Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Looking Ahead

By PD Rai

January has been full of negative news starting with terrorist attack on our Air Base at Pathankot. For a nation hungry for good news Sikkim has provided one. Sikkim has been declared a fully Organic State by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. No mean achievement this. Congratulations all around.

Organic Mission accomplished. How many States can say this for any Public Policy carried out in mission mode? This milestone could not have been achieved but for the complete cooperation and coordination of all sections of our society. There are still the naysayers. There will always be the fringe elements. They also serve an important purpose and we are grateful to them.

We wake up to another day. Anything changed? Apparently not. But from now on it is about building on the success of the achievement. By no stretch of imagination is this a small task. It is also an onerous one too.

Chief Minister Chamling is a proud man. Having crafted a shared vision of a Fully Organic Sikkim he has managed to provide the political leadership to ensure its timely implementation. None other than Prime Minister Modi has made the announcement of Sikkim having achieved this huge task. His narrative in his inaugural speech said it all. The challenges faced along the way. The lack of support from many quarters. The loud opposition and noise of many of our farmers. Yet he and his supporters stayed the course.

Gradually he won over people from all walks of life to back the mission. The tipping point came when the world started discussing the positive impacts of Organic Farming for clean food security, for soil health and for overall health in general. It works well for combating Climate Change too.

Today we have to be grateful for the work put in by many. The Ridge Park Floriculture Show is a tremendous piece of art. Many visitors have commented that they have never seen such a floriculture spectacle. I am sure we can fill several coffee table books with the photographs of the flowers exhibited. No participant has spared any effort to make the Sikkim Organic Festival 2016 a grand success. The extent and quantum of orchids on display tells us how deeply energized and involved are many of our floriculturists. I must mention Mrs. Tikamaya Chamling and her family for the amount of effort put in not just presently but over the decades to imbibe a spirit of learning and scientific temper in growing orchids in particular. There are others like Mohan Pradhan, the quintessential Orchid man from Sikkim. Sanjog Raya, architect, has helped in the three dimensional conceptualization of the Ridge Park super show. And many like them.

The display in Saramsa Garden is another grand scale idea. Here the farmers from different parts of Sikkim display their produce, mainly vegetables. Fantastic array of Organic Farming output. There is an educative exhibition of what goes into the soil that is important. A full display of how soil health and nutrition for the plants. It would be of immense help if many schools arranged children to visit Saramsa Gardens. It is a  visual treat but also education.

There is also a glimpse of value added product exhibits which gives a peek of the potential of value addition. Many young entrepreneurs are needed to take full advantage of our big bang Organic State Status.

I encourage everyone to go and have a look. The displays will be made available for some time. One has to go and soak in the fruits of the labour of our farmers. However, more important will be the recognition of the intent and hard labour. If the display is any indication of overall effort, then we can be sure that if coordinated well we will be able to supply huge amounts of our produce to markets elsewhere even abroad.

The Department of Agriculture and Horticulture have worked tirelessly in trying to present a commendable grand finale to the mission. They have done it and we have to commend them for their hard work and dedication.

Now the question is what next?

We need to take a deeper dive into many of the issues presented to us by the Mountain Specificities. Small and scattered land holdings, irrigation issues and market access were some of the issues flagged by Dr. Ramesh Chand, Member NITI Aayog unsurprisingly. Mountains present other sets of issues which inflate the cost of production. How do we overcome this without subsidy is a very important question?

We cannot lose the momentum and so we have to go back to the drawing board to find high quality innovative solutions to many of these and other questions that will inevitably arise.

We have crafted many great things together. Peace and harmony in a critical border area of India is just one of them. I am sure this has played a vital role in our march to attain Organic State status. That is the how we as a society can move forward together. That is also a great sign of progress and a progressive society.

Immortalized in the words of poet Robert Frost, “And Miles to go before I sleep; And Miles to go before I sleep”. These aptly apply to Chief Minister Pawan Chamling.

Well done.

(The author is the sitting MP Lok Sabha, Sikkim and the opinion shared is personal)