Thursday, January 31, 2008
GANGTOK, Jan 30: This one's a first for Sikkim. Local farmers at Lachung have managed to grow a radish that weighs a record-breaking 10 kg. The proud farmer, Mrs Aie Phuti Lachungpa, pulled off the feat at Lachung in North Sikkim. “I've grown radishes weighing on an average as much as 5-6 kg. But, this is a welcome surprise,” Mrs Lachungpa said. "We used the same compost that we usually do but what could have made a difference is the late harvest. We dug it up nearly a month late than we should have. Possibly, that gave it the time to grow so big," she said.
“This is a proud moment for Sikkim. We're planning to hand over this radish to the state agriculture department so that it can be preserved," Mr Tshering Dorjee Lachungpa, Mrs Lachungpa's younger brother, said. “We regularly grow a large organic Tibetan variety of turnip but due to the lack of concern on part of the agriculture department, don't have any records to show," he said.
Lachung is where radish, cabbage, potato and turnip are grown on a large scale and which supplies the vegetables and roots to Siliguri and other parts of North Bengal.
When contacted, agriculture department's secretary Mr Mr R Telang said: "So far, we have not received any information (about the radish). But the growers may take part in a vegetable competition that will held along with an international flower show in March this year. About 100 village farmers have entered the competition and the first prize is Rs 2.5 lakh,” he said. In 2003, a farmer at Namchi in south Sikkim had grown a pumpkin weighing nearly 75 kg.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
GANGTOK, Jan. 29: Sikkim is in the grip of a bitter winter and to compound the condition, the mountain state is being soaked by a steady drizzle.
According to Mr K Sitaram, director of the state metrological department, the temperature in the evening was recorded at a minimum of 3.6 and maximum of 4.8 degree Celsius with 3.5 ml rainfall.
The day-long drizzle with intense cold weather kept the people indoors ~ close to their fireplaces. It has also triggered a brisk business in the warm garments. “I sold 50 sweaters, 100 gloves, 70 warm caps and 20 woolen jackets today,” said Mr S Thakur, a cloth seller of the town. “We grew tired of waiting for the winter customers for the past two months,” he added.
Yesterday snowfall was reported from the Tashi View Point about 5 km from the town, Hannuman Tok and Ganesh Tok, 10 km and 5 km respectively from Gangtok. Snowfall continued till today.
Darjeeling experienced snowfall accompanied by a light drizzle today with the mercury dipping to minus 2 degree Celsius. Snowfall lasted for about half an hour from 2.30 to 3 p.m.
Child workers play and work near a new road being constructed on the mountain slopes of the Himalayas. Sikkim is a semi Indian ruled state. It has it´s own government and flag but is still controlled mainly from New Delhi and has no real country borders. The hope of many Sikkemese people are to: one day become more like Nepal and fully rule their own country. Child labor are widely spread all over India and Sikkim is no exception. The poverty in the countryside of this region are many times extreme.
The Chief Minister directed the Chief Secretary to formulate a concrete proposal and put it up before the government expeditiously.
Addressing a gathering of businessman, civil society representatives and tourism stakeholders here, Mr Chamling said every shop and hotel must use local produce and project the organic products of Sikkim.
'' I appeal to you to use local manpower in every job in your units, '' Mr Chamling told the stakeholders.
The Chief Minister directed the Urban Housing department to put condition while issuing or renewing licences to check how many locals and local produce were used.
He also said vehicle owners must employ local drivers and the same must be verified while renewing the permits.
NEW DELHI:: The Supreme Court has slammed the Sikkim High Court for adopting a “draconian, arbitrary and authoritarian” approach to evict a hapless widow from her rented premises in utter disregard for law.
New Delhi, Jan 29 : The central government Tuesday lauded Sikkim and Tripura for providing basic sanitation facilities to all households.
Singh praised the Tripura government for successfully implementing the Bharat Nirman Scheme, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's flagship programme aimed at providing basic infrastructure in rural areas.
The minister said there was encouraging response to the sanitation programmes in other states as well, "which is why I am confident of achieving the goal of providing basic sanitation facilities including toilets and sewage treatment plants in rural areas by 2012", he said.
"During 2006-07, 10 million households were provided with toilet facilities in the rural areas in 22 states. The overall sanitation coverage in the rural areas has gone up by 50 percent against 21.4 percent in 2001," Singh said.
According to the schedule, the central government has four years to go to achieve the full sanitation coverage in rural India and eliminate completely the practice of open defecation, provide water supply and toilet facilities in all schools as well.
The minister said the government was committed to provide by 2008-09 safe drinking water in 55,067 habitations.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
On the auspicious occasion of 58th Anniversary of Indian Republic, I extend very warm greetings and good wishes to the people of Sikkim. This very day in 1950, the citizens of India gave unto themselves the written Constitution to guide and nurture our great Country and to chart out destiny of the new Nation. Sikkim which joined the Indian mainstream later in 1975 has been guided by the ideals and principles as enshrined in our Constitution for emerging from the past to a vibrant State. When Pt. Nehru unfurled the tricolor from the rampart of Red Fort, it was indeed a beginning infused by grand vision and solemn pledges to restore the dignity and self respect of millions of population. Our Constitution over the years has provided us with broad framework to conduct ourselves to the best of our abilities on the basis of democratic principles and traditions as laid down by the forefathers of our Constitution.
We can realize that the task of strengthening the edifice of democratic Nation, after all the revolutionary churning has been highly challenging. However, thanks to the vision and foresight of our great Indian leaders, we have been able to establish a thriving Democracy guided by the principles of tolerance, mutual respect and rule of law. Today, India is at the forefront of global communities forging ahead as the most promising land from a developing country to a developed Nation.
Sikkim, the constituent State of the great Country has emerged as one of the most progressive States in the country. We may like to remember that the momentum for positive change and development tempo took off at an accelerated pace during the last fourteen years, when the people of Sikkim voted the Sikkim Democratic Front party to power. The socio-political environment of the pre-1994 Sikkim was highly elusive to the essential ethos of democratic traditions and the political leaderships those days survived on undemocratic slogans. A widespread sense of desolation and apprehension made the people disenchanted who discarded them and came under the banner of Sikkim Democratic Front Party. Guided by the essential spirit of our sacred Constitution, we are duty bound to secure the fullest satisfaction of the Sikkimse citizens granting them peace, progress and prosperity in ample measures.
It is with great humility now I recall that Sikkim and the Sikkimese people who were consciously kept out of national imagination have been successfully integrated with the mainstream. In fact, before we came to the government, certain sections of people raking up merger issue were trying to relive the feudal remnants. We found the debate as not only irrelevant but also as a marked disrespect to the collective wishes and wisdom of the Sikkimese people to integrate with the democratic polity of the great Nation. Through extreme sacrifices and hard work, we were able to salvage the Democratic system setting forth a process of steady growth to institutionalize the system in the Sikkimese society.
