Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A creature of habit

SAGAR TAMANG is arguably the only taxi driver around who has stayed with the same vehicle [a 1994 model Maruti Omni] and the same employer for 17 years now! Even friendships rarely last so long and alliances are known to crumble even sooner. Sagar’s story then becomes an interesting one to share. Excerpts of a conversation with Subash Rai…

Are you young, educated and skilled but still wondering why you are not employed? The story of 38-year-old Sagar Tamang from Shyari in East Sikkim should offer you some points to ponder. Mr. Tamang, a taxi driver by profession, drives a 1994 model Maruti Omni van, the wheels of which have been under his charge since 1997, when, as a strapping 21-year-old, he was employed to drive this taxi. Since then, it has been the same vehicle and the same employer for Mr. Tamang; an exceptionally rare feat for the profession he is in… and he’s loving it! What is more, he is still plying the same route - from Lall Bazaar Stand to 6th Mile Tadong along the National Highway. Subash Rai catches up with him...
NOW: Your vehicle is 21 years old now, the same age as when you first started driving it. What did you do before taking over the keys of this vehicle?
You know, our time was filled with problems. I couldn’t study much, so trained as a driver. I even got employed as a driver on Muster Roll in the Forest Department but could not come to terms with the bureaucratic ways of functioning. Guess my luck also did not favour me so I quit after a year. I still remember the vehicle assigned to me at the Department – it was a Petrol Jeep [and he goes on to spell out its registration number as well].

Monday, February 23, 2015

Free bijli for the bastis

Notified - 100% subsidy for 100 units of electricity for rural homes 

Homes in rural Sikkim will now enjoy up to 100 units of free electricity. Thus far, only BPL families in rural Sikkim were entitled to subsidized electricity supply of up to 50 units for a two-point connection. 100 units of free electricity for homes in rural Sikkim was an election promise of the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front and the notification to this effect was published on 26 November 2014.
The 100% subsidy for all domestic consumers in rural Sikkim for consumption up to 100 units comes with the caveats that the homes have energy meters installed to ensure accurate metering and in the event that consumption crosses 100 units in any month, the entire consumption shall be charged as per the existing tariff of Rs. 3.45 per unit.

Prepped for school

Books and uniform supplies delivered to district offices, transfer confusion to resolve in another fortnight at most

A new academic session has begun, and even though things will still take some time to settle down, what with the teacher transfer confrontation and still awaited filling of substantial vacancies in teaching posts, at least the supply of the basics of text books and other educational aids like exercise copies and uniforms will not be delayed. The Human Resource Development Department, it is informed, has reached the supply of text books and exercise copies to its district offices. Heads of the respective schools in turn have been urged to pick up their required number of text books and copies from the respective stores, Jitendra Singh Raje, Director Higher Education, who is also in-charge of text-books section told Sikkim NOW! Completion of distribution onwards to the students should take, at the most, another ten days, the Director adds.

Cabinet subcommittee formed to take final call on govt involvement in Teesta Urja for Stage III

The State Government has constituted a Cabinet Sub-Committee to examine all issues related to the Sikkim Government taking a major equity stake in Teesta Urja Hydro Power which is developing the 1,200 MW Teesta Stage III hydel project in North Sikkim.  The Cabinet Sub-Committee is headed by Power Minister DD Bhutia, and includes GM Gurung, Minister for Roads & Bridges; RB Subba, Minister for Human Resource Development; and PB Subba, Principal Chief Engineer-cum-Secretary, Energy & Power Department as Member Secretary. The subcommittee, as mentioned, will examine issues in connection with raising the equity stake of the Government of Sikkim through the Sikkim Power Investment Corporation Limited (SPICL) to 51% in Teesta Urja Limited (TUL) in relation to Teesta Stage III.

Sports Academy tryouts begin Wednesday

The State Sports Academy at Gangtok has emerged as a centre of excellence in as far as producing footballers with the skills and grooming to play among the best in the country. Graduates of this academy are presently playing in popular Indian Super League, I-League and other reputed football clubs of the country, with still others wearing Army and Sikkim Police colours. Nirmal Chettri, Sanju Pradhan, Robin Gurung are a few among the more successful footballers who trained at the State Sports Academy.
Every year, players from the Academy are picked up by different clubs, Army and Sikkim Police and in this process, their seats fall vacant. To fill these seats, the Department of Sports & Youth Affairs, which manages the programme, conducts selection trails every year. The Academy has a prescribed strength of 30 players.

On-your-marks for municipal elections

Scheduled for April 2015, the urban local body polls continue a rather extended run of election-related politics for Sikkim

Sikkim is having a rather extended run of election-related politics. The Assembly Elections of last year included a bye-election [for Rangang-Yangang], and now the State gears up for urban local body elections due in April if things proceed according to plan. The last urban local body elections, held in April 2010, had served up a walkover for the ruling party when Opposition parties boycott the elections and SDF cornered 44 of the 47 total wards in urban local bodies of Sikkim uncontested. This time, it is unlikely that such an easy walkover will happen because at least three political parties have decided to participate in the elections. The ruling SDF and Opposition SKM have already made formal announcements to contest, and the BJP too has confirmed that it will be in the fray. Meanwhile, although the official dates for the elections are not announced yet, the parties have taken their mark and begun their outreach programmes.

