Friday, June 22, 2012

District Consultative Committee meeting for West Sikkim held at Gyalshing

GANGTOK, 21 June: The District Consultative Committee (DCC) meeting of West Sikkim was held at Gyalshing on 20 June. The meeting was chaired by District Collector of West Sikkim, Santa Pradhan and was attended by Assistant General Manager, Reserve Bank of India, Gangtok, Anil Kumar Yadav, LDM, State Bank of India, Gangtok, A K Das, along with branch managers of various banks in the district, NABARD officer and senior officers from line departments of West Sikkim.
During the meeting all the banking and developmental activities of the district were reveiwed for the quarter ended 31 March, 2012. During the deliberations DC, West, Mr Pradhan informed the house that there was a need for more brick and mortar branches in the district and he has received representations from the public for opening commercial bank branches at Rinchenpong, Kaluk and Yuksom.
He further added that due to heavy influx of tourists in West Sikkim and more particularly at Pelling there was a need to have foreign exchange facilities at State Bank of India, Pelling branch. He urged the Lead Bank to look into the matter as this issue was raised around two years back in the DCC and no tangible development has taken place till date.
The DC expressed unhappiness at the low level of attendance of banks’ branch managers at the DCC Meeting. He also discussed about the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) under which all the government payments pertaining to poverty alleviation and social welfare schemes will be credited to the beneficiaries bank accounts through electronic mode. In this regard the DC identified Central Bank of India to act as the Lead Bank for West Sikkim under the “One District-Many Banks-One Leader Bank” model.
AGM and the Lead District Officer (LDO) from RBI, Gangtok, Anil Kumar Yadav in response informed that two new branches of Sikkim State Co-operative Bank Ltd (SISCO Bank) will be opened in West Sikkim at Hee Gaon and Sombaria during this month. He added that at present there are 11 bank branches in the district and with the addition of two new branches the banking network will increase to 13 in West Sikkim.
Mr Yadav urged the bankers to dispose off the proposals and loan applications of the beneficiaies in reasonable period of time as delay in disposal and sanction/disbursement of loan would amount to lapses committed by bank employees which would attract disciplinary action by their banks as per RBI instructions.
He also apprised the house about the RBI’s revised Kisan Credit Card (KCC) Scheme for the benefit of the farmers in the State. He informed that the revised Scheme aims at providing adequate and timely credit support from the banking system under a single window to the farmers for their cultivation and other needs such as to meet the short term credit requirements for cultivation of crops; post harvest expenses; produce marketing loan; consumption requirements of farmer household; working capital for maintenance of farm assets and activities allied to agriculture, like dairy animals, inland fishery etc and also investment credit for agriculture and allied activities like pump sets, dairy animals etc. Under the Scheme the implementing banks will have the discretion to adopt the same to suit institution and location specific requirements.
It was also informed by Mr Yadav that as per RBI’s recent directions henceforth, the banks will not be permitted to charge foreclosure charges/pre-payment penalities on home  loans on floating rate basis.
The meeting also deliberated upon other agenda items pertaining to PMEGP, SGSY, SJSRY, Financial Inclusion programme in West Sikkim etc. The NABARD representative informed the house about different subsidies for Sikkim during 2012-13 amount to Rs. 1.68 crore for the development of dairy, piggery and poultry sector in the State.
The DCC meetings are held on a quarterly basis in each district of the State to review the achievement of the Annual Credit Plan (ACP) targets by different banks located in each distict. District Collector is the Chairman of these meetings and the Lead Banks convene the DCC meetings with representatives from RBI, NABARD, SRDA, DIC, SKVIB, KVIC and other line departments of the State Government as members.

Platform for Joint Action Against Hydropower Project application in High Court dismissed as withdrawn

