Friday, November 30, 2007

25 years after SIKKIM - Nepali Times

25 years after SIKKIM - Nepali Times


GANGTOK, November 29: The news item that appeared in the November 28, 2007 issue of various local dailies has misquoted the Governor, Sudarshan Agarwal, a press communiqué from the Raj Bhawan has said.

The Governor, in his speech at a seminar organized by Indian Council of Small Industries, ( ICSI),Kolkata, here on November 27, had said, “It is on record that our State is having the fifth highest incidence of poverty among the state with 41.4 percent of the population living below the poverty line” based on the date furnished by the ICSI Kolkata, which relates to the year 1993-94.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


The Defence Minister Shri AK Antony will go on a two-day visit to Sikkim beginning Saturday. He will be accompanied by the Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor and other Senior Officials of the Ministry of Defence. During his stay, Shri Antony will be visiting forward areas in the State including Nathu La. He will be briefed by the Army Commanders. The Defence Minister will also interact with the troops and review the security situation besides meeting State Government Officials. This is going to be the first visit of the Defence Minister to the State after he took charge of the Ministry in October last year.


GovernorGangtok, November 28: Indian Council of Small Industries and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Institute (Sikkim), Government of India organized one day seminar on Capacity of Village and Small Enterprise Sector as Engine of Growth for Development of Sikkim. The objectives of ICSI is to enhance the contribution of the small scale in tiny and rural industries sector towards the growth and development of Indian Economy and also to create spirit of self employment among the youth.
The seminar was inaugurated by the Governor of Sikkim, Sudarshan Agarwal at a function held at the conference hall of Forest Department, on 27th November 2007.
In his inaugural speech, the Governor said that he was very much concerned to empower the ordinary people of Sikkim and alleviate them from poverty. He mentioned that the VSE sector has the second largest share of employment after agriculture and it spans a wide range, including small scale, Khadi and Village and Coir industries, Handlooms, Handicraft, Sericulture, wool, Power looms, Food processing and other Agro and Rural industries segments. Agarwal advised ICSI to undertake studies for mechanism for developing small Industrial units in two backward district of Sikkim and also to undertake diagnostic study for revival of sick units. He said that the villagers of Sikkim have potential to bring changes in the state and he hoped that they would come forward to accept the establishment of these industries. He urged the state govt. to render all out assistance to the Council of Small Industries.
S.B.Subedi, Minister for Forest Environment and Wild Life Management said that the state government had given preference to the small and tiny village cottage industries without disturbing the fragile ecological system. He said "we have got enough natural resources and people's strategic and resources. We are therefore to look inside and also to look for avenues to provide livelihood to all, particularly of youth's Livelihood. This requires to impart employability to skill development, i.e development of employability skill of our youths who are educate, skilled in spoken English and as such information technology related ventures will help them to start. We are to keep our youths much above the level of frustration."
The programme was also address by K.Jayakumar, Vice Chancellor SMU&TS, Izzatullah, Director MSMED Govt. of India.
Secretary Industries and Commerce and Industries department and Officials from Industries Department and other resource personal were present in the programme.


“Youth of Sikkim should pursue higher education at any cost”-Dr. Lama

GANGTOK, November 28: “There are ample opportunities and exciting avenues for those who want pursue their education with interest and dedication,” Dr. Mahendra P Lama, Vice-Chancellor of Central University of Sikkim said.

Addressing a huge congregation of students and academicians at a felicitation programme organised by the Sikkim Government College and held at the College auditorium here today, Dr. Lama said that the Sikkim University has been envisioned with the aim to prepare the youth to take up the challenges and the many avenues that are available for them today. Dr. Rajendra Bhandari, an eminent scholar and a lecturer in Nepali in SGC was also felicitated on the occasion. The two academicians were felicitated for their immense contributions in the field of academics.

Country of dreams comes to life on paper

Country of dreams comes to life on paper

Statesman News Service
SILIGURI, Nov. 28: Brijit Aich and Prabir Dutta were adjudged first and second respectively in Group A of a stamp-designing contest.
It was organised by the department of posts, North Bengal and Sikkim Region as part of their two-day philately festival and seminar here today. Anamika Singh and Mainak Chakravorty were declared first and second in Group-B, while Sreyoshi Bannerjee and Megna Dey were adjudged winner and the runner-up in Group-C.
Over 200 students from various schools in the town took part in the competition, whose subject was: “India of My Dreams.”
The winners were awarded attractive trophies.
The prizes were given away by Mr Sanjiv Ranjan, director, postal services, North Bengal and Sikkim Region.
A workshop was later organised to enlighten the participants, their guardians as well as the guests and visitors at the festival on the various aspects of stamp collection.
The workshop was conducted by noted philatelist Mr Ashit Ghosh and a senior employee of the postal department, Mr Sudip Mandal. Around 10,000 stamps are on display at the Ramkinkar hall during the festival, at the ongoing festival.

New AIDS map shows hot zones spread over 20 states, 163 dists

Toufiq Rashid

DISTRICTWISE BREAKUP: Delhi, Bihar, Haryana, UP among new entrants

NEW DELHI, NOVEMBER 27: Contrary to conventional wisdom that high prevalence of HIV/AIDS is restricted to southern states and some places in the North-East, a new classification done by the National AIDS Control Programme (NACO) shows that the disease is spread across as many as 20 states in 163 districts.

These 163 districts have been categorised as “A districts” in the third phase of the NACO Programme beginning April 1, 2007: districts where more than 1% of the general population and more than 5% of the high-risk group is infected with the virus. Experts say this means these districts have crossed the “epidemic threshold” for the disease.

While the highest number of these A districts are, predictably, in states like Andhra Pradesh (21 of 25 districts fall in this category), Karnataka (24 of 27), Maharashtra (30 of 36), the surprise entrants are: New Delhi; eight districts in Bihar (including Purnia, West & East Champaran, Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi and Kishanganj); five in Uttar Pradesh (Etah, Etawah, Latehar, Banda and Balrampur); five in Madhya Pradesh, including Jabalpur and Bhopal; Chandigarh, Ludhiana and Amritsar in Punjab, Jhalawar and Ganganagar in Rajasthan and Jhajjar in Haryana.

Sikkim, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, Jharkhand, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Assam are the only states which don’t have “A districts.”

“The classification of the 611 districts is made on the basis of epidemiology risk and vulnerability and is based on annual sentinel surveillance. We will follow this classification for making districtwise prevention and control programmes,’’ said Sujatha Rao, NACO’s Director General.

According to the new classification, instead of having one AIDS control programme for all states, NACO has estimated districtwise prevalence to finetune strategies. So while A districts are the hot zone, 59 fall in the B category: those with less than 1% prevalence in general population and 5% in high-risk groups.

Category C, with 278 districts, has less than 1% prevalence in general population and less than 5% in the high-risk group.

D category districts are “the safe districts” where prevalence in the general population is 0.25% — 111 fall in this category.

