it is reported.
The volume of trade has grown substantially over last year and as trading comes to a close [official date 01 November], it is bound to spike in the upcoming final weeks.
Interestingly, although traders from Sikkim make such a substantial volume of exports, they remain unwilling to travel across to Rinchengang, the trade mart on the Tibetan side, at least not in the scale that traders from TAR travel to Sherathang. Most traders from Sikkim transact their business at Sherathang.

Officials inform that after list of items allowed for border trade was revised in 2012, the volume of trade has picked up substantially. Trade over Nathula was resumed in 2006 after a 42 year hiatus and because of the obsolete list of items allowed for trade, the first five years of trading saw zero imports! Then, trade improved in 2012 with the revision of the list and jumped higher in 2013, the year when the consolidated volume of imports through the border trade season for the year crossed the one core mark [Rs. 1.16 crore] for the first time.
As for exports, 2013 season saw exports to the tune of Rs. 8 crores.

Man vs Wild

With nearly 46% of Sikkim’s geographical area under forest cover, and a substantial expanse of the remaining surface protected against felling and grazing, animal sightings and man-animal confrontations are bound to happen every now and then especially since human settlements around wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forest areas keep growing. Slightly over a month ago, a woman sustained grievous injuries when she was attacked by a Himalayan Black Bear in Dzongu. She had gone to save her goats grazing near the riverside when she suspected that they were being attacked by a bear. The woman was later treated at STNM Hospital for her injuries.
This last episode brings to the fore the challenge of tackling man-animal conflict in the state.
Sangay Gyatso [DFO, Wildlife, East] informs that such conflicts are more common in North Sikkim as the district has larger unbroken expanses of Reserve Forest areas and the Khangchendzonga National Park [KNP] which extends even further into Nepal providing a corridor of movement for animals. The area is the habitat for the Himalayan Black Bear and through various awareness programmes and distribution of pamphlets the KNP management committee has always asked the people living in the villages and surrounding areas not to venture out alone early in the mornings or late in the evenings as these are the times when the bears come out in search of food, stated Mr Gyatso.
For farmers in rural areas, early morning is the time when they plough their fields, take their livestock for grazing and this is the time when they are most likely to run into a bear. While there have been many ‘confrontations’ and ‘attacks’, there have been only two fatalities in the past few years. In one case that occurred early in the morning [2011-12] the victim came face to face with a bear and her cub while the other incident took place late in the evening [in 2012-13].
Wildlife experts also explain that due to comparatively mild winters and thus continuous availability of abundant food, the Black Bears of Sikkim, instead of hibernating in the winters [which some still do] stay awake since food to eat and sustain them is readily available.
The Forest Department is currently conducting a study on the habitat of black bears, their eating habits and the area it needs to move around, but as of now, there is no specific data. “Since the area is quite large and more expert advice and research needs to be done we have also invited other agencies to help in the study of the bears,” the DFO adds, informing that as of now the only data available regarding the bears are those collected through camera traps that have been put up at various locations by the department to help in the study of bears in Sikkim.
Meanwhile, compensation for loss of livestock, animal death, crop damages and injuries or death by animal attacks are being provided by the Forest Department as per government prescribed rates, but since there is no fund provided by the state, the department has to rely on the funds that are provided by the central government, which, after much persuasion by the department officials, was started in the year 2008-09. For death by animals the amount is Rs. 1.5 lakh, for grievous injuries it is Rs. 50,000 and for minor injuries it is Rs. 10,000. For animal and crop damages the rates are different, he further informed. “This money being paid is actually a form of relief and not compensation being given, as human life cannot be compensated, but people do not understand,” adds Mr. Gyatso.
“We are working on protecting animals and humans from coming into conflict but this is not always possible. We have put up solar fences in some areas near reserve forest areas which are used by wild animals as corridors to go from one place to the other, but then these cannot be done in large quantities as it can cause damage to the habitat of the animals and their movements. Foot patrolling is also conducted by forest guards and officials on a regular basis or when there are reports of animal sightings in an area, but there is still a lot of work to be done regarding this issue, till then people are advised not to venture out alone in or around forest areas to avoid human-animal conflicts from taking place", the DFO further states.
Most of the bear and other human-wildlife conflicts take place especially in the Wildlife Sanctuaries situated in South and West Districts because of their habitats and of food not being readily available and they have to come out of their surroundings in search of food. The reason being that the availability of land is stagnant and the population of humans living around the sanctuaries and reserve forest areas is also increasing, stated CS Rao [Chief Conservator of Forest, East].
