Friday, June 15, 2012

Seven feared killed in NH 31A road mishap

NAMCHI, 14 June: Seven persons are feared dead in a road mishap reported on NH 31A late last night. The accident, involving a Mahindra Maxx [SK-04J-0452], occurred near Nam Khola [between Kirena and Tar Khola], a short distance ahead of West Bengal Melli towards Rangpo on NH 31A between 11 to 11:30 a.m. last night. Only one passenger survived the mishap when was thrown off the hurtling vehicle before it plunged into the Teesta. It was only after a disoriented and bloody Kiran Subba climbed his way back to the road and was recognised by a passenger in a passing car that people came to know of the accident. He has sustained grievous injuries and is currently under treatment in Siliguri.
While what caused the accident is not known thus far, the vehicle plunged around 150 feet off the road into the Teesta. The terrain does not lend itself well to search and rescue efforts and this is borne out by the fact that although news of the accident spread within hours, none of the bodies of the people feared killed in the mishap have been traced thus far. As for the vehicle, parts of it, it is informed, were spotted about 3 kms downstream from where the vehicle went off the road last night.
The vehicle was proceeding from Kitam in South Sikkim to Gangtok, it is learnt. The late travel was necessitated when Suman Subba [one of the passengers killed in the mishap] learned that his mother, Dhan Kumari Subba, undergoing treatment at the Central Referral Hospital in Gangtok had passed away. The group was rushing to Gangtok to bring back the dead body.
Those feared killed in the mishap are: Durga Mani Pradhan (30), the owner and driver of the vehicle; Amardeep Subba (26), Suman Subba (17), Mohan Subba (18), Umesh Subba (25), Sujal Subba (16) and Bikash Subba (21). All of them hailed from Kitam. It was further informed that except Durga Mani Pradhan and Amardeep Subba, all the rest were related.
The search operations, jointly undertaken by West Bengal Police and Sikkim Police along with the relatives and the local people, continued throughout the day today but remained fruitless because no traces of those feared killed could be found.
This was the second fatal road mishap reported yesterday. In an accident reported earlier in the day from Gyalshing in West Sikkim, a 59 year old woman was killed and eight others injured when a passenger jeep plying from Gyalshing to Lungchok skidded off the road and plunged down 70 feet at Sakyong.

Celebrating heroes on World Blood Donor Day

GANGTOK, 14 June: Sikkim State Blood Transfusion Council [SSBTC] celebrated “World Blood Donor Day” today at STNM Hospital with events to raise awareness on the need for safe blood and to thank voluntary blood donors for their life-saving gifts of blood.
The theme of the 2012 World Blood Donor Day campaign was “Every blood donor is a hero” which focuses on the idea that each one of us can become a hero by giving blood. While recognizing the silent and unsung heroes who save lives every day through their blood donations, the theme also strongly encourages more people all over the state to donate blood voluntarily and regularly.
Jeena Gurung [43] from the Energy and Power Department, Gangtok was the first donor of the day who expressed, “Donating blood is a beautiful gift, so donate blood and save life. Join the life saving movement of voluntary blood donation and at least donate blood on some auspicious occasion of your life like a birthday, marriage anniversary, etc. One unit of your blood can save many lives”.
Senior Blood Bank Officer, Dr. Chinta Mani Sharma, speaking to media persons conveyed a warm and hearty thanks for the voluntary blood donors on the occasion of World Blood Donor Day and also informed that the requirement of blood at STNM per year is about 1200 unit to 1500 unit which is very low as compared to other state hospitals.
“We have three licensed blood banks in Sikkim which are Manipal, Namchi District Hospital and Blood Bank STNM. The total requirement of blood across the state is about 400 units”, he informed.
He also listed out the names of those with the highest number of blood donations. Dr. Dhakal [42 times], Suren Mohra [36 times], Senior Research Officer Forest, Enviroment and Wildlife Management, Usha Lachungpa [more than 50 times] and Sunita Julkha [50 times] were some of the names cited. “They are the regular blood donors who are always encouraging more people from all over the state”, mentioned Dr Sharma.
The birthday anniversary of Dr. Karl Landsteiner a Noble Prize winner was also celebrated on the day. Dr Landsteiner has made numerous contributions to pathological anatomy, histology and immunology, all of which showed, not only his meticulous care in observation and description, but also his biological understanding.
He is most well known for his outstanding work on, the blood groups, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1930. To the end of his life, Landsteiner continued to investigate blood groups and the chemistry of antigens, antibodies and other immunological factors that occur in the blood. It was one of his great merits that he introduced chemistry into the service of serology. On June 24, 1943 he had a heart attack in his laboratory and died two days later in the hospital of the Institute in which he had done such distinguished work.

Sikkim’s third through the UPSC challenge this year


Last week, NOW! published a parallel interview with two of the three Sikkim students who have cleared the UPSC exams this year. Tenzing Loden Lepcha completes the successful trio and although the plan was to publish the interviews of all three together, he could not be contacted in time for various reasons. Here we complete the conversation:

NOW: How does it feel to have cracked the UPSC exams?
TENZING: Thankful, thankful to God that I could make it through to the final list and then it’s a feeling of relief that the hard work that I have put in has brought dividends and then finally its sheer happiness.

How did you prepare for it? Coaching classes, number of study hours, the choice of subjects and so on...
Well, since I was working I could not attend any coaching classes; also, I had limited time at my disposal so my strategy was to ensure that I study at least 4 hours on weekdays and 7-8 hours on weekends. This was my work plan for the 1.5 years that I took to clear this exam.
Apart from the usual 4 hrs I ensured that whenever I had time at hand in office I would look at online materials for current affairs from websites like Wikipedia,, government websites etc. This helped me with my general studies content which is an important part of this exam.
From the optional subject point of view I took Public Administration and Psychology primarily because the subjects interested me and at the same time the materials for these subjects are easily available and this makes things simpler while chalking out the study plan.

What were the most difficult times for you during the preparation and the exam? How did you deal with them?
Preparing for civil services is one of the most interesting yet arduous processes that one can go through, the sheer length of the exam process and the uncertainty of the outcome at the end of it is taxing on your faculties both mentally and emotionally. Some days the preparations are really good and on other days self doubt creeps into your mind and you feel emotionally exhausted.
What is important is to constantly speak with your near and dear ones so that there is an avenue to release the negative emotions and get recharged to continue the preparations with motivation.
As for me I would constantly talk with my parents and my fiancée who has been an immense source of motivation and encouragement through this journey. They have been the cornerstone of my emotional strength and I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart.

Considering not many from Sikkim opt or clear the UPSC exams. Was that discouraging or a challenge for you?
Well the thought never occurred to me when I started off as by then Agya Karma Bonpo ( IAS Sikkim Cadre 2010 ) had already got through the exams , but when I was thick into preparations the enormity and the difficulty level of this exams dawned upon me. So, yes the start was not much of a problem but what became challenging was the process of keeping myself motivated for this exam. Eventually by Gods grace, a bit of effort and my support system from my family, fiancée and friends I could make it through.

As a continuation of the earlier question, what made you take on UPSC exams considering it is almost seen as ‘impossible’ by most here in Sikkim? So, what was your motivation?
Well the reasons for starting the preparations was very personal, but as things progressed and I started to understand the importance of these services the feeling of being able to be a part of a system that brings about change and development was a huge motivating factor in itself. The prestige that comes with the job is also an added benefit. Lastly, getting through this exam would mean that I might get a chance to serve the people of Sikkim in a capacity that would be very satisfying and enriching.

What was the reaction of friends, family, even acquaintances when they first came to know that you plan to sit for these exams?
ENCOURAGEMENT, that’s the one word that would best describe the reaction of my family and friends when I decided to sit for this exam. After that it was all-out support in whatever way they could do like providing pep talk when I doubted myself, regular visits to Enchey Monastery on my behalf, getting certain documents attested so on and so forth.

Having been through it all, what advice or suggestions do you have for those in Sikkim who aspire or are preparing for the civil services?
All I can say is Believe in yourself, don’t think that there are 4 lakh candidates sitting for the exam, instead think that you are amongst that few thousand who are serious about this exam and as such you have the best chance of getting through. With this belief and attitude dive straight into preparations and keep communication with your support systems of family and friends. If you take this approach success will surely be yours.

Finally, what is life like post the dreaded exams?
Well, it’s not changed much; just that I am waiting for my Service allocation so that things get clearer and in the meanwhile I am serving my notice period in my current job which ends next month. Apart from that I am a bit relaxed , been catching up on some movies and the usual stuff and the icing on the cake is that as I am assured a service with the Government of India which makes these few months blissful! 

High Court Justices make surprise inspection of Lower Courts, seize court files

GANGTOK, 14 June: Following a surprise inspection of the lower courts here today, the Sikkim High Court Chief Justice Permod Kohli and Justice Sonam P Wangdi seized several court files pertaining to court cases suspecting gross irregularities in them (court files).
The surprise inspection, sources in High Court inform, was necessitated by a string of complaints received by the High Court against the functioning of a section of the lower courts here. Although details of the documents seized by the Justices today could not be ascertained, sources add that the High Court is clearly dissatisfied with what it sensed in its inspection today.
Chief Justice Permod Kohli and Justice Wangdi arrived at the lower courts here at Sichey shortly after noon today and were there for around three hours and made a close assessment of the working of the lower courts.
The Sichey complex houses the District & Sessions Court [East & North], two Special Division courts, one court of Chief Judicial Magistrate and one Judicial Magistrate court. The Justices inspected the workings and documents of all the Courts today.
Highlighting that the functioning of the lower judiciary comes under the watch of the High Court, some strong measures can be expected next, sources add.