“Now that we know the vulnerability and actual problem in the district, each of the 611 districts in the country will have a link worker for HIV who will be responsible for implementing the programme at the district level,’’ said Rao.



Peter F. Borges

Programme Manager, HIV/AIDS



After about a decade and a half of much deliberation, the UN has finally adopted the Resolution on the rights of indigenous people on the September 13, 2007 in its 107th plenary meeting.

Is it known to Sikkim?

As per history and the Supreme Court of India, the Lepchas are the original indigenous people of this land. They are entitled to the rights declared by the UN, as India is a signatory to this Declaration. Looking at the present scenario on Dzongu and the hydel power project development programme, it would be interesting to juxtapose some of the articles of the rights declared by the UN with the protest movement started by Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT).

Article 3

Indigenous peoples have the right to self determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

Article 8

States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for:

b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their land, territories or resources.

Article 10

Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their land or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and where possible, with the option of return.

Article 20

Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and develop their political, economic and social system or institutions, to be secure in the enjoyment of their own means of subsistence and development, and to engage freely in all their traditional and other economic activities.

Article 23

Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. In particular, indigenous peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions.

Article 26

Indigenous people have the right to the land, territories and resources which they have owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.

Article 29

Indigenous people have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their land, territories and resources. States shall establish and implement assistance programmes for indigenous peoples for such conservation and protection, without discrimination

sikkim trip photos- 2

Day 2: Arrived At Bagdogra Town after a domestic flight followed by an 8hr jeep ride to Yuksam, Sikkim

Bagdogra town.. Cows still roam ard freely!

Finally arrived at Yuksam, Sikkim. This is Trekkers' Lodge, our humble abode for the next 2 weeks!

Sights and scenes at Trekkers' Hut

Happy Photo at the Herbal Nursery! Tiring climb of 2.4km!

The Herbal Nursery :)! Nice View

After the tour around the town, we have to start work!!!! haha, we were supposed to start our hard labour. We must set up a herbal garden for the local school there and plant tree saplings at their temple. It was tiring, but nevertheless rewarding and a totally new experience.

sikkim trip photos- 1

visited Sikkim form the 9th to 25th and here are the photos that i promised!

These photos are from Ivie's album...

The crazy bunch of us atop Dzongri Peak.... Super exhilarated to be up there. Our faces are numb from the cold!

Photos at changi airport before our flight. Thanks anthea and moon for sending ivie and me off! notice the happy faces :)!!

Day 2- Calcutta... The guys' pict! hehe...

Well, we stayed at this hotel called Heritage Hotel for the 1st night. Quite a decent hotel actually with freakin cold aircon and multi-channels tv!

Sights And Scene In Kolkata City, India... Notice hw izzit different from Spore...

well, we did nth much for this day, except to arrive in Kolkata, checked in the hotel and had a good night rest... more photos coming up!

rahh, its late in the night, gotta go n sleep. i m sleepy!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Gangtok, November 27: 'Druk Denjong: A Historical Perspective' the Sikkim - Bhutan photo exhibition, is inaugurated by Dago Tshering, Bhutan Ambassador to India, Japan and Nepal on November, 26.
The Photo Exhibition was third in series and organized by Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, Deorali. The first photo exhibition was held with the theme-'Who is behind the camera' and the second exhibition was on 'Namgyal Dynasty' in July last year. The first photo exhibition is also available on the website and the organizing committee plans to make the second photo exhibition a permanent one in future in the newly constructed building at Namgyal Institute of Tibetology. However, this year's theme is 'Druk Denjong: A Historical Perspective'.
The Namgyal Institute of Tibetology embarked on its historical photo project with an interest centered solely on Sikkim specific photographs. Approximately, 90 Sikkim- Bhutan photographs are in the display which was recreated in digital format. Some photographs are extremely rare and some are famous. The exhibition organized mainly to educate the people about the history and to preserve, digitalize and inform.
Lhenpo Dago Tshering, in his short address said that geographically Sikkim and Bhutan are neighbors and historically they are friends. In terms of culture, religion, demography etc. Sikkim and Bhutan share many common features which gives joy to visit Sikkim, he added. He further expressed that the photo exhibition which was organized throws light on joint historical perspective on Sikkim and Bhutan relations through the ages to modern times.

A few facts about SHOLAY

It goes without saying that Sholay remains the greatest entertainer popular Indian cinema has ever produced. But the makers never expected it to become such a monumental hit. It was the firm belief of ‘one man’ Ramesh Sippy whose conviction, passion for filmmaking and unfilching dedication towards his craft that resulted in this memorable film. Here’s a small account on ‘The Making Of Sholay’

1. It all started with a four line concept about a retired army officer who’s family is massacred and he plans to take revenge with two junior officers whom he knew from his army days. Interestingly the concept was first offered to director Manmohan Desai ,who opted for a comedy Chacha Batija instead, and later Prakash Mehra who was busy with zanjeer.

2. Danny Denzongpa was the first choice for Gabar Singh. His photograph also featured in the trade magazine when the film was announced. He turned it down because he couldn’t adjust dates which he had committed to Feroz Khan for Dharmatma. Next options were Prem Chopra…..Ranjeet….Premnath….but finally (Thank God) it was offered to Amjad Khan, who was a struggler then.

3. When the final script was read out in the presence of all the lead actors. Each one of them tied for the other’s role. At one point Ramesh Sippy toyed with the idea of casting Pran instead of Sanjeev Kumar as Thakur Baldev Singh.

4. Most of the character names were inspired from real life. Jai & Veeru were Salim Khan’s college friends, Harinaam Nai was Salim Khan’s household barber, Thakur Baldev Singh was Salim Khan’s father-in-law’s name, Gabar Singh was a real life daciot while Soorma Bhopali was someone known to Javed Akhtar.

5. Ramesh Sippy didn’t want to shoot the film at Rajastan which was a favorite location for all dacoit films. The film was shot in Bangalore in a remote village called Ramanagaram.

6. The ’’tossing of the coin’’ was a straight lift from a hollywood film starring Gary Cooper. For the scene towards the climax, where Dharmendra discovers that the coin was actually “two-sided”, they got coins specially made. This scene demanded several retakes and each time the coin was flung it got lost in the mountainous terrain. For the camera rehearsals and long shots they used two 25 paise coins stuck to each other.

7. The dialogues for the tank scene…… “police coming budiya going jail and chucki peesing….”, was written at the last minute. Javed kept on postponing it thinking there’s still time and when the time came he was heading for the airport. He wrote on the way and stood outside the bangalore airport and completed it before handing it over to the production boy.

8. Amjad Khan had a terrible time playing Gabbar Singh in the first two schedules. He was not at all natural and appeared very nervous. Soon word spread like wild fire that Ramesh Sippy had blundered in casting the most important role of the film. Ironically Salim Javed (who had recommended Amjad Khan) even told Ramesh Sippy that it was not late before they could find another actor. This led to a major misunderstanding and Amjad Khan and Salim Javed never worked to gether. Ramesh Sippy remained firm and said that only Amjad would perform. Amjad cried in the make-up room that night. In the next schedule he surprised everyone including the director cause he was literally living the role from then on.

