Friday, May 25, 2012

Petrol to cost Rs 73.20 per litre in Sikkim

GANGTOK, 24 May: With the announcement of a nation-wide hike in petrol prices by the central government on 23 May, petrol prices in the state have gone up by Rs 7.30 for normal petrol and Rs 7.40 for high speed petrol.
The Food and Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department under the provision of ‘Price Display and Control of Supplies and Distribution, order 1977 revised petrol prices in the state from 24 May, 12:30 onwards. The new prices fixed are Rs. 73.20 per liter in case of normal petrol and Rs. 76.50 per liter for Xtra Premium. Prior to the revised rates, petrol prices in the state were Rs. 65.90 per liter for normal petrol and Rs. 69.10 per liter for Xtra Premium.
The notification issued by the concerned department regarding the revised rates of petrol is to be applicable throughout the state of Sikkim and any person or dealer found contravening the order issued is informed to be prosecuted under the provisions of Essential Commodities Act, 1955 and Black marketing of supplies of essential commodities Act, 1980 as well.
Speaking to NOW!, In-charge SNOD petrol pump Deorali, Shanker Sahani, informs that as news of the hike in petrol prices spread, owners and drivers in the capital lined up at the pump to refill their vehicles till late last night. The total petrol sold from SNOD on 23 May went up to 9,000 to 10,000 liters, far higher than normal, he informed.
He mentioned that normally the pump sells about 3,000 to 3,500 liters of petrol per day. Post the hike, taxis and private vehicles are now refilling in smaller amounts, he added.
The hike, the third in one year, came a day after the end of the Budget session of Parliament and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking of the need to take “difficult decisions” on the third anniversary of UPA-II. This is the first upward revision in petrol price since November 4, 2011. The highest increase so far has been by Rs 5 per litre.
This marks an increase of around 10% and puts a squeeze of roughly Rs 6,000 a year on a family that spends an average of Rs 5,000 per month on petrol.
The Centre had freed petrol price in June 2010 when crude came down to around $40 a barrel from a historic high of $147 per barrel in July 2008. But in practice, oil companies do not move without a signal from the parent oil ministry which officially continues to deny any control. Media reports have quoted sources insisting that the increase was stage-managed. Oil companies usually review prices on the 15th and last day of each month. But Wednesday’s increase was announced mid-week to take advantage of oil minister S Jaipal Reddy’s absence after the Parliament session. Reddy reportedly gave his go-ahead for raising petrol price before leaving for Turkmenistan. His absence gave an opportunity for the government to distance itself from the raise and reinforce the impression that it did not control its price as it was a deregulated fuel.

STCS to launch renewal process of LPG consumer documents in West Sikkim

GANGTOK, 24 May: The State Trading Corporation of Sikkim [STCS] is all geared up to improve and organise the distribution of LPG cylinders for the West District inclusive of Jorethang area within the second week of June. It is informed that there are about a total of 23,000 beneficiaries or customers of STCS in the West District including Jorethang but lack of proper documentation or illegal consumption has given rise to a crisis in the supply of LPG cylinders.
Speaking to NOW! today, Managing Director [MD] STCS, Gyamtso Pulger stated that unauthorized consumption, improper documentation of  existing consumers had resulted in the present crisis in West Sikkim. The STCS inclusive of the local administrators carried out a survey and according to the survey it was found that consumers lacked proper documents.
The survey carried out also highlighted the problem of incomplete documents following which STCS is all set to start the renewal process of documents to know the number of actual consumers and the supply required.
Mr Pulger mentioned that as per the policy framed by Indian Oil Corporation Limited [IOCL] no consumer is entitled to a LPG refill in the absence of proper documents and blue book. He went on to say that no black marketing as such were traced in the West District and appealed to all consumers to cooperate with STCS in carrying out the exercise being planned to organise and improve the supply of LPG cylinders.
Mr Pulger iterated that consumers who have lost their blue book or subscription receipt issued earlier with the connection need to file an FIR at the nearest police station and fill up a form available with the distributor for availing fresh, proper and up-to-date documents to continue receiving unhindered supply of LPG refilled cylinders.
On the current status of refilled LPG cylinder supply to the West District, Mr Pulger informed that, two trucks loaded with a total of 524 refilled cylinders from IOC plant is being unloaded at Jorethang godown on a daily basis and there exists no crisis like situation at all. However, he added that the supply of cylinders also depends on the availability of refilled cylinders in the bottling plant.
Adding more, he explained that the demand for new LPG connection in the West District and Jorethang persists but the issuance of the same totally rests with the IOC. So until and unless the new connections are issued by the IOC, distributors operating across the state cannot supply the same.

Couple killed by landslide collapsing on moving vehicle in Lingtam

GANGTOK, 24 May: In a freak accident that took place in Lingtam falling under the Rongli Police Station jurisdiction, a couple is reported to have died on the spot late last evening.
Speaking to NOW! over the phone today, PI, Rongli Police Station, Arun Thatal, confirmed that Lal Bahadur Pradhan [37] and his wife Anita Pradhan [35], both residents of Lingtam in East Sikkim, were killed on the spot when a minor landslide of boulders hit the vehicle [a Mahindra Max SK/01/J/0866] they were travelling in. They were returning home from Siliguri when the accident took place at around 11 p.m. on Wednesday night.
The couple had purchased the vehicle only a few days ago. Last morning they drove down from Lingtam, parked their vehicle at Rongli and then boarded a service taxi to Siliguri, the PI informed, adding that the two returned from Siliguri in the evening and reached Rongli at around 10.30 p.m. and then around 11 p.m. they left on their own vehicle for Lingtam.
He further informed that the vehicle was hit by the landslide of boulders at a place called Deorali Sisney which falls between Rongli and Lingtam. The vehicle was totally damaged and both of them died on the spot, he added. The vehicle had overturned on the road because of the impact and the boulders had rolled down into the river.
As the Rorathang-Rongli road is blocked at many places because of the recent heavy rainfall, vehicles have to come via Rhenock including those going to Lingtam and that was when one of the drivers passing by noticed the accident and informed the police. “We received information of the accident at around midnight and immediately left with a rescue team”, informed the PI.
Search operations were conducted in the nearby areas and also along the river in order to confirm that there were no other casualties while relatives of the couple were also questioned, he informed.
The bodies were sent for post mortem to Singtam District Hospital this morning and later handed over to the family members. An Unnatural Death [UD] case has been registered at the Rongli Police Station and the case is under investigation, he further stated.

JHS Heads thank HRDD for teacher transfers

GANGTOK, 24 May: The Sikkim Junior High School Headmasters Association, especially its members from South and West districts, have welcomed the HRD Department’s decision to transfer excess teachers from East Sikkim to understaffed schools in the remaining three districts. 146 surplus primary regular teachers from schools around East Sikkim have been transferred to West, South and North Sikkim, it may be recalled.
“We, the Heads of Junior High Schools of South and West Sikkim, appreciate the HRD Department and Ministry for their decision to transfer excess teachers to our districts. This decision will truly help to impart the so called ‘quality education’ to our poor children,” the release states.
The release goes on to thank the Government “for being kind enough to consider the need of our children”.
“Now, we believe that we can really achieve the educational goals as our Government itself is so serious about the education of our children,” the release concludes.

State Planning Commission members visit quake-damaged power projects in North Sikkim

MANGAN, 24 May: Members of State Planning Commission and Power Department officials visited the different power projects under the state government in North Sikkim on 23 and 24 May in order to take stock of damages and their status.
The State Planning Commission team included Kalawati Subba, JK Bhandari, Ringzing Ongmu, Lhakila Tongden Lepcha, Sonam Tshering Bhutia, Tashi Wangdi Bhutia and Madhan Chettri whereas the official from Energy & Power Department was headed by AK Giri, Secretary Power, NR Bhattarai, Chief Engineer (Electrical), UK Pradhan, Chief Engineer Mechanical, Addl. Chief engineer, AB Rai and other officials.
The team visited the 5 MW Meyong Chu Project where the penstock of the project has been damaged by the earthquake and power generation is suspended at present. The chief engineer, Power, NR Bhattarai while explaining the details of the project to the entourage informed that the said project was commissioned during the year 1993. The said project has already collected revenue of Rs. 24 crore till 2011 where an amount of Rs. 19.17 crore has been invested for developing the project.
The power department official informed that a total of Rs. 2.10 crore has been estimated for restoration of the damages. The people of Toong-Naga GPU also submitted a demand petition to the planning commission for the regularisation of the muster-roll staff who have been employed in the said project for the last 23 years. Kalawati Subba requested the officials to start restoration work as soon as possible since it is affecting the state’s revenue collection.
The team also visited the 3MW Rabom Chu project near Lachen which is also shut down due to major damages sustained in the earthquake. This project has sustained multiple damages where around 150 feet of the entire water supply line for the project has been damaged. Restoration of this project is estimated to cost around Rs 4 crore.
The team also visited the 3MW Lachung Chu project which is supplying electricity to the Lachung area.
Later, when asked about the course of action of the visits, Member State Planning Commission, JK Bhandari, informed that the team will prepare a detailed report and submit it to the Chief Minister who is also the chairman of the State Planning Commission. He further informed that there are 13 projects running under the state government.
Secretary Power, AK Giri while speaking to NOW!, informed that restoration of the Meyong Chu project will take at least 6 months and Rabom Chu will take one year and that the department will begin restoration works as soon as possible. He further informed that the state requires 40 to 50 MW during summers and around 75MW during winters.