Redefining development strategy:
We are all aware that in the 1980s development as a concept in Sikkim was understood on a more orthodox sense, like that of providing roti, kapda aur makan. In fact, no serious thought was given to realign the concept of development to accommodate the increasing needs, requirement and the growing aspirations of the people. What happened as an outcome was the resultant mismatch between actual delivery and diversified aspirations of the people. Disillusionment set in leading to widespread apprehension of people. And the undesirable trend developed to crush people's aspiration through coercion, force or intimidation. After we took over, we addressed this basic shortcoming through meticulous planning process, through positive imagination and policy intervention. You are aware that we constituted the State Planning Commission, District Planning Committee and Planning Committee at the Gram Panchayat levels to conceive, design and implement projects and schemes at each level seeking to address the area specific requirements of the people. Today, I am happy to note that as envisaged under the Constitution, we have policy making bodies in the State from the grass root level and above to recommend policy initiatives to the State Government representing popular aspirations, common demands and specific needs of the people.
Identifying thrust areas:
For State like Sikkim, we have to identity our own strengths as the focus areas identified at the national level do not always serve our purpose. As a hilly State hosting over twenty six percent of the Country's biodiversity, our strength lies in our natural resources, our mountain, lakes, rivers, streams and our socio-cultural diversity. Therefore, we have decided to initiate all the developmental activities in the State on the basis of our rich natural endowment with sustainability as key policy prescription. All the people are privy to the hosts of development activities based on nature including hydro-power generation, eco-tourism, horticulture, floriculture etc. In all these crucial areas we have merged local initiative with investment from other parts of the country and the world. We have entered into Memorandum of Understanding with a number of developers and investors to harness our natural wealth all for the common good. The economic dividends that we would earn after commissioning of all the ongoing projects in different sectors would take care of State's needs both in terms of providing basic amenities, infrastructure and employment generation.
Reaping economic gains:
Traditionally, we are heavily dependent on central grants for our socio-economic development in the State. As a Special Category State with hosts of concessions, we have been able to conduct State's affairs satisfactorily so far. However, we can not run away from the fact that the State has to sustain on its on income and revenue as dependence on Centre alone will harm States' interest in the long run. Therefore, major share of revenue has to come through domestic resource mobilization effort. Therefore, through our own initiatives, we are trying to improve our resource mobilisation capacity. Our major source of revenue will be from the hydel power. The State has signed agreements with Independent Power Producers (IPPs) for generation of 3364 MW of hydel power. Majority of these projects will be completed within next 5-8 years. These projects are projected to yield total revenue of Rs 1140 crore by 2020.
Our Government to a considerable degree has been able to bring about paradigm shift in career diversification of our people with the tertiary sector accounting for over 49 percent in the Gross Domestic Product. However, Agriculture activities and its contribution to State GDP is steadily going down which sustains over seventy percent of population in the State. We are trying to smooth out this paradox by making agriculture as an attractive profession by introducing modern technology instruments and treating this sector as an industry in the State. Accordingly, we have made considerable headway in areas like horticulture and floriculture which we have been able to deliver to the international markets. Considering the high value nutrient content of our produces, we are encouraging Organic Farming practices in the State and trying to make our State a Total Organic State in the near future.
The reopening of Nathu la trade route has come as a historical boon to the people of Sikkim. From the present nascent level of trade transaction, we are expecting to boost this activity to integrate tourism with trade to various pilgrimage centres including that of Mansarovar. I am delighted to note that the Government of India is very seriously considering our proposal to make this route as a normal trade route. The transformation from border trade route to a normal overland trade route based on the Most Favoured Nation clause of the World Trade Organisation will bring unprecedented benefits to the people of Sikkim in particular and rest of the country in general. The investment the State is making on tourism sector will start yielding fruits within next couple of years and if tourism with allied services could be finally integrated with the trade route through Nathu la then, on a rough estimate, we are going to generate over Rs. 500 crores by 2020.
Amidst all the economic activities, we have to consistently maintain our social values, traditional amity, peace and tranquility for real growth. At a time when people's well being is measured in terms of per capita happiness, all our efforts finally boil down to providing that atmosphere and security so that people live a happy and contented life. My team has really worked hard on the issues of social development including women empowerment. We have given the highest priority to bringing the marginalised and weaker segments of the people to the mainstream development stage. We have done it in very many ways. The affirmative action like reservation is one of them. The others are consciously promoting their languages and cultures, giving them free access to education and health facilities, providing them social space for expressions of their views and thoughts, taking care of their interest at the very grass root levels through Panchayats etc. and more importantly giving them adequate political representations at all levels. On the social justice front, we have consciously tried to protect and promote the distinct status, rights and ensure overall development of all sections of populations. Accordingly we have formulated our policies and programs and have implemented them seriously. I ma pleased to note that according to National Survey Sample, the per capita asset value of the Scheduled Tribes (i.e. Bhutias and Lepchas) in Sikkim is Rs. 71,700 as against the national average of the STs of Rs. 30,000. The per capita asset value in general of the Sikkimese population is Rs. 60,000 as against the national average of Rs. 40,000.
As responsible custodians of Himalayan eco-system, we provide environmental security to the entire eastern Himalayas. Keeping the tradition of intimate conservation of its natural resources and environment the State set up Green Missions spread throughout the State. People have overwhelmingly responded to these missions. Sikkim is the first State in the country to have effectively banned the use of non-biodegradable products like plastic bags and grazing in the reserve forest areas in addition to many other conservation measures. The State's forest cover has increased from 42.3 % in 1991 to 45.97 % in 2005-06.
Sikkim is dotted with glaciers. Most glaciers in Sikkim originate from the Kanchendzonga. These glaciers are the sources of hydrological flows in our State. Keeping in mind the world wide debate on global warming and its likely impact on glaciology, I have just appointed a high level national expert Group/ Commission headed by famous glaciologist Prof Syed Iqbal Hasnain. The Commission will examine all the issues related to glaciers in our part of the country. Sikkim is the first State in the country to undertake such a massive environmental initiatives and policy in the State. You are aware that we also held the first meeting of the Commission recently to actually set the ball rolling where we discussed the global concern threadbare, pronounced our local initiatives and our legitimate claim on carbon trading including the Adaptation Fund created recently at Bali. All of our people should feel proud about this commendable feat. We have to make this mission hundred percent successful.