Govt requests ED to release endowment fund from EIILM’s frozen bank accounts

Plan is to conduct stalled examinations and then arrange for transfer of students to other institutes

The Higher Education Directorate of the Human Resource Development Department has requested the Enforcement Directorate to release “endowment fund” from the Eastern Institute for Integrated Learning in Management [EIILM] bank accounts to allow for the proper conduction of stalled examinations and easing other complications afflicting the students at the university’s Malbasey, West Sikkim, campus.
The ED, it may be recalled, has frozen all bank accounts of EIILM university, and attached all its properties [except the campus in Sikkim] pending investigations of money laundering. Following this, EIILM had suspended classes at the campus last year and students there have been on dharna demanding resolution for two months now. The University management has even demanded that the State Government take over the university, an option that the government is not keen on. Authorities at the HRDD are however at work to ensure that the future of the around 200 students enrolled at EIILM-Sikkim is not jeopardized.

Strength-lifter Pema Dorjee powers his way into Team India

Pema Dorjee Bhutia has earned a place in the Indian Strength Lifting team. His consistently outstanding performance at national championships earned him a call for the national team. This is a remarkable feat given that it has been barely two years that Strength Lifting was introduced in the state. Expectedly then, he is the first Sikkimese to be the part of Indian Strength Lifting team.   
Pema Dorjee Bhutia has left to represent the country in the 3rd edition of the Senior, Masters [Men & Women] International Strength Lifting Inclined Bench Press Championship 2015 to be held from 21 to 24 February at Manama in Bahrain.
The 46-year-old Sikkimese lifter is representing India in the Masters’ category [85 kg].

Children First

The start of an academic year should have triggered discussions about the hopes, expectations and requirements of Sikkim’s young. Has that happened?

A new academic year has begun. This should be a time when the collective energies of the society, the government and, okay, also the political parties, should be focused on children. Unfortunately, all these agencies seem more invested in the affairs of the grown-ups, what with the teacher transfers commanding more attention than the excitement of starting students on a new year of academics.
Around 1,000 of the government teacher strength of about 11,000 were transferred during the winter break and of these, 202 teachers were offended enough by their relocation to approach the courts with their grievances. Their complaints might have grounds and no one will be surprised if the department bungled in drawing up the list.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Yishey D. becomes first to bag ‘Special Talent Award’ in photography, and does it for two consecutive years!

Yishey with the award and the award winning photograph [top left corner]
Journalist-writer Yishey D. has bagged the ‘Special Talent Award for the Best Tribal Photographer’ in both the fifth and sixth National Level Photographic Competition organised jointly by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and the Photo Division, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India.
Each award, comprising a cash prize of Rs. 20,000, a trophy, and a certificate was handed over by Dr. Hrusikesh Panda, Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, at the closing ceremony of the first National Tribal Festival at Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in New Delhi on February 18, 2015.

Losar greetings from Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje

A painting by the Karmapa. Losar Greetings from Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje forwarded by the Karmapa's Office of Administration, New Delhi

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Many Schools, Scarce Safety

“He who opens a school door, closes a prison”
It appears that the above quote of Victor Hugo has made a strong impression on Sikkim. Besides government schools, almost all Gram Panchayat Units all over Sikkim now have at least one private school, if not more. And more schools come up every academic session. While the total number of private schools cannot be accessed at this point since a large number of these schools are probably not even registered with the Government, surviving because they are fulfilling the interests and aspirations of families from lower income groups who cannot afford the more reputed schools but are unwilling to trust their wards to government schools.

CM chairs Biodiversity Board meeting; Slew of proposals passed

Gangtok, 18 Feb [IPR]: Chief Minister Pawan Chamling, who is also the Chairperson of the Sikkim Biodiversity Board and State Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (State CAMPA), chaired the 3rd Board Meeting of the Sikkim Biodiversity Board organized by Forest Environment & Wildlife Management Department Government of Sikkim at the conference hall of Chintan Bhawan here in the capital this afternoon.
After a review of the minutes of the last board meeting and taking account of various projects and activities including accounts statement, Mr. Chamling approved and passed various proposals which are as follows:

Monkeying around at Hurhurey Dara

Text and Photographs by SONAM PALZOR BHUTIA

Been to Hurhurey Dara of late? Apart from the general dereliction of the footpath, scrumptiousness of the treats served up by hawkers and the disturbing volume of litter there, the location is also home to a troop of monkeys. And while there presence is still “cute” and pleasant in a capital town which does not otherwise see any wildlife around, it is also a development which should be addressed.

Black Cat Division to the aid of families of veteran and serving soldiers

Gangtok, 18 Feb: The Black Cat Division of the army stationed in Gangtok reaffirmed its organisational commitment to the welfare of dependents of serving soldiers and veterans in Sikkim today by providing wheelchairs, crutches and hearing aids to them.