9. The initial title suggested was “SHOLE”. Producer G.P.Sippy had distributed a film of the same name in the 50’s directed by B.R.Chopra. But Ramesh Sippy felt that the title appeared puny for such a huge film. Finally he thought of adding “AY” at the end instead of “E” and the result was amazing.

10. Interesting the film was shot both in 35mm and 70mm for two reasons. First - most of the theatres in india were 35mm and second - Blowing up 35mm to 70mm made no sense because it would effect the quality. So all the talkie scenes excpet the action ones were shot twice. Maybe thats why there r two versions of the dialogues when Amitabh says “Tatiya tope ke pothe hai” and the other version “James Bond ke pothe hai”.

11. Sholay, regarded as the greatest hindi film of all time, won only one FilmFare award. M.S.Shinde ……. For best editing.

12. Ramesh Sippy had a terrible time with the censor board who demanded innumerable cuts.They felt the film was gory and violent. In the original film Thakur kills Gabbar in the end and then he weeps uncontrollably realising that the mission of his life has been accomplished. This scene was one of the highlights of Sholay and Sanjeev Kumar had excelled. But the censors felt the end was inappropriate and asked Ramesh Sippy to change it. They felt a police officer even after he leaves office shouldnt take laws in his own hands and instead they wanted the police to intervene. Ramesh Sippy was shattered he hated this cliched situation and even told G.P.Sippy that his name be deleted from the credits. It was emergency then and they had no option but to change the end or face the wrath of the politicians. Thats how Om Shiv Puri came into the film.

13. For the action scenes and the breath-taking train sequence Ramesh Sippy hired foriegn action directors and stunt men. A three camera set up was used to capture the shot where the train goes past the logs of wood. Believe it or not real bullets were used for the close up shots because fake ones emitted flames ( near the trigger) after the bullet was fired and the audience would easily make out.

14.. Dharmendra was so much addicted to booze that he used drink during the shooting. He used to have fresh coconut water which was spiked. During the scene, where jai rescues Veeru and Basanti from Gabbar’s den, dharmendra was tipsy and couldnt perform the shot. He had to hold Hema Malini and at the same time kick the metal trunk which contained bullets with his leg. He took twenty takes and finally when he managed he did it with so much enthusiam that he fired a bullet which nearly killed Amitabh.

15. Sachin who essayed the role of Ahmed was so fascinated by the making that he requested director Ramesh Sippy to prolong his stay at the location in Bangalore after his portion was already canned. He stayed till the final shot was canned. After the films success Ramesh Sippy gifted him an Air conditoner.

16. The film was completed after 2 years and it took 450 shifts. The Sippy’s spent Rs 3 crore’s in 1975. Initially the trade and the critics both rejected the film outright. It was declared a ’’washout’’. Some distributors even suggested that the end should be changed and Amitabh ( who was big star after Zanzeer and Deewar) should live on in the film.But from the 6th week onwards there was a sudden change. Cine-goers, who had an enthralling experience, refused to come outside the hall during the intermission. The soft drinks and ice cream sales dropped at cinema halls. Serpentine queues formed outside the theatre’s and a balcony ticket which cost Rs 15 were sold at Rs 200. The film which was dubbed as damp squib turned out to be the biggest grosser of all time. According to G.P.Sippy the entire viewership of Sholay throughout the world equals the population of India. Sippy’s earned Rs 30 crores in the first release. Polydor sold 500,000 records and cassettes of the film (dialogues cum song).

Cry of the Himalayas: A Lepcha tale

A heart wrenching appeal by a young Lepcha in support of his Vanishing Tribe, by: Uttam Lepcha,Gangtok.

Today the Lepchas are shattered – their tears mingle with the Teesta waters, their pleas echo in the mountains they worship.

We are the Lepchas, dwellers of the mountains or the ravine folk – the distressed natives of Sikkim, our homeland. Very soon they will call us history.

Why – yesterday they spoke of Human rights, the right to work, eat and live that befits a human. And today they say we have no right to keep our home as we plead it to be.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court had adjudged that we are the indigenous inhabitants of Sikkim; and today some are trying to flush us out of our last surviving home, our sacred land Dzongu.

They speak kind words (developmental purpose they say) while their motives are sinister. Yesterday they had assured that Dzongu was a protected reserve of the Lepchas, our emblem of origin and culture – our hallowed land. And today, in the cloak of development they are planning a series of dams to drown us all.
What is development when it costs lives?

Like Muslims have their Mecca, Christians their Vatican, Hindus their ‘Chaar Dham’ and Buddhists their ‘Bodh Gaya’, for us it is Dzongu our ultimate pilgrimage. Why don’t we have the right to keep it pure and unscarred like they do?

Our democratic government assures certain privileges for tribes – like tribal reserves to preserve tribes and their cultures. Dzongu was one yesterday, and today they’ve set their eyes on it.

All over the world governments protect tribes with facilities for their survival. Why - ours is now being snatched;
Even animals have sanctuaries, plants their bio-reserves. Propagation and protection programmes for endangered species are carried on all over the world to protect them from extinction - while we are being systematically pushed to extinction.

Dams do one good but more wrongs. They are environmentally hazardous, they displace people forcing them to poverty and landlessness – they are weapons of mass destruction. These numerous dams in Sikkim will finally spare none. Our rich bio-diversity will be submerged, our rich agricultural lands will be lost; it will displace all of us slowly at a time, it will in no way create jobs for us, it will bring in a lot of migrant labour who will finally encroach upon our lives and land. How many of us are indeed ready for jobs in these dams? Not even a handful. Ultimately all of us, the local citizens of Sikkim will be tossed away.

They saw the Narmada drown villages, displace people and shatter lives to generate billions of rupees for those who are already rich. Now they’ve realized that the Teesta could do the same and this time at the cost of Dzongu and Lepchas; in due course Sikkim and its people (Lepchas, Bhutias, Gorkhas, etc.).

To save our pious and once bountiful land many innocent children of the mountains have stepped forward. Some are on a fast onto death for over 150 days now, unmindful of their young lives and glaring future. But those hell bent in seeing the wads of notes have no regard for lives. They say that the development is meant for the state but are ready to massacre lives with little thought. Dawa Lepcha and Tenzing Lepcha are two of those who have refused to give in despite acute starvation threatening to wipe them out. Now in the local hospital, they still refuse to take in oral food and are kept breathing by being fed through the Ryle’s tube. They have taken a Gandhian step to express their genuine concern, not only for their tribe but also the environment; it is high time that every Sikkimese realized the desperate cry of these Lepcha youths and shared their concern for the Himalayas. In the long run, it is in the interest of all Sikkimese.