In the last fourteen years, we have been able to reap monumental harvest in every sphere of development activities. In fact, during the last five years, we were able to induce quantum jump investment in different sectors including the ongoing projects. In power sector alone, it was an impressive twenty thousand crores, followed by Rs. 5,000 crores each in tourism, industry, other sectors like floriculture, education and health and infrastructure development like roads and airport. And this is in addition to State's own plan and non-plan budget. Today, I am highly pleased to let you know that ours is the highest per capita investment in the country which was made possible by creation of an investment-friendly environment, peace and tranquility. This is the positive outcome of our right policy, right direction and the right governance we were able to provide to the people of Sikkim. We have proved that a land handicapped by geographical constraint could be made into a land of opportunity and progressive human activities. The future will judge us kindly and correctly and the future generation will enjoy the fruits of all the development initiatives undertaken by us.
During fourteen years, we have worked with single-minded dedication and with utmost sincerity to bring about all-round development of the people of Sikkim. Obviously, the results are there for all the people to see. However, so far they seemed to remain disinterested towards whatever developments are being undertaken in the State. Democracy demands that people remain active and responsible to secure their own future by appreciating and supporting the State Government for all the good works undertaken or raise a note of caution whenever their future are at a stake.
When people remain silent, their unaffected simplicity is taken for a ride by unscrupulous elements to tarnish the overall image of the State and the Sikkimese people. They level baseless and malicious allegations about the functioning of various departments vis-a-vis developmental schemes through the media which deserves outright condemnation. The people at large will have to remain vigilant to any of such developments in the State that would likely diminish the goodwill and the high appreciation and accolades that the State has earned over the years at the national and international level.
Sikkim is our common land and hence the politicians in power and the opposition, the bureaucracy past and present, the technocrats engaged in different assignments, civil society members, the NGOs, and the general people should take collective action for a common outcome. The time is for collective responsibility and collective accountability. And as citizens of Sikkim and the country, it is our prime duty and sacred obligation.
In the last fourteen years, there is unsullied peace and democratic practices are now considerably matured in the State. Sikkim today is known both for its peaceful ambience and responsible development initiatives including infrastructure and establishment of diverse set of institutions. In other words, we have been able to provide everything that the civilized citizens crave for - equality, freedom of speech, rule of law and host of opportunities to earn their livelihood according to individual capacity. In this context, all the Sikkimese people must be very clear that all the institutions and development initiatives are meant to benefit our people. All the spin off benefits including employment generation at all levels, contractual works, supply works etc. must be reserved exclusively for the Sikkimese people. I know we have spelt out, in no uncertain terms, our allegiance to local protection issue earlier on a number of occasions.
Today, I say we are not prepared to compromise on this stand taken by us. That means, all kinds of works and job opportunities created in the State in all power projects, small industrial units, Medical Colleges, Agriculture College, Sikkim University etc. must be reserved for the local employment card holders only. I strongly call upon all of you to remain always vigilant to see that no discrepancy occurs in the context as above and ensure that everything and everybody remain to serve the interest of the domiciled Sikkimese only.
Respected fellow citizens,
As the citizens of this great Country with Sikkim as our home, it is within our right to claim and ask for security and wellbeing. You are aware that the State Government has declared the year 2008 as the YEAR OF RESPONSIBILIY. This is basically to emphasize on the need for a more greater role that our people have to play as democratic citizens. Empowered as it is, by the devotion to our sacred Constitution, I take this great opportunity to call upon all my fellow citizens to enjoy all the constitutional rights as also shoulder equal responsibility as responsible citizens as enshrined in our Constitution.
The prolific French writer of the 19th century Victor Hugo has famously said, "There is one thing stronger than all the armies of the world and that is an idea whose time has come".
Respected fellow citizens, the idea of an independent and self reliant nation which spurred thousands of countrymen into organized revolution has grown into a grand entity that we call Bharat or India. As we observe the 58th Anniversary of Indian Republic, shall we take an unflinching pledge to commit ourselves to the idea of a fulfilled Nation where there is social, economic and political justice; where there is Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; where there is Equality of status and of opportunity and where we promote Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation.
My Dear Fellow Citizens,
On the occasion of the 58th Anniversary of our Republic I convey my heartiest felicitations to you. May the New Year bring happiness, progress and prosperity to the people of our State.
Ours is the largest democracy on earth. This is an occasion for us to re-dedicate ourselves to the ideals enshrined in the Constitution by our founding fathers. The principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, as epitomized in our Constitution, form the bedrock of our national ethos, in the context of the lingual, religious, cultural and social diversities. Unity in diversity is the strength of our nation.
I also extend my heartiest greetings to the gallant members of the Armed Forces and the Paramilitary forces who guard our borders, as also to the valiant Sikkim Police personnel, who maintain our internal security. I would also like to pay my respectful homage to those martyrs, who sacrificed their lives in maintaining the security and integrity of our country. I would urge more youth from our State to come forward in the service of the motherland.
The State has lost some eminent personalities during the last one year which include Kazi Lhendup Dorjee Khang sarpa, the first Chief Minister of Sikkim, who is also known as the founder of Democracy in our State and Shri B.B.Lall, the first Governor of Sikkim. We also lost a sitting Chief Justice of our High Court in the person of Justice Surya mani Singh. I pay my respectful homage to the memory of the departed.
In recent times, our economy has been growing at the rate of more than 8%. Hon'ble the Prime Minister, during his speech on the occasion of 54th National Development Council Meeting on 19th December, 2007 has expressed that we are capable of realizing a growth rate of 9% during the 11th Plan Period. He also mentioned that we should, however, be concerned about the uneven growth and, therefore, emphasis should be given on inclusive growth.
Even though we are a Nuclear Power, our country is struggling with the corrosive threat of terrorism. A number of innocent lives are taken away by such elements from time to time. In addition to that, we also suffer from natural calamities like floods, landslides, earthquakes etc…Inspite of that, the nation has been able to achieve an impressive economic growth.
We are in favour of an integrated approach in the developmental process involving all agents of social change. We have initiated the process of involving Village Panchayats in the spread, implementation and sustainability of our developmental agenda.
The State has focused on the developmental strategies, which, while enhancing the growth rate of development, provide employment opportunities for the youth. Efforts have been made to boost State revenues and to curtail infructuous expenditure.
The State Government has laid emphasis upon effective governance encompassing decentralization and empowerment at the grass root level. With this in view, the State Government has earmarked 10% plan funds of several departments to the Panchayati Raj Institutions.
My Government has also raised reservation for women from 33% to 40% and the last Panchayat Elections were held under this new dispensation. This reflects the concern of my Government towards growth and development of socially and economically deprived sections of population and involvement of the civil society in the developmental process.
