Writings of Sikkim since 2007

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Message of Chief Minister on the occasion of Republic Day 2008

Respected fellow citizens,
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.
Emotional Integration:
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.
Environmental Concern
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.

JAI HIND
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SHITAL PRADHAN
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When i started my blog on Sikkim way back in 2007, i had it clear on my mind that this blog shall help people look out for knowledge on Sikkim. I always wanted a knowledge house about Sikkim, its past, present and future. I do not know over the years how much did i succeed but my determination to let other understand my Sikkim is always giving me a push. with regards Shital Pradhan (himalayanreview@gmail.com)

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