Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Republic Day Message of Governor of Sikkim


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.