Our vision is empowerment of the people, economically, socially, politically by democratic decentralization and by forging strong partnerships with agents of development like Panchayati Raj Institutions, Community Based Organizations and Non-Government Organizations.
My Government is fully committed to the directives of the Central Government on earmarking of outlays under the Tribal Sub Plan and the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan. With the inclusion of the Tamangs and Limboos as Scheduled Tribes, their aspirations will also be taken care of.
We are also attempting Gender based budgeting from the next financial year.
We are one of the better performing States in India with a number of positive indicators in crucial sectors. The achievement has been possible as there is peace, good governance and security in the State. We are an insurgency free State with no communal and religious tensions. The peace and tranquility has, therefore, been the most important factor which has accelerated the development process in our State. This is reflected by the fact that the State won the best Tourism performing State in the North East for the fifth time in 2005 - 2006.
During the last monsoons, the State had to suffer due to closure of National Highway 31A by flash floods. The State remained cut off from the main land for about a month. Transport vehicles were not able to ply between Siliguri and Gangtok for nearly three weeks. In spite of being included in special Accelerated Road Development Programme in the North East Region, the works on the road from Gangtok to Nathula and from Sevoke to Gangtok are yet to commence on the ground. Improvement of this road infrastructure is essential not only for the State but also for augmentation of the border trade between Sikkim and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. My Government has once again apprised the Central Government for early implementation of the project.
We are heartened to know that the Ministry of Railways is interested to take up the 53 km. Rail stretch from Sevoke in West Bengal initially upto Rangpo in Sikkim.
The Greenfield Airport at Pakyong is one of the important ongoing projects. The State Government has acquired the land and the same has been made available to the Airport Authority of India for construction, operation and maintenance of the proposed Greenfield Airport. Action for tendering the works has been taken up by Airport Authority of India.
I am happy to say that, the State has earned the status of the Most Investor friendly state with minimum labour problems. Focus will be put in areas where investments can be enhanced. It is high time to enhance the status of the trade through Nathula Pass and expand the required infrastructure with assistance from the Central Government. My Government is also keen to set up Phyto-sanitary and plant quarantine facilities at Sherathang. The State Government has requested the Central Government to allow to evolve into free trade from Nathula instead of limited border trade.
The Government has taken all the necessary steps to invite industries into the State. The State already provides the required environment for development of industries as peace and communal harmony prevails in the State. In the absence of insurgency and extremist activities, Industries can flourish in a peaceful manner. Taking advantage of the situation, a number of industries have already stepped into the State. It is high time that the local people should come forward and take advantage of the opportunity to ensure gainful employment for themselves.
Horticulture in the state includes a variety of flowers, fruits, vegetables, roots and tuber crops, spices and mushrooms. Horticulture has established its importance in improving land use, promoting crop diversification, generating employment and providing nutritional security. Aided by the Central assistance under the Technological Mission for North East, the production graphs for various horticultural crops like fruits, vegetables, spices are showing an ever increasing trend. The Government of India has proposed a new Central Sector Scheme namely Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana which will be of great help in boosting household incomes in the rural areas.
An International Flower Festival is being held at Saramsa near Gangtok from 14th to 16th March, 2008. It is likely that a number of experts on Floriculture from within as well as outside the country shall visit the State. I urge the growers in the State to take full advantage of the event to increase production of flowers in the State, thereby providing employment opportunities leading to growth in economic activities in the State.
The State Government is in the process of preparation of the second Human Development Report with technical assistance from the United Nations Development Programme. In this process, Panchayats, NGOs, Academicians and members of civil societies have been involved. Since, Human Development concept has been recognized at the international level as an important indicator in economic development, my Government has given importance to this in the sectoral allocation to the Social Sector.
Development of rural road network under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana shall be continued for connecting the hitherto unconnected habitations, within the timeframe prescribed by the Govt. of India.
Tourism continues to remain one of the priority areas of my government. There has been a notable increase in the number of tourists visiting the state. The number includes both domestic and international tourists. Taking into consideration the importance of tourism sector, the Government has increased budgetary allocation in the State Plan during the current financial year by 81% over last year's level. State has adopted pro-active marketing and publicity strategies to attract more tourists. Significant projects to attract tourists are, the establishment of a tourist centre-cum-socio cultural and amusement park at Ranka as also a Pilgrimage cum Cutural Centre at Solophuk which is at an advanced stage of completion. In addition, work on a pilgrimage and cultural centre at Ravongla is being taken up in a big way.
A substantial plan allocation has been made in the Human Resources Development Sector, in line with the aim of my government for achieving hundred percent literacy by the year 2015. The enrolment ratio of girl child vis a viz boys has improved from 90:100 in the year 1994 to 100:102. As against the literacy rate of 68.7% in the year 2001, which incidentally is more than the National average of 64.6%, an overall Literacy rate of 90% is expected to be achieved in the State by the end of the 11th Five Year Plan period.
A Central University has already been established in the State. I am hopeful that the University shall start functioning sooner than later. It is expected that the University will attract students and faculty members both from within and outside the country particularly from the neighbouring countries. The University will bring in best practices of academic programmes, teaching methods and curriculum designs suitable to our region.
In the field of Technical Education, two World Bank aided Technical Institutes at Bardang and Chisopani have become functional. Computer Literary in schools is yet another thrust area for my Government.
State has made significant progress in providing basic health care to the people. The endeavor of the State is to provide basic health services at the door steps to the rural populace. The National Rural Health Mission, a Flagship Programme of the Central Government is expected to help us considerably in our efforts. Significant land marks have been achieved. The crude birth rate has gone down from 21.6% in 2002 to 19.9% by 2005. Similarly, the crude death rate has also gone down from 5.8% to 5.1% during the same period. Immunization coverage has also increased to 90% as against 81% in 2002.
My Government is aware of the growing concern amongst the youth regarding unemployment. To provide employment to the educated youth, my Government has taken a number of initiatives. One of the latest steps of the Government on this direction is the creation of a Directorate of Capacity Building. This Department provides opportunities to the unemployed youth for skill development, counseling and capacity building. A number of youth have already taken advantage of the schemes. Recently, a Career Fair was organized in the State capital wherein thousands of students, youths and parents actively participated and took advantage of the opportunity provided.
The State Government has given the highest priority to production of hydro-electricity. A number of projects have already been established and activities towards generation of hydro-electricity have been initiated. It is hoped that the State will become power surplus within a few years.
Continued attention is being paid towards better utilization of existing assets, improvement in the efficiency of use of resources and reduction in the incremental capital output ratio. This will be brought about mainly by better monitoring and evaluation of projects and programmes and improvement in productivity through the application of science and technology.