500 Big Foots to walk in Darjeeling on Friday

GANGTOK, 24 May: 500 students and supporters will walk from Raj Bhavan to Chowrastha in Darjeeling wearing ‘Big Foot (representing the feet of Yeti, a legend from the Himalayan folklore) Shoes’ as part of the Big Foot campaign on 25 May. The walk will begin from 10 in the morning from Raj Bhavan and will culminate at Chowrastha.
A press release informs that the campaign which is organised to symbolise solidarity on the need to keep the indigenous oral story and folklore alive will also make its way to the Limca Book of records 2013 for the maximum number of people wearing the same kind of shoes at the same time and the same place.
The walk is part of the Big Foot Campaign organised by Acoustic Traditional, an independent Bangalore-based, non-profit organisation, led by young indigenous people, working towards the promotion and conservation of oral storytelling and tribal oral history, especially of mountain and forest communities.
The Yeti is relevant to the local culture in many different ways. Almost all oral history suggests (Mundums of the Kiranti/ evident in Bongthism of the Lepchas) that man actually received wisdom from the animals.  Many Lepcha folktales suggest that Yetis were friendly beings, although wild in their nature. In fact, there is also a shared perception among the shamans that Yeti and Ban Jhankris are one and the same; that they are not real beings in flesh, but rather guides to the spirit world – the ultimate and the original shamans from whom shamanism begins.
The “Big Foot Walk” will celebrate the importance of legends in sustaining a community’s cultural, historical, spiritual and scientific legacies, the release adds.

Ram Patro Memorial Awards conferred

GANGTOK, 24 May: Chewan Krishna Dahal was conferred the ‘Most Promising Journalist in Sikkim for the year 2011-12’ award, while the ‘Best Working Journalist in Sikkim Express & Himali Bela for the year 2011-12’ award was given to Namo Dixit by the Ram Patro Memorial Award Committee. Likewise, Devicharan Chettri was presented a ‘Letter of Appreciation’ for his hard work and dedicated service. Chewan is currently working as a sub-editor with Himalayan Mirror and is also the Sikkim state correspondent for North East Television, while Namo is the South district correspondent for Sikkim Express.
The awards were conferred by the chief guest, Lok Sabha MP, PD Rai, and guest of honour, IPR Secretary, KS Topgay, in the awards ceremony held today. Also present was the award committee chairman, senior journalist CD Rai and publisher of Sikkim Express and Himali Bela, Mala Rana Patro.  
Speaking on responsible journalism, the Lok Sabha MP said in his address that it was important to write in full context and to give full report without adding any color allowing the reader and consumer to judge the report. Mr Rai stressed that sensationalism in news reporting is not healthy even if it sells more.
Speaking in the context of Sikkim, Mr Rai expressed that the state still needs subject specific journalists and added that the state government has also taken positive steps to foster journalism in the state. Congratulating the awardees, Mr Rai encouraged them to continue their good work.
The IPR Secretary congratulated Ram Patro Memorial Award Committee for their initiative to encourage young and budding journalists in the state. Mentioning that the State government has been trying to develop journalism in the state, the Secretary suggested that all members of the press fraternity should come forward with their suggestions and ideas which if viable could garner support from the government.
Chairman of the awards committee and veteran journalist, CD Rai, and cartoonist and English Department HOD, Sikkim Government College, Pankaj Thapa, also shared their experience of working with the late Ram Patro.
Sikkim Express Editor, Amit Patro informed that the award was constituted in 2005 to honour and encourage young journalists for their contribution and excellence in the field of journalism. He shared that the main idea of the award was to establish healthy journalism in the state.
He announced the formation of the Alumni Association of previous recipients of the Ram Patro Memorial Award and added that Rs 50,000 is being provided to the Association for use in the development of journalism in Sikkim. Later, the MP also announced to make a contribution of Rs 50,000 to this newly formed Association.
In their address, the awardees expressed that the award has encouraged them to work harder and contribute towards the society.

Saemae Longchok at Samar in Khamdong

GANGTOK, 24 May: Saemae Longchok [meaning ‘Worshipping of Stone Pillar’] at Samar village was conducted in a grand manner at Samar Thasa at Samar in Khamdong on 22 May. The ceremony was organized by the Saemae Longchok Celebration Committee under the initiative of Cultural Secretary of Sikkim Lepcha Youth Association [SLYA], Karma Tshering Lepcha.
The ceremony was chaired by the Curator of Cultural Affairs and Heritage Department, PD Lepcha and was witnessed by the SLYA executive members, NGOs members and local people.
An SLYA press release informs that the ceremony, which lasted for six hours, constituted of religious rites and rituals performed by Bongthings of the neighbouring villages. The release informs that the ceremony started with the offering prayers to deities with offerings of milk, eggs, corn, sugarcane, millet beer, fruits, flowers, butter lamp etc to please the deities for the peace and prosperity of the human kind.
A brief background history of Saemae Longchok [Stone Pillar of Samar Village]
There are numerous folktales in the Lepcha language of Mayal Molok Llyang i.e. now Sikkim but unfortunately we remember very few. If the same trend continues then one day we will remember none.
Here is a brief background history of Samar Longchok or Saemae Longchok meaning worship of stone pillar of Saemae lyang now changed to Samar Lyang. Since the time Lepchas began to inhabit this small village, they found a very pure water spring budding out from beneath a rock and a Cedrela toona roxb tree [Tooni in Nepali] or Samal Kung in Lepcha nearby the village which can even be seen today. Our ancestors were living happily and peacefully in this village by tilling land for cultivation in their own traditional way while some hunted for food. The population gradually increased and diseases began to spread in this village. The Bongthings [Lepcha Priests] and Muns [Female Priests] found out that the cause behind this was the ill treatment of the spring which was being polluted by the inhabitants as a Sornyumu [Devi] resided in this spring.
The people then gathered together and erected stone pillars nearby that spring water source and prayed to various gods and deities of land, water, fire, wind, light, forest etc with offerings of milk, eggs, rice, corn, sugarcane, cooked millet beer, flowers, fruits, butter lamps etc for protection from diseases, natural calamities and peace and prosperity forever. As soon as the prayer and offering ceremony ended, a light shower and rainbow at the source of the very spring water followed which was witnessed by each and every one who had assembled there.
Thereafter, the Lepchas of this village flourished in every aspect of life and happiness and peace returned. Since then, the people of Saemae Lyang [Samar Lyang] strongly believe the traditional practice of worshipping the stone pillars and continue to worship the Saemae Longchok every year. Thus, the name of the village is derived from the practice of such worship known as Saemae Lyang [meaning place of worship].
[Compiled by Karma Tshering Lepcha, Cultural Secretary of Sikkim Lepcha Young Association]


Some local newspapers including (“Agitating students were ‘educated illiterates’ published in Himalayan Mirror; “Pradarshankari Vidyarthiharulai Prof Lamale diye sikshit murkhako upadhi”, Samaya Dainik : published on 20 May 2012) quoting the Founding Vice Chancellors’ address at the 3rd Global lecture delivered by Prof Isher Judge Ahluwalia and at the 1st Plenary Session of the Academic Council mentioned that the Vice Chancellor termed the students who protested before the Sikkim University on 18th May 2012 as the Educated Illiterates.
The Vice Chancellor never made such remarks against the students in whatsoever way. Being a teacher himself and also the Head of an educational institution the question of describing his own students in such a manner just does not arise. What Vice Chancellor mentioned was in the larger context of rumor mongers and educated society. What he exactly said is mentioned below from the transcripts of the video taken on that day.
“Many people also think....believe in rumors......saying that oh! Sikkim University does not have any local employment or Sikkim University does not have representation from this group or that. From the very beginning let me tell you we have been trying to build a national institution; an exclusively inclusive institution; Right... and a liberal institution. Right! We have adequate representation in this university of minorities of all kinds- the Christians, the Buddhists, the Muslims... we have all kinds of representation in the social categories, if you have any categories... you name any category we have. We have geographical representations from wherever you want; if you want from India anywhere... you have in the students and the faculty and the management. That’s how a national university is built. But again with a strong local ethos, contents and aspirations, I always say. So let us not go by rumors. We are all educated people. I see people even educated people talking about. Going by rumors. I call them in that case…they are all educated illiterates. We have a very clear choice.....would you like to behave (like) an educated person or would you like to behave like an educated Illiterate person? The second one  is  much  more  dangerous  and  much  more  deleterious  in  your  daily life.”
It is surprising that two local newspapers even wrote editorials based on these blatant untruths. It is also saddening to note that a Nepali newspaper translated the term educated illiterates as “Sikshit Murkha” whereas the nearest possible translation would have been “Sikshit Asakshar”. We would urge the concerned newspaper not to repeat such mistakes as such translations sometimes become both insinuating and derogatory.
Prava Mukhia, In-charge External Relation, Sikkim University