Number of cases received by State Women’s Commission down to 94 in 2011-12 from 122 in 2010

GANGTOK, 14 June: The Sikkim State Commission for Women [SSCW] has received a total of 250 cases from 2010 till May 2012 and it is informed that almost all the cases have been resolved. SSCW has successfully solved 226 of these cases, while 34 cases that were registered with the Commission since April 2012 will be heard by the Commission on 15 and 29 June. The cases that the Commission has addressed so far since 2010 are of family dispute, matrimonial dispute, assault, property dispute, mental torture and illicit relations.
Speaking to NOW!, Chairperson SSCW, Subhadra Rai, stated that the highest number of cases registered with the Commission was in the year 2010-11 when 122 cases came to it. This number has come down to 94 in 2011-12. This decrease in the number of cases is, according to the Chairperson, is a result of wider awareness on women’s issues and rights among people in the state. The count for the year 2012-13 has begun with 34 cases so far.
She went on to add that all cases received by the Commission are given the highest priority and justice delivered to all those women and even men who knock on the doors of the Commission seeking justice.
Ms Rai mentioned that the Commission has been conducting awareness camps across the state covering all the districts, every year and the target groups set for the camps are Panchayats, non governmental organisations, elderly citizens, women, men and even the young generation.
She adds that women in distress and unwed mothers, if traced during any case, are sent to Mamtalaya for a fixed tenure, where they are facilitated with some skill development training to help them come into the mainstream society on their own.
“The best part about our society is that distressed and unwed women are accepted back the society when they come out of the Mamtalaya and are even encouraged due to which no additional problems are being faced so far by women in the state,” said Ms Rai.
Speaking on bigamy, the Chairperson stated, “There exist no laws or rights for the second wife rather all the rights are only secured by the first wife, so it’s important for every woman across the state to think twice before getting into such relationships”.
Ms Rai informed that women from all sections of the society including working women knock the doors of the Commission for justice.

Road uncertainties begin

GANGTOK, 14 June: The road to Nathula has been blocked due to slides pushed down by heavy rainfall over the past 24 hours in several places between 7th Mile to Sherathang on the Jawaharlal Nehru Marg. The Border Road Organisation (BRO) is working round-the-clock to clear the road, however, the continuous rainfall has made progress difficult.
These days, BRO is facing various challenges due to heavy landslides together with ongoing widening and upgradation work along the National Highway.
Commuters travelling on the National Highway between Singtam and Marchak near Ranipool are also facing several problems due to fresh slide s. Road widening work along the NH 31A has triggered multiple slides in different places- mainly near the Govt Fruit Preservation Factory (Sikkim Supreme), Topakhani, Sang Khola, 9th Mile, 11th Mile and Nimtar.
Hundreds of tourists were stranded and commuters complained of the poor condition of NH31-A between Singtam to Marchak adding that there are more than five areas hit by major and minor slides which have occurred over the past couple of days.

Unusual mortality in piglets at Rinchenpong, sale of piglets banned in parts of West Sikkim

GANGTOK, 14 June: Soon after the distribution of piglets to beneficiaries of Rinchenpong constituency, unusual mortality in piglets has been observed, informs a press release issued by AHLF and VS Department, Joint Director, West district, Dr DS Tewari.
On the direction of the District authority, the Deputy Director/ field veterinarian from Dentam Veterinary Hospital visited the outbreak area and initiated treatment of all the sick piglets. Despite undergoing the course of antibiotics and life saving drugs, the response was very poor and mortality was observed within a short span of time, the release informs. Blood samples have been sent by Dr. S Pradhan to the State Disease Investigation Laboratory at Gangtok and the results are awaited.
As such, the symptoms point towards “swine fever” or “Viral disease of pigs” and now para-veterinarians and veterinarians have been directed to avoid contamination and infection by controlling movement of people from infected to non-infected areas, the release mentions.
Sale and purchase of piglets has to be avoided and the same has been banned at Reshi Bazaar, Soreng Bazar, Monglay, Rinchenpong, Martam, Dentam and Legship. Disinfection of pig sties, and local areas is going on and para-veterinarians are suggested to remain and work only in infected zones.
As soon as the swine fever vaccine is procured, ring vaccination will be executed in various areas. Since the disease spreads easily, vaccination will be done within 100 metres of the radius of the infected zone.
Thakuthang, Jusingthang, Manglay farm and Gangyap across the river will be covered by Soreng Veterinary Hospital. Reshi towards Hathi Dunga will be covered by Reshi Veterinary Dispensary while Rinchenpong, Tadong will be covered by Dentam Veterinary Hospital.
Such kind of mortality in piglets has been observed quite often and can be accrued to the absence of quarantine in check post areas which should be made mandatory, the release adds.
To address this serious problem land and infrastructure is required at Rambang- Check post for West Sikkim. Along with this during procurement and examination of blood serum, lymph and other parameters to identify and diagnose the disease in incubation period are needed, the release further adds.

Editorial:Passenger Safety

A person driving to Siliguri recently was flagged down by BRO labourers to stop while the dozers cleared back-cutting debris from NH 31A. As the person waited, a mainline taxi bumped into his vehicle from behind. When the person got out to check the damage and find out the cause, the apologetic taxi driver explained that his vehicle’s brakes were not in top shape. The vehicle had bumped itself to a stop! The damage was not much, but the real worry was the utter disregard for human lives. The vehicle was loaded to full capacity with 10 passengers on board. And no brakes! It soon transpired that all that the driver could present by way of documents was a year-old General Diary police complaint recording that the documents of the vehicle were lost. As for a driving licence, the driver claimed that he had applied for one in Siliguri and yet to receive it. What is more, he was not even the actual driver of the said vehicle and was filling in for the regular driver who had decided to take a day off and requisitioned his services for the day! Just about every prescribed rule for passenger vehicles was being flouted. What is frightening is that it was not even a rare aberration. Little surprise then that in the past two and a half months [April to 14 June 2012], this newspaper has reported 13 road accidents on Sikkim’s roads. Counting the seven lives lost in the Melli accident of Thursday, a staggering 22 lives have been lost to road accidents in the two and a half months in question. It is time that more earnest efforts were initiated to address road safety- the pointlessness of the road safety week tokenism [observed in the first week of May] will just not do any more.
It is important to bear in mind that only two of the 13 accidents were caused by bad roads or landslides. At Sisney in East Sikkim, a landslide collapsed on a vehicle claiming the lives of a husband and wife couple and at Seti Pool towards Siliguri, another couple perished when their vehicle went off the road because there were no prominent markers in place to warn of a collapsed section. All the remaining accidents and fatalities were caused by driver error. Here, one may add that the blame for even mechanical failures leading to accidents has to rest with the drivers for having ignored the warning signs. One should not be surprised if it transpires that most of the accidents involved vehicles which were not road-worthy, either because of faulty brakes or ineffectually traction due to bald tyres or inept hands on the wheels [a poor driver, after all, makes even the best maintained rides dangerous]. The reason why the opening anecdote was shared is because it is a copybook illustration of all that is wrong with passenger/ road safety in Sikkim. Unfortunately, none of real reasons which are making travelling unsafe for people who opt for jeeps and taxis is being addressed. This section has often spoken of the need for traffic regulators to focus more on the road worthiness and driving skills than documents and licences. But this aspect continues to remain ignored. Here is a checklist of what could be considered. For one, the State Government needs to ensure that the “T” [Taxi] driving licenses are issued only after proper verification of the applicant’s driving skills. If this is done conscientiously, then the government can return more strictly to its policy decision of allowing on people with taxi driving licences issued in Sikkim to drive passenger vehicles here. Each time Motor Vehicle Inspectors or Traffic personnel stop a vehicle for ‘document check’ they should also inspect the road worthiness of the vehicle [at least the tyres and brakes] and pull the vehicles off the roads until the vehicles in question are brought back to health. A rule, mandatory in all metros now, that all passenger vehicles prominently display the ownership and driver details for all passengers to see clearly should also be considered [This board should also include contact details of agencies to contact in case of rash driving or rude behaviour by drivers]. This will ensure that the regular drivers do not play truant and put the lives of passengers in the hands of unauthorised and potentially unsafe drivers and will also encourage more passengers to complain against reckless driving. This is important because with the increase in the number of passenger vehicles, too many people with scant respect for traffic rules or human lives are being let loose on the highways.

Number of families displaced by Rolep flashflood rises to 14

Only the plinth remains of where a house once stood at Rolep. The house below had a miraculous escape as the flashflood, whose debris litters the foreground, bypassed it.