I have taken the opportunity to highlight some of the important aspects of my Government's policy and performance. My Government will continue to make every effort in infusing renewed dynamism and providing good governance. In this direction, the cooperation from all sections of the society would be crucial.
Let us not rest on our laurels and accomplishments of the past, but strive to work harder and make Sikkim a progressive and forward looking state.
We have a dream of making Sikkim a land of peace and opportunity for all. On this momentous occasion, let us resolve to work hand in hand to strengthen the hands of the Government and make our State prosperous which in turn will make the nation stronger. I convey my best wishes to all my fellow citizens for happy Republic Day Celebrations.
Monday, January 28, 2008
NEW DELHI, Jan 27: China has lodged a diplomatic protest over Indian military activity in Sikkim and claimed that Indian troops were trying to be active on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that divides their troops along the disputed Himalayan border, the Sunday Express said.
Coming shortly after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s successful tour of China earlier this month, which followed the first ever joint exercise by the armies of both countries, the protest has stumped New Delhi, the paper said.
“It’s learnt that China has taken objection to building of structures along the LAC and the Indo-Bhutan border, pointing out that this is in violation of the understanding to maintain peace in the area,” the Sunday Express said. “The timing of the protest — after Singh’s China visit and ahead of his maiden trip to Arunachal Pradesh — has once again brought the boundary question in the spotlight.”
India last week appointed former army chief Gen J.J. Singh as its governor in the disputed state. India and China signed an agreement on peace and tranquillity along their borders in 1993 that appears to have worked well.
India says some transgressions by Chinese troops have occurred but given the nature of the terrain some of this is inevitable. “It may be noted that India did not specifically take up reports of Chinese incursions and transgressions during the visit (by the Indian prime) despite confirmations of aggressive patrolling by China and a reassessment of Chinese ability to move in troops more quickly,” the Express said.
The reopening of claims, particularly on the Sikkim border, has taken India by surprise, it added. “According to informed sources, India has been strengthening existing defences on its side of the LAC in Sikkim,” the paper acknowledged. “It may be noted that troops about a division strong had been moved out of the area to Jammu & Kashmir a few years ago. But over the past year, they have been moved back to their defensive positions in North Bengal and Sikkim.” As a result, some of the facilities and structures that existed previously are being strengthened and are not seen by Delhi as a violation.
The newspaper noted that there is fresh thrust at the political level to improve infrastructure along the LAC, which includes building more accessible roads and better facilities near Indian posts. “In fact, ahead of the PM’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, the Defence Ministry has given its go-ahead for IAF reviving four airfields in the state.”
|NEW DELHI, JAN 28 (PTI)|
The Supreme Court has slammed the Sikkim High Court for adopting a "draconian, arbitrary and authoritarian" approach to evict a hapless widow from her rented premises in utter disregard for the law.
In a strongly-worded judgement loaded with severe strictures against the acting Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court and another judge, the apex court ordered restoration of the possession of the premise to victim Shanti Devi.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhan and Altamas Kabir regretted that the action of the Sikkim High Court appeared more an effort at giving relief to the owner with "alacrity" rather than addressing the issues raised by the widow who had approached the court for justice.
The apex court strongly deplored the manner in which the Sikkim High Court issued a contempt notice followed by a non-bailable warrant and then ordered the eviction of Shanti Devi.
Offering relief to the victim, the apex court termed the action as "gross abuse of the due process of law which cannot at all be sustained."
The authority asked her to produce a 'no-objection' certificate from her landlord and when she failed to do so her application was dismissed.
The woman then filed a fresh petition seeking direction to the authority for issuance of licence and pleaded that she be exempted from producing no-objection certificate as the owner was bent upon evicting her, though the family had been carrying out the business from the premises for the past 30 years.
But ironically the high court on June 26, 2006 dismissed her petition and imposed a cost of Rs one lakh and directed her to vacate the premises within a week.
On July 4, 2006 exactly a week thereafter, the landlord filed a contempt petition against Shanti Devi which interestingly was taken up by a division bench of acting chief justice N S Singh and Justice A P Subba which directed the widow to appear before it on the very next day.
A further direction was given to the officer in-charge of Ranipool police station to produce the widow before the court along with a direction to the registry to ensure delivery of a copy of the direction to the woman for her appearance.
"The order passed on the contempt application directing possession to be taken by the police authorities and to make over the same to the respondent No 2(land lord), appears to be in gross abuse of the due process of law which cannot at all be sustained," the apex court remarked.
The bench observed that the case in hand is an example of how the writ courts have in recent time either forgotten or ignored the line between the reliefs which could be given by the civil courts and the Constitution courts.
It appeared that the high court shifted its focus from the reliefs sought by the widow and instead focused efforts in giving relief to the land lord, the apex court said.
"This appears to be the reason for the learned judge to have passed a mandatory order of eviction on the appellant's writ petition, wherein she had, inter alia, prayed for a direction to the authority to issue a fresh trade licence to her on her hu sband's death," the bench said.
The apex court while awarding Rs 25,000 to the widow said its judgement will not preclude either of the parties from pursuing their reliefs before the appropriate forum.
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Sunday, January 27, 2008
NEW DELHI, JANUARY 26: Within days of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s return from a “successful visit” to Beijing, China has stumped India by lodging a diplomatic protest over Indian military activity in Sikkim and claiming that Indian troops are trying to be active on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Further, it may be noted that India did not specifically take up reports of Chinese incursions and transgressions during the visit despite confirmations of aggressive patrolling by China and a reassessment of Chinese ability to move in troops more quickly.
The reopening of claims, particularly on the Sikkim border, has taken India by surprise. And this comes after all the discomfort in New Delhi over heightened Chinese activity along the LAC. A lot of this stems from the destruction of unmanned Indian bunkers near Doka La on the India-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction sometime last November. This action by the Chinese was complemented by movement of the troops into the disputed Dolam plateau in Bhutanese territory.
However, both sides sought to calm matters down and Singh’s visit was targeted at emphasising the need to maintain peace and tranquility along the LAC. Both he and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabo agreed on this, and the Indian side repeated these statements during the high-profile visit. But clearly, China has now sought to put India on the backfoot.
According to informed sources, India has been strengthening existing defences on its side of the LAC in Sikkim. It may be noted that troops about a division strong had been moved out of the area to Jammu & Kashmir a few years ago. But over the past year, they have been moved back to their defensive positions in North Bengal and Sikkim. As a result, old facilities and structures are being strengthened, which are not seen as a violation by the Indian side.