Losar greetings from Governor

Gangtok, 18 Feb: Governor of Sikkim, Shriniwas Patil, and the First Lady Smt. Rajanidevi Patil have extended warm greetings and good wishes to the people of Sikkim on the occasion of Losar.
In his message, the Governor conveys, “The celebration of Losar, the Tibetan New Year, symbolises the hope and aspiration for a new beginning. We offer prayers to the deities and seek prosperity, health and well being for all as blessings for the New Year. May the advent of this New Year bring peace, prosperity and harmony among all Sikkimese.”

CM greets Sikkim on Losar

Gangtok, 18 Feb [IPR]: Chief Minister Pawan Chamling and Smt Tika Maya Chamling have extended warm greetings and best wishes to the people of Sikkim on the occasion of Losar, the Tibetan New Year. In his message, the Chief Minister has wished that the New Year brings with it peace, happiness and prosperity for the people of Sikkim and foster unity and brotherhood amongst all.

Notice from State Election Commission on electoral rolls for municipal elections

In view of ensuing election to Municipalities, 2015 in the state of Sikkim, programme for preparation of electoral rolls are as under:
1.      Preparation of Draft Rolls after integration
 of all supplementary  up to 2015                              :           12.02.2015

2.      Segregation of Ward Wise Electoral Rolls
 from Mother Electoral Rolls through NIC              :           13.02.2015 to 20.02.2015
3.      Data Entry/preparation of Manuscript (NIC)          :           21.02.2015 to 02.03.2015
4.      Draft Publication                                                         :           05.03.2015
5.      Filing of claims & Objections                                    :           06.03.2015 to 15.03.2015
6.      Disposal of claims & objections                               :           16.03.2015 to 20.03.2015
7.       Final publication:                                                        :           27.03.2015

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

ICFAI-Sikkim students picked up by Oberoi Group

GANGTOK: Five students of the ICFAI University Sikkim were picked up by the Oberoi Group during interviews conducted for management trainees at Siliguri on 14 Feb. Six students from ICFAI University had appeared for the interview, the university informs. Three of the selected students are from the Darjeeling Hills and one each from Sikkim and Bhutan. Vice Chancellor SG Tashi spoke to the students and extended his congratulations to the successful candidates. A press communiqué from Bimal Thapa, a lecturer at IUS, further conveys that the VC expressed happiness that not only is the University contributing to enhancement of employment potential of alumni in highly remunerative jobs, but also in leading companies in the country.

Justice Bhattacharya appointed Law Commissioner

GANGTOK, 17 Feb: The State Government has appointed former Chief Justice of the High Court of Gujarat, Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya, as the Law Commissioner of Sikkim. The appointment was notified on Monday. The post, it may be recalled, had fallen vacant when Justice RK Patra, the incumbent Law Commissioner, passed away on 28 January last month.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Taking Rural Sikkim >>Forward

NABARD projects Rs. 486.86 crore credit potential for rural Sikkim, now for the banks to deliver

Bankers in Sikkim now have at their disposal a detailed checklist on Sikkim’s credit potential in agriculture and allied sectors for 2015-16. With the new financial year yet to begin, more pressure should be exerted on banks here to align their credit policies in sync with what the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development [NABARD] has projected for Sikkim in its State Focus Paper 2015-16 which was released on 05 February.
As per this document, the total priority sector credit potential for Sikkim stands at Rs. 486.86 crores, of which, the share of agriculture has been calculated at Rs. 176.37 crore. These are handsome figures, and the State Focus Paper provides a detailed breakdown on where and how the loans can be extended.

High Court stays MCI challenge to State’s recommendations on filling NE quota at SMIMS

19 affected students get relief, can continue medical studies in Sikkim

The single bench of the Sikkim High Court has granted relief to the 19 first year students studying medicine at the Sikkim Manipal Institute of Medical Sciences here who, following a directive from the Medical Council of India, would have otherwise been “discharged” from the institute and would have had to discontinue their studies here.
The Medical Council of India had directed SMIMS to discharge these students latest by 17 February on the grounds that they had not been admitted on the recommendation of a Directorate of Medical Education and Research.

Jai Kisan, Anyone?

Agriculture still provides for a majority of Sikkim. It is time that its requirements were prioritised

When seventy per cent of the population, that majority living in rural Sikkim which registers agriculture as its profession, is extended less than 2% of the loans advanced by banks in Sikkim, one knows that an inexcusable denial is afoot. As per stipulations governing banking practices in the country, loans to the agriculture sector should constitute at least 18% of the total advances released by banks. In Sikkim, this figure stands at a dismal 01.51%. It would have been all well if the under-performance by banks was because farmers in Sikkim were so well off that they did not need loans to improve the productivity of their farms. But that is obviously not the case because the number of hands taking up the plough as also the total acreage under cultivation has been steadily declining in the State. This, however, is not a condition unique to Sikkim.