GANTOK, 13 June: Following the tragic incident at Rolep, 14 kms from Rongli bazaar, where a flashflood on the jhora flowing through the town washed away five homes and claimed seven lives on 07 June, support has been pouring in from various sections of the Sikkimese society.
Casino Mahjong of the May Fair group of Hotel Industries today handed over a cheque of Rs. 1 lakh for the seven affected families, reconstruction of other five severely damaged houses and other immediate relief purposes to the Zilla Panchayat.
Area MLA Laxuman Lepcha and Additional District Collector (Development), East, handed over Rs. 50,000 along with the work orders under the Chief Minister’s Rural Housing Scheme for reconstruction of the fully damaged houses. Zilla Adhyaksha East, Bimal Dawari and ADC (Development), MN Dhakal laid the foundation of CMRHM houses of one Min Bahadur Rai at Rolep.
Mr. Dhakal, while speaking to NOW!, said that the government has taken prompt action regarding rehabilitation of the landslide victims and started reconstruction of damaged houses. He informed that in the first stage, the government is reconstructing the five houses which were washed away and seven other severely damaged houses.
Besides this, Block Development Officer (BDO) Rongli on his visit to upper Rolep [Nibarey] above the devastated Rolep found two more houses severely damaged there. With this the total number of families displaced by the 07 June flashflood has gone up to 14.
At present, the 14 families have been given shelter by around 70 families in and around Rolep located in safer areas, informed Mr Dhakal.
The district administration has provided all necessary essential commodities to the displaced including clothes, it is informed.
However, road connectivity is in a deplorable state due to back cutting and upgradation of the present road which is a major concern of the locals there. The whole area has become calamity prone due to the flash flood that hit Rolep, observed ADC, Development.  On the other hand, the ADC has assured to look into the matter adding that the administration has very limited skilled manpower to fight such calamities.
EPCS Church of Church Road, Gangtok has also come out in support announcing that the church will take care of the schooling of Amrita Rai, who was orphaned in the tragic incident. Amrita’s cousin brother who has been taking care of her since the incident has given his consent to the Church regarding the same.
Elder Andrew Rai of the EPCS Church, stated that they are willing to take care of Amrita if her relatives and the government allows the church to do so. They will bear all the expenses for her schooling till class XII, he offered.
The EPCS Church has also donated food grains, clothes, blankets and cash of Rs.7,000 for the victims which was handed over to the Zilla Panchayat.  Similarly, the Dalapchand school children have generously contributed an amount of Rs 3,220 to the victim’s families. The contribution from Casino Mahjong was handed over by the General Manager Sherap Lepcha at Rolep today.

Back-cutting collapses on NH 31 A, again

GANGTOK, 13 June: Back cutting along National Highway 31A at Golitar, a few kilometers away from Singtam bazaar, triggered a mudslide which blocked the National Highway at 3:40 PM this afternoon.
One JCB belonging to Project Swastik of the Border Road Organisation was buried under the debris. The driver of the JCB managed to escape in time, informed Police Inspector of Singtam Police Station, Chundi Chopel.
Two children, however, sustained minor injuries as large rocks and mud came down on the road. They were treated at Singtam District Hospital. Sikkim police, GREF and BRO officials were engaged in clearing the road for normal traffic. Weather and the degraded alignment permitting, traffic was expected to be restored by late in the evening.
This is the second incident in three days where mudslides and falling boulders caused by back-cutting related for road-widening works by Project Swastik having disrupted traffic between Singtam and Rangpo.
Commuters were severely inconvenienced today as well. Taking advantage of the situation, Singtam taxi drivers were seen charging commuters double the normal fares to run the transshipment route.
Members of the Taxi Drivers’ Association of Singtam avoided media persons as reporters tried to question them on their responsibility towards addressing the indiscriminate hike in rates this afternoon. Local taxis plying from Singtam and Gangtok agreed to take passengers only if the entire taxi was reserved or were charging fares of Rs 80-100 per passenger if on share basis [from Singtam to Gangtok], against the normal rate of Rs. 40 per passenger. This usury in the face of the fact that most commuters had already paid up the entire fare for the journey to vehicles they had to abandon on the far side of the slide!

The reign of ‘Sikkim Empire’ begins

GANGTOK, 12 June: ‘Rich,’ ‘luxurious,’ ‘cool,’ ‘smooth,’ ‘creamy,’ ‘heavenly,’ ‘satisfying’... these are some of the terms used to describe one’s craving for ice-cream. The ‘power of ice cream’ as many explain has the ability to change one’s state of mind like when you’re feeling low -- maybe after a bad blind date -- you eat ice cream… and you feel a little better, because you have something that satisfies you or when you’re having a bad day, there’s always ice cream to pick you up.
Ice-cream for many is a product you can count on to be there for you in good times and in bad and now here is our own Sikkim Empire brand of ice-cream in different flavours which will help you beat the heat of the sun as well as the heat of everyday life.
The Sikkim Empire brand of ice- creams, a produce of the Sikkim Milk Union (SMU), comes in four flavors, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and mango and was launched by the Chief Minister in March this year and in just two months since its first batch reached retail outlets, is giving major market players such as Amul and Vadilal a run for their money.
“Sikkim Milk was established in 1980 as a cooperative which had an output of 700 litres of milk per day, 32 years down the line it now involves ten thousand farmers state-wide and produces 16,000 litres every day. With the cooperative union catering basically to urban centers, it seemed a great idea to launch our own brand of ice- creams along with our other range of milk products,” shares the Sikkim Milk Managing Director, Dr. P Senthil Kumar.
With an initial investment of just Rs 42 lakh on machinery and an additional Rs 10 lakh for the packaging unit, Sikkim Milk Union has added the ice-cream manufacturing unit to its already existing infrastructure for milk processing. With subsidies being provided to retailers for refrigeration uits and deep-freezers, Sikkim Empire within this year has plans to expand its output of 900 litres of ice-cream per day to any quantity as per the market demand.
“We are producing three batches, each of 300 litres per day, four days a week. There are still some teething problems since this is a new venture. We already had most of the infrastructure in place and with a little improvisation we have started our own unit. This is just the initial phase, we will start with aggressive marketing and take production levels up within this year,” the MD adds.
At present, the product is being sold from select outlets all of whom are optimistic about the prospects of Sikkim Empire, stating that the product does not compromise on quality and is completely organic. The pricing also works in favour of the product which comes in 250ml, 500ml and 1000ml family packs, cups and Sikkim Milk has now added two new flavours - the elaichi and orange sticks.
It is also informed that the ice-cream is currently being supplied in insulated containers through Sikkim Milk truck dispatches; this limited supply in the market is slowly earning respect with demand growing every day. Keeping this in mind, Sikkim Milk has now ordered for modified refrigeration and insulated vans to start reaching the districts and other major towns.
Trainings and recruitment of specialized manpower is also on the cards, informs the MD who added that the ice-cream unit is currently being run by professionals from the already existing employees who were trained for the same. With more stress now being given to the stabilization for the production unit, a strong surge of marketing will be undertaken soon, he informs.
“With minimal investment we have delivered a successful product. We already have paneer, churpi and curd amongst some of the products but with ice-cream we have diversified and targeted a larger section of customers. Feedback suggests that the ice-creams were well received by the tourists as well. We hope to keep-up this good image and deliver a quality product which will be a household name in the coming days in Sikkim as well as neighbouring West Bengal,” states the MD.
With a huge supply of milk from local dairies guaranteed, opting for a new venture with the excess milk is a positive initiative. With ice-cream market here dependent completely on Siliguri for supplies [thus far], Sikkim Milk now offers a home-grown alternative. So next time you go to buy an ice-cream, give Sikkim Empire a try.

Missing couple found dead in Regu

GANGTOK, 13 June: A couple who had gone missing from their residence on Sunday were found dead in a cardamom field in South Regu, East Sikkim falling under the Rongli Police Station on Tuesday.
According to the police, the deceased have been identified as Bal Bahadur Rai [47] and Mangal Maya Rai [45] of South Regu, East Sikkim, who were missing since Sunday. On Tuesday, the body of the woman Mangal Maya who was found dead in the cardamom field had multiple cuts, head injuries which had been caused by a sharp weapon and around 20 meters away from the deceased, Bal Bahadur was found hanging from a tree.  
According to the police the deceased Mangal Maya may have been murdered by her husband who then committed suicide by hanging.
A case of murder under section 302 [punishment for murder] and a case of Unnatural Death [UD] has been registered at the Rongli Police Station and investigation is underway.

SIMFED begins e-payment for flower growers

GANGTOK, 13 June: The Sikkim State Co-operative Supply and Marketing Federation Limited (SIMFED), has recently tied up with Axis Bank, Gangtok, for making payments to the flower growers of the state. The payment is done on-the-spot to the growers after necessary grading/ sorting etc, informs a press release.
SIMFED has been receiving cut flowers of Asiatic Lillium in bulk quantity since mid-May. However, as it is not the season for weddings, the demand for cut flowers has been very low. These cut flowers are being sold at very low rates in the market outside the state. However, SIMFED through Axis Bank has been making the payments to the flower growers as per the rate fixed and declared by SIMFED through various news media, the release informs.
This has been done to encourage the marginal growers to take up floriculture as additional source of income and to make Sikkim a floriculture state, the release states.
Further, in order to imbibe the habit of savings among the growers and to curtail the travelling expenses of the growers to visit the office to receive their payment, the management of SIMFED, has decided to make e-payments in association with Axis Bank. The account of the growers will be credited on the same day for the flowers which were delivered to SIMFED, the release further informs.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


DIKCHU, 12 June: The above photograph is of the Teesta Stage V hydel project reservoir at Dikchu, its bed exposed after it was flushed on Sunday when the silt levels increased beyond the dam’s capacity to manage. It was rare sight for the residents here to see what a free-flowing Teesta looks like when it courses through their town because all they otherwise experience nowadays are the lulling laps of a reservoir. Readers will also be able to spot some locals standing along the boundary wall of the now abandoned Dikchu Secondary School campus above the reservoir and the high bank of the silt deposit. NHPC suspended power generation at the Stage-V for two days due to heavy siltation in the Teesta. Heavy rains and flashfloods in North district inundated the Teesta with silt much higher than the project’s capacity to handle [normally Teesta generates 6,000ppm] of 10000ppm which made the process of ‘flushing’ seen in the photograph above necessary.