At the political level, there is fresh thrust to improve infrastructure along the LAC, which includes building more accessible roads and better facilities near Indian posts. In fact, ahead of the PM’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, the Defence Ministry has given its go-ahead for IAF reviving four
airfields — Vijaynagar,Mechuka, Tuting and Passighat — in the State. As for Itanagar, a Greenfield airport for civil aviation purposes is already in the works.
At the same time, India has been careful in its projection of the visit so that it does not provoke China. So far, the PM’s itinerary avoids the contentious Tawang area. This is in line with Singh’s views to not allow the boundary question eclipse the meeting ground between both countries on various other global and regional issues.
During his visit to Beijing, Singh’s thrust was on pitching the relationship as one between two major powers and to that extent, there was reciprocity from the Chinese side too. In his policy defining speech before the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Singh consciously did not mention Panchsheel or any other historical instance that may come in the way of redefining the partnership.
However, a cold reality check has followed the warmth during his visit. The pro-active approach on Sikkim has also cast a shadow of doubt on the boundary negotiations where for the first time the two sides have two separate drafts on a possible framework agreement that will identify areas for exchange.To break the stalemate, India has agreed not to discuss Tawang for the moment and instead start with areas on which there is “least disagreement”.
Darjeeling, 12 January: These days, Star Plus TV crew are busy taking shoots at Loreto convent (Prakiti’s school), Haridas hatta etc. for their on going TV show programme. They also participated in the fund raising programme, organised by Prakiti fan club at Chowrasta. Food festival also held on occasion of ‘Magge Sanskrati’. Typical Nepali foods were demonstrated and served during the occasion. Singers from Darjeeling Sudhir Rai, Sovna Pradhan, Anupama Pradhan and Sushil Pradhan performed their songs and appealed spectators to Vote Prakiti Giri….
(Little girl dancing in her own tune at Chowrasta premises…. after the occasion of fund raising programme for Prakiti Giri, 12 Jan)
Gangtok: Governor Sudharshan Agrawal and Chief Minister of Sikkim Dr. Pawan Chamling extended their greetings to the people. Governor Agrawal highlighted the performance and achievement of the State Government while Chief Minister said about that his Government is successful for the emotional intergration of the people of Sikkim with the nation. Chief Minster also said that his Government is committed to work for self reliant of Sikkim by improving resource mobilization capacity and further said that major source of revenue will be from the hydel power. He declared that Government of Sikkim has signed agreements with Independent Power Producers(IPPs) for generation of 3364 MW of hydel power. He said that these projects are expected to yield total revenue of Rs. 1140 crore by 2020.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
The Gorkhas are a small little community in India where people of diverse origins mingle to contribute a great composite Indian culture. They are the descendants of General Amar Singh Thapa who invaded India and annexed Garhwal and Kumaon that included the hill stations of Simla, Musssoorie, Lansdowne, Almora, Nainital, Ranikhet and Pithoragarh.
In the northeast General Johar Singh and General Purna Ale overran a major part of Sikkim in 1788, which included Nagri and Darjeeling. The British defeated the Gorkhas during the Anglo Gorkha war of 1814-16 and the lands they had conquered were ceded to the British and re-profiled. Those who have been living in India since the Gorkha invasion are known as the Indian Gorkhas.
Darjeeling is a much favoured tourist destination with several options for a traveler. One of the best things to do is a Joyride on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR). The Joyride on the DHR begins at Darjeeling Railway Station, the fun begins as soon as the guard blows his whistle and the steam engine gives a long toot to chug off to Ghoom the highest railway station reached by a steam engine. One of the main highlights of the train journey is Cresswell’s double loop an engineering marvel at Batasia, which was opened for service on the 10 March 1919. Batasia in Nepali/ Gorkha language means the windy place. The train halts for 10 minutes on top of Batasia spur where one can view the wondrous Kanchenjunga Range, the distant hills and vales and Darjeeling town from a well laid out garden with seasonal flowers. People romp about the place in happiness, enjoy the crisp air which rejuvenates the mind and soul, take photographs but the War Memorial right in front of them that has a list of 131 martyrs (from 22 September 1947 to 20 May 2007) who have laid down their lives for the country since Independence lies forgotten and forsaken. A few occasional functions by the Army are done with unwavering respect to these noteworthy men. The politicians of Darjeeling are the worst defaulters they must know that remembrance of these righteous and valiant men is so much more than what we do or say.
The War Memorial itself is an imposing piece of architecture on an oval shaped platform with 9ft high bronze statue of a Gorkha soldier in reverse arms or “Shok Shastra” and a 30ft high triangular granite cenotaph on a three-foot octagonal base, with the “Roll of Honour” engraved on it. Unfortunately, we don’t even bother to reflect for a few seconds for the people who gave their lives to save this beautiful country. If you closely read the plaque in front of the War Memorial, it reads, “ In memory of the brave Gorkha soldiers of Darjeeling Hills who laid down their lives in the battle field for the greater cause of the motherland.” Yes, all the 131 boys are from the Darjeeling Hills, all buried or cremated in the holy soil of India after the country’s Independence. The list contains only names of boys from Darjeeling excluding Assam, Bakloh, Bhakshu, Dehra Dun, Doors (WB), Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkhim, Uttaranchal, etc, where Indian Gorkhas live.
There is a difference between the Indian Gorkhas and that of Nepal (no disrespect meant). The soldiers from Nepal serving in India are professional soldiers who owe allegiance only to their respective regiments and those who die in action are transported to Nepal. Bodies of soldiers born, buried or cremated in Indian soil like Darjeeling and other places as above are Indian citizens. Perhaps, Darjeeling has the largest number of martyrs from a single community in India. Body bags coming from the LoC are still a regular feature in Darjeeling.
Indian regiments, be it the Sikhs, Dogras, Assam, Bihar, Gorkhas, etc, before India’s Independence fought for the British Empire and cannot be said that they had fought for their nation. This honour can only be given after 15 August 1947. Undoubtedly the most distinguished Indian Gorkha soldier was Major Dhan Singh Thapa who was awarded India’s highest Gallantry Award the Paramvir Chakra in 1962 (Ladhak). Strangely not a single Gorkha officer has risen to the rank of Lieutenant General even after serving the nation with such dedication. The only reason being that they have no political clout. It may be mentioned here that during the Anglo-Gurkha War of 1814-16 a mere Gorkha Captain Bal Bhadra Kunwar with 600 men and women with antiquated weapons defeated a well equipped four thousand strong modern British Army led by Major General RR Gillespie in the battle of Kalanga (also called Nalapani now in the State of Uttaranchal). General Gillespie was shot dead while making a courageous charge on the fort led by him which led to a rout of British forces.