GANGTOK, 21 June: The memorandum of the “Platform for Joint Action Against Hydropower Project”, submitted to the Chief Justice, High Court of Sikkim, which was initially taken up by the Court as a Civil Miscellaneous Application was heard today for consideration as a writ petition. The division bench of the High Court comprising of Chief Justice Permod Kohli and Justice Sonam P Wangdi today observed that the application had failed to impress the court and that the issues raised in the application had no evidence to act on. The High Court accordingly allowed the petitioners to withdraw the petition with the liberty to file a proper writ petition afresh.
The organization had, on 21 May, submitted a memorandum to the Chief Justice highlighting, apart from other allegations, a report published in Current News, a Delhi-based English weekly, which had alleged a Rs. 20,000 crore scam in the hydel sector in Sikkim. The memorandum had called on the CJ to consider its “letter for taking up as a a suo-moto cognizance / P.I.L”.
The Platform for Joint Action Against Hydropower Project comprises of the Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee (SIBLAC), National Sikkimese Bhutia Organsiation (NASBO, Art.371F), All Sikkim Educated Self Employed & Unemployed Association (ASESE&UA), Affected Citizens of Teesta, SAVE Sikkim, Concerns Lepchas of Sikkim (CLOS), Denzong Chyari Tsogpa (DCT) and All Sikkim Monasteries’ Association (ASMAN).
The Court also observed today that most of the issues raised in the memorandum were already featured in the two writ petitions highlighting concerns on environment, faith and misappropriation and hence there was no need to take up the same matter in a separate application. If the petitioners feel so, they are at liberty to approach the Court in proper manner and proper writ, the bench remarked.
Sunil J. Mathew, the counsel for the petitions accordingly withdrew the application and while speaking to media-persons later, said that they would have a proper petition drafted and filed within a month.

Special training on Central Service Tax for tourism stakeholders to be held soon

GANGTOK, 21 June: The Joint Action Committee of All Sikkim Tourism Stakeholders [JACASTS] headed by Chairman cum Advisor, SB Subedi has extended gratitude towards the Central Service Tax [CST] authorities for accepting their request on conducting a special training on CST, book of account maintenance, filing of CST and others for the tourism stakeholder of the state in the Capital on 27 June.
Speaking to the press, coordinator, JAC, Paljor Lachungpa mentioned that with respect to CST few of the tourism stake holders of the state were issued notices by the CST office on filing of service tax retrospectively from the year 2006 till 2011, whereas CST was introduced for hotels from 2011 that too for those room tariffs above Rs. 1000.
The JAC taking the help of the Governor Balmiki Prasad Singh, Chief Minister Pawan Chamling, Member of Parliament Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and Chief Secretary had been pursuing the CST exemption with the central government including the Prime Minister and Finance Minister to exempt retrospective service tax levied since 2006 till 2011 on all the tourism stakeholders in the state. The Finance Minister has given positive assurance with respect to the exemption demanded and the matter is still pending with the Ministry.
Chairman JAC Mr Subedi stated that, “We were unaware of filing of the CST as there existed no such taxes earlier but we have thought to implement the same only after under going the training provided by the CST authorities that too only from the year 2012”. JAC still hopes and believes that the central government considering the plea made by the state government will definitely exempt the retrospective service tax levied upon some of the tourism stakeholder since 2006.
A total of 48 correspondences with the central authorities using various means and measures considering CST has been met till date wherein the CM, Governor, Union Minister BK Handique, North East MP Forum, MPs from Sikkim State have addressed the issue with the Government of India, Prime Minister and Finance Minister.
He went on to add that if the tourism stakeholders are levied with the retrospective filing of service tax from the year 2006 till 2011, then the stakeholders will face excessive burden.
“We are ready to pay CST that too after we are trained properly by the authorities concerned from the year 2012 and we demand early exemption of the retrospective service tax levied upon stakeholders since 2006 for early implementation of the CST in the state”, added the Chairman JAC.
President, Travel Agent Association of Sikkim [TAAS], Lukendra Rasaily with respect to North East Industrial Investment Promotion Policy [NEIIPP] suggested including certain subsidy for the tourism stakeholders in transportation inclusive of all ranges of hotels across the NE states.
The conference was also attended by Advisor Sikkim Tourism Department, GM Gurung along with President Travel Agent Association of Sikkim [TAAS] Lukendra Rasaily, General Secretary TAAS S Norgay Lachungpa, SATO President Y Dorjee, Sikkim Hotel and Restaurant Association [SHRA] Acting President, members of all the associations respectively.
The JAC has appealed to all the stakeholders state-wide including all travel agencies, hoteliers, home stays to attend the training on 27 June.

World Music Day 2012 at MG Marg

GANGTOK, 21 June: World Music Day 2012 was celebrated at MG Marg today, which was also the concluding day of the “Glimpses of Sikkimese Culture” organised by Cultural Affairs and Heritage Department from 01 June. The World Music Day celebration was jointly organised by Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre, Kolkata and Cultural Affairs and Heritage Department, Government of Sikkim.
Culture Officer, Lata Rajalim while speaking to media persons informed that the concluding day of “Glimpses of Sikkimese Culture” was scheduled to be held on 30 June but due to the weather conditions it was postponed to coincide with the World Music Day which is celebrated by musicians and music lovers world wide on 21 June every year.
Speaking on the significance of World Music Day, Ms Rajalim said that this is the day for musicians and music lovers who perform for free, free concerts are organised in parks, train stations, etc. It also gives an opportunity for people to come together through music and there are no restrictions on this day, she added.
The Cultural Affairs and Heritage Department will continue to organise such events in the coming future, she concluded.