Deptts submit DPRs for Rs. 1,471 crore worth of earthquake repairs

GANGTOK, 12 June: All State Government Departments, except the Social Welfare Department, have submitted Detailed Project Reports amounting to Rs. 1,471 crore for reconstruction and rebuilding of the 18 September 2011 Earthquake damage in the State.
The proposed DRPs were made against the Prime Ministers’ Relief Fund announced by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his post earthquake visit to Sikkim on 29 September 2011. The detailed project reports approved by the State Cabinet in different phases include the reconstruction of the Secretariat building at a cost of Rs. 193 crore. Another Rs. 324 crore has been sanctioned and approved for reconstruction and retrofitting of 13 other civil secretariats (13 department State headquarters in Gangtok).
The government has also approved construction of 7,972 earthquake damaged rural houses to the tune of Rs. 391 crore against the proposed Rs. 454 crore.
Similarly, under the Department of Roads and Bridges, the government has sanctioned and approved the renovation and rebuilding of state roads and bridges to the tune of Rs. 216 crore against the proposed Rs. 200 crore. The additional costs of Rs 16 crore has been earmarked for rebuilding and renovation of rural roads under Rural Management and Development Department.
The Department of Planning along with the Department of Disaster Management have also allocated the funds as per the DPRs prepared for other government establishments for renovation and reconstruction including retrofitting. Rs.20 crore has been earmarked for retrofitting of Sikkim Police headquarter, Sikkim Legislative Assembly, Human Resource and Development, Social Welfare, State Archives, Forest, Environment and Wildlife management and Working Women’s Hostel, Deorali.
Besides these, Rs.50 crore has been sanctioned for renovation and reconstruction of school buildings, Rs. 5 crore for ICDS centres, Rs.20 crore for Public Health Sub-Centres under Health, Human Care and Family Welfare department, Rs. 5 crore for Animal Husbandry and Livestock, Rs. 10 crore for Rural Management and Development Department, Rs.70 lakh for Paljor Stadium, Rs. 50 lakh for Food Preservation Factory at Singtam, Rs.6 crore for Urban Development and Housing Department, Rs.52.80 crore for State Power Projects and Rs.30 crore against the proposed Rs 200 crore for renovation of drinking water and sewerage systems in Sikkim.
These DPRs were sanctioned and approved as part of the long term programme of the state government under the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. Apart from these, the state government has received Rs 270 crore for short term programmes including the rehabilitation and rescue work from the National Disaster Relief Fund.

15 Public Information Officers penalized by SIC so far

GANGTOK, 12 June: The State Information Commission [SIC] for Right to Information [RTI] has, since the year 2006, penalized fifteen State Public Information Officers [SPIOs] of various departments for delaying and detaining information sought under RTI within the stipulated time of one month. The highest penalty imposed by the Commission so far is of Rs. 24,750 [the highest penalty the Commission can impose is of upto Rs. 25,000].
Speaking to NOW! today, Chief Information Commissioner [CIC] Nari Tshering confirmed that the SIC has imposed penalties on 15 SPIOs for non-issuance of correct, in-complete information sought through RTI within the stipulated time frame of one month from the time of complaint received. The penalized SPIOs were provided with additional time as well by the SIC but failed to provide correct and complete information.
Since 2006 SIC has received 266 complaints till date and all have been disposed, while the 59 existing cases are all appeal cases, it is informed. He mentioned that no cases are pending and the result met so far by the Commission is satisfactory as the judgment provided is “of the highest level”.
The CIC added that to make RTI more effective and successful, the Commission has been carrying out mass awareness drives across the state for quite some time now and reached even the remotest villages with the aim to generate wider awareness among the people about their Right To Information.
“The RTI Act is the people’s Act so it’s important for every citizen of the Indian Union to know about their rights and its uses,” he stressed.
The CIC further informed that in the year 2011-12 the Commission conducted awareness camps in almost all districts covering areas like Dzongu, Chungthang, Dikchu in North to Ravangla, Sombaria, Kewzing in South District, Rinchenpong in West and Ranka, Parakha and Regu in the East. On an average the Commission conducts 45 to 55 awareness camps per year, but this year the CIC stated that the Commission plans to conduct even more camps covering the entire state.
He further informed that the Commission also plans to conduct awareness camps in the most remote areas like Gnathang Machong in East, Lingee Sokpay in South and Lachen and Lachung in North as well.

BREAKING BARRIERS: Nim Diki Bhutia and Sudeshna Lama become first women football referees of Sikkim

GANGTOK, 12 June: Entering the male dominated preserve of football are two Sikkimese women - Nim Diki Bhutia and Sudeshna Lama - not as players but as referees.
Already in the panel of referees as trainees in the ongoing 2nd Division S-League Football tourney at Palzor Stadium, the two are set to become torch-bearers in this field in Sikkim. The duo have now become the first women to officiate any football match in the state.
“I am grateful to the Sikkim Football Association (SFA) for providing me with the unique chance of supervising the tournament as trainee referee”, says 21-year-old Sudeshna Lama. She expressed her desire to become a national level referee in future.
While Nim Diki expresses that it is high time for women to come out to grab the opportunity and scope in this field at both the state and national level. She urged other women folk to come forward to take refereeing as a profession and said “I am most willing to train girls aspiring to take up refereeing as a profession.”
It may be mentioned here that both had attended a month long Women’s Soccer Referee course at Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh few months earlier. It was conducted by All India Football Federation (AIFF) under the Project Future India 2012 of the Asian Football Confederation.

Budget session to begin on 25 June

GANGTOK, 12 June: The Budget Session of Sikkim Legislative Assembly for the financial year 2012-13 has been called for 25 June.  Sources in the Law Department and the Sikkim Legislative Assembly inform that the State government has decided to hold a four-day long budget session from 25 to 29 June. Chief Minister Pawan Chamling will present his 13th consecutive budget in the floor of Sikkim Legislative Assembly on the first day of the budget session. It may be mentioned here that the first Finance Minister of the SDF Government was PT Lucksom who was replaced by Ram Lepcha. Mr. Chamling has held the Finance portfolio since the SDF’s second term in office.

Attempt to rape

GANGTOK, 12 June: A case of attempted rape and house trespass has been registered at the Ravangla Police Station on 11 June.
According to a written complaint made by a Zarong resident, his deaf and dumb cousin sister sleeps alone in the ground floor of his home. On 07 June, at around 10.15 p.m., on hearing some noise from the ground floor, the complainant came down to check and saw one Til Man Darjee fleeing. He then found his cousin sister in a state that indicated that there had been an attempt to rape.
The medical opinion has been reserved till the pathological report is received. The accused has been arrested and the case is under investigation.
A case under section 448/376/511 [punishment for house-trespass, punishment for rape and punishment for attempting to commit offences punishable with imprisonment for life or other imprisonment] of the Indian Penal Code has been registered against the accused at the Ravangla Police Station.

Woman beaten to death in West Sikkim

GANGTOK, 12 June: A case for murder has been registered at the Naya Bazaar Police Station on 11 June, after a woman died due to beating and torture by another woman.
According to written information of Kipu Bhutia [Panchayat President of Dethang Gram Panchayat, West Sikkim], the deceased Maiti Rai [38], who was deaf and dumb, was the second wife of Passang Sherpa, resident of Parang Gaon, Gurasey in West Sikkim, while the accused Sona Sherpa [35] was the first wife. Both the first wife and the second wife were living together in the same house.
As per the complaint, the first reports of physical abuse by the accused were received about two months ago. Apparently, the torture continued and yesterday, the assault was grievous enough to claim the victim’s life.
During the course of investigation, witnesses were examined and their statements recorded under section 161 Criminal Procedure. The weapon of offence was seized, the accused arrested and the case is under investigation. Meanwhile a case under section 302 [punishment for murder] of the Indian Penal Code has been registered at the Naya Bazaar Police Station against the accused Sona Sherpa.