Way back in 1962 we heard with great grief and shock the news that Gautam Singh Subba of our village Nimki-Danra in the outskirts of Darjeeling town had been killed in OP Enemy Action during the Indo-China conflict. Gautam Singh Subba a young MBBS doctor whom I knew personally had just joined the Army Medical Corps when this unfortunate and tragic incident happened. My grandfather and I went down to meet his bereaved father who was a tall and distinguished gentleman. When my grandfather
offered his condolences Gautam’s father with misty eyes and a faraway look proudly said “I’m glad that he died for his motherland.’ It was relief that he felt that way but I’ll never forget the heartbreaking incident.
I knew Captain Suraj Sharma as a small kid; his father Ramkrishna Sharma WBPS (Retd) was a colleague of mine in the Police Department. Suraj a Captain in the Second Para Regiment a premier commando unit of the army was killed by terrorist bullets in an encounter on 8 July 2001 morning. The funeral ceremony was held at
Kurseong crematorium high up on the hills. After a charming and solemn military farewell Ram lit the funeral pyre of his son. I embraced him tightly when he whispered “ Dear som (pal) don’t worry, he did his job for his country.” As I had lost my equilibrium I careened and teetered down the steps of the crematory, I turned back to have a last look when I saw Ram standing serenely and calmly against the background of the leaping flames of his son’s funeral fire. It was a moving encounter too deep for tears.
We must learn to respect and honour with reverence these brave soldiers who never knew that the words they just spoke would be their last, the breath they took on the battle field would be their final or the family they loved and missed so much would never be seen again.
Very often unkind comments are passed against the Gorkha community without knowing who they are. The word Gorkha is derived from ‘Go-Rakha’ (protector of cows), they originally were the Rajputs of Rajasthan who fled to Nepal during the Muslim invasion of India allegedly in the 14th century after their women had performed the rite of Jauhar. The intermarriage between the Rajputs and a section of the Nepalese population produced the Gorkha race.
A brief resume of the Indian Gorkhas may help to create a better understanding of this marginalized community. Among the Indian Gorkhas there have been national level freedom fighters like Dal Bahadur Giri, Savitri Devi, Commander Purna Singh
Thakuri (INA), Capt Dal Bahadur Thapa (INA) who was hanged on 3 May 1945 at Delhi Central Jail, Major Durga Malla (INA) hanged at Delhi Central Jail on 25 August 1944. His equestrian statue has been installed at the premises of the Indian Parliament. The late Ari Bahadur Gurung (Bar-at-Law) was one of the signatories of the Indian Constitution drawn up by the Constituent Assembly, which came into effect in 26th January 1950.
Records show that the Gorkhas of the three-hill sub-division of Darjeeling have one of the highest literacy rates in India. There are eminent musicians like Louis Banks the Jazz king of Asia, late Bobby Banks mentor of the once famed Calcutta Symphony Orchestra, Master Mitrasen Thapa (Bhakshu-Dharamshala) an Indian classical music exponent and folk singer, Capt Ram Singh Thakuri INA composer of kadam kadam badayeja and subha sukha chain ke barsa barese fame are all Gorkhas. The Gorkhas, however, have a wrong notion that Capt. Ram Singh Thakuri tuned the National Anthem. Jana Gana Mana Adhi Nayaka Jaya... was tuned and composed by Rabindranath Tagore and it was first sung on 27 December 1911 at the
Calcutta session of the INC, whereas Capt. Ram Singh Thakuri was born in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, in August 1914.
Prashant Tamang comes from a background where almost every family in Darjeeling hills has either a singer or a musician with a very appreciative audience. Prashant sang well and owing to the American Idol-style of mass audience voting he won, the matter should have ended there with a good cheer.
International sportsmen like Shyam Thapa, Ram Bahadur, CS Gurung, Puran Bahadur and Sunil Chettri have made their mark, the great Everest hero Tenzing Norgay Sherpa was a Darjeeling boy and we are proud of him.Goray Douglas a painter of international repute was a Gorkha. The1977 Sahitya y Award winner Indra Bahadur Rai erudite scholar and writer has done much for the promotion of Indian literature.
People hope that the Gyanpith Award Selection Committee in the near future nominates him for this prestigious literary award, it is long overdue. Mahendra P Lama is the vice chancellor of the Central University of Sikkim. On the political level Pawan Chamling is the CM of Sikkhim and Subash Ghising is credited for the formation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. To top all such achievements the Gorkha Regiments are fighting and guarding the frontiers of India. What more can a country ask for from a small community like the Indian Gorkhas? Haven’t they spilt enough blood on the frontiers for the protection of the country? Isn’t it time to treat them with favour and respect?
Of late, ominous clouds have formed over the political horizons of Darjeeling with deep and frightening rumblings. The nation cannot afford to undergo another violent agitation in this region that will provide a soft landing for forces inimical to the country. The borders are long and porous ideal for the merchants of destabilisation. Sending Para-military forces and the Army to quell any movement in the hills will be a case of only treating the symptom and not the disease.
Till now the District Police administration and the District Civil Administration
have handled the situation admirably well but they have their limitations. When things happen, as seen in the past, it happens in a bewildering pace and nobody wants the problem to solved only after mass death and destruction. Whatever demands the Government deems fit should be fulfilled. The Indian Government must instill confidence among the loyal Gorkha population in this sensitive border area aimed at political stability and a robust economy. Ad-hoc measures will not serve the purpose what is needed is a long and lasting solution. It is not a police problem it has to
be solved politically.
Coming back to the War Memorial I remember an Indian patriotic song written by Kavi Pradeep and composed by C Ramchandra. It was beautifully rendered by Lata Mangeshwar around the end of the Sino-Indian war of 1962. This song was sung to
honour the gallant Indian jawans (infantry) who sacrificed their lives on the icy desolate peaks of the Himalayas during the conflict.
Aye mere watan ko logo
Tum khub lagalo nara
Ye shuv din hai hum sab ka
Lahara lo Tiranga pyara
Par mat bhulo seema par
Biro ne hai pran gawaye
Kuch yad unhon bhe kar lo
Jo laut ke ghar na aye
Aye mere watan ke logo
Zara ankhon me bhar lo pani
Jo shaheed huwe hain unke
Zara yad karo kurbani
O! the people of my motherland!
Raise all the slogans you desire
This is a great day for all of us
Hoist your beloved Tricolour
But don’t forget in the border
The brave did lose their lives
And remember each great soldier
Who did not return home forever
O! the people of my motherland!
Do shed a few tears for them
For those who martyred on ice
Remember their great sacrifice.
(The author is a WBPS (Retd.) senior Intelligence officer and recipient of the Indian Police Medal.)