GANGTOK, 21 June: A 35-year-old man committed suicide by hanging on 20 June at Samkey. The suicide victim, a resident of Samkey, had committed suicide by hanging inside his house on 20 June. 

Teacher accused of abetment to suicide

GANGTOK, 21 June: A case of abetment to suicide has been registered against a teacher of Suntaley Junior High School at the Melli Police Station.
According to a written report filed by SI BB Tamang [Investigating Officer, Melli Police Station], investigations into the death of a 17-year-old girl revealed that on 30 May, her class teacher had beaten the student following which she committed suicide by hanging the same night. The teenager, police investigation has revealed, also left behind a suicide note blaming her class teacher for driving her to suicide.
No arrest has been made so far and the case is under investigation, while a case under section 306 [abetment to suicide] has been registered against the teacher in the Melli Police Station.

ACT commemorates 5th anniv of hydel protest with dharna

GANGTOK, 20 June: The Affected Citizens of Teesta [ACT] commemorated the 5th year anniversary of its hunger strike against hydel projects in Dzongu here with a token dharna in front of the District Administrative Centre, East. The dharna also reminded all of ACT’s continuing stand against hydel projects in Dzongu, two which – Panan and Teesta Stage-IV – still remain.
Today’s dharna was also joined by members and representatives of the All Sikkim Educated, Self Employed and Unemployed Association [ASESE&UA], Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee [SIBLAC], Concerned Lepcha’s of Sikkim [CLOS], Save Sikkim, Sikkim Bikers Groups and other organizations registering their support of the ACT stand.
Speaking to the media-persons at the dharna, the ACT General Secretary, Dawa Lepcha, informed that after completing the Dharna, ACT members would call on the Chief Secretary, who is also the Chairman of the high powered committee on HEPs, and place a memorandum against mega hydroelectric projects in Dzongu.
The memorandum seeks the early scrapping of the two HEPs mentioned earlier, which, ACT highlights “have been a thorn in the hearts of Dzongu… the last bastion of Lepcha culture and existence”.
The project affected area, apart from being precious for the Lepchas, is also ecologically fragile with the Khangchendzonga National Park and Biosphere Reserve forming a major part of Dzongu, the memorandum adds.
Preliminary investigation works of the projects which involved blasting have resulted in “unprecedented landslides” in an already geologically fragile area, the memorandum further contends.
Welcoming the scrapping of HEPs in Lachen and Lachung, ACT has reiterated that mega dams should be discontinued in the state as Sikkim falls under seismic zone V.
The ACT General Secretary further explained that the objective of today’s Dharna was to reiterate ACT’s opposition to HEPs in Dzongu.
Meanwhile, Save Sikkim member, TR Kharga, said that HEPs must not be encouraged at the cost of the environment, dharma, faith, beliefs and ecology and “most importantly the tug of war with nature should be stopped at once”. He went on to say that Save Sikkim was still opposing the Tashiding HEP in West Sikkim [the only hydel project left on the Rathong Chu, the rest having been scrapped] for which the construction company was continuing with blasting works in an area where tremors are regularly felt.

Tokal Bermiok road mishap claims one, injures 7

GANGTOK, 20 June: One person was killed and seven others injured when a Mahendra Maxx vehicle went off the road in South Sikkim, 15 kilometers away from Singtam Bazaar this morning. 
According to the Temi Police, Ajay Bhujel from Namphing was driving his recently purchased vehicle to the Temi-Tarku Kali Mandir for ceremonial prayers when, as he approached the Tokal Bermiok Phatak (Rasep Road) he lost control of the vehicle which fell around 300 feet below the road. The driver’s brother died on the spot, it is informed.
Others who were severely injured are Ajay Bhujel (21) himself, Ramesh Bhujel (29) and Nitu Bhujel (19), all from the same family of Bermiok, BP Luitel (55) also from Bermiok who sustained head injuries and Rupa Bhujel (21), Deepa Acharya (19) and Usha Subba (19), police sources inform.
It was further informed that three severely injured persons have been referred to a private nursing home in Siliguri and three others have been referred to the Central Referral Hospital, Gangtok.