Will take action against defiant teachers, says HRDD

GANGTOK, 23 May: Taking a firm stand the Human Resource Development Department has asked all the 146 transferred Primary Regular Teachers (PRTs) to report to their respective Joint Directors of the Districts to obtain their exact places of postings within the stipulated period [10 days from date of receipt of transfer orders]. The Department has made it clear that it will be compelled to initiate necessary action against teachers who remain defiant and ignore their transfer orders.
The HRDD Secretary, CS Rao, while admitting that “few teachers” are not satisfied with the transfers, said today that if the transferred teachers did not report to the respective district Joint Directors within the stipulated time, the department will be compelled to initiate necessary disciplinary action under the Sikkim Government Servants (Discipline and Appeal) Rule against the defaulters.
He added that the transferred teachers should bear in mind the importance of education for students of other districts and treat the transfers as part of their service. The Secretary further expressed hope of cooperation from the teachers once they join their respective new places of work.
In a press release issued today the Secretary points out that schools in West, South and North districts were facing a collective shortage of 282 primary regular teachers – 127 short in West, 136 short in South and 19 in North Sikkim schools.
“Our teachers should also give importance to the students studying in other districts as they are also part of our State and future of our State. The students in the three districts should also not be deprived of their right to education.... Please treat it as a service to our State because the children studying here are our future. In this regard your kind cooperation will highly be appreciated,” the Secretary states in the appeal.
On the other hand, Sikkim Teachers Association has reiterated that they were not against the transfers as such, but believe that these must be carried out in accordance with a well-defined transfer policy which is yet to be framed by the HRD Department.
The STA president, Goverdhan Gurung, and general secretary, Chewang Norbu Bhutia, while speaking to media persons today stated that the blame for over-staffing of teachers in the East district schools should be equally shared by the Department.
“Favouring near and dear ones of people with power in transfers in the past has been the root cause of the problem,” they stated.
Mr. Gurung regretted that a mid-session mass transfer has been affected by the Department without adhering to its own guidelines notified in 2009. “This has not only caused hardships to a good number of teachers but is likely to disturb the continuity in children’s education,” he contended.
The teachers have demanded that transfer orders be issued at the end of an academic session and not midterm like this time.
“Nine senior teachers who are above 50 years of age have also been transferred, violating its own guidelines of 2009,” informed Mr. Bhutia adding that the guidelines notified in 2009 were not followed while transferring the 146 teachers.
They further informed that HRD Minister, NK Pradhan has also refused to intervene in the matter and asked the teachers to abide by the transfer orders. However, the Minister admitted that the points raised by the STA are genuine and assured to consider them in the future, they added.

Change in MG Marg closure days for convenience of tourists

GANGTOK, 23 May: Gangtokians might have noticed the change in closure days of shops along the MG Marg of late. Earlier, the entire stretch from Old Market [from Tourism Office till Hari Stores] and the New Market [from Hari Stores to Star Cinema Hall] used to be closed on Tuesdays. However, now the New Market remains closed on Tuesdays, while the Old Market will remain shut on Sundays.
The change was put into effect by the Labour Department in response to a request from the Sikkim Chamber of Commerce.
Speaking to NOW!, Secretary, Labour Deptt, CT Wangdi explained that the Chamber had approached the department with regard to keeping at least one portion of the MG Marg open throughout the week so that tourists visiting the state did not have spend a day in the main town with the entire area closed.
Earlier, the entire stretch of MG Marg remain closed on Tuesdays causing inconvenience to visitors looking to make purchases on the day. “Instead of keeping the whole of MG Marg closed on Tuesdays, we have made changes in the closure days, so from now onwards only one side of MG Marg will be closed which will thereby be beneficial for the tourists as well as locals”, informed the Secretary.
Medicine shops, restaurants and fast food joints will remain open throughout the week, he added.
Since the shops situated along the National Highway remain closed on Sundays and most of the shops of the Old Market sell construction materials so they had asked that they also be allowed to remain closed on Sundays, Mr Wangdi mentioned.

Low cost hydel generator demonstrated

GANGTOK, 23 May: Hydroger, a small and low cost hydropower generator developed by Nagaland Empowerment of People through Energy Development [NEPeD], has been set up near Hazam Khola in Lower Martam for demonstration. This two-day demonstration was inaugurated by Lok Sabha MP from Sikkim, PD Rai today.
The demonstration is the part of the 2nd Sustainable Mountain Development Summit of the Indian Mountain Initiative [IMI], which is being organized by the Ecotourism and Conservation Society of Sikkim [ECOSS] and co-organized by Central Himalayan Environment Association [CHEA] on 25 and 26 May here at Chintan Bhawan.
The hydroger is being demonstrated by NEPed members in association with ECOSS and Lower Martam GPU. The main idea is to demonstrate hydroger to delegates coming for the summit and to the local people here as well. More than 250 delegates from eleven mountain and hill States including Darjeeling hills are expected to attend the summit.
Hydroger comprises of cylindrical cast iron casing housing an alternator which is connected to the turbine through the shaft. Hydro power is used to turn the turbine to generate energy. There are basically two types of turbines, impulse and reaction. It is informed that a tiny 5 KW hydroger unit can meet the lighting requirement of a small village.
A NEPeD member, Yanger Inchen mentioned that hydroger is very beneficial for rural people as it can generate electricity supply by utilizing a small amount of water and uses low cost technology. He informed that the hydroger put in demonstration here is of single phase and generates 3 Kilowatt electricity, which is sufficient for lighting and other uses.
Speaking on the response of hydroger in Nagaland, Mr Inchen mentioned that the NEPeD has been getting encouraging response from the people of Nagaland especially the people of rural and remote corners. It was mentioned that the hydroger offers an apt solution to achieving improved social and economic livelihood options for the rural people of Nagaland. Hydroger was initially started five years ago and around 250 units have been installed in different parts of Nagaland so far, informed Mr Inchen.
Speaking to media persons today, MP, Mr Rai mentioned that after seeing the hydroger, it surpasses his expectation and would be useful and beneficial for far flung and remote areas as it generates 3 KW with its simple installation. He mentioned that it was not easy to take power to the remotest pockets so adaptation of hydroger is beneficial in such areas.
Mr Rai informed that this demonstration unit would be handed over to the local Panchayat unit to be used for different purposes and would also act as a demo unit for the whole state. He also thanked and congratulated the government of Nagaland for this initiative.
Local Panchayat member of Chuja ward, Manip Chettri expressed his gratitude to MP, Mr Rai for his decision to hand over this hydroger to them. He mentioned that they would try to use this hydroger for emergency purposes in the area and for revenue generation as well.
Adding that the hydroger is a good innovation that can help rural people he said that locals are showing interest in this project. He further informed that they would also use this hydroger as a model for the whole state so that people could set it up in their own areas if required.

Karateka Neemu Lepcha qualifies for 9th Junior Asian Karate Championship

GANGTOK, 23 May: Sikkimese Karateka Neemu Lepcha has qualified for the forthcoming 9th Junior Asian Karate Championship to be held in Uzbekistan in the second week of July.
A press release informs that Neemu’s qualification for the Asian Championship comes after she bagged the gold medal at the 24th Junior National Karate Championship held at Talkatora Indoor Stadium, New Delhi from 18-19 May. She won the gold medal in the 60 kg [16 to 17 years] Individual Kumite category beating Delhi in the finals.
The national championship was organised by Delhi Karate-Do Association under the banner of All India Karate-Do Federation.
Neemu Lepcha hails from Rey Mindu, Tempyam in East Sikkim and is a student of West Point Sr. Sec School, Gangtok. The Sikkim Karate-Do Association has expressed happiness over Neemu’s performance, the release adds.