Friday, January 25, 2008
There is report of the cold weather and the foggy at Darjeeling, Guwahati, Shillong and most of the part of North Eastern States.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
|Saturday, January 12, 2008 10:08 [IST]|
Gangtok: Sikkim, comprising 0.5 per cent of India's landmass, has 84 glaciers, the largest number as compared to any other state or union territory.
The present number of glaciers at 84,with the mapping exercise still underway to find about out more ice caps in the state has grown by about four times over the past six years as the figure of glaciers stood at 21 at that time, a senior scientist of the science and technology department, which has been carrying out mapping of the glaciers and other landscapes of the state, told PTI.
The glaciers have been mapped by using remote sensing application system and capturing data through satellite, he said. The rise in the number of glaciers belied the impact of the global warming phenomena in this region with the scientist pointing out that the impact of global warming has never been a factor in the climate of the border state with the state being landlocked and surrounded by the mountainous landscape on all sides.
While most of the glaciers are found in the north district, the Zemu glacier in West Sikkim, which lies in a u-shape, is the largest such ice cap with an ice mass spread over 26 km, he said.
The department has plans to map the lakes and forest cover of the state through remote sensing application system, besides sending a team to the interior parts of the state to collect information on the number of glaciers, lakes and forests, the scientist said.
The state government had set up a nine-member commission under the leadership of a scientist, T S Singh, last year to find out the impact of global warming phenomena on the topography of the mountains.
Source : PTI
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Gangtok, Jan. 9: Sikkim governor Sudarshan Agarwal today issued a stern warning to the authorities of Sir Thutob Namgyal Memorial Hospital (STNM) for their failure to properly maintain the facility.
“I am very unhappy. Don’t let things slip out of hand,” the governor told hospital superintendent R.L. Sharma just before he concluded a two-hour tour of the entire facility.
Agarwal was apparently peeved by the condition of the road connecting the state hospital to the national highway. “Are there no engineers with STNM?” he asked. When told that the hospital has an engineering cell, the governor wanted to know what it was doing about the road.
Agarwal also expressed his disappointment over the lack of cleanliness and hygiene in the hospital complex. In fact, from the expiry dates of medicines to the absence of western-style flush toilets for patients, little escaped his notice.
The governor started his tour from the main wing of the hospital located above the national highway (some sections of the hospital are below it). He was particularly concerned about the shortage of instruments in the blood blank and asked the superintendent to forward him the letter in which STNM had demanded some more instruments. “I will take it up with the health secretary,” he said.
Agarwal also made it a point to visit the X-ray and CT scan units, as well as the OPD. The absence of the sole radiologist at the hospital, who had taken a leave today, prompted the governor to say: “If things can run in his absence, why have a radiologist at all.”
The medicine outlet before the OPD received a careful inspection from the governor who also checked the expiry dates of several medicines.
While visiting the orthopaedic ward, Agarwal commented on the absence of western style flush toilets for patients.
The hospital superintendent later told that he had written to the health department for repairs. “We will look into the other suggestions,” he said.
GANGTOK, Jan. 9: A group of three goons kidnapped a businessman for Rs 45 lakh in Gangtok yesterday, but failed to carry out their scheme in the end. “I was returning home from Gangtok when I got a call. The people who called up are known to me. I was requested to attend an urgent meeting and so I went to meet them accordingly,” said Mr Sanjay Agarwal, the victim. According to him, the trio took him to a hotel at Tadong and locked him up in a room. “Tthey threatened me by demanding Rs 45 lakh immediately. The trio even brandished a revolver. I shouted for help, but no one came to rescue me,” Mr Agarwal said. The victim promised to raise Rs 10 lakh immediately as the banks had closed by then. “They took me to a bank for the money. Once we had reached the bank, I screamed for help. Locals rushed in to help me and as a result of this, the goons fled. Mr Agarwal then went to the police station and lodged an FIR. Police today arrested Chandan Singh Gurung, one of the accused. The rest are still absconding In another incident last night, hooligans tried to break the ATM of UCO bank in Gangtok. The bank manager, Mr S Lama, reviewed the damage to the machine this morning and informed the police. “We are yet to know if money is missing. Experts would arrive from Kolkata for inspection,” the manager said.
Sunday, January 06, 2008
If you are bored of watching the Kanchenjunga from crowded Darjeeling or Pelling, it’s time you headed for Rinchenpong. Far away from the bustle of noisy tourist spots, Rinchenpong was, till recently, a small village in the hills of West Sikkim, 6,000 ft above sea level.
None other than Rabindranath Tagore had spent a couple of days in this getaway in the 1920s. Rabindranath Smriti Van, the house where the poet stayed and enjoyed the scenic view of the Himalayas, is just 2 km from Rinchenpong bazaar. It is a major tourist draw and has been maintained well.
Rinchenpong, which is more popularly known as Silent Valley, is particularly attractive for those who like short hill treks. Jungles, orchids, a variety of birds and treasures of ancient Sikkim are the draws along the trail.
About 3 km from Rinchenpong bazaar is the Resum monastery. Located at the junction of three hills, this place of worship was built almost two centuries ago by a local lepcha and is still under private supervision. The place offers an excellent view of the mountains, especially of the sunrise from behind the Kanchenjunga.
A 30-minute walk through the jungle will take you to a popular tourist attraction of Rinchenpong — The Heritage House. The stone and wood construction, which came up in 1860, was used to host the British governor, a regular visitor. In the semi-darkness, the interiors reveal multi-cultural influences, including wall paintings and wood carvings of the traditional Tibetan school.
One of the oldest monasteries of Sikkim, the Gey-Sanga-Yangtze Gumpha, is also a walk away from the main bazaar. It houses a statue of Ati Buddha with a lady embracing him. This unique religious icon of the Nyingma sect of tantrik Buddhism symbolises the power of lust.
Rinchenpong is about 122 km from Siliguri. It takes about four hours to get there from Jorethang. There is a regular jeep service. The road has been extended 3 km to Kaluk, a small town that can also be reached through a memorable jungle trail. The vast openness of Kaluk and the panoramic view of the Himalayas can be a special treat.
Thursday is the local market day. People from neighbouring areas gather to buy and sell everything from bangles to baskets, turning the occasion to a festival. During the day, hundreds of Sikkimese crowd the shanty eateries and partake of hot momos and chhang, the local drink.
Both Rinchenpong and Kaluk has a number of luxury resorts as well as budget hotels.
New Jalpaiguri is the nearest railhead. Buses and jeeps are available from Siliguri to Jorethang. Rinchenpong is a two-hour journey from there. Walking is the only way of travelling within the town.
There are several budget as well as luxury hotels in Rinchenpong and Kaluk. Most of the hotels have restaurants. Momo and thukpa are available in the local eateries.
|Debasish Deb (Picture and illustration by author)|