If the ambitious lot is allowed to encroach the Himalayan environment in such a greedy and ruthless manner, soon they will destroy the land and us too. Our brothers, friends and sympathizers in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong, Siliguri and all over the country and the world, please accept our thanks and appreciation for your concern. Let us continue to support this desperate fight for life and justice. Yes, life and the mountains are more precious than such damaging projects. If our mountains live, so will we; we the Lepchas, the Bhutias, the Gorkhas and all; else it’s time for us to bid our final farewell.

With this I the undersigned appeal in high regards for the Lepcha Youths who are so genuinely fighting for survival not only in spirit but also physically.

Nathu La Pass

Nathu La Pass at 14000 feet is breathtaking in its beauty and the altitude.

Watching the Indian soldiers make banter with the Chinese generals is kind of cute and unreal… I’ve never seen a Chinese soldier on duty … at the Chinese border… its kind of serious… friendly but not friends. You can shake hands with them. But do not overstep any area which is fenced by the military - its sensitive - and you’ll quickly have a soldier asking you to come back.

You feel so proud seeing our soldiers at that altitude - maintaining the place for us ‘tourists’ to come and make a nuisance of ourselves - asking stupid questions, clicking snaps and doing things which make no sense. I felt like saluting the Indian soldiers out there and when they weren’t looking, I did!

Oh, we had a military escort which drove with 3-4 tourist jeeps including ours.. we felt quite important….

Tsomgo Lake - which is on the way to Nathu La pass - had pet yaks all over - the lake is a letdown.. beautiful but small.. many small shops… we stopped at this small shop which rents out snow shoes …. Really hungry after Nathu La - asked for a quick rustling up of momos… then some chowmein and then some more momos and then some more chowmein and then more chowmein and then some fried rice and then some more… needless to say we skipped lunch that day.. You can see the relieved look on the girls face as we left.

At Gangtok we stayed at Mintokling Guest house ..a really nice place.. full of flowers - spent the evening walking on MG road. The main market and the life of the town.. as hep as Bombay …

We had a rather unforgettable night at the Glenarys pub on our way back from North Sikkim - where our kids joined us and gave us disapproving looks as a rather mellow looking set of parents (us) swayed and clapped to CCR, Eagles and Jethro Tull being played live by a local band. Dipendra Rawat from Darjeeling was there that evening and we heard him take control of the mike and guitar and belt out some cool stuff … apparently he is a great singer and performs, apart from running his travel firm in Darjeeling. My kids stone sober and we indulged ourselves.

If you’re looking for an intenet café on MG road (theres lots of them on Tibet Road closeby) - go to Somanys.

Met this lady at a souveneir shop - found a lovely new expensive hardcover book - written by Mita Zutshi and one more person- The Sacred Summit - Kanchenjunga. The lady was her sister - she said a paperback would be outside sometime soon. I also picked up a new magazine called “Exotic Places” or something like that - which again was sponsored by Sikkimise Dept of Information & Public Relations. Apparently publishing in Gangtok is not as small as you might think - some rather evolved folks write and publish and seem to be doing a great job of it.

We also stayed at Hidden Forest Stay - started by this gentleman who loves flowers - orchids and …. What are they called… his daughters run the place. Their pup Othello was a playful who found it funny to see the kids running away scared when he barked. Unbelievable place.

Then we moved onto North Sikkim.

One of the Police Checkposts along the way North of Gangtok
One of the Police Checkposts along the way North of Gangtok

Plumbing the Teesta

By Source: The Statesman on November 28,2007

Neeraj Vagholikar

The late Nari Rustomji who served as Assam’s chief secretary and Dewan of Sikkim had, through his writings, warned that development inputs into Sikkim needed to be within the absorptive capacity of the region. In 1998, the Expert Appraisal Committee on river valley and hydroelectric projects, appointed by the ministry of environment and forests, noted Rustomji’s observations while examining a proposal for environmental clearance for the 510-MW Teesta V hydroelectric project in Sikkim. Since this was one of the multiple large hydroelectric works in the ecologically and culturally sensitive Teesta river basin, it recommended a detailed study on the “carrying capacity” of the river basin before taking a decision. But the MoEF cleared the project in May 1999 without giving environmental clearance and conducting the carrying capacity study. However, one of the conditions for clearance was that “no other project in Sikkim will be considered for environmental clearance till the carrying capacity study is completed.”

Things have changed substantially since then. In the last three years the Sikkim government has signed agreements for at least 26 large hydroelectric projects. Since 2004, the MoEF has granted environmental clearance to at least seven new hydroelectric projects, in violation of its own mandatory condition. Sikkimese civil society groups such as the Affected Citizens of Teesta are disappointed that a golden opportunity has been lost. There was hope that the carrying capacity study process would enable a comprehensive assessment of cumulative impacts of the many proposed hydroelectric projects and a serious options assessment for ecologically and culturally sensitive economic development in the Teesta river basin. But the MoEF has continued granting clearance to one project after another without seriously examining the issue in a holistic manner as per its own mandated condition.

The so called “run-of-the-river” hydroelectric projects being developed involve the construction of large dams which divert the river waters through long tunnels, before the water is dropped back into the river at a downstream location after passing through a powerhouse. These projects are promoted as being “environmentally benign” as they involve smaller submergences and lesser regulation of water as compared to conventional storage dams. This perception conveniently ignores the impact of several features intrinsic to this design. For example, long stretches of the river will be bypassed between the dam and powerhouse, with up to 85-90 per cent of the river flow in the winter diverted through the tunnels. Not only will this destroy riverine ecology, but a cascade of projects will mean that the river is in full flow only in brief stretches between two successive hydel projects.

Since 20 June, the ACT and its supporters have been on a satyagraha in Gangtok against the juggernaut of dams planned in the state. The Buddhist monks have also joined the protests. Amongst the many concerns are the socio-cultural impacts on the small populations of indigenous communities due to an influx of large populations of outside labour and the ecological impacts on the Teesta river and the sacred Kanchenjunga landscape.
The former Chogyals had accorded special legal protection to some parts of Sikkim with respect to ancestral lands of indigenous communities and restricted entry of outsiders. This was further reinforced after the state’s merger with India in 1975 through Article 371 (F) of the Constitution which protects the old laws and traditions. Protesters feel that the current development plans contradict the legal and constitutional protection given to the indigenous people, reflecting Rustomji’s concerns about absorptive capacity of the region.

Meanwhile, the Teesta V project, which saw the MoEF committee refer to Rustomji’s thoughts during the decision-making phase, is in an advanced stage of construction and also embroiled in an enviro-legal battle. In an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee, the Sikkim chief secretary has admitted that the power company has “grossly violated the terms, conditions and guidelines” imposed by the MoEF and has deliberately dumped excavated material generated from extensive tunneling work “into the river Teesta obstructing its free flow, causing thereby huge damage to the forest and environment.”

The region is clearly facing an environmental governance crisis.