Reconstruction of earthquake damaged houses begins in Temi-Namphing

GANGTOK, 23 May: Temi Namphing MLA, BS Pant laid the foundation stone of Reconstruction of Earthquake Damaged Rural Houses [REDRH] at Namphing and Aifaltaar in a programme held on Tuesday. The constituency has become the first in the state to begin this scheme after the MLA laid the foundation stone for these two houses.
These houses are the first to be constructed in the state. The Chief Minister Pawan Chamling had earlier announced construction of pucca houses for the earthquake victims. A total of 14,000 houses will be constructed in the state under the Chief Minsiter Rural Housing Mission [CMRHM], Mukhya Mantri Awas Yojana [MMAY] and REDRH of which 911 houses will be constructed in South under the REDRH scheme, informed District Development Officer, Namchi.
The beneficiaries and stakeholders were later provided orientation at the conference hall of the Block Administration Centre [BAC], Temi Tarku. Mr. Pant, the areal MLA, chaired the programme who in his address expressed his gratitude to the Chief Minister for providing the highest number of benefits to his constituency. He urged the beneficiaries for their involvement in the construction process. “It is the Chief Minister’s dream to provide these houses to earthquake victims”, he said and informed that the construction will take place under the supervision of the department.
The DDO urged for quality based construction stating that every construction will be later audited by a Chartered Accountant and Social Audit. The construction will be checked from time to time by the district committee, he informed.
The Block Development Officer [BDO], Temi Tarku, SK Pradhan informed that in the first phase, 156 houses will be constructed in the constituency. “We have considered those houses which are fully damaged by the quake. Altogether, a total of 446 houses were fully damaged in Temi-Namphing”, he informed adding that every house will be constructed using retro fitting technique.
These houses will be earthquake proof and with the use of good technology and new design is being initiated in the state with central funding, it was added.
“As the damaged houses in the area are totally collapsed, we recommended REDRH to all for which Rs. 4,89,000 for each house has been allotted.  The selection of beneficiary was made through the Gram Sabha”, informed Mr Pradhan.
AE, Akash Gurung appealed to NGOs and social organizations for a helping hand and urged the use of quality materials in the construction of these houses.

Editorial: Petro-Hike Lessons to Prepare in Time

The new price of petrol in Sikkim will be known only after the Food & Civil Supplies Department issues the required notice sometime on Thursday. The Centre, which has been hinting at a hike for more than a week now, has gone ahead with a record increase in petrol prices, raising the per litre price by an unprecedented Rs. 6.28. Add the VAT and Cess components to it and one is staring at a hike which is bound to pinch everyone. Even as petrol car owners start calculating what the hike does to their monthly budgets, everyone else can rest assured that soon there will be a demand from taxi operators to have the fare charts reworked as well. This is a substantial hike and logic prescribes that fares for taxis operating on petrol get a relook as well. Even as this supplementary hike is processed, it is important that planners in Sikkim start exploring some long term options. The latest hike in petrol prices is a record-breaking leap, but those who follow the news will recall that every hike in the past few years has been a record increase. Fuel prices do not look likely to stabilise in the near future, and the coming months will undoubtedly see a hike in diesel prices and next will come a hike in LPG prices. While individually, these hikes might mean little, collectively, they will put household budgets under tremendous stress. Budgeting, something that pressures only middle class families, will soon start encroaching into even upper middleclass homes and when that happens, Sikkim will realise how little has been done to address such issues. For example, most people still don’t mind the diversion of subsidised domestic LPG into commercial kitchens; but once the price rises too sharply, and the black rates, which many homes pay out without complaint at present, become too usurious, the people will protest. Instead of getting wrong-footed when that happens, it would be advisable to have the system reworked in advance and the existing anomaly corrected. The other public utility which continues to remain overlooked in Sikkim is public transport. Tourist season is already making share-cabs rare, and once even the share-cab fares become too high, commuters who use this service to get to work and back will grow resentful. Sikkim is desperate need of an affordable public transport system and the latest petrol price hike offers a good opportunity to start planning one. The hike is so substantial that the government should also be considering fresh guidelines for POL usage because the final bill in the new rates have potential to unsettle even the most extravagant projections. Sikkim has no control over how inflation marches in the country or how the petro-price graph progresses, so it should do the next best thing – start planning now to minimise the impact.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Marathon Man Amar Subba plans to run from Gangtok-Gurudongmar in 24 hrs!

GANGTOK, 22 May: Sikkim’s very own ‘Super Marathon Man’, Amar Subba, is all set to break another incredible record by running nonstop from Gangtok to Gurudongmar Lake in 24 hrs. The spirit to take on this amazing feat of running from an altitude of 5,500 ft to 17,100 ft within a day will also make him the first person in the country to hold a national record for a ‘Nonstop High Altitude Marathon.’
The 42-year-old father of two boys already has his name recorded in the 2012 Limca Book of Records for successfully completing a Solo 440 km Marathon along the foothills of the Himalayas and areas such as Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Siliguri and Dooars in 7 days. He started this record breaking feat from his native village in Darap, West Sikkim, at 9:30 a.m. on 17 January 2011and jogged into Gangtok on 23 January. Even during the completion of this super human feat, he had reached an altitude of 12,890 ft while passing into Sandakphu from Chewabhanjyang in the Sikkim side of the border.
“I believe that bad things happen in life to teach us to look at good things in a whole new light,” Amar told NOW! while on his final high altitude practice run from Maneybhanjyang through Sandakphu, Phalut, Chewabhanjyang and then Uttarey which he started yesterday and will complete by tomorrow.  
And for those who are wondering what Amar Subba has been up to these past months, he has run the Amity Kolkata Marathon. Delhi Marathon, the Mumbai Marathon and also the Bangalore Ultra Marathon 2012, all completed with appreciative results before he began his ultra training on specialized high altitude training.
Amar Subba, a self employed professional, is a man possessed who is on a mission to do the most amazing runs across the most treacherous and hostile terrain which he calls his second home. Mountain runs came as an inspiration when he led trekking groups across the Singhalila Range, ‘The mountains that gleam with inviting splendor ask me to come back every morning when I open my windows”, is how the man puts it.
His love for the mountains, his determination, his unfaltering spirit and moreover the support from his family, friends and his well wishers from across the world have motivated him to do what would seem impossible for any sane person, but for Amar Subba this is just another record he wants to break before he starts on an even more daunting task.
Before the phone network went down, Amar was on his way from Maneybhanjyang to Sandakphu in today’s trial run which he started at around 11am, he informed that he will reach Sandakphu within 4 hrs, an incredible practice session since the man is only on a diet of low fat food like dry fruits, high protein and water.
“I have to run light which is why I cannot carry very heavy loads, but during my training sessions I am carrying extra weight because it will boost my run to Gurudongmar Lake. For me the lack of oxygen will prove to be a major factor but my training here is preparing me for that,” Amar mentions. He also says that extreme conditions in the mountains up north is also a factor he realizes since he has been there on some occasions for which he has intensified his training.
It may also be informed that Amar is being supported by a Core Committee with members from Darap, Yuksom and Gyalshing who are helping with organizing the run which is scheduled for 01 June next month. With only 9 days in his kitty before the big day, Amar says he feels fitter than ever before.
“I have never let my well wishers down and even if I am 42 years old, age is no barrier. I will do everyone proud and will engrave my name in the national record,” he assures.

Abandoned BSNL cable lines in Mangan bazaar an eyesore

MANGAN, 22 May: Following complaints of poor service by BSNL in North Sikkim, now complaints of underground cable lines of BSNL which have been carelessly left at the Mangan bazaar premises have come to light.
Mangan Nagar Panchayat had officially written to BSNL Chief General Manager and SDO (CFA) to expedite the repair of the underground cable network which was why these cable lines had been dug out but later abandoned half way through.
MNP President, Karma Jigdal Bhutia, informed media persons today that, they had written and informed BSNL several times between January-April 2012 for the removal of the unwanted cable wires at Mangan bazaar which has become an eyesore in the district town. However, no action has been taken by BSNL till now.
Local residents are dismayed over the inaction and negligence of BSNL on the matter which has been reported many times.
It is learnt that the proposal to update the underground cable system was made around 2-3 years back but not a single official has visited Mangan till date. As such, it is creating problems in the beautification of the town and now the MNP has no option but to move court against BSNL if they don’t respond at the earliest, it is informed.
BSNL services have been poor in several areas of North Sikkim for the past many months.  Places like Dzongu, Dikchu, Raley, Samdong and other areas where most people are BSNL subscribers have been facing problems owing to the poor connectivity.  The BSNL tower installed at lower Dzongu is not working at all, it was further informed.
The cables and poles are also left abandoned along the road at several places like Dikchu, Samdong and Lower Mangshilla which is creating a nuisance in the movement of vehicles on the highway.  Several BSNL cables are reported to have been stolen due to this very carelessness.