Editorial: Stop Ignoring Domestic Violence

A lady was allegedly beaten to death in a rare form of domestic violence in West Sikkim recently. Rare, not because domestic violence is uncommon in Sikkim, but because, in this case, the accused is also a woman. Readers will also recall that a few months ago a housewife was found dead at home in Gangtok after a night of beating by her husband. There has also been a case of domestic abuse leading to suicide [alleged as a murder cover-up by the victim’s brother] in one of the more crowded residential areas of Gangtok. All of these in the recent months. In the latest case from West Sikkim, the cycle of violence, as per the panchayat representative who filed the police complaint, started around 2 months ago. It is also safe to assume that in the Gangtok incidents as well, the fatal beating was not the first time that the wife suffered violence. It is obvious that in all cases, neighbours and the elders of the society ignored the ugliness by convincing themselves that they had no ‘business’ getting involved because it was a ‘family matter’. This hesitation to engage has already claimed two lives in recent months and continues to scar too many more. It is time that the government and the people collaborated to save women from abusive relationships. But domestic violence unfortunately remains blindsided in Sikkim’s over-exuberance to claim that women in Sikkim are empowered and that there is no sexual discrimination here. While there can be no denying that at the government policy initiative level, women have been empowered in Sikkim, the same cannot be said for the social engagement on gender issues. While women in Sikkim are not denied opportunities or equality at the policy level, the same cannot be said about how the society at large responds to gender issues and nowhere is it more disturbing than in the society’s continuing disregard of women in distress. Women who stand up and say enough and seek justice and rescue might receive it, but that is an engagement with the State. Not all women in distress seek out help, their trauma and fear overpowering them. But the signs are always obvious and the beatings and abuse rarely quiet. At least the immediate neighbours and close friends are in the know, and while some might even offer comfort and advice, no one steps up to lodge an official complaint. This response is not unique to Sikkim and domestic violence is overlooked, excused and denied across the world. But that does not make it acceptable. It is important that organisations responsible for women’s welfare and empowerment reach out wider awareness on where people can lodge complaints of domestic violence. Complaints, whether from the victim or anonymous, should fetch immediate response and the concerned agencies in turn should have trained counsellors and access to police assistance to reach the victims and rescue them. There are many theories on why domestic violence is so common and what factors trigger it. One of these explanations looks at external factors in the offender’s environment, such as family structure, stress and social learning. When domestic violence is ignored by everyone even when it is obvious, the perpetrator sees it as an endorsement and continues with the deviance. By putting in place systems which proactively encourage people not to ignore this abomination, at least one causative factor would have been addressed. Agreed, domestic violence is too widespread and complicated to offer any easy solutions, but a start has to be made somewhere and what is suggested above is as a good a place to begin as any.

Mountainous water of Sikkim and its conservation


Essaying the magnificent role of water harvesting, a hill is a complex phenomenon; in other words, the hill itself is a paradigm of rain water harvesting. The roles of soil water, vadose water and saturated zone are incomparable and if any of these are de-linked, the water reservoir of a hill may pass to another water saturated zone. The pores of hill soil matrix, in soil column, typically act as capillary tubes in capillary fringes of soil, while, the capillary actions of the capillary fringes, above the saturated zone, act as the instruments to collect the water. Such action of soil pores immediately above the water table tenaciously retains water for the underlying water table. Soil water is a prerequisite for sustainable development of forest areas. In addition, the water retaining trees along the ridge to the base offer a good prototype for watershed development according to the altitudinal suitability of species for rendering water and water conservation for larger stakes. The soil moisture requirement varies from plant to plant. Moisture loving plants are available in the sliding and sinking zones and the growth of Alnus nepalensis [Utis] in sliding zones is a natural bioengineering evolution of forests.
At the advent, the hills with bases facing streams are generally sources of hill water. This, because hills without proper water management are vulnerable to landslides and prone to natural calamities. In this respect, the vulnerability mapping of hills is an urgent need of the hour in the state of Sikkim as part of a long-term strategy. Abundance of Alnus (utis), Macaranga (malata), Erythrina (phaledo), Viburnum (Asarey), Datura (datura) etc are signs of a healthy forest. Integrated growth of several regional or altitudinal species ensures sustainable development of the soil matrix, and in terms of biodiversity, such a paradigm is an exemplary form of another microclimatic zone or watershed. Generally, the landslide prone areas are devastated regions and require moisture loving and moisture retaining plants matching the soil moisture and dry conditions respectively.
In the plains, digging a few feet can reach the water table which is not possible in the hills. The hills provide beautiful examples of natural geo-bio engineering for water harvesting. The hilltop is a container-like entity and generally in Sikkim, the slopes at the higher altitudes have alpine trees such as Dhupi, Pines, Abies, Taxus etc. In the middle order, the forest of Machilus , Machelia , Spondias, and others are available. Likewise, at the base, forests of Schima wallichi, Castanopsis, Cedrela etc are seen. The general outlook on dhupi and other pines mistakenly believes that these plants absorb water and desert soil. It is however felt that the plantation of such trees at inappropriate areas is a major drawback although to a certain extent, the fast growth of pine and other dhupis in the higher altitudes leads to early drying of the soil and maintains ecological balance, preventing landslides.
Soil water, vadose water, capillary fringes and saturated zone play different roles in the natural water harvesting mechanism.
The rain water or water from other sources infiltrates the soil water and reaches vadose soil (at the rock or porous soil below soil water) at the sediments or rocky areas. The capillary action of capillary fringes, the layer above water table, trenches water and drains it out through cliffs. Mismanaged plans and wrong implementation of ridges to base treatment in three tiers approaches of top, middle and base, can result in devastation at the end. Such a devastated area cannot be retrenched in a day or a year, but requires decades or a century to rebuild.
Areas perennially under snow cover have very few vegetation of herbaceous nature. High soil moisture content and humic nature of alpine make a very fragile environment at the top. Generally, these hills or mountainous regions receive large amounts of rainfall as well. Likewise, such snowy mountainous belts are vulnerable to avalanches and landslides.
Nevertheless, just below the alpine forest, trees and shrubs are available even if only of moderate size. These forests are engaged in maintaining major ecological water harvesting role too. Destruction of such vegetation may result in lesser transpiration of soil moisture and ultimately affect soil fertility. Any disturbance in the natural equilibrium of an ecosystem, without regional forest planning, is ill advised.
Other forest types such as temperate, sub-temperate, sub-tropical and tropical forests are also found in the Sikkim hills and are responsible for the transpiration of soil water and provide water for the forest sustainability. These forests control the soil water runoff and soil erosion. The biodynamics of these forest types are in accord to the type of hills and microclimatic zones. Change of vegetation matrix and adaptation of new exotic species and removal of the natural habitat are the imposed threats to the Sikkim ecosystem.
According to the nature and properties of plants, water consumption levels differ, and eventually so do soil fertility and soil maintenance. Some of the identified water retaining plants of Sikkim recorded from reconnaissance of habitats and their fringes are Arundinaria racemosa (Sanu maling), Bambusa tulda (Mal bans), Bambusa vulgaris (Telai bans), Bambusa vulgaris var waminii (Lota bans), Dendrocalamus hamiltonii (Choya bans), Dendrocalamus himiltonii var edulis (Guliyo tama), Dendrocalamus patellaris (Neba), Dendrocalamus hookeri (Tili bans), Dendrocalamus sikkimensis (Bhalu bans), Dendrocalamus strictus (Bhalu bans), Dendrocalamus asper (Kabas bans), Phyllostachys manii (Kata bans), Phyllostachys nigra (Kalo ningalo), Schizostachyum capitatum (Gopa bans), Schizostachyum dullooa (Tokre bans), Schizostachyum latifolium (Dullo bans), Sinarundinaria hookerina (Parang), Sinarundinaria intermedia (Tite nigalo), Sinarundinaria maling (Maling), Sinarundinaria microphylla (Deo nigalo), Thamnocalamus aristatus (Rato nigalo) etc for Bamboos species, likewise, trees species are Ficus auriculata (Bhutuk), Ficus benghalensis (Bar), Ficus benjamina (Swami), Ficus glaberrima (Pakhuri), Ficus hederacea (Dudhe lahara), Ficus hirta (Khasreto), Ficus hispida (Kharsu/ kothedumar), Ficus lacor (Pakadi), Ficus nerrifolia (Dudhe), Ficus oligodon (Nimaro), Ficus palmate (Bedu), Ficus microcarpa (Sami), Ficus racemosa (Gular/ Dumri), Prunus napaulensis (Arupatey), Jambosa kurzii (Ambakey), Bischofia javanica (Kaijal), Albizzia marginata (Siris) Musa sikkimensis (Ban banara), Litsea polyantha (Ketmero), Elaeocarpus sikkimensis (Badrasey), Spondias axillaries (Lapshee), Bassia butyracea (Cheurey), Machilus edulis (Pomche), Juglans regia (Okar), Cedrela toona (Tuni), Cordia oblique (Bori) , Terminalia myriocarpa (Pani sanj), Schima wallichii (Chilauney), Castanopsis hystrix (Katus), Symplocos theifolia (Karaney), Abies webbiana (gobrey salla), Larix griffithi ( bargay salla), Michelia champaca (Champ), Castanopsis tribuloides (Patley katus) etc.
Traditional knowledge, refined from age old phenomenon and passed down from generation to generation and sanctified as is evident from the sacred space occupied by trees of the region are reflected in the plant species I have researched for water resource conservation. The testimonies of the elders and extant belief systems make people aware about conservation and its necessity. Dignified social planning is now necessary for the protection and preservation of water sources and their conservation.
Generally, lack of awareness proves costly matter when it comes to water conservation. The trees, geo-resources and animal habitat of invertebrates and vertebrates are important components of water conservation. Capillary fringes above the water table are the habitat of reptiles, birds, crabs, wild rat etc. They clear soil layer at the inner levels for their settlement at the capillary fringes of soil. Missing any of these bio and geo resources may damage the water source. In addition, a sustainable water source can be developed through integrated approaches of biotic and abiotic factors in accord to microclimatic zone at the capillary fringes.
Soil health is an important issue for vegetative growth, for the animals and for the abiotic factors. Lack of fertility, acidity and other relative factors destroy vegetation. In the midst of such nature, the movement of animals from one water source region to another may result in slow drying of water sources. The panorama of decades old vegetation cannot be rebuilt in a day or year. Eventually, as rain water runoff increases, it triggers further deterioration and leads to disaster. Therefore, the primary role of the soil health is significant for the management and maintenance of hills.
Shifting of water source locations from one point to another is an unusual and unwanted happening of hills. Deforestation at hilltops, increment of soil water run off, inability of rain water harvesting natural mechanism, changes in vegetation matrix, changes in animal matrix and other relative factors are the major reasons for such happenings. Drying of a water source is not a result of a day’s damage, but the outcome of continued recklessness which diverts the water capillary action of capillary fringes to other directions.
Construction of artificial tanks at a water sprout should be avoided. It should be instead located at the basal region as a harvesting site or tank without much damage to the ground condition.
Pure water, air and natural resources are the economy and capital of the hills. General awareness on the natural water harvesting mechanism of hills is necessary for the strategic protection and preservation of water sources. In connection to this, necessary vegetation of water retaining plants at lower and upper area of capillary fringes in hill, are mandatory for the perennial water source.
The State Government’s endeavor towards water conservation and implementation of water conservation plans is noteworthy and unparalleled. Close people’s participation, vulnerability mapping and sustainable strategy for the water conservation are the urgent requirements for the protection of water sources of Sikkim. Integrated natural regeneration as per the microclimatic zone needs to be proposed by the Gram Sabhas or competent authority. The Sikkim Himalaya holds such a variety of altitudinal gradients that within a hillock itself one can find all types of forests. Hence, planning with the proper knowledge of watershed and geological data will bear fruit when it comes to water conservation for the benefit of the people at large. Unscrupulous decisions on the vegetation matrix preparation should be avoided. Opinions and advice of regional experts and natural regeneration methodology may be adopted for the better water conservation.
[the writer is Principal Scientist, High Altitude Research Centre, Forests, Environment and Wildlife Management Department, Government of Sikkim]