(The writer is CNES-Setu National Media Fellow 2007 and member, Kalpavriksh Environmental Action Group.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sikkim vehicles allowed along NH 31A

DARJEELING, November 25: Life in all three sub-divisions of the Darjeeling district remained paralysed as the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF)-sponsored indefinite bandh entered the second day today.

Shops remained shut and the Police patrolled the streetswith prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC following the attack on the life of a prominent GNLF leader K B Gurung, who is the organisation’s Darjeeling Sadar-II unit, on Friday.

The GNLF chief, Subash Ghising has decided to continue with the bandh till 20 Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJMM) activists, including its president Bimal Gurung, were arrested. The GNLF have alleged that the attack was carried out by GJMM supporters.

While GNLF supporters used strong-armed tactics to impose the bandh in many places, stranded tourists were the most affected. The tax-stand here were jammed packed with tourists desperate to get out of the town at the earliest since Saturday morning. But most drivers were unwilling to venture out, fearing attacks by bandh supporters, leading to a panic situation amongst the tourists.

As taxis became scarce, some drivers, willing to take the chance, began to charge exorbitant rates to ferry tourist out of the town. Tourists also complained that the local administration had made no arrangements to provide them with escorts for a safe passage.

Darjeeling District Magistrate Rajesh Pandey said all shops and business establishments in Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong subdivisions were closed and vehicles stayed off the road. Educational institutions and tea gardens did not function.

The District administration has made arrangement to shift the tourists to Siliguri in view of the continuing bandh.

Meanwhile, vehicles plying to and fro from Sikkim were allowed to move along the National Highway 31A to Siliguri. Reports have indicated that although the Sikkim-bound vehicles were allowed a safe-passage, they were directed not to stop anywhere the stretch of the NH 31A which falls under the Darjeeling District. The volume of traffic along the NH 31A was low today.

A vehicle with a Sikkim number plate was damaged at Kakjhora here yesterday, though no one was injured.

Baichung Bhutia

27-year-old, 5'8" tall, Baichung Bhutia is Indian football's pride and joy. Unassuming and friendly, he was born in a small town of Sikkim on the 15th of December 1976 and attended St. Xavier's Primary School there. His parents, who own farms in Sikkim, were worried at first that Baichung's sporting interests would harm his studies, but they relented when he got a football scholarship at the age of nine from the Sports Authority of India, Gangtok. The Boarding School that Baichung attended in Gangtok because of the scholarship played a major part in building his character and in making him a successful footballer.

Baichung represented SAI Centre, Gangtok in tournaments, and was picked to play for the India Under-16 side to participate in the Asian Cup qualifiers. He then moved to Kolkata to serve an apprenticeship at India's premier club, East Bengal. "I had an uncle in Calcutta who convinced my parents that I had a future in football, and that East Bengal was the place to be in if I wanted to play big football. Rubbing shoulders with the pros and keeping my mind open, I matured very fast. Soon I was being approached by many clubs from all over the country to sign up for them," says Baichung.

He moved to JCT Mills, Phagwara in 1995 along with many other star players and helped them win the National Football League. Top scoring in the NFL, he was picked to play for India in the Nehru Cup the same year. In 1997, he returned to Kolkata to his favourite East Bengal, and captained them in the 1998-9. He was voted the 'Asian Player of the Month' in May 1999, and during the same year won the Sikkim State Award and the Arjuna Award.

Baichung, looking for professional exposure in Europe, gave trials for several English clubs, but failed. Eventually, Bury FC, an English second division club, signed him up. He improved by leaps and bounds during the short stint at Bury and profited from the superior strategy and fitness training of the foreign coaches employed by the Indian team in the new millennium. He has thrived under the influence of the present India coach, Stephen Constantine and this has made a big difference to the Indian team's fortunes in recent years.

Playing under the guidance of former India striker, Subhas Bhowmick, he recently won for East Bengal the Asean Cup Club Championship almost single-handedly. Baichung has signed up with Malaysian champion club, Perak, to play in their league this year and has already made a difference to their fortunes despite taking ill a few days after moving in. Baichung's genial nature is matched with a great determination to succeed and an intense killer instinct that is alien to Indian sport.

Baichung Bhutia

27-year-old, 5'8" tall, Baichung Bhutia is Indian football's pride and joy. Unassuming and friendly, he was born in a small town of Sikkim on the 15th of December 1976 and attended St. Xavier's Primary School there. His parents, who own farms in Sikkim, were worried at first that Baichung's sporting interests would harm his studies, but they relented when he got a football scholarship at the age of nine from the Sports Authority of India, Gangtok. The Boarding School that Baichung attended in Gangtok because of the scholarship played a major part in building his character and in making him a successful footballer.

Baichung represented SAI Centre, Gangtok in tournaments, and was picked to play for the India Under-16 side to participate in the Asian Cup qualifiers. He then moved to Kolkata to serve an apprenticeship at India's premier club, East Bengal. "I had an uncle in Calcutta who convinced my parents that I had a future in football, and that East Bengal was the place to be in if I wanted to play big football. Rubbing shoulders with the pros and keeping my mind open, I matured very fast. Soon I was being approached by many clubs from all over the country to sign up for them," says Baichung.

He moved to JCT Mills, Phagwara in 1995 along with many other star players and helped them win the National Football League. Top scoring in the NFL, he was picked to play for India in the Nehru Cup the same year. In 1997, he returned to Kolkata to his favourite East Bengal, and captained them in the 1998-9. He was voted the 'Asian Player of the Month' in May 1999, and during the same year won the Sikkim State Award and the Arjuna Award.

Baichung, looking for professional exposure in Europe, gave trials for several English clubs, but failed. Eventually, Bury FC, an English second division club, signed him up. He improved by leaps and bounds during the short stint at Bury and profited from the superior strategy and fitness training of the foreign coaches employed by the Indian team in the new millennium. He has thrived under the influence of the present India coach, Stephen Constantine and this has made a big difference to the Indian team's fortunes in recent years.

Playing under the guidance of former India striker, Subhas Bhowmick, he recently won for East Bengal the Asean Cup Club Championship almost single-handedly. Baichung has signed up with Malaysian champion club, Perak, to play in their league this year and has already made a difference to their fortunes despite taking ill a few days after moving in. Baichung's genial nature is matched with a great determination to succeed and an intense killer instinct that is alien to Indian sport.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Children of Spastic Society of Sikkim, Namchi

Children of Spastic Society of Sikkim, alongwith blind and deaf children of Namchi Schools presented melodious Hindi and Nepali songs and dances at Nepali Sahitya Parisad Bhawan on Friday for the occassion of “Cultural Unity Day”

Kalimpong Lepcha Youth give the Sikkim State Government time

Prongzum, the Kalimpong Lepcha Youth association has announced that it will give the Sikkim State Government time till Nov 30 to resolve the Dzongu imbroglio vis vis the hydel projects in Dzongu.