Fresh Religious Committee instituted for installation of Chenrezig statue at Sangacholing

GANGTOK, 20 June: The State Government has constituted a fresh Religious Committee for the installation of a statue of Chenrezig at Sangacholing Monastery in West Sikkim.
Superseding the notification 01 August 2009, the State government has reconstituted the Religious Committee and assigned it the task to look into the issues relating to providing the design and ‘zung’ installation of the statue as well as arranging rituals required for each step of the project.
The Religious Committee will be headed by the Sangha MLA as Chairman, have the Joint Director, Ecclesiastical Affairs Department as Member Secretary.
The other members of the committee are: Secretary, Ecclesiastical Affairs Department; Chief Engineer, Building and Housing Department; Nangzey Dorjee, former Secretary, Ecclesiastical Affairs Deptt; Sherap Tenzing Lama (Ku and Zung expert from Chorten Gonpa); a representative of the Duchi of Sangag Choling Gonpa, West Sikkim; a representative of Duchi of Pemayangtse Gonpa, West Sikkim.

SCBC meeting discusses commencement of OBC Residential School at Kamrang

NAMCHI, 20 June [IPR]: A meeting of Sikkim Commission for Backward Classes (SCBC) was held at Industrial Training Institute (ITI), Lower Kamrang, South Sikkim today under the chairmanship of the Chairman SCBC, TN Sharma. The objective of the meeting was to discuss on the commencement of OBC School in the next academic session here in the ITI building which was initially constructed for the purpose of running OBC School by the state government.
Mr Sharma informed that the Chief Minister, in a meeting held on 02 June, has directed the SCBC to start the OBC Residential School at Kamrang from the next academic session itself. He added that the Chief Minister has asked the State OBC Board to take charge of the school and oversee the completion of the remaining works for the school.
The Chairman SCBC asked all the HODs and representatives present to submit their action reports to the commission within a week’s time which he informed would be submitted to the Chief Minister’s office. He also called for the cooperation of all to make this OBC School a model school in the state and to deliver quality education to the students.
Mr Sharma said that OBC is not based on caste concept but is based on class concept so it is the effort of the present government to uplift all the backward classes of the society by providing them equal privileges in all sectors. He further informed that the school would be set up from the 6th standard to enrol local students only from primary schools of the state. To clear the doubt of the people, the Chairman informed that OBC School also included MBC and would cater education to all the locals of the state from private schools as well.
It may be mentioned here that at present Industrial Training Institute under Labour department is functioning in the OBC School building. The official of Labour Department requested the SCBC to provide two months time to shift ITI to its new location at Ketchu Dumra Kamrang which is 6kms away from ITI. He informed that ITI would evacuate the premises soon after the completion of electrification and water connection works in its new building.
During the interactive session, SE HRDD Namchi informed that the total area of the OBC School was 20 acres. Besides the three storied school building, HRDD is currently carrying out the final works of two separate hostel buildings for boys and girls which is 150 bedded each for girls and boys. SE informed that the total cost of the project was Rs 322 crore. The construction of other infrastructures like housing quarter for Principal and staffs, school area fencing, playground, road carpeting, Principal’s office etc would be initiated in the second phase of the project.
Assistant Engineers of PHE and Power departments were also directed by the SCBC chairman to complete all the water connection and electrification works remaining in the school building and the hostels.
Joint Secretary SCBC, BK Pradhan welcomed the gathering and asked the members to submit a collective opinion report to the SCBC on the matters discussed.
Later the team inspected the school building and boys and girls hostels.
The meeting was attended by OBC Board Chairman, AK Gurung, Welfare Board Chairman, PR Sherpa, BDO Namchi, SDM Hqr, SDZP Adhakshya (South), members of SCBC, Panchayat Members and representatives of all the concerned government and non-government agencies.


GANGTOK, 20 June: A case of theft has been registered against unknown persons at the Singtam Police Station on 19 June. According to a written complaint of Manoj Kumar Pandey [site in-charge, Tanak Bridge], on 19 June between 10 to 12 p.m. some unknown persons stole approximately 150 liters of Diesel from the store at the construction site of Tanak Bridge.
During the course of investigation, one suspect Shivalal Chettri [29], resident of Tanak Basti was arrested. He has been booked under section 380 [theft in dwelling house] of the Indian Penal Code and the case is under investigation.

One arrested for peddling

GANGTOK, 20 June: One person was arrested by the Melli Police Station on 19 June, when he was found to be in possession of contraband substances. As per official records, one Manav Raj Bansi appeared at Melli Check Post from the West Bengal side in a “suspicious manner”. During search by the police, 120 tablets of Nitrosun-10 and 03 bottles of Corex cough syrup were recovered from his possession, which were hidden inside his socks and clothes.
The accused was taken to the Melli Police Station where he has been detained under the care of Juvenile Officer [as he claims to be 18 years old, but did not possess any legal documents] and will be produced before the Magistrate Juvenile Justice Board, Namchi on 20 June.