International Biodiversity Day observed

GANGTOK, 22 May: Department of Forest, Environment and Wildlife Management targeted students to generate wider awareness among the general public on biodiversity issues on the occasion of International Biodiversity Day today. This year’s theme of the International Biodiversity Day was ‘Marine Diversity’.
On the occasion, the department also had a state specific theme- “Saving Gyam Tsona- Sikkim’s Ocean in the Sky” and organized a slogan writing competition for students on the same.
The day started with a rally by school students from in-and-around Gangtok from Titanic Park to the Forest Secretariat complex.
On the occasion, PCCF-cum- Additional Chief Secretary, M Singh highlighted that Sikkim is very rich in biodiversity and the department has been trying its best to preserve and develop the state’s biodiversity. He also mentioned that eco-tourism has been aiding the boost in tourism in the state.
He appreciated the students’ participation in spreading the message to the people and encouraged them to continue it in the future as well.
Additional PCCF-cum-Project Director of Sikkim Biodiversity Conservation and Forest Management Project [SBFP], Dr Anil Mainra, mentioned that the department has been trying to create awareness on biodiversity issues through students. He added that students are the main medium in creating awareness on these critical issues among parents and the general masses.
Highlighting that everyone should contribute in the preservation of the state’s rich biodiversity, Dr Mainra explained that the concept of the day is conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
Team Leader of Project Management Consultant SBFP, Peter McCarter gave his presentation on biodiversity, its importance and threats. He also urged for the protection and preservation of biodiversity.
Likewise, DFO [Biodiversity Conservation], Katherine Lepcha gave her presentation on Sikkim Biodiversity. She informed that due to its richness, Sikkim was one of the 18 mega biodiversity hotspots in the world and further spoke on the threats to the state’s biodiversity.
On the occasion, UK national Robert Pompey was felicitated by the department for his tireless voluntary work in developing the moss garden at the Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden in Rumtek, some 24 kilometres to the south-west of Gangtok. He has been working for the past 20 months here to develop the first and only moss garden in India.
Joint Director, Karma Legsey explained that Gyam Tsona is unique to the whole Eastern Himalayan Region situated below Finger Tip in North Sikkim. The name of the lake means ‘ocean’ and it still has evidence of marine life but at present it is drying due to human interference and other reasons.
In the slogan writing competition, the first prize went to Vicky Sharma of Tadong SSS, while Kiran Chettri of TNSSS and Tanya Rai of Deorali Girls SSS stood on the second and third positions respectively.

Common Platform demands judicial probe into Yap Tshering’s arrest

GANGTOK, 22 May: Common Platform for Joint Action against Hydel Power Projects has submitted a memorandum demanding a judicial probe into the arrest of Yap Tsheringla Bhutia of Bhaluthang in West Sikkim to the Additional Chief Secretary, R Ongmu, who is also the Principal Secretary of Home Department, today. A copy of the memorandum was also submitted to the Governor’s office today.
Mr Bhutia was arrested after an FIR was filed by the local Panchayat accusing Mr Bhutia of causing nuisance in the Gram Sabha of Lower Amlok ward in West Sikkim on 28 April. At present, Mr Bhutia is out on bail and the case is still under the investigation. He was booked under the section 353 of IPC [Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty].
Addressing a press conference today, All Sikkim Educated Self Employed and Unemployed Association president, Nawin Kiran alleged that instead of discussing the issues placed by Mr Bhutia at the Gram Sabha, he was arrested on “false charges”.
He commented that lawlessness is creeping into Sikkim as persons and organizations critical of the government are being targeted by the administration.
Mr Kiran informed that the memorandum comprising of full details of what transpired at the Gram Sabha signed by all persons present at the Sabha on the said date has been submitted to the Additional Chief Secretary. He further informed that the Additional CS has assured to look into their demand.
SIBLAC convener, Tseten Tashi alleged that at one hand the State government has been demanding for the peace bonus and on the other hand it arrests an educated youth for speaking out at a Gram Sabha. He stressed that the arrest of Mr Bhutia is a violation of the fundamental rights and the right to free speech.
PR Kharka of Save Sikkim stated that Mr Bhutia was manhandled and arrested for speaking at the Gram Sabha and added that Save Sikkim members were not safe from the very enforcers of law themselves.
A monk, Sangay Chophel, who was also present during the Gram Sabha, mentioned that Mr Bhutia was speaking in the interest of the public in general and not for his own interests but it was sad that he was arrested by the police.

Sikkim traders boycott border trade when new items come with 29% customs duty

GANGTOK, 22 May: The joy of five items being added by the Central Government to the list of goods allowed for import from Tibet was shortlived for Sikkim traders, when, on the first day of trading yesterday, another surprise was pulled on them with the imposition of a 29% customs duty on the new goods. Border trade is traditionally kept out of the purview of customs duty and no trader, it is learnt, was informed of 29% duty until they arrived at the Sherathang trade mart yesterday. It might be recalled that although trade was to resume on 01 May, heavy snowfall and the poor condition of the road beyond Sherathang had delayed actual trading. With the weather having cleared up, trade was announced to begin yesterday. Confronted with the imposition of customs duty, Sikkim traders have boycott the trade and resolved not to resume until this regime was lifted.
The 05 new items introduced this year are readymade garments, shoes, quilts & blankets, carpets and local herbal medicines.
As per the schedule, trade did resume on 21 May [Monday] wherein a total of 20 trucks from the Chinese side arrived at the Sherathang Trade Mart but there was no trading because of the boycott by traders from Sikkim.
Speaking to media persons, Commissioner cum Secretary, Commerce and Industries Department, BK Kharel, confirmed that traders from Sikkim have stayed away because of the imposition of customs duty and have also sought a clarification on why this was being imposed.
He went on to add that no public notice on exemption in customs duty has been announced by the Government of India and the duty is only imposed on the new items added recently and was not extended to items on the original list.
The Secretary mentioned that the ‘Trade Welfare Association’ through their General Secretary has also sought clarification on the issues from the department on whether custom duty is applicable on imports from Tibet and whether goods imported through this border trade can be sold to states outside Sikkim.
The department will be approaching the Government of India for necessary clarifications on the issue raised by the Association after availing prior approval from the state government, informed the Secretary. He informed that the department will also write to the Ministry of Commerce regarding this issue.
Mean while, Sikkim traders have reiterated that until and unless custom duties are not lifted, they will not take part in trading.
“We the traders have taken it on ourselves not to do any trading until the Custom Duty on the 05 new items is lifted,” informed one of the traders, while speaking to NOW! today. “The goods that we bring from Nathula are not of the finest quality and we have to sell it cheap and now, if we have to pay custom duty then who will buy these goods at a higher price as the same can be purchased from Siliguri markets at cheaper rates,” he added.
He further stated that the imposition of custom duty on these new items was only being demanded in Nathula Border Trade and not in the other two border trading outposts.
On the other hand, the Trade Welfare Association has been tirelessly putting in efforts in convincing the Minister concerned to take up this matter at the earliest and then they will also be calling upon the Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha to look into the exemption of custom duty from the Nathula Border Trade.

Yuksom-Dzongri route -Corridor of world class trekking?

A trekking experience on the popular route reveals numerous concerns - from sanitation to water pollution to rethinking design elements. JIGMEE BHUTIA shares his trek to Dzongri...