Sikkim Milk Union team tours West Sikkim to promote quality production

GANGTOK, 11 June: In an effort to stimulate quality milk collection, the management team of Sikkim Milk Union comprising of Managing Director, Joint General Manager, DGM along with field supervisors visited several Village Cooperative Societies in West Sikkim including the ones located at Timberbong, Dodak, Buriakhop, Bada Samdong, Raphang, Sribadam in the last week, informs a press release.
The functionaries of the societies were explained about the importance and need of collection of evening milk in order to ensure that the quality of milk is of acceptable standard. The management team also insisted on utilizing the bulk milk cooler properly to obtain benefits out of the same in enhancing the milk quality, the release mentions.
Issues related to cattle feed distribution and management issues arising out of road blocks occurring due to landslides were also discussed to arrive at location specific solution. The release informs that field functionaries were directed to facilitate movement of milk from societies whenever there is a road block.
Sikkim Milk Union has initiated several measures to improve the quality of milk procured from the cooperative societies. The quality of milk procured in Sikkim suffers due to problem associated with mixing of evening with morning milk particularly during summer. In order to avoid such instances, the union has installed about 30 bulk cooling machines at various locations in South, East and West Sikkim, the release informs.
The Union has also provided deep freezers to more than 40 societies. The evening milk collected by the members have to be brought to the bulk cooling stations in the evening itself, so that milk is preserved with its original quality and flavor. All the bulk cooling stations have been requested to start evening milk collection and chill them in the coolers till it is dispatched to the Union.
As of now, a few coolers are functioning to enable the societies and its members to collect evening milk. It is expected that the remaining bulk coolers will be functional within a few days and start sending fresh and quality milk to the union, the release mentions further adding that the field functionaries of the union are on their toes to get this initiative forward.

6,000 quintals of essential commodities procured to stock up against monsoon vagaries

GANGTOK, 11 June: The State Food and Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department [FCS&CAD], as part of monsoon preparedness, has procured a total of 6,000 quintals of essential commodities like Rice and Flour in the state. Apart from this the department has also identified vulnerable areas across the State following which the maintenance of the buffer stocks there has been initiated.
Speaking to NOW! today, Additional Secretary [FCS&CAD] KK Kafley informed that the department has identified the areas prone to blockage during monsoon like the whole of North District, in East- Pakyong, Rongli which are also termed as vulnerable areas, West District- Dentam, Tashiding, Sombaria, Soreng and in South District areas like Ravangla to cater to the supply of food grains to Sada, Phamtam and Yangang and assessing the requirement, the food grains have been procured and maintenance of the stock is under process.
Normally the food grains procured by the state under all schemes operational in the state is about 37,163.90 quintals per month but to cater to the needs of the general masses in the far-flung areas of the state the buffer stock has been procured. The food grains procured for the monsoon is to mitigate the requirement during emergency, meanwhile the regular supply of grains will continue as usual.
The food grains procured by the state normally are; under BPL category the total amount of food grains distributed in the state is 9,420 quintals, APL [two categories] is 19,200 quintals, MMAAY is 5,780 quintals, Annapurna scheme [scheme for old people of 10 kgs rice per month] its 250 quintals and under welfare scheme its 113.90 quintals, respectively.
With respect to Kerosene supply or buffer stock for monsoon, the Additional Secretary mentioned that the total kiloliters [KL] of kerosene procured by the state per month totals to about 528 KL, which is about 5 lakhs 28 thousand liters. The supply of kerosene has been reduced by about 24,000 liters compared to earlier years by the central government. Whereas with regard to maintenance of buffer stock he iterated that there is no additional supply of kerosene to the state, while transport and storage is an even greater challenge.
The Additional Secretary with respect to Liquefied Petroleum Gas [LPG] buffer stock for the monsoon said that the Department of Food and Civil Supplies being the nodal department has placed the requirement with the Indian Oil Corporation [IOC] and has also had series of meetings on the requests placed. The LPG issue falls directly in the purview of the IOC inclusive of their norms and guidelines but the department on its part has also proposed for distributor-ship to be started in every constituency considering easy supply of the same soon.
Following the buffer stock of LPG during monsoon the department is also convening a meet on 15 June with all the distributors and based on the meet held the proposal would be sent to IOC for supply, he added.

Sikkim’s skill building initiative impresses Arunachal Minister

GANGTOK, 11 June: Agriculture Minister, Arunachal Pradesh along with Commissioner cum Secretary, Agriculture Department, Arunachal Pradesh, Hage Kojin and other officials visited the State Institute of Capacity Building (SICB), Karfectar on Sunday to get familiarized with the concept and genesis of Livelihood School and Capacity Building programs in Sikkim.
As per an SICB release, a special program and interactive session was held at the Mini conference hall of SICB at 7:00 PM. The Joint Chief Administrator, KB Pradhan welcomed all the delegates and informed the house about the establishment of State institute of Capacity Building, Karfectar, South Sikkim and Livelihood Schools.
Chief Administrator, SD Dhakal, in his power point presentation delivered in length about the concept of the Government of Sikkim for establishment of Livelihood Schools in all assembly Constituencies of Sikkim monitored by SICB.
He further explained in detail about the functioning, monitoring, diversified courses running in Livelihood Schools, installation of Management Information System (MIS), admission criteria, disbursement of stipend, outreach program, placements, certification of courses, functioning of service partners, collaboration with IGNOU, IIE, Ministry of Small, Micro and Medium Enterprise, Government of India, Lalmati, Guwahati, North Eastern Regional Agricultural Marketing Corporation Limited (NERAMAC), North East Rural Livelihood Project Sikkim (NERLPS).
Minister, Mr Sena in his deliberation appreciated the concept of the Chief Minister of Sikkim, Pawan Chamling and was pleased to know about the conditions adopted by the SICB and Livelihood Schools which are mandatory for obtaining stipend and skills, the release informs.
He further applauded the strong political will of the Chief Minister of Sikkim in this sector. The Minister expressed his desire to implement the idea of Livelihood School for the benefit of the youth of Arunachal Pradesh.
He further expressed that there is need of exchange of views between Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim in this field. Sikkim is a role model not for North East states only but to other states of the country as well and it is a happening and progressive State, he said.
The release adds that during the interactive session, a brain storming discussion took place between the delegates present. A detailed discussion on various aspects like fund allocation, courses and syllabus, certification, status of trainers, pedagogy, training modules, monitoring of trainees and trainers of Livelihood Schools and SICB, faculty members qualification, appointment of officers of SICB and other academic and administrative matters.
Accompanying Minister Sena on the visit were Director, Agriculture Marketing, AK Purkastha, Managing Director, Marketing Federation, President, National Youth Project-Arunachal Pradesh, HP Biswas, Deputy Director (Horticulture), Arunachal Pradesh, Narang Tani, Senior Journalist, Pradeep Kumar, ADC, Jairampur, M Roy, In-charge, Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship (IIE) Sikkim Branch, AS Dewan and NGO representatives from Arunachal Pradesh.
The program ended with the vote of thanks proposed by Deputy Chief Administrator, Sunil Kumar Mothay while the program was coordinated by Deputy Director (Resource & Coordination), Dr. IBS Yadav.

Minor quake recorded on Sikkim-Nepal border

GANGTOK, 11 June: An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 3.8 on the Richter scale, shook the Sikkim-Nepal border region this morning, the Director of MET, Gangtok, K Premchand informed reporters here today.
Nepal’s  National Seismological Center web portal however reports that the earthquake was of M4.5 intensity. The epicentre was in the Panchthar district of Nepal bordering Sikkim [latitude 27.2 degrees North and longitude 88.3 degrees East]. The earthquake occurred at 10.05 a.m. this morning and was felt in parts of West Sikkim as well.