33-yr-old man commits suicide

GANGTOK, 20 June: A 33-year-old man is reported to have committed suicide by hanging in West Sikkim. The deceased, a resident of Reshi in West Sikkim, had reportedly been missing from home since 17 June. On 19 June, it was discovered that the missing person had committed suicide by hanging inside a mobile phone company’s DG Machine. A case of Unnatural Death [UD] has been registered at the Naya Bazaar Police Station on 19 June.

One booked for forgery and cheating

GANGTOK, 20 June: A case of forgery and cheating has been registered against one Dinesh Goyal, a resident of Mandi Bazaar, Rangpo at the Rangpo Police Station on 19 June.
According to an FIR lodged by Banshidhar Agarwal, resident of Mandi Bazaar, Rangpo, a shop by the name of M/S Chetaram Murilidhar at Mandi Bazaar was owned by him and eight years ago he had brought his grandson Dinesh Goyal from Rajasthan to assist him in running the shop.
The accused had taken custody of the shop and forced the complainant to leave the shop. Dinesh had fraudulently obtained a trade License and a registration of firm in the name of M/S Chetaram Murilidhar and had also opened a bank account at Axis Bank in Rangpo in the name of the firm and had made various transactions in the said account in the name of the said firm thereby causing loss to the complainant.
The accused Dinesh has been arrested by the Rangpo police and has been booked under sections 441/420/468/471 [criminal trespass, cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property, forgery for purpose of cheating and using as genuine a forged document] of the Indian Penal Code and the case is under investigation.

Editorial: Ensure Better Medical Facilities for Accident Victims

There has been another accident on Sikkim’s roads. This time, the mishap claimed one life and injured seven others, three of them grievously. Only a few days back, another road mishap had claimed seven lives and left one person grievously injured. This section has spoken often about the need to make Sikkim’s roads safer, so this time, let us consider the inexcusable lack of emergency medical facilities for the nature of injuries that accidents in Sikkim usually cause. The three persons with more serious injuries in the latest road mishap and the one survivor from the previous mishap are all undergoing treatment in Siliguri. Accidents in Sikkim, whether on the roads or falls around rural homesteads or from under construction high-rises, invariably leave victims with head or spinal injuries. But Sikkim does not have a neurosurgeon. It has two referral hospital – a State Referral Hospital in STNM Hospital and a Central Referral Hospital at the Sikkim Manipal Institute of Medical Science – and yet, when it comes of accident victims requiring neurological attention [which is the case of most accident survivors here], a sub-division of North Bengal is better equipped than the combined resources of an entire State! Lack of human resources cannot be accepted as an excuse anymore because the State now has two referral hospitals and a full-fledged medical college in place. One needs to check the number of patients with spinal cord complications undergoing treatment with traditional bone-setting experts locally to realise that the lack of neurosurgeons is felt not only by accident victims in Sikkim. Also inexcusable is the continuing lack of a dedicate trauma centre for accident victims. Many years ago, one was commissioned for the District Hospital at Singtam, but bureaucratic short-sightedness and administrative bungling conspired to deliver a stillborn project. What Sikkim is left with then is a situation which keeps the risk alive for accident survivors – having them undertake a nearly 100 km drive over an extremely poor road [the NH 31A] before their real treatment can even begin. Some urgent policy decisions are required to ensure that accident survivors are guaranteed the required medical care in Sikkim itself.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