The Yuksum to Dzongri trekking route is popularly known as the “corridor of world class trekking” supplementing the popular slogan of the State Government on eco-tourism. So, when we took a trek from Yuksum to Dzongri it never occurred to us that our perception would be changed by the time we finished the trip. We reached Yuksum a day ahead of our trip in order to make the arrangements. The next day, as scheduled, we were elated to have finally made it since earlier plans had been cut short due to various reasons. When we left Yuksum it was a clear and bright day and we started to walk on the village footpath paved with undulated stone surface. The path was almost straight till Pa-Khola except across landslide prone areas at two places which our guide told us was triggered due to the 18th September Earthquake. There were some big boulders precariously hanging on the slope and it is certain that this area would become totally inaccessible during the monsoon. The trail till Pa-Khola is about two kilometres and the entire trail is a stone paved footpath which certainly is not comfortable at all to walk on and we felt it should have been kept as natural as possible. We stopped at Pa-Khola and looked at the under construction concrete welcome-gate. How does it make sense to have a concrete gate that too for the purpose of welcoming people who would be embarking on a journey to be one with nature? This was something that just could not sink in, who could be that foolish to have recommended what is such a dreaded error to any naturalist.
Crossing the bridge over the Pa-Khola, the terrain starts to get somewhat challenging climbing uphill and to our dismay the stone paved footpath continued and we could only wish that it ended but it never did. After sometime we reached Prek-Chu and again for the second time we crossed a bridge which was welcoming as we felt the cold gentle breeze of the river. We halted for some water and also came across some foreigners who were returning to Yuksum. After taking some snaps and a causal interaction with them we started the actual ascend of the mountain slope. There we came across a signboard written “please do not use short cuts”. The climb was tiresome since it was an upward climb and the rugged footpath kept on daunting our advances. This time the footpath had worsened as the caravan of animals used for carrying loads had dislodged the stones and every step had to be taken cautiously to prevent ankle sprains. Slowly and steadily we reached Sachen, it is the place where trekkers are served food. The place has a wooden structure used as a kitchen and two newly constructed toilets which were locked for reasons best known to the tourism department but it caused lot of inconvenience.
After lunch we proceeded towards Bhakim, the footpath kept troubling us as it started getting dirtier with animal droppings. The animal dropping is another issue concerning the trekking route since it has infected the air with many large greenflies and other insects surviving on it. After several hours we reached Bhakim. The place has a forest dak bungalow and here the effects of the earthquake are quite visible as the support wall has developed severe cracks. The forest guard has built a wooden structure little below the bungalow where he runs a shop with his wife and they have also taken up some gardening and grow potatoes nearby. From Bhakim it is a two-kilometre uphill trek to reach Tsokha situated at an altitude of 9000 ft. On reaching Tsokha I was astounded to see that it had dwindled in every aspect. Tsokha is a popular site along the Yuksum to Dzongri Trek where trekkers halt for a day or two to acclimatise the gain in altitude. Some years back I was involved in a rescue operation on this front when a mountaineering expedition to Mt. Tingchingkhang had met with a fatal accident while descending from the summit. At that time, I had spent considerable time at Tsokha where things were then very lively. There were several Tibetan houses whose ancestors had settled here entrusted with the herds of Yaks belonging to the Chogyal of Sikkim. The latter generation had taken up tourism for their livelihood and under the stringent laws of Kanchendzonga National Park (KNP) the State Government had them evacuated to Yuksum where the families are staying at the old Rathong Chu Housing Colony. Tsokha now looks very deserted and particularly to me who had once witnessed a well flourished settlement that had treated me so well the sight was very disturbing. There are some houses left which have been leased to a travel agency from Gangtok while several houses are in a tattered condition on the verge of collapse. The place has a Monastery with a small lake in front of it which now lies in shambles. Much of the wood from the houses were used by the contractors who were awarded the repair work of trekker’s huts along the route. The toilets are unkempt and there are no partitions but bamboo vegetation cover surrounding it makes it possible to use it.
After spending a night at Tsokha we proceeded towards Dzongri and for the first time we enjoyed the wooden trail which extends to almost a kilometre. Walking on such a trail it was obvious that we could enjoy the vegetation that was slowly becoming alpine. The rhododendron was in full bloom and as we ascended newer varieties became visible with varied coloured birds singing and flying all over the vegetation. But the joy was again cut short by the never ending stone paved footpath that had become slippery, marshy and the animal droppings mixed in it that emit a foul smell.  The paths at several points are very narrow and every time a caravan passed we had to make way for the animals. At the time we discussed if it was possible to have two separate trails for the animals and the trekkers and if it could be even turned into a pristine walking trail as a heritage high altitude trekking trail since the British Empire in India had sought to establish a communication network with Tibet and China.
After almost three hours of walk we reached Phenthang which was adorned with flowering rhododendron trees. Here the horses and Dzo, cross between yak and cow are rested for some time. Another, one and a half hours later we reached Dzongri. It was a relief to have finally reached the mark destination yet we still had to wait for the moment which was due early next morning. We freshened up with some warm tea and biscuits. As we were wandering around, we were told that the students of Eklavya Model Residential School [Gangyap] who were on an excursion trip under the capable supervision of their principal and teacher would take up a cleanliness drive in the vicinity. The army of thirty students started cleaning the small stream which is used by commuters for washing and cleaning purposes. It was evident from the foul odour and the brackish water that the brooklet was extremely polluted while we formed a group amongst the porters in order to dig a pit. The task got over when it started to get extremely cold but the zeal of the students was commendable as the water in the stream looked very clean. The waste recovered had to be disposed in two big pits. The problem of toilets is more than evident in these areas.
The next morning we experienced an astounding view of the entire Khangchendzonga mountain range and took a hike to the nearby Lakshmi pokari. Back at home, the thoughts kept haunting me to write down what we came across during our trek in the hope that it would make some difference. I remember an incident where a friend of mine from Mumbai wanted to go trekking and had asked me to suggest a route. I had written him back mentioning the Yuksum-Dzongri route and after a sometime I received a mail stating that he had heard from a person who had undertaken the trek that the trail was filled with animal droppings and bad sanitary conditions.
The plight of the Yuksum-Dzongri trekking route is a serious concern that needs immediate attention of the State Tourism Department.

Teachers seek Teacher Transfer Policy before transfers are enforced

GANGTOK, 22 May: A number of teachers assembled at the Sikkim Teachers’ Association office today to discuss matters related to the recent transfer of teachers by the Human Resource Development Department. The teachers are demanding formulation of a Teacher Transfer Policy [TTP] and want the latest round of transfers kept in abeyance till the TTP is cleared.
Speaking to media-persons today, president of the Association, Goverdhan Gurung stated that the demand for a Teacher Transfer Policy was submitted to the HRDD Secretary on 19 May as soon as information got out about the transfer of 146 excess teachers from East district.
He also alleged that the transfer orders are not based on any of the criteria of the HRDD. The Department however insists that the transfers are in line with the guidelines drafted in 2009.
These mid-term transfers may affect the quality of education, Mr Gurung adds. “We are expecting a response from the department by this afternoon”, he said further adding that the transfer orders released only carried the name of district and that the stamp of the Director was also missing.
STA secretary general, Tsewang Norbu Bhutia addressing the media stated that two demands, formation of Teacher Transfer Policy [TTP] and retention of transfer till the implementation of TTP have been placed with the HRD department.
“We are not against the transfers” expressed the teachers who have been transferred but informed that the transfers should be done following the criteria of the Department. “We all know that as teachers appointed by the department it is our duty to deliver education to students across the state and it is known to all that a government job is a transferable job which we support accordingly”, said one teacher.
The Association has also made an appeal not to add a political colour to this issue further stating that the matter will be solved within the department itself.

6 pucca houses handed over to beneficiaries in Yuksam BAC



GANGTOK, 22 May: The BDO Yuksam handed over pucca houses under Chief Minister’s Rural Housing Mission (CMRHM) to six beneficiaries from two gram panchayats viz., Arithang- Chongrang and Melli-Aching under BAC Yuksam on Sunday. The function was attended by the Assistant Engineer, Junior Engineer, Panchayats , APO, RDA, GRS and local villagers.
The BDO and the engineers from the BAC also inspected the CMRHM houses under various stages of construction in the two gram panchayats. The team also visited the Gangyap Junior High School and inspected the progress of the extension work of the old playground  being executed under MGNREGA.
BDO Yuksam informed that a total number of twenty one such CMRHM pucca houses have been completed under the BAC so far, the first of which was completed in September 2011 and handed over to the beneficiary.
The objective of CMRHM is to provide quality housing for the rural poor and make Sikkim a kutcha house free state by 2013. The scheme is an owner-driven conversion of the existing kutcha house into a pucca house. The beneficiary himself will construct the pucca house and no contractor is allowed in the scheme. CMRHM is an integral part of the Mission: Poverty Free Sikkim - 2013 which was launched in Sept. 2010.

Husband accused of stabbing wife

GANGTOK, 22 May: 27 year old Bhim Bahadur Chettri has been taken into custody on charges of having allegedly stabbed his wife with a Khukuri on Monday night. The incident took place when Ganga Maya Chettri was returning home from work. She has sustained multiple stab wounds and cut injuries.
The neighbours rushed the wife to the Melli PHC from where she was referred to the district hospital at Namchi. It is now being contended that she was frequently subjected to domestic abuse by her husband. A case has been registered at the Melli Police Station against the accused under section 498-A and 307 [husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty and attempt to murder] of the Indian Penal Code. The case is under investigation.

Editorial: Introduction Before Conservation

The public appeal of the Forest Department to save Gyamtsona is welcome. Gyamtsona, or the puddle that remains of it now, is the only brackish water lake in Sikkim and one which used to be so big at one time that apart from its name meaning “Ocean Lake”, it also was the only lake in Sikkim with “noisy waves”. This lake, which falls on the traditional trade route to Tibet [before Nathula and Jelepla rose to prominence] across Kongra La in the notorious “Fingertip” area of North Sikkim survived thousands [perhaps even more] of years of human traffic, but withered away within decades of falling under the watch of people uninitiated on the significance of the water body. The Forest Department, which made the appeal to save Gyamtsona as part of the World Biodiversity Day observance in Gangtok organized a slogan-writing competition for students on the appeal. While involving students in issues of environment and biodiversity is well intentioned, the irony of inviting them to write slogans to save a lake which none of them has seen underlines things which are going wrong with biodiversity conservation efforts. Without a face to face introduction, conservation is not possible. Too many issues of pressing concern like climate change and water for example, languish in alienation. A more involved approach should be attempted if the earnestness of the young is to be leveraged to reinforce conservation efforts. A talk on Gyamtsona will excite interest, but a longer lasting commitment to conservation will require a visit to the marsh that it has become now and hearing the yak herders speak of what the Ocean in the Sky used to once be like. But that is no longer easily arranged anymore because visiting the lake requires army clearance even for locals, and this is not easily organized. In fact, it was the hardening of the border which killed the lake. As the border with Tibet was closed even for the Dokpas [yak herders of North Sikkim] despite the fact that their lifestyles have evolved to include seasonal migrations across the passes, army was deployed in huge numbers to guard the border. The cold desert of North Sikkim was never bountiful and the Dokpas knew this well, which is why they lived scattered across the pastures and moved often to allow the limited natural resources to replenish. When the army was stationed in this sparse land, they arrived without enough briefing on minimizing their footprint and unlettered on the requirements of conservation. Experts believe that it was the diversion of a small stream draining into Gyamtsona by the armed forces personnel stationed there some decade back which eventually led to its drying up. This lake is a remnant of the Tethys Sea, which means it was formed at the time when the Himalaya was created by the crushing together of two continental plates. A lake of such antiquity should have occupied a special place and handled with much more respect than the senseless intrusion which killed it. Saving what remains of Gyamtsona and achieving any meaningful progress towards conservation will have to begin with more direct introductions to what is at stake. This is not empty speculation. Most children in Gangtok do not know where the water they get in their taps at home comes from. Inviting them to get involved in conservation efforts around Ratey Chu will thus fetch only superficial engagement. Conservation efforts will also require for the personnel posted in the forward regions [which are invariably more ecologically fragile] to first undergo a detailed briefing on what makes the regions special and what they environmental code of conduct should be like. And then Sikkim needs to sponsor more visits by experts to study and document these regions better so that even the State is better informed and speaks with more conviction when it speaks of conservation.


