Tuesday, September 23, 2008

SNT: Life line of Sikkim


Part 1

SNT as Sikkim Nationalised Transport is popularly known has been a backbone of a rich old heritage in Sikkim transportation history. Set up in 1944 and more than 50 years later it is still going stronger, marching ahead with pride. It is believed anything to begin takes immense hardship and patience, in this article we would be carrying out the story of the first twenty-five years of Sikkim Nationalised Transport, a pride of Sikkim.

The year was 1944; when the rest of the world was engaged in the disastrous Second World War, a department called Truck Department run by Government of Sikkim was the forefront of transportation in the hills of Sikkim. Sikkim then had….snowfall in the Northern Ranges in winter…rainfall exceeding 100 inches a year during monsoons… frequent landslides…subsidence… weak bridges…absence of airport. For a hilly region like that of Sikkim where major development in the field of transportation was merely a dream; Truck Department was a boon to the people living in this part of the world.

The first year of the setting up of the Nationalisation of Road Transport saw ten 15-cwt Ford trucks and ten 15-cwt Chevrolet trucks brought in an investment of Rs 140,000, avail from the loan provided by the Rationing Department of the Sikkim Government. The total tonnage lifted by those trucks amounted to 600 tones earning for the Department gross revenue of Rs 49,900. With limited routes around the trucking operation was done through Gangtok-Tista-Kalimpong and Gangtok-Tista-Geilkhola until 1960 where the floods of 1960 destroyed the railhead at Geilkhola never to be restored.

Following decade of 50s brought Sikkim to close links with the neighbour country India. An arrangement were made in 1951-52 with the North East Frontier Railway in India and Indian Postal and Telegraph Department resulting in the opening of the Railway Out Agencies at Rangpo and Gangtok along with the starting of the carriage of postal mail between Gangtok and Kalimpong. Freight services were extended to Siliguri and Truck Department’s Pradhannagar Depot was also opened the same year. A major announcement came in 1951-52 with the naming of the Truck Department with that of “Sikkim State Transport Service”. In its first eight year the Sikkim State Transport Service had a gross earning of Rs 18, 71,124.

Rangpo saw the first consumer pump for petrol erected between 1952 to 1954. By 1954 the gross earning of the Department has already crosses Rs 32, 82,786. The following year saw a new usher in the development of Road Transport in the State with the introduction of the First Plan in Sikkim too that was for seven years. Prior to 1954 planning of the Transport in the state was refereed as pre-plan. The First Plan (1954-1961) had a capital outplay of Rs 8, 50,000 provided as aid by the Government from Departmental funds received from Government of India. The year also witnessed the first Tata Mercedes Benz Truck; Model L 312/36 being use on the road from Gangtok to Rangpo, Gangtok- Darjeeling daily Passenger service in land rovers was also introduced. An agreement for the counter signature of route permits by the West Bengal Authorities and of Sikkim State Transport vehicle was negotiated. This move made the vehicle from Sikkim operate on the route of North Bengal that played an important role in the economic development of the state. THE State Transport Service’s Offices set up at Rangpo the same year saw a net profit of over Rs 2, 98,348. The second year (1955-1956) of the plan had the renaming of the Transport Service to the present name “Sikkim Nationalised Transport”.