State Board for Wildlife clears 14 of 17 proposals


GANGTOK, 19 June: The 15th meeting of the State Board for Wildlife was organized by Forest, Environment and Wildlife Management Department today here at Chintan Bhawan. The meeting, chaired by the Forest Minister who is also the Vice-Chairman of the Board, discussed various issues related to the management of forest, wildlife and geographical habitat in coordination with the various stake holders. The meeting also discussed 17 proposals seeking the Board’s clearance, three of which were deferred.
The three proposals deferred for later are- proposal for up-gradation of road at Kupup Tri-junction inside Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary, East Sikkim; up-gradation of road at PT 4122 inside Kyongnosla Alpine Wildlife Sanctuary, East Sikkim and the proposal to ban sale of wild Avocado, small bamboo shoots and snake plants in the market.
The first two proposals were not taken up because the Border Roads Organisation, which is seeking the clearance, was not represented at the meeting today. The house did not take this absenteeism too well and saw it as a disrespect of the Board.
Regarding the last proposal, it was informed that the department will first conduct a survey and collect the report and only then take a decision regarding this agenda.
Among the more significant proposals cleared today was the for the one seeking wildlife clearance for the 520 MW Teesta Stage-IV Hydroelectric Power Project , under the Mangan and Dzongu forest range in North District by NHPC Limited. The Board has also stipulated a list of conditions in this regard. This project requires the diversion of 143.4928 hectares of forest land. Clearance for this project was complicated by the Supreme Court directive [of 04 Dec 2006] to the Central and all State Governments that a 10 km radius [as a crow flies] around protected areas be declared Eco-Sensitive Zones. The project comes with a 10 km radius of the Khangchendzonga National Park. The proposal of the State Government to limit this expanse to 500 metres was returned by the GoI for want of more details on land use pattern in the proposed Eco-Sensitive Zone which, it was informed, is being processed.
Also cleared today was a proposal to sensitize the defence forces stationed in high altitude areas with wildlife educational and environmental awareness and protection programmes and revival of Gyamtsona, a brackish water lake in the North Sikkim Cold Desert, which has dried due to human interference.
Taking up the matter of around 30 permanent fixtures [sheds and nursery workers] at the Pangthang/ Lingdok forest area inside the Fambonglho Wildlife Sanctuary, the Board decided in favour of translocation and directed that alternate construction sites and housing assistance by the State Government be considered.
The meeting also discussed and cleared proposals for the construction of road 1st to 18th kms in length from Sopakha village to Chewabhanjyang via Jorbotay in West Sikkim by the Roads and Bridges Department for connecting the police and SSB Out posts at Chewabhanjyang, amongst others.
The meeting  was attended by Minister Forests Bhim Dhungel, Minister Agriculture DN Thakarpa, MLA Tulsi Devi Rai, PCCF Cum CWLW, Anil Mainra, CCF Wildlife Pradeep Kumar, IFS Conservator of Forest[WL] Gut Lepcha, Commandant SSB, IFS PCCF[JICA]Thomas Chandy, Secretary RMDD, GOC 17 MTN Division Member, SBWL and officials from various other departments were present today.
The meeting started with a welcome address by the PCCF Cum CWLW, Member Secretary Anil Mainra wherein he informed the meeting about the clearance accorded by the standing committee of National Board of Wildlife for investigation and survey for the preparation of DPR by User Agency for the Bhaley Dhunga Sky Walk Project.
The meeting was also addressed by the Forest Minister, Bhim Dhungel while CCF Wildlife, Pradeep Kumar proposed the vote of thanks.
While addressing from the chair, the Forest Minister said that Sikkim stands out as the “smallest but biologically most diverse Himalayan State in the country with both rich and varied wildlife”. He expressed hope that the people become more conservation conscious and refrain from destruction of even the smallest wildlife or its habitat.  He informed the members that the field of wildlife conservation, Sikkim, “against all odds, is the best covered in the wildlife protected areas among other states in country”.
Mr. Dhungel urged the members to go through the various wildlife issues included in the agenda today and suggested that the Board serve “as a vehicle to advise the state government on the ways and means of promoting wildlife conservation and development.”

New items of Border Trade included in Customs exemption list; Traders rejoice

GANGTOK, 19 June: Confirmation has arrived from the Centre that the five items added to the list of goods allowed for Border Trade over Nathula are exempt from Customs Duty. A press release issued by the IPR Department informs that the official intimation for exemption comes as per a Notification [No. 41/2012-CUS] issued by the “concerned Ministry” on 14 June 2012, duly amending notification No. 38/96-CUS dated 27/3/1996.
The demand for expansion of the trade list has been under consideration for six years now, raised by the traders with the resumption of Border Trade back in 2006. Five additional items - readymade garments, shoes, quilt/blankets, carpets and local herbal medicines – were allowed for import from the Tibetan Autonomous Region from this trading season, but the concerned notification made no specific mention on whether these goods were exempted from Customs Duty or not. Officials of the Customs office here decided to levy Customs Duty of the five new items and this was protested by Border Traders here who boycott trading in protest.
With the confusion no cleared, the Nathula Border Trade Welfare Association has welcomed the decision and thanked the Commerce & Industries Department and the State Government for having taken up their demand with the Union Government.
Speaking to NOW! today, the association’s general secretary, Lakpa Sherpa, said that they were informed of the latest development at a meeting with officials of the Commerce & Industries Department here this afternoon.
“We are thankful to the Department and the State Government for having followed up our request and are very happy with the development,” he said, adding that with the confusion cleared, they will begin engaging in Border Trade from Wednesday itself.
All the five items of exports are brought within the purview of exemption of duty under Custom Tariff Act. All the concerned stakeholders especially, the traders are advised to transact business within the approved parameters, the Department has conveyed through its press statement.
The release explains that in pursuance of powers delegated under the Foreign Trade Policy 2004-09, the Director General of Foreign Trade, issued a Public Notice No. 110/2009-204 (RE-2010), dated 7/5/2012, adding five new items of import namely; under the Indo-China Border Trade.
However, exemption of customs duties was not, simultaneously, done with the above public notice, as in the case of existing items of import and as a result of which the traders in the Indian side were unable to freely import these five items. This had led to apprehension among traders that these five items would attract customs duty at high rate thereby affecting the prospect of smooth border trade.
Considering this fact, the Department of Commerce and Industries had taken up the issue of extension of the benefit of duty exemption with the concerned Ministry of Government of India.