The followers of the Karmapa and Buddhists in general were elated over the news that the Judicial Magistrate in Una town [Himachal Pradesh] has decided to remove the Karmapa’s name from the charge sheet in the currency seizure case. The followers have always held that H.H. the 17th Karmapa was innocent and that the money seized was part of the donations made by the followers, like themselves.
This is victory of good over evil as inspite of the fact that an organisation going under the name of Denzong Nang Ten Sung Kyob Tsogpa and the so called Karmapa Charitable Trust rushed down to Una to oppose the withdrawal, they could not succeed. This is an example of how negative forces will never triumph, eventually the truth prevails. The followers of His Holiness are confident that in due course of time the dark clouds which have been generated by lies and propaganda will be exposed and His Holiness will be in their midst and in His rightful seat at Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre.
We give thanks to the Government of Himachal Pradesh and its people for the courtesy and generosity shown to His Holiness the 17th Karmapa Ugyen Trinley Dorje and his entourage.
General Secretary, Joint Action Committee of All Sikkim Buddhist Organisations

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Transfers processed, HRDD now plans recruitments to meet teacher shortage


GANGTOK, 21 May: In view of the acute shortage of teachers and for improving the delivery of education to students in rural areas the Human Resource and Development Department [HRDD] has transferred over 146 Primary Regular Teachers (PRTs), recorded as excess in East district, to the other three districts which have reported shortage. Even if all the transferred teachers abide by their transfer orders, the short-fall will not be completely met [although it would ease the situation substantially], and for this, the Department has already begun processing the hiring of more teachers, it is informed.
Secretary, HRDD, CS Rao, while speaking to NOW! today, informed that the department has worked out the number of excess teachers in East district and transferred them. He informed that 65 teachers each have been transferred to South and West districts, while 16 teachers have been transferred to North.
Interestingly, the transfer orders mention only the district and the actual placement will be arranged by the concerned district offices as per directions from the headquarters.
In all cases, transfers are issued on ‘first come, first go’ basis, as enumerated in the guidelines adopted by the Department in 2009. Under this clause, those teachers who report to the department first can choose the place of posting in the district they have been transferred to.
The Secretary stated that the transfers have been made strictly as per the 2009 guidelines “without any bias”. According to these guidelines, teachers who have served for more than five years in a particular school and only those below 50 years of age can be transferred. Recommendation of the head of school is also required in case of posting of excess teachers while consideration is made for married teachers to be posted in areas near their spouses.
At present, the department is running short of 282 Primary Regular Teachers- 136 in South, 127 in West and 19 in North and once these 146 excess teachers have been posted and transferred, at least the schools can run better, the Secretary said.
“The government wants to treat all students equally whether they are Gangtok-based or in remote areas of West district. There should not be any problem with teachers being transferred to remote areas and the department is hopeful that transferred teachers will cooperate with the decision of the government and department,” the Secretary stated.
Mr. Rao pointed out further that over the next two years, between 15-20 percent teachers will be retiring and the Department is planning to phase-out those shortages and has already floated a proposal with the Planning Department for new recruitments.
Meanwhile, the Secretary informs that the department will be appointing 157 Graduate Teachers (43 Science, 41 Mathematics and 75 Arts) within this week and that 70 percent of the newly recruited teachers have completed police verifications.

SIMFED registers surge in supply of Asiatic Lillium

GANGTOK, 21 May: SIMFED has been getting large number of the Asiatic Lillium variety of flowers from growers in South and East Sikkim. Stems of the Asiatic Lillium are used mostly as cut flowers for decorative purposes.
Speaking to NOW! today, Kiran Gurung of SIMFED informed that they have been receiving Asiatic Lilium in huge quantities- 1,500 to 1,800 sticks per day from Ravangla, Simkharka and Ben in South Sikkim and Basilakha in East Sikkim as well as from some other places.
The rate [worked at the number of bubs per stick] they provide to the growers are: 2 buds Rs. 5, 3 buds Rs. 7, 4 buds Rs. 10, 5 buds Rs. 12 and above 6 buds Rs. 15 per stick. The flowers are supplied to Siliguri from where they are further transported to Delhi to the Sikkim Organic outlet there manned by two SIMFED employees.
Mr. Gurung also appealed to growers to supply the flowers before the buds turn red, pointing out that in summer, the flowers bloom faster so in order to make maximum profits, he urged growers to supply the flowers at the right time.
“During season time there is a surge in production and it is difficult for us to store the flowers as we don’t have good facilities of cold storage and the chemicals required. If such facilities are provided then we can export these flowers outside the country as well which will mean more benefit for the growers,” Mr Gurung added.
He further expressed that SIMFED employees are working hard, even giving up holidays during season time, as the main objective of SIMFED is to make the people of Sikkim self reliant in the coming future.  
Sikkim Industrial Marketing Federation [SIMFED] is an Apex federation of Gram Panchayat MPCS, consumer cooperatives/ marketing and weaver cooperative etc, which has been giving prime focus to the people of the state from the grass root level.

23 schools in Rangang-Yangang face teacher shortage

NAMCHI, 21 May: A total of 23 schools under Rangang-Yangang Constituency, South Sikkim are facing huge shortage of teachers. Schools of the area, from Senior Secondary to Primary levels are running without adequate number of teachers even after three months into the school session.
Hem Kumar Gurung, SDF Student Wing’s constituency-level convener, informed that Yangang Senior Secondary School, Upper Yangang JHS, Pathing JHS, Karungthang JHS, Samruk JHS, Namphok Secondary School, Tingtaar Primary School, Neya Secondary School, Lingmoo Senior Secondary School, Kolthang JHS, Rangang Primary School, Sangmoo Junior High School, Mengli JHS Banday Primary School Jogi Dara Primary School, Gangla Primary School, Majua Primary School under Rangang-Yangang constituency, South Sikkim lack the required number of teachers.
Schools of these areas, which mostly fall under the remotest belt of South district, have been facing shortage of teachers for a long time, he informed. And the shortfall is at all levels. There is shortage of Computer teachers, Headmasters, Primary teachers, Graduate Teachers, Language teachers, Sports teachers etc., said Mr Gurung, adding, “We welcome HRDD’s plans to transfer 280 excess teachers of the urban areas to the villages.”
It may be mentioned here that the Human Resource Development Department (HRDD), in a press release yesterday informed that schools in the South are facing a shortage of 136 teachers. The department has clarified this process is not an act to victimize the teachers but on the demand of panchayats, concerned school management committees and school heads. In the latest round of transfers, 65 primary regular teachers have been transferred to South district.
Meanwhile, a section of teachers have expressed their resentment against the transfers and are demanding equality for all.

Mercury rises as the rains say no

GANGTOK, 21 May: Over the past week Gangtokians have only seen a few sudden spurts of rain while the heat has only been worsening the long waits in traffic jams which have now become routine. As temperatures in Tadong soared to 30 degree Celsius on 19 May, the hottest day this month so far according to the Met Department, Gangtok recorded 25.5 degree Celsius on the same day.
However, the sweltering heat may just be due to the lack of moisture in the absence of any rainfall for the past week or so. The hottest day recorded over Gangtok last year was 25.6 degree Celsius while 25.9 degree Celsius recorded on 13 May 2002 was the hottest in the last ten years.
The Meteorologist In-charge at Gangtok Meteorological Centre, GN Raha, while speaking to NOW!, mentioned that the normal maximum temperature for the month of May has been recorded as 21 to 22 degree Celsius, while 13 to 14 degree Celsius is the normal minimum temperature in this month. However, for a few days, both minimum and maximum temperatures are up by around 2 degrees above normal.
Mr Raha explains that since the last seven days there has been no rainfall, which has been causing an increase in temperature and discomfort levels. He further added that with some rainfall the temperatures would go down automatically.
He mentioned that the pre-monsoon season [March to May] sees substantial thunderstorm activities mostly due to the three factors of insulation, moisture incursion and triggering forces like disturbances, cyclonic circulation, turf and others. He further explains that for the last one week there have been no moisture incursions and no strong triggering force to cause rainfall.
For moisture incursion from Bay of Bengal, Mr Raha informed troughs are needed but at present there was no trough present. He further informed that the Met Centre is expecting light rainfall on Monday night and has forecasted rainfall in the next 48 hours, which would bring down temperatures providing some relief to people here.
The hottest day ever recorded over Gangtok in month of May by the Gangtok Met Centre was 28 degree Celsius on 30 May in 1964.

