Monday, May 25, 2015

Of unlimited wants and limited resources

“Everyone should now worry about how to maintain consistency in sustaining the reputation earned by Sikkim in the country and around the world,” said Chief Minister Pawan Chamling in his State Day address on 16 May here at Chintan Bhawan last Saturday. Obviously, Mr. Chamling, who has been heading the State for the last 21 years, is not satisfied with the level of coordination, commitment and cooperation from certain sections of society towards the development of Sikkim. He also urged the gathering comprising mostly of senior bureaucrats at the venue aptly named, Chintan Bhawan, to maintain common consciousness and coordination to help the state maintain progress that it has achieved so far.
Now a simple question arises for the little over six lakh population of Sikkim. Why is the most popular and successful Chief Minister elected by them asking for everyone's cooperation at this juncture? Most probably there is a huge gap of coordination between the policy makers and the implementing agencies. Several projects in Sikkim are incomplete and most are running behind schedule. Some projects which are already completed are lying idle and not being properly utilized.
The aim of the state government to make Sikkim self-dependent by way of revenue generated from the hydel power projects by the year 2015 is unlikely to be achieved since most of the projects are behind schedule. Several projects had to be scrapped and works on the remaining projects have also been stopped or are struggling due to fund crunch. Similarly, the State’s lone Airport project is also running behind schedule with more hurdles coming up at every step.
The main problem for the State Government has been the change of guard at the Centre. Most of the underway projects started during the UPA-II Government, and now, with the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre there have been many policy changes which are directly affecting the functioning of the state.
During the recent Budget Session, the NDA Government decided to cut down Central share towards several social welfare schemes like ICDS, MGNREGA, AIDS awareness and treatment. This means the state government has more financial burden on its head to continue these projects smoothly. The increase in the state share of the taxes does not amount to much for small states like Sikkim.
The worry is that living standards of the Sikkimese people have gone up substantially. Surviving on easy money has become a part of life among several youth. Farmers are either selling their lands or leaving it barren. Every year, more and more graduates are being created and the number of professionals is also increasing. The demand for jobs is also increasing while the supply of the same has stagnated. The outcome of various skill development trainings carried out by the Government is not very clear. Government expenditure is growing rapidly but revenue generation is slow and low. The only positive for the Government could be the State Organic Mission which is scheduled to meet its deadline in December this year.
So at this juncture, the Chief Minister’s appeal to all sections of the society is laudable. Sikkim must learn to survive on its own. People’s participations and genuine dedication from the bureaucrats and stakeholders is much needed to maintain the present pace of development. More benefits should be availed from the prevailing infrastructures like tourism, trade, horticulture, agriculture and even through animal husbandry. Children must be given such education so that they can fend for themselves anywhere. I would like end this piece with a quote from my early days Economics book, “Human wants are unlimited but the resources are limited.”

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