12th State Open Boxing championship to be held at Gyalshing

GANGTOK, 19 June: The 12th State Open [Men and Women] Boxing championship 2012 is being organised at Gyalshing by Sikkim Amateur Boxing Association [SABA] from 30 June to 02 July. According to a press release, an organising committee has been constituted under the presidentship of Sr SP West, DB Giri, in order to organise the event successfully. 
The main objective of organizing this event at Gyalshing is to provide a platform to boxers of the state, especially those from West district so that they can showcase their talents, the release informs. A large number of boxers from West Sikkim, around 48 boxers will be participating at the championship being held in Gyalshing this time.
This has been possible because of the dedication and hard work of Manoj Limbu and Sandhya Limbu, assistant coaches of SABA, who have been imparting training on boxing to students of various schools in West district for the past 5 months, the release mentions.
SABA is a registered body affiliated to the All India Boxing Federation and the State Open Boxing championship both for men and women has been an annual feature of the Association. Medal winners from various categories in the championship are picked up for further grooming. Last year the championship was held at Mangan and the public of North district thoroughly enjoyed the event, the release adds.

Ray-Mindu lad, Bikram, bags 3rd position in ITBP’s national level painting comptt

GANGTOK, 19 June: Bikram Bhattarai, a differently-abled child hailing from Ray-Mindu in East Sikkim has won the national level painting competition organized by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force on 15 June in Kolkata. 
Bikram bagged the third position from among the 35 participants in the Kolkata competition. What is more, he paints with his feet because he has no hands. The painting competition was organized by the ITBP on the eve of closing ceremony of the Ganga Punardashan rafting expedition.
The 13th Battalion of ITBP posted in Sikkim also participated in the Ganga Purnardarshan rafting competition led by the Commandant Sendil Kumar.
NK Narayan, Governor of West Bengal, handed over the prize to the winner of the competitions and appreciated the works carried out by the ITBP, informed in a press release. Tshering Lepcha of Ranka, Anita Subba and Bikram Bhattaria respectively topped the three top ranking in the painting competition.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Monsoon pours slides across Dentam and Gyalshing; Over 30 houses damaged, more than 100 people relocated

Rain-lashed debris on the road from Gyalshing to Dentam in West Sikkim. [foto courtesy PEMA GYATSO]