High Court upholds pan masala manufacturers claim for excise exemption

GANGTOK, 21 May: The Sikkim High Court has granted exemption of excise duty to Unicorn Industries, a mouth freshener manufacturer located at Majhigaon, Jorethang, South Sikkim for the period of ten years, from the date of commencement of its commercial production, in line with the special incentives which had attracted the investment to Sikkim.
Unicorn Industries came into existence and began its production of Pan Masala on 27 June, 2006 in Sikkim. At the time, under a notification dated 09 September 2003 issued under sub-section (1) of Section 5A of the Central Excise Act, 1944, “Special package of incentives for development of Industries in the State of Sikkim, 2002” granted new industries here exemption from excise duty for a period of ten years.
However, a state government, on 25 April 2007 termed ‘pan masala’ as falling under the list of ‘demerit good’ [hazardous to health] and hence not entitled to the exemption. Unicorn Industries had challenged this notification and demanded exemption of Central Excise duty under sub-section (1) of Section 5A of the Central Excise Act, 1944.
The Single Bench of the Sikkim High Court in its recent judgment allowed Unicorn Industries to get the economic incentives of “Special package of incentives for development of Industries in the State of Sikkim, 2002” and as per the Government of India policy for Northeastern states.
In the judgment, Chief Justice Permod Kohli points out that demerit goods have not been defined anywhere in the Notifications published either by the state or the central governments. The High Court observed that ‘Pan Masala’ has not been declared as health hazardous by any notification or order of the Government of India or the State Government. “No material or scientific reports have been placed on record to demonstrate that the Pan Masala containing no tobacco is health hazardous,” the judgement reads.
The Single Bench, further stating that the notification dated 09.09.2003 later amended vide notification of 25.04.2007 “has not been applied retrospectively” observed that “any industry established after the amendment of notification dated 09.09.2003 in the State of Sikkim manufacturing any of the excluded items including the Pan Masala will not be entitled to exemption w.e.f the date of the impugned notification.”
The Sikkim High Court further observed that the State has failed to disclose any material to indicate the public interest that Pan Masala falls under the category of demerit goods and health hazardous and is not supported by any ‘scientific analysis or material’ to justify the plea.

Pakzer-Chumlock shows the way in off-season vegetable cultivation

NAMCHI, 21 May: Pakzer-Chumlock under Pakzer-Tingrithang Gram Panchayat Unit is emerging as a major source of off-season vegetables in South District. Import of vegetables from outside the state may not be necessary in the future if more farmers follow in the footsteps of this village.
Today, a team from Horticulture Department conducted a field visit to Pakzer, Chumlock and surrounding villages to give exposure to the progressive farmers of Dong in growing vegetables, flowers and fruits and also to encourage the farmers of these villages.
Chairman Tea Board, Gagan Rai was present as the chief guest of this programme while it was also attended by the Principal Director Horticulture Department DK Rai, Additional Director Spices GP Chawhan, Additional Director Vegetables Karma Bhutia, Additional Director Medicinal cum Micro Irrigation DB Tamang, Joint Director (S) BL Dahal and the officers from the department.
The team along with the progressive farmers visited the farm of the vegetables growers of Pakzer, Chumlock and also interacted with the vegetable growers of the villages. During the interaction, the farmers of Pakzer village informed that they had started growing vegetables on their land 3 years back and have been continuously recording profits since.
Speaking to this correspondent, progressive farmer Krishna Bahadur Subba informed that he has been growing vegetables for the past three years and is earning around Rs 25 thousand per week selling only Bitter Melon (Rs. 18000) and Green Squash (Rs. 7000). He informed that it was Tila Maya Chamling who encouraged off-season vegetable farming in this area and later it was fully supported by the Horticulture Department.
He further informed that the department had given them all the technical knowledge, seedlings, and basic equipment to grow vegetables and today the whole belt is growing and earning from the sale of these vegetables. He informed that they were also growing eggplants, cauliflower, dalle, zucchini, onion, bananas and also cultvating rose plants which gives them additional income.
Mr. Subba said that there is huge profit margin in growing vegetables and seeing this the educated youth had also been encouraged and are now venturing into the agriculture sector.
The field visit was followed by a programme where the Principal Director DK appreciated the initiative taken by the progressive farmers and urged them to continue with their efforts and also encourage the educated youth to work in this sector. He informed about the various schemes and projects of Horticulture and Floriculture department and assured help in every possible way to the progressive farmers.
Chief guest, Chairman Tea Board, Gagan Rai appreciated the work of the progressive farmers and said that the pro-poor State government is giving maximum priority to agriculture, horticulture, floriculture and animal husbandry sectors. He urged them to share the knowledge with each other and use modern techniques in cultivating their land so that they can earn maximum profit. He urged the educated youth to work in this sector and lead the farmers of their villages with modern technology and methods of cultivation.
The programme was also addressed by Panchayat President Dawgel Lepcha while the programme was also attended by the BDO Sikkip, Panchayat, Farmers Club members, and the progressive farmers from the villages.
The team also inspected the ongoing and completed works of dug-out ponds of the villages.

SDF regrets recommending Prof MP Lama for SU VC post

GANGTOK, 21 May: The ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) party has extended its support to the student agitation against the Vice Chancellor Professor Mahendra P Lama, holding up their demand to include various subjects at post graduate level beginning this academic session as “genuine”.
Press Advisor to the Chief Minister, former MP, Bhim Dahal, today admitted it was a mistake to have recommended Prof Lama as the Vice Chancellor for Sikkim University back in the year 2007. Mr. Dahal said that at that time, the State Government believed that a person from the hills with knowledge of the outside world would do well and work in the interest of Sikkim’s students. “Prof. Lama could have done so, but his priorities have been counterproductive,” he said.
“We regret recommending Prof Lama,” said Mr Dahal adding that “we all had rejoiced on his selection but now we are in remorse”.
He announced that SDF extends solidarity and support to Students Union of Sikkim (SUS) and students who have been protesting against the Sikkim University and the Vice Chancellor to press their eight-point charter of demands.
At the same time, he denied that the ruling party had any hand in instigating the students against the Vice Chancellor and Sikkim University. It is a student’s organization which has been functioning independently and protesting democratically, he said.
“Prof. Lama’s ego does not allow him to listen to his students. It has always been a hurdle between the students and their demands. How can we expect a rigid person like him to be sensible towards students’ demands?” commented Mr. Dahal.
The Vice Chancellor must fulfill their demands, he said adding that “those who oppose the students’ movement are adversaries to Sikkim’s future and we call them anti-Sikkimese”.
He informed that two MPs from Sikkim have already submitted representations to the Ministry of Human Resource Development demanding Prof Lama’s removal as early as possible by another VC who will work in the interests of the students and University in Sikkim.
He further said that the state government has been demanding Prof. Lama’s removal since July last year but he lingered on and created more problems for the students.
Responding to media queries on recommendations for the next Vice Chancellor, Mr Dahal said that the next Vice Chancellor should be a person of sound academic background with a zeal for ‘working in the interests of Sikkim and students’.
Not a single inch of land will be given without solving the resettlement issue, he said on the still pending handing over of the land for the SU campus in Yangang.

Editorial:To Staff Schools Better, End Interference

Teacher shortage continues to remain a challenge which confounds Sikkim. A new academic session is now barely into its third month, and transfers which should have been processed and served during the long winter break, are rolling out only now. Needless to add, this delay is going to be latched upon by those protesting the transfers as something which will unsettle classes in schools from where teachers are being relocated. Mid-term transfers do disrupt routines, but if the Department is to be believed, only the excess teachers from schools in East Sikkim are being spread out to the remaining three districts which are in the grips of severe shortage. If that is the case, then a few extra classes for the prescribed strength of teachers in East district becomes a very small price to pay so that classes can at least begin in schools elsewhere. Teacher transfers have never been easy to implement in Sikkim. The fact that the more conveniently located schools in the most-preferred East district have too many more teachers than prescribed is proof that “connections” have been leveraged to bulk up staff rooms here. Getting them to service educational requirements of remote schools in other districts is hence never easy. To get a sense of the scale of the imbalance, South Sikkim alones needs more 130 teachers even as East district, in its first round of stock taking, found 146 excess teachers in the primary school level alone. Rural schools need more than just primary school teachers, they are also short on Headmasters and graduate teachers. Only a minor part of this imbalance can be attributed to teachers proceeding on retirement. At the root of the problem is the continuing interference in the human resource management processes at the Human Resource Development Department. If clear directions were passed to the department to staff schools properly, there is no reason it should not be able to do so. This will however require even clearer directions to be passed to politicians and others with influence not to inundate the Department with recommendations endorsing placement requests. If these directions are reinforced with a political will not to allow interference, schools across Sikkim will become functional and no student left abandoned in classrooms without the required teacher. The pursuit of quality education will have to take its first step with better teacher deployment by the Department.