A Press communique issued by the Prongzum President Dorjee Lepcha informs that on 30th Nov, the relay hunger strike undertaken by the Kalimpong Lepchas in support of the Dzongu Hydel Protests will enter its 100th day and should a positive sign fail to emanate from the Sikkim government, the Darjeeling protests(now led by a joint action committee comprising of different Lepcha organisations of Sikkim & Darjeeling) will move to the next phase of the agitation.

It is not clear as to what the next phase of the agitation would mean.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Hills shut down as fear closes in

Darjeeling, Nov. 23: People here are bracing for a rerun of violent incidents and general strikes 21 years after the Gorkhaland agitation set the hills on fire.

The administration’s decision to keep the army on standby suggests that the government is not taking chances either.

Initial signs confirm the fears. “We will not tolerate lawlessness and attacks on our leaders. We have decided to call an indefinite strike in the hills from tomorrow,” said Deepak Gurung, the president of GNLF Darjeeling Branch Committee.
He was referring to the khukuri attack on party leader Kul Bahadur Gurung in Darjeeling this morning.

Kalimpong subdivision is already under a GNLF-sponsored 108-hour general strike since yesterday. That shutdown was called to demand that the bill granting Sixth Schedule status to the Darjeeling Hills be immediately tabled and passed in Parliament.

If the bill is indeed tabled in Parliament during the ongoing winter session (it is in the list of business), it could spark fresh trouble in the hills. For, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, a party launched by expelled GNLF leader Bimal Gurung, is ready to oppose the status and instead demand a separate state, leading to a stand-off with Bimal’s former party.

“We will oppose the Sixth Schedule status and fight tooth and nail for Gorkhaland,” the Morcha president has declared.

The new party has already announced an agitation that includes forced closure of all DGHC offices till the end of the winter session. It also plans to gherao Lal Kothi, the administrative headquarters of the DGHC, after school examinations end.

The Morcha has attracted a lot of support from many areas of the hills, especially Singmari-Tukvar, the home constituency of Bimal. Unlike in the mid-80s, when the GNLF had near-total backing of the hill people, this time around the support is getting polarised, making the situation tense.

Over the past few days, there have already been sporadic incidents of violence in some parts of the hills, culminating on the attacks on Kul Bahadur and a Morcha supporter in Kalimpong today.

As the stand-off between the GNLF and the Morcha continues, neither is willing to blink first. Deepak has demanded that Morcha leaders Bimal, Nima Lepcha (Sanu) and 20 of their supporters should be immediately arrested for the attack on Kul Bahadur.

Morcha leader Binay Tamang struck back by saying the administration should arrest Deepak and other GNLF leaders for tearing his party’s flags in Darjeeling today.

“We have been saying in various public meetings that the GNLF will attack its own leaders to malign our image and today’s incident has proved us right,” said Tamang.

“If the GNLF leaders are not arrested, there could be law and order problem in the hills,” he warned.

During the Gorkhaland agitation, the Darjeeling hills saw general strikes lasting up to 40 days.

Sikkim first in Nepali films

Gangtok, Nov. 22: The first Nepali film made entirely in Sikkim with an all Sikkimese cast will have its premiere in a theatre here on Sunday.

Promos of the film, Tyag, are currently dominating local cable and radio channels. The premiere will be held at the Vajra theatre in Baluakhani here.

“We shot the entire film within the state. We especially wanted to highlight the beautiful locations of Sikkim,” said Ranjit Singh, who has written and directed Tyag.

Singh has woven the story of Tyag around the lead pair of Devang Sunar and Nivedita Pariyar, both upcoming actors from Sikkim.

Though mounted as a mainstream, commercial film, Tyag does touch upon subjects like exploitation of women and AIDS.

Kaala Multimedia Centre, Gangtok, has produced the film, the shooting for which began on May 20. The total budget of the film is around Rs 40 lakh.

Madhusudhan Lama and Suman Karki have composed the music while the producers got local singers like Tupden Bhutia, Sonam Doma Bhutia and Lapka Tamang for the background scores.
In the past, a couple of Nepali films have been produced in Sikkim but local actors and support staff had no more than token presence in those films.

However, for Tyag, the producers only had the shooting equipment and other technical gadgets brought from outside the state. For everything else, they depended on local resources.

If Tyag is successful, it will give a big boost to the Nepali film industry in Sikkim, said an observer.

The Final Events Which lead to the Merger of Sikkim

Elections to the State Council were held in 1973. A small controversy with reference to the

counting centre at Gangtok ignited and within no time political parties organized demonstrations against the Government. Police force was used to control theagitation, which added fuel to fire. Sikkim National Congress and Sikkim State
Congress demanded countermanding of the election and ordering a fresh poll. The
Durbar adopted its old dual policy of repression and causing dissension in its
political rivals. But this time it did not work. Demonstrators began to attack and
take over the police stations in the interior. The two political parties decided to
boycott and disturb ruler’s birthday celebration on April 4, 1974 in spite of
appeals made on the contrary. The situation was grim and a pitched battle was
fought between the demonstrators and the police. . The palace went ahead with the birthday celebrations, which angered the masses even more.
The administration collapsed and the Chogyal was forced to request the Political
Officer to take over the administration, as his father had done 24 years back. The
Political Officer took over the administration for time being, but the political
stalemate continued. The Government of India encouraged the Durbar and
political leaders to negotiate an agreement and establish normalcy in the State, but
stands on both sides were hardening. At last, a tripartite agreement between the
ruler, political leaders and India was reached on May 8, 1973.

Unlike in 1949, the Government of India had decided to discard the unsolicited
colonial advice this time and took a clear stand on democratic principles. The
famous tripartite agreement envisaged the Chogyal to be a constitutional head,
establishment of a responsible government with democratic rights, rule of law,
fundamental rights, independent judiciary, adult franchise and executive and
legislative powers to the people’s representatives. Article 5 of the Agreement
envisages: “The system of election shall be so organized as to make the (State)
Assembly adequately representative of the various sections of the population. The
size and the composition of the Assembly and of the Executive Council shall be
such as may be prescribed from time to time, care being taken to ensure that no
single section of the population acquires a dominating position due mainly to its
ethnic origin, and that the rights and interests of the Sikkimese Bhotia- Lepcha
origin and of Sikkimese Nepali, which includes Tsongs and scheduled castes
origin, are fully protected”.