The other reason is the cooking of fish and non-veg food, such as meat and meat products which attracts bears. Bears have a very heightened sense of smell, so the advice of the department is that even if people do consume such food items, they should get rid of the bones and preferably dig a small hole and bury them so that wild animals do not get attracted towards them, he adds.
Movement of people [alone], especially during early hours in the morning and just before it gets dark should be avoided in these areas as this is the time when the wild animals come out in search of food, along with their young cubs. So if movement is really necessary, people should move around in groups the CCF [East] further advised. This advisory is more necessary for womenfolk than the men as they go out in search of firewood and to cut grass for their livestock and hardly make any noise during movement which can cause problems if confronted by wild animals, while men move around making much noise and are usually accompanied by friends, he adds.
Earlier, Khasmal land and Goucharan areas for grazing animals and growing fodder was available as a buffer zone for reserve forests ahead of the sanctuaries for the villagers and this minimized man-animal conflicts, but with the increase in population the buffer zone has disappeared and hence now the people directly go into forest areas, points out Usha Lachungpa [Principal Research Officer, Wildlife].
Therefore, to bring awareness amongst the villagers on the importance of rejuvenation of such buffer zones the Forest Department had constituted Joint Forest Management Committees [JFMCs] and Eco Development Committees [EDCs] for such areas and villages falling under or near the reserve forest or sanctuaries, she informs.
Meanwhile, in case wildlife population grows beyond the carrying capacity of their respective habitats and leads to more violent human-animal conflicts, the Chief Wildlife Warden can invoke certain Acts under the Forest Law where culling of certain wild animals, if necessary, can be undertaken.
But even this option cannot be effectively explored since no real study regarding the actual population of such wild animals in the forests or the carrying capacity of the forest has been conducted by the department.
Meanwhile even as the conservation efforts of the department have been lauded and which has led to an increase in the population of protected animals in the sanctuaries, Ms. Lachungpa added there is also a noticeable dearth of predators in the forests and hence Sikkim loses out on the services of these “free chowkidars” which also help in the biological control of the population of wild animals. The natural prey of leopards, wild cats and pythons for instance are peacocks, wild boars, porcupines, barking deer, monkeys, etc, all of which have grown substantially in numbers and frequently raid farms and fields.
The damage done is mostly to agriculture and horticulture products by wild animals in the villages such as potatoes at Hilley and Barsey in the West District or farms in South Sikkim. To stop this from taking place, animal repellants, planting of thorny plants and change of cropping patterns can be tried by the villagers, but while these might discourage wild boars and deers, porcupines might still get through and cause as much damage. Planting of certain non-edible plants or medical plants on the periphery to keep the animals away from fields can also be tried by the villagers, Ms. Lachungpa offers.
What is also fact is that people are taking the food of the wild animals out of the forests, a raid which will bring the wild animals out of the forests in search of food and this leads to more man-animal conflicts. The first instinct of wild animals is not to attack but to avoid human beings, but certain encounters are sudden which frighten the animals and prompt it to lash out in defence. The catching of these animals or sterilizing the main adult of a family can bring down or keep the population of the wild animals down, but this is not always possible as there would be a need to catch the animal in the wild, she informed.
“The Wildlife Division of the Forest, Environment & Wildlife Management Department [FE&WMD] has been working to reduce human-wildlife conflicts, especially in the areas surrounding the Wildlife Sanctuaries of the state and in this aspect the Wildlife Division two years ago [as a pioneer project] had put up solar panel fencing around the Kitam Wildlife Sanctuary, so that the Peacocks and wild boars would not venture out and destroy crop and cultivated areas of the villagers,” informs Nima Wangdi Tamang [Conservator of Forest, Wildlife], which he added had not fully controlled the damages but had reduced it to quite some extent. Likewise ditches had also been dug around vulnerable areas to keep the human wildlife animal conflict to a minimum, he adds.
Mr Tamang informs that the department in collaboration with WWF held a workshop on Human-Wildlife conflict on 16 September at Gyalshing in West Sikkim, which, he informed was attended by all the stakeholders, department officials and participants from neighbouring Darjeeling hills who have the same landscape including the Singhalila Wildlife Sanctuary. The workshop held discussions and work out solutions regarding the reduction of such man-animal conflicts. It is not possible to completely work out solutions regarding the issue but certain measures to reduce such conflicts need to be looked into and worked out, he adds.