Rajendra Baid passes away

GANGTOK, 11 June: Rajendra Baid, Managing Editor, Janpath Samachar, a Hindi daily published from Siliguri, passed away today in Kolkata. Mr. Baid was a pioneer of Hindi journalism in the region, launching his paper from Siliguri and then publishing an edition from Arunachal Pradesh as well. He leaves behind his wife, one son and two daughters.
Mr. Baid began his journalistic career in 1975 and edited a Hindi weekly from Siliguri at the time. He began publishing Janpath Samachar Hindi daily in 1982 and built a handsome readership in Siliguri, Sikkim, Darjeeling and parts of Malda and eastern Nepal.
He was elected to Siliguri Municipal Corporation and served as Councilor there from 1980 to 1986. In 1993, Mr. Baid branched out to the hospitality sector and established Hotel Cinderella, a three star hotel in Siliguri. During his tenure as Municipal Councilor, he has established two schools, Acharya Tulshi Primary School in Mahakaalpalli and Vidhyasagar Primary School in Pradhan Nager.

SGEWA seeks increase in retirement age to 60

GANGTOK, 11 June: The newly formed Sikkim Government Employees Welfare Association submitted their grievances on behalf of all C and D Grade employees of the state to the Chief Minister’s Office on 02 June.
A press release issued by the SGEWA president, Kiran Subba, informs that executive members of the association have placed two grievances related to age of retirement and opening of a Retirement Cell.
The Association has requested that the retirement age be increased from 58 to 60 years for the benefit of C and D Grade employees of the state in general. The other grievance placed is that post retirement, retirement benefits are not received on time and the Association has requested for a Retirement Cell to be established to make the process easy and fast for retired employees.

Editorial: Monsoon Preparedness Should be a Year-round Effort

Here are the basics- in Geographical terms, the South-East quadrant of Sikkim, its footprint spreading across the alignment from Mangan to Dikchu to Gangtok up to Rongli, is the maximum rainfall zone of the State. The South-West corner around Hilley in West Sikkim is the other wetter zone and between the two sits the dry-to-the-extent-of drought-prone spread of Namchi and its immediate surroundings. This much, anyone who has lived in Sikkim for a decent stretch of years will know instinctively. Ironically, this obvious fact has remained blindsided for far too long in the State catching its people and planners on the wrong foot every time the skies open up. Readers of this newspaper would have noticed how the connectivity and supplies situation is being addressed reasonably in advance by the concerned departments. These reports are included as much to inform people of the preparedness plans as for them to check back when the slides begin in earnest. The Department’s getting into monsoon readiness mode is a welcome sign, but what cannot be ignored is that monsoons become a challenge essentially because the drier months are allowed to pass without enough preparedness work getting done. For example, meteorological data informs that Gangtok has an average of 184 days of rainfall every year. That is a staggering number of wet days, but the data also records that the capital has almost as many days without rain and for a region kept on tenterhooks with what the clouds bear, the dry months need to be used well – to reinforce, repair, rebuild and restore. And yet, planners in the various civil works agencies of the State and Central governments refuse to make use of the dry months to get done with their digging and scrapping. It goes without saying that any work which, in any way, weakens slopes and alignments should be banned safely ahead of the monsoons because Sikkim’s slopes have a tendency to come down like dominos at the slightest disruption once the monsoon sets in. With slightly over half the year spent with rainfall [albeit of varying intensities], planning here should be with wet weather in mind. In these days of climate change, this becomes even more important because while the number of days with rainfall might come down, the intensity is projected to increase and that is even more destructive.
One needs to also bear in mind is that the rash of freak weather that Sikkim has been experiencing in recent years is no longer ‘freakish’ because it is consistent with climate change patterns. Sikkim now has a Department of Science & Technology with a longer name which includes “Climate Change”. The policy-makers should realign the focus of this department away from making people “aware” of climate change, to counsel other arms of the government on climate change adjustments and preparedness. Any student who has prepared for an essay/ debate competition on climate change will tell you that the intensity of climatic phenomenon is projected to reach extreme levels with climate change. Sikkim has already experienced it with the searing heat a few weeks back to the wet and humid discomfort of late. There might be fewer days of rainfall, but the days when it rains, it will pour. Departments working on civil projects like roads, hydel projects or construction should be the ones who get briefed on what to expect in the coming years and adjust their designs and work schedules accordingly. Storm drains, for example, should not be designed to receive 8 cm of rain over an entire day in May, but to evacuate this inundation within an hour. Having been caught off-guard should not be accepted as an excuse anymore. The accompanying piece on the role hills and slopes play in water conservation might be too dense for most tastes, but its message needs to be taken seriously. Water conservation, an important issue around the word as in Sikkim, needs to be approached in a more pragmatic and interdisciplinary manner with intelligent and informed plantation efforts because a hill/ slope which conserves water well is also less prone to slip away. Done right, the spring rejuvenation mission should not only address the future needs of water supply, but also stabilise the slopes of Sikkim which have been debased by too much ‘development’ and too little respect for traditional knowledge...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Roads & Bridges Deptt gears up for monsoons

GANGTOK, 10 June: Keeping in mind the vulnerability the state highways during the monsoon onslaught, the Roads and Bridges Department has identified landslide prone areas across the State and deployed all required equipment and manpower to avert any eventualities and inconveniences that commuters might have to face.
Speaking to NOW!, Chief Engineer GT Bhutia informed that the department, considering the eventualities that may occur in the monsoon, has already allocated men and machines in all districts and sub divisions to avert any inconvenience to the general masses. Apart from that the department has also identified vulnerable areas for which the department has sought the assistance of private companies inclusive of their men and machines to keep the roads clear. The machines owned by the department like JCVs, excavators, dozers, along with man power has been deployed and no state highway connecting any district is blocked as of now.
He went on to add that the department has also identified few of the vulnerable areas of all four districts like 16th Mile near Jorethang, Ghorley Bhir, Bojek slip near Daramdin, Mangzing slip, Dhojok, Assam-Lingzey-Pakyong road, Salalay Khola, Duga-Pakyong road and many more which often create problems for transportation due to landslides.
Torrential rainfall for the past few days has been causing slides in many areas across the state blocking motorable roads but the department has been putting in every effort to clear the roads within no time of the blockages, said the CE.
Speaking on the condition of bridges, the CE said that, in the wake of the devastating earthquake on 18 September, 2011 numerous bridges across the state had been damaged following which the department carried out the safety arrangements of the bridges by engaging structure engineers or bridge experts from Jadavpur University, the experts also placed recommendations on remedial measures to be adopted along with suggestions on repair of a few bridges.
The experts conducted a detailed study of the state owned bridges and out of 212 state bridges 55 were declared vulnerable wherein the re-construction of the same is being initiated by the department, added Mr Bhutia. He mentioned that the re-habilitation of the identified vulnerable bridges is being done under the Prime Minister’s relief package.
With respect to the Toong-Shipgyer road which offers alternative connectivity to Chungthang, Lachen and Lachung, he informed that up-gradation of the same was approved and passed by the Chief Minister, during his 42-days village-to-village tour last year. The work order has also been provided to a cooperative society to initiate the work at the earliest.
Whereas with regards to the four major roads connecting South and West District proposed by state government and approved by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highway amounting to Rs. 636 crores the evaluation and technical and financial bidding have already been completed, it is informed. The same has been forwarded to the minister for approval for the commencement of work and sanction, the CE added.

Road mishap near Rangpo, 3 injured

RANGPO, 10 June: Three persons have been seriously injured in a road mishap near Tar Khola in West Bengal beyond Rangpo on NH 31A this afternoon. A private Scorpio headed towards Siliguri from Gangtok skidded off the road after the driver lost control of the vehicle which plunged into the Teesta around 250 feet below.
According to police sources, Dr. Kumar and his wife Geeta along with one Wangchuk were indentified and referred to a private nursing home at Siliguri after being administered first aid at the Rangpo Primary Health Centre. It is learnt that Dr. Kumar and his wife are from Chennai.
The accident occurred on the National Highway 31-A, Tar Khola, 6 kilometers away from Rangpo, East Sikkim. Dr. Kumar and Wangchuk, have sustained head injuries, while Ms Geeta has sustained injuries on her back, it is informed.

Dzumsa’s social boycott diktat “undemocratic”, counters Thupden Lachungpa

GANGTOK, 10 June: Recently boycotted by the Lachung Dzumsa for alleged violation of the Dzumsa system, president of the Lachung Dzumsa Cooperative Society, Thupden Norzang Lachungpa, has in turn termed the social excommunication as ‘undemocratic’ and ‘unlawful’ and is now considering the option of challenging the action in court.
Addressing a press conference here on Saturday, he said that he will soon challenge his social boycott in a court of law, adding that such social excommunication goes against the law in a democratic country like India.
Taking a strong stand, he said that the Dzumsa system should evolve in step with the times and should be democratized since it is clubbed into the Panchayati Raj system by the 1993 Amendments Act. He added that he has not violated any principle of the Dzumsa but wants to bring social changes within the ambit and institution of the Dzumsa in a democratic way.
He appealed to the people of Lachung to support social change in Dzumsa stating that change is the need of the hour. “We do not want the Dzumsa to work like the Khap Panchayats,” he stated.
Earlier last week, Pipons and the Gumpa head of Lacung had alleged that Thupden Norzang Lachungpa had been “misguiding the innocent people of Lachung along with trying to dislodge the Dzumsa practice of Lachung by carrying out activities which are totally against the Dzumsa law and system”.
However, Thupden Lachungpa told media persons here at Press Club on Saturday that if the Pipons and Head Lama of Lachung were transparent and democratic, they should have given him a chance to explain himself and prove that he was not in violation of the Dzumsa laws and system.
“I know and have faith in the Dzumsa as a system, but changes have to be brought within the ambit of the law of the land,” he stressed.
While highlighting his efforts to bring changes in the Dzumsa, he claimed that women were not allowed to attend Dzumsa meetings until 2009, however, after he raised his voice against this practice, women were allowed to participate in these meetings and give their advice and suggestions as well.
At the time as well, he had been socially boycotted for raising his voice but was later allowed to attend public functions and ceremonies, he contended.
This time, he claims that it is the “block buying system” he is against and wants to implement the cooperative movement as per the government policy which is going against the interests of a handful of persons associated with the Dzumsa. “We have registered an ‘Educated Youths of Lachung Dzumsa Cooperative Society’ and demanded the state government mechanism to implement the schemes and policies as per the state government norms to promote cooperative societies in Sikkim. What is wrong with the implementation of the cooperative movement and all the sanctioned works upto Rs 2 crore being done by the cooperative as per the government norms?” he expressed.
“I am not against the contractors. We are aiming to promote the lower and economically weaker section of the society irrespective of their caste, creed and community through the cooperative movement started by the state government,” he said.  He claimed that five-time former Pipon Sandup Lachungpa and a large number of “middle class and youth of the economically weaker section” have extended their support to him.