GANGTOK, 18 June: The monsoon has been around for less than a fortnight and even though the State is yet to experience ferocious downpours, the slips and slides have already begun in earnest. After monsoon related mayhem in North Sikkim [the Lachung flashflood and frequently blocked roads] and East Sikkim [the Rolep flashflood which claimed seven lives] over the past couple of weeks, this weekend delivered the monsoon’s devastating calling card on West Sikkim which reports over 30 houses damaged and over a hundred persons relocated to stable and safer locations as massive landslides hit various parts there Sunday night.
The Dentam and Gyalshing BACs have taken the brunt of the heavy and continuous rains in the district. 15 houses were totally damaged in Dentam block with 9 houses in Ferek basti. Another 6 houses have been destroyed in GPUs like Maneybong and Sophlaka, it is learnt.
Two bulls belonging to Man Bahadur Rai were also killed in Ferek basti which has been hit severely. Livestock and personal belongings of many families have been lost in the slide and the only little they could salvage before their houses collapsed are the only belongings they now own. These families have lost small landholdings and homes and have now been relocated to areas with the help of the gram panchayats, the BDOs and the West district administration.
As per the District Project officer (DPO), West, Jigmee Bhutia, officials made a tour of the entire area and have provided relief materials along with instructions to the different organizations, state and non-governmental to start with the evacuation and relocation of the displaced families.
The DPO also informed that with the monsoons just in its preliminary stage, the coming days could prove even more dangerous for different areas in the district which although sparsely populated has many villages set in remote areas.
However, he added that the district administration and the disaster management cells set up in different GPUs, block and district level, will ensure that relief and other provisions under the incentives of the state government would be provided to the victims.
Another blow to normal life in the district has been reported from Kyongsa GPU under Gyalshing BAC where residents have been relocated after 4 houses in the village were damaged in a landslide. The house of one MB Rai has been totally destroyed with all his belongings lost to the massive debris. The representatives of the nagar panchayat of Gyalshing have been entrusted the responsibility of rehabilitation and relocating these families who have also been provided with tarpaulin sheets for makeshift shelters in the area.
In Lower Bhaluthang another 4 houses have collapsed with all the displaced families now living in makeshift shelters. The district administration with the coordination of the panchayats have started with the relief works here, it is informed.
The newly constructed building at Lower Bhaluthang primary school has also suffered a major blow from a slide in the school area. With the school building in a precarious position with the threat of another massive slide engulfing the entire structure, the school authorities have decided to use the old structure to house classes.
In Upper Omlok which also falls under Gyalshing BAC, seven houses have been severely or partially damaged. Adequate relief materials have been provided to the families and most families have relocated to makeshift housing centers like government buildings.
Another setback to infrastructure due to heavy rains is that the supporting columns and a considerable part of a recently constructed suspension foot bridge over the Rangeet connecting Karzey in West Sikkim and Borong-Phamtam in South Sikkim have been washed away. With the bridge destroyed by the raging Rangeet, the only link for affected villagers has been cut-off.

High Court suspends Registrar General for gross dereliction of duties in previous charge

GANGTOK, 18 June: The Registrar General of the High Court of Sikkim has come under the High Court scanner after a full court of the High Court found ‘gross irregularities’ and ‘serious dereliction of duties’ during his tenure as President, District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, East. The Registrar General, SW Lepcha, has accordingly been placed under suspension with immediate effect pending disciplinary proceedings.
The High Court of Sikkim called a full court meeting [Chief Justice Permod Kohli and Justice Sonam P Wangdi] to consider the “lapse” and passed a full court resolution placing the Registrar General under suspension.
The full court, in its resolution adopted today, considered the Registrar General’s failure [during his term as President District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, East] in delivering a judgment in a Consumer Case dating back to the year 2008. The case in question is Consumer Case No.1 of 2008, Amit Kumar Agrawal versus the Branch Manager, ICICI Bank.
The final arguments for this case were heard on 30 October 2010 and the case posted for judgment on 27 November 2010. This judgment was never pronounced, and as per the minutes of the full court meeting of today, Mr. Lepcha also kept the concerned file with him for more than two years since “even when he was transferred from the post” on 15 December 2010 and placed as Registrar General, High Court of Sikkim.
The High Court, in its resolution, records, ‘…in view of seriousness of the lapses, it is resolved to place Mr. S W Lepcha, Registrar General, High Court of Sikkim, the then President, District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, East and North at Gangtok under suspension with immediate effect, pending disciplinary proceedings’.
During the period of suspension, Mr. Lepcha will report to the Registrar General In-charge of Sikkim High Court even as ‘the original records be sealed and kept in safe custody,’ the full court directed the Registry.
The full court has directed the registry of the High Court to forward the ‘Order of Suspension’ to the Governor in accordance with the Rules. In view of the suspension of the incumbent Registrar General, the Registrar of Sikkim High Court NG Sherpa has been directed to hold charge of office of the Registrar General till further orders.

Slide at Aap Dara Zero Point wrecks IRBn barrack

MANGAN, 18 June: The heavy downpour on Sunday night turned into a nightmare for the residents of Aap Dara Zero Point at the entrance gate of 510 MW NHPC Teesta Stage-V Dam about 1km short of Dikchu. 
It was around 1 AM that the IRBn personnel posted at Zero Point Check Post heard the crash of boulders falling which was just the beginning of the slide that occurred right above the village. At around 2 AM, a huge slide broke out with huge boulders and crushed the IRBn Barrack under it. Fortunately, no casualty was reported as residents had made their escape earlier when minor slides had begun.
Utensils, beds, clothes, furniture and other belongings of the IRBn personnel have been totally damaged. The boulders also damaged the