According to the provisions of the Agreement, a State Legislative Assembly of 32
members (Lepcha- Bhotia 15 + one seat to the monks + Nepalese 15 + one seat
to the Scheduled Castes among the Nepalese untouchables), a Chief Minister,
and a Council of Ministers responsible to the Assembly to be elected on
universal adult franchise was envisaged. With a view to carrying out special
provisions of the Indo-Sikkimese Treaty, an Office of the Chief Executive to be
manned by an Indian functionary was created between the two and a deference of
opinion between him the ruler was to be referred to the Political Officer at
Gangtok, whose opinion would be binding. The political atmosphere in Sikkim
surcharged with and in such excitements, election to the State Assembly were
held in April, 1974. With exception of one Lepcha- Bhotia seat to a nominee of
Sikkim National Party, the remaining 31 seats were captured by the newly formed
Sikkim Congress. Lhendup Dorji Kazi, the leader of Sikkim Congress Legislature
Party, was sworn as the first duly elected Chief Minster of Sikkim. These and
other developments were seen as evidence of dilution of “Sikkim’s International
Status” by the Ruler, which may be seen as a conflict between the head of the
state and his people.

The State Assembly met in an emergency season and passed this resolution: “ The
institution of Chogyal (the head of the state) is hereby abolished and Sikkim shall
hence forth be a constituent unit of India”. While the ruler went on asking for
right of self determination to Sikkim, this Resolution of the Assembly was put to

the electorate and 97 percent favoured it. This led to the Indian Parliament

passing the 38th Constitutional Amendment Bill on April 26, 1975. Thus, Sikkim
ceased to exist as an Indian protectorate and became the 22nd state of the Indian
Union. Accordingly, the office of the Chogyal stood abolished and provisions of
the Indo-Sikkimese Treaty, Tripartite Agreement and the Government of India
ACT, 1974 were made inoperative. Lhendup Dorji Kazi (LD Kazi), the Chief
Minster, emerged as the central figure after these epoch making developments.
His style of functioning was that of an old -world patriarch, addicted to advice
from all corners, but too old to learn anything afresh.

The Truth about Sikkim

By.Major General (retd) Ashok K Mehta, on

People have forgotten that India’s actual chicken’s neck lies along the 20km narrow Siliguri corridor formed by Nepal and Bangladesh. Staring ominously at the chicken’s neck is the Chinese dagger made by the strategic Chumbi valley whose two shoulders — one in Sikkim and the other in Bhutan — are personified in the majesty of Paunhuri and Chomulhari peaks that merge at the historic Sinchula Pass on the trijunction of China, Bhutan, and India.

This is also the tip of the dagger just 100km away from the Siliguri corridor and a rather China-friendly Bangladesh. From a military and operational context, Sikkim is closest to Lhasa. North Sikkim and the Chumbi salient — the gateway to the erstwhile trade route between Lhasa and Calcutta — offer India tactical and strategic military options against China, and vice-versa.

In 1911, Captain Francis Younghusband pioneered the invasion of Lhasa through the Chumbi valley fighting battles at Yatung and Gyantse. Till the late 1950s, Indian Army detachments were posted at Lhasa and Yatung, protecting the trademarks. Until two years ago, the owner of Gangtok’s Hotel Tashi Delek, Mr Hira Lal Lakhotia, whose parents came to Sikkim much before Younghusband, had a bank account in Yatung. Along with fellow Marwaris, they still own much of the businesses in Sikkim.

Hotel Tashi Delek is still by far the most popular and lies in the heart of Gangtok town. It commands a ringside view of Khangchendzonga (Kanchenjunga — land of five treasures), but has lost some of its old world charm due to the mushrooming jungle of concrete that has disfigured the skyline. Gangtok was once called the city of three hills and three white women: the American wife of the Chogyal on one hill, the British wife of the resident commissioner on the other, and the Belgian wife of the chief minister on the third hill.

These wives, local gossip said, ran Sikkim and made much of the history of the times.

It started nearly three centuries ago with the Bhutias coming from across Tibet and subjugating the original Lepcha inhabitants easily. The first Chogyal had hoped to consecrate his dynasty at Yuksom in east Sikkim, but destiny had chosen Gangtok.

In 1975, there was yet another takeover, this time organised by the itinerant immigrants from Nepal. On April 9, in a swift and sudden military operation that left many mental scars among the Bhutias especially, the Indian Army deployed on Nathu La and the watershed in Sikkim since 1963 took over the Chogyal’s palace by disarming the Royal Sikkim Guards, ironically officered by the Indian Army, and seizing the royal armoury.

The Chogyal was drinking his favourite Remy Martin when the commandant of the Royal Sikkim Guards, Lt Col K S Gurung, announced the surrender.

Mr John Lall and Sunanda K Datta Ray have written about 1975, but two stories can be added. First, that the officer leading the assault on the palace and the major defending the Chogyal were the Jagota brothers, one from the Jat Regiment and the other from the Gurkha Regiment. The two had orders to act in the best traditions of the Indian Army.

The second episode is about how the Chogyal, on learning that the Sikkimese guard at the main gate had been killed, wore his Indian Army uniform — he was honorary colonel of the 8 Gurkhas, walked to the palace gates, and saluted the slain soldier.

Several years later, repudiating the proposed construction of a controversial dam across the River Teesta, Chief Minister Nar Bahadur Bhandari noted, “Sikkim has peacefully merged with India, but we have no desire of being submerged by the Teesta.”

The institution of the Chogyal, though officially dismantled in 1975, has several admirers. Like the Shah kings in Nepal, the Chogyal for nearly 300 years, much longer than the monarchy in Nepal, had become the rallying point. His son, the new Chogyal, became a monk and spends much of his time in Kathmandu. Most of the Chogyal’s land and assets have been taken over by the government. The Nepalese worry that India might do a Sikkim on Nepal — dismantle the monarchy and assimilate the country.

Bordering north Bengal, Sikkim’s strategic assets and vulnerabilities forced it to enter the rough and tumble of the Indian mainstream, though some well-wishers of Sikkim believe it needs to be protected from India itself. Sikkim was admitted to the Northeast Council in 1999 and is savouring its benefits. Today it is the country’s most stable and secure frontline state, a model for social cohesion and security. It is the only border state without any palpable threat of insurgency or social disorder. The five lakh Sikkimese blend three cultures: Nepalese, Bhutia, and Lepcha.

Yet the Nepali-ness predominates, reviving fears from across the Singa-Lila range, which marks the 100km long western border with Nepal. Forty kilometres of this border are porous, the rest perennially snowbound.

The Royal Nepal Army’s crackdown against Maoists in the districts of Taplejung and Panchthari bordering Sikkim could force the Maoists into Sikkim, especially since barring the Chia-Bhanjyang post the rest of the border is unguarded. Units of the Special Services Bureau have not been deployed as required. Four companies of Sikkim’s lone India Reserve battalion are doing duty in Delhi. The other three were recently commissioned and could be deployed along 13 points on the border provided Delhi picks up the bill.

Maoists are known to have transited through Sikkim and some have even been picked up. But spotters and early warning drills at village level have deterred Maoists from coming in. Both Sikkim and North Bengal (Ghising-land) are acutely conscious of the security threat Maoists can pose to tourism and the gross national happiness of the predominant Nepalese community.

Sikkim has virtually a one-party system. Whichever the party in power, as the Sikkim Democratic Front now or Sikkim Sangram Parishad earlier, the ruling party enjoys brute majority and invariably supports whoever rules in Delhi. This has obvious drawbacks, but the Sikkimese prefer political stability for their development.