2nd Division S-League kicks off

GANGTOK, 10 June: The 2nd Division S-League 2012 organised by Sikkim Football Association [SFA] kicked off today at Paljor Statium. Thirty two teams will be playing the qualifying round with only 08 making it to the last round matches.
The 32 teams have been divided into 04 clusters consisting of 08 teams each and only two from each cluster will qualify to play the last round matches, informed SFA president, BK Roka. Daily two matches will be played, the first at 1 p.m. and the second at 3 p.m., he added.
The theme for this tournament is ‘Talent meets Opportunity’.  “Since this year there are many teams from remote areas as well, so we thought that each and everybody should get an opportunity to showcase their talent”, said Mr Roka.
Today’s first match was played between Howlers SC Singtam and Palace FC XI, where Howlers SC Singtam won the match by 3-0. The goal scorers for Howlers SC Singtam were Robin Pradhan [22 minutes], Karan Subba [35 minutes] and Kewal Pradhan [51 minutes], Robin Pradhan was also shown the Yellow Card in the 46th minute.
The second match was played between Lingding FC and Zenith Spear United FC, where Lingding FC won the match 7-0. Lakpa Pradhan [11 and 42 minutes], Amrit Gurung [39 minutes], Birbal Limbu [17 and 63 minutes], Pawan Rai [30 minutes] and Siwas Tamang [69 minutes] scored the goals for Lingding FC.
Tomorrow’s first match will be played between Ball Buster FC and Friends FC NHPC, Singtam, while the second match will be played between United Brother, Arithang and Tibetan Youth Clubs.
Member, State Planning Commission, R Ongmu was the chief guest for today’s first football match, while President SFA, BK Roka was the chief guest for the second match and officials of SFA were also present. The qualifying rounds will continue till 17 June.

106 native Banpala sheep distributed at Dhuppi Dara, West Sikkim

GANGTOK, 10 June: Under the Banpala Sheep conservation program 100 Ewes and 06 Rams were distributed by the AH, LF and VS Department among the fifteen beneficiaries of Dhuppi Dara-Narkhola GPU under Yuksom-Tashiding constituency in West Sikkim on 08 June. The beneficiaries selected were conventionally associated with sheep rearing and weaving as their key activity based enterprise for their livelihood.
A press release informs that the main objective behind the program was conservation of the endangered native breed of sheep of Sikkim “Banpala” along with upliftment of traditional sheep farmers and to encourage weaving of garment making for uninterrupted source of wool in the locality.
Before the sheep distribution program Veterinary Officer, Dr Kishor Thapa from DVH Gyalshing was deputed on 30 May 2012 for survey and health certification of those Banpala sheep proposed for distribution. Accordingly he surveyed an assortment of sheep flocks at Pokheri and adjoining area and finally selected the pure Banpala breed sheep distributed on the day, the release informs.
The list of beneficiaries was duly certified by the Area MLA cum Animal Husbandry Minister Dawcho Lepcha on 05 June along with area panchayats’ recommendation.
Joint Director, AH, LF and VS, West, Dr. D.S Tewari deliberated on the advantages of sheep rearing as its products have multiple uses. He informed that the wool of Banpala sheep with the natural color of black, grey and white fetch high prices in the national and international markets. Mentioning that garments like lukuny, rarhi, blankets are durable and air proof which is suitable for cold areas, he encouraged farmers to continue such practices.
He also informed that weaver associations of twenty-five Women’s SHGs will be immediately formed for which names have already been recommended by the area MLA. As support each person will get Rs. 2000 as incentive to develop this business at Narkhola, the release mentions. He also informed the farmers about prevalent diseases of sheep, vaccination and de-worming schedule, etc.
After this Dr. Kishor Thapa highlighted on important areas that need attention while rearing sheep for better productivity.
The program was presided over by former Minister, Mohan Gurung while Panchayat secretary Dhuppi Dara Narkhola, Bhim Bdr. Manger, Zilla Member Yuksom, Gerethang, Buddha Hang Subba, Panchayat secretary Kongri Labdang, C.B Gurung, CLC Vice President Yuksom Tashiding constituency, K.B Gurung were the guests of honor.
The team from AH, LF & VS Department was headed by Dr. DS Tewari accompanied by Deputy Director West, Dr. S.P Bhutia, V.O Gyalshing VH, Dr. Kishor Thapa, Live stock Development Officer Yuksom BAC, Daddty Bhutia, LA VD Yuksom, Gargaman Subba, Loknath, staff from VH Gyalshing along with fifteen beneficiaries from  Dhuppi Dara -Narkhola  were also present.

Casino Mahjong donates Rs 1 lakh to Blind School

NAMCHI, 10 June: Ugen Ladakhi and Bikash Chamling of Casino Mahjong, Mayfair Resort, Gangtok,, today donated Rs. 1 lakh to the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Institute (Blind School), Boomtar, Namchi. A cheque of Rs. 1 lakh was handed over to the Principal JNMI in the presence of BDO Namchi, Bimal Rai, Joint Director, DHH, Durga Pradhan and AEO HRDD, Radhika Rai.
While addressing a formal programme organized here at the institute, the duo said that, they have been involved in such social service for many years with the ultimate aim to help the poor and needy people of the state. Here they said that, they want every corporate house and individual to come forward, stressing that even the smallest contribution extends huge support for such genuine institutions and NGOs.
While sharing their views, they further said that corporate houses earning in the soil of Sikkim should come forth to contribute and also urged locals who were earning well from their respective businesses to contribute.
Mr. Ladakhi said that besides donating Rs 1 lakh to this institution, they have also decided to help the blind school in the long run and said that in the near future they will be using 5% of the profits from their business for charity work. He added at this stage their business was not making much profit but in the near future it will definitely provide them profit and will strengthen their will of charity.
He highlighted that Chief Minister Pawan Chamling is helping the needy with scholarships to the poor students which is strong example and should serve as a signal to corporate houses and individuals to help the needy.
The BDO Namchi, who is also the general secretary of JNMI said that, the donation provided to the institute will be utilized in vocational training. The students will be provided with training on khada painting which will help them to be self reliant in the near future, he added.
On the occasion, the Casino Mahjong duo also resolved to sponsor 5 students at the institute for whom they have committed a fixed monthly contricution and also announced a Rs. 1 lakh contribution for the victims of the recent Rolep landslide. They will hand over the cheque to the concerned authority there, soon it was informed.
The principal, JNMI Jeewan Rai thanked them for their contribution to the institute and welcomed their friendship with the physically challenged.

Zonal Cultural Centre’s silver jubilee celebration ‘Maatii Ke Rang’ begins at MG Marg

GANGTOK, 10 June: The silver jubilee celebration, “Maatii ki Rang”, of the Zonal Cultural Centre kicked off on Saturday amidst a huge gathering at MG Marg in here. Secretary, Cultural Affairs and Heritage Department, Nalini G Pradhan formally inaugurated the three-day programme. The programme is being organized by the Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre, Ministry of Culture, Government of India in collaboration with the Cultural Affairs and Heritage department of Sikkim.
“The three-day programme is a platform for cultural exchange. It’s meant not only to entertain tourists and locals but also to preserve and showcase the rich culture of the State”, said Secretary Mrs Pradhan.
The programme began with the traditional Maruni dance of the Nepali community which was appreciated by the crowds. “Even if it rains heavily, I and my family will watch the show till the end”, expressed Satyajit, a tourist who had come from Kolkata with his family. The Maruni dance was enjoyed by many elderly locals who were present as well and brought back memorable moments of the years gone by for them as expressed by one such senior citizen.
As the evening carried on, even the drizzle that followed did not deter tourists or locals as they swayed to the beats of Bihu, an Assamese dance.
 “I regard my trip to Sikkim as wonderful and memorable where I am being able to witness such rich cultural display in such romantic weather” said Aakriti, who is on her honeymoon trip here. Later in the evening, cultural troupes from Gujarat, Orissa, Jharkhand and many other places presented their rich culture on stage.
It may be recalled here that a month long programme ‘Glimpses of the Sikkimese culture’ was earlier kicked off on 01 June and concluded recently.
Earlier, the Secretary welcomed the guests by offering khadas and lighting the ceremonial lamp.