Sikkim is also trying to give development a regional focus, incorporating Nepal, Bhutan and north Bengal fashioned after the growth triangle. The new buzzword is revenue generation. The main assets are its compactness, water resources, eco-tourism, Danny Denzongpa and Baichung Bhutia.

There are hurdles too, the biggest being accessibility. NH31A, the road from the international airport at Bagdogra to Gangtok, passes through the Siliguri corridor. One single road in a questionable state of repair passes dangerously across Siliguri’s no-man’s land — the only land link to Sikkim and the rest of the Northeast via Tiger Bridge. A five-hour backbreaking journey is not the best way to reach Gangtok. Frequent bandhs by Ghising’s Gurkhas, like the Maoists next door, and avalanches add to the traveller’s woes. A super express highway linking Calcutta to Gangtok — and who knows, soon via Nathu La to Lhasa and a STOL airport, could alter the fortunes of Sikkim and north Bengal.

The central government could revive the proposal for reopening the ancient trade route to Tibet. Are the Chinese worried this could signal their de facto recognition of Sikkim as a part of India? The Chinese do not dispute the border with Sikkim. Are India’s security planners concerned that trade could open the back door to the Siliguri corridor?

The army opened Nathu La and Chagu Lake to tourists two years ago. For decades, this was considered strategic sacrilege. The Sikkimese have one other wish — the resolution of the stalemate over the succession of the 17th Karmapa and unlocking the padlock on the Rumtek monastery. This would be good for social harmony and tourism.

Sikkim’s wish list is not unreasonable. The watershed separating Chinese and Indian soldiers has been a historical barrier, instead of a gateway between two markets and two civilisations. Sikkim could soon flag off a rerun of the Younghusband Expedition from Jelep La to Lhasa.

As for the security of the Siliguri corridor, that can be left to the new presiding deity of Nathu La, the legendary and ubiquitous Baba Harbhajan Singh, who will have to forgo his annual leave during the campaigning season.

Friday, November 23, 2007

CM advises priority for nature-based industries

Gangtok: In a meeting held at his Mintokgang official residence on Thursday, the Chief Minister, Dr. Pawan Chamling, who chaired the meeting, advised SIDICI and SABBCO, two funding agencies under the state government, that priorities should be given to nature-based industries and tourism related industries, such as, hotels, memento making, horticulture, floriculture etc.The meeting on implementation of Chierf Minister’s Self-Employment Scheme was attended by the Chief Secretary, Managing Directors of SIDICO and SABBCO and Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister.M.D., SIDICO apprised the meeting that under s the scheme they have 3240 beneficiaries, of which 60% are male and 40% female. Most of the loanees have taken loan for business purposes and also for piggery, dairy and animal husbandries. It was also informed that SIDICO has already received fund of Rs. 22 crores from the Government for the above schemes since the year 2005 and Rs. 3 crores are yet to be received. SABBCO has recovered 50 percent of the loan amount while SIDICO’s recovery is 35 percent, it was informed in the meeting.
The Chief Minister told both the public sector undertakings that schemes for the coming one decade should be prepared keeping in view the airport which is coming up within 2 years and the double-lane National Highway from Siliguri to Nathula.
He also asked both SIDICO and SABBCO to be very discerning while sanctioning loans, to simplify the procedures and include as many loanees as possible from the districts (outside Gangtok) and also to pay attention to recovery of loans.

Girls missing from Darjeeling

Girls missing from Darjeeling

By DT Correspondent on November 18,2007

Darjeeling, 18 Nov: This is not happening for the first time in Darjeeling that Jamuna Subba and Sangita Rai from Badamtam, Darjeeling, have been missing since October 3. They were absconded from home after coaxing by two culprits Binay Tamang and Dorje Tamand alias Raju Tamang. After the active initiative of their parents, both culprits were arrested in Siliguri on October 15.

However, missing two girls have not yet been able to bring them back homes. Two girls have been expected to be sold in red-light areas by these two culprits. Hitherto, Siliguri police authorities have failed to produce any result, as well the network of this racket. Two culprits, Binay Tamand and Dorje Tamang are under Siliguri police custody.
“Nari Akta Sakti”, a women welfare organisation based in Darjeeling, has come forward with the issue and appealed to Siliguri Kanchanjanga rehabilitation centre (SKRC), to look into the matter seriously. SKRC is a NGO working on women trafficking and rehabilitation. NAS also requested to concerned departments to take action on the issue as soon as possible.


Gangtok, November 22: During the current financial year 2007-08, the Ministry of Tourism has released Rs. 4372 Lakhs for 18 projects (upto October, 2007) to Sikkim for development and creation of infrastructure at tourist destinations/circuits.
The details of the funds released for the projects to the Sikkim are Development of Assam Lingzey to Khedi Trek Route including other tourist infrastructure in East Sikkim Rs. 263.27 lakhs, Development of Community Park at Bojey and water Garden at Hee Pul under integrated Development of Tourism, West Sikkim Rs. 344.44 lakhs, Construction of flower show pavilion at Namchi in South Sikkim Rs 378.56 lakhs, Construction of Pony Track and other infrastructure at hanuman Tok, Tashi View point and Ganesh Tok, Gangtok, East Sikkim Rs 344.00 lakhs, Development of Car Park and meeting Hall at Samdruptse in , South Sikkim Rs 269.40 lakhs, Construction of View Tower at Abkwakhaani and Foot Trail around Gantok, East Sikkim Rs 154.50 lakhs, Construction of Tourist Heritage Centre at Tek in South Sikkim Rs 87.72 lakhs, Development of Budeg Gadi (Fort) at Central Pandam in East Sikkim Rs 166.99 lakhs, Development of Buddhist tourist circuit along Chochen Pheri, East Sikkim Rs 177.89 lakhs, Construction of interpretation hall, Meditation Hall, Reception & Tourism Amenity block, Budha Statue, Sikkim Rs 349.00 Rs lakhs, Tourist Infrastructure under Jorethang Constituency in South Sikkim Rs 262.36 lakhs, Development of Nathula-Memencho-Kupup-Gnathang Tourist Circuit in East Sikkim Rs 363.44 lakhs, Development of lake and its surrounding at Gufa Dara, Hee Bermick, West Sikkim Rs 151.96 lakhs, Construction of Indian Himalayan Centre for Adventure and Eco-Tourism at Chemchey Phase-ii in South Sikkim Rs 311.63 lakhs, Development of Trekking Route from cabi to Tamzey including high altitude trek of Damboche Jaknthang and Thanguphu in North Sikkim Rs 305.87 lakhs, Tourist Reception Centre at Rangpo in East Sikkim Rs 362.73 lakhs, Village Chunbung rural tourism Rs 39.96 lakhs and Village Tingchim rural tourism Rs 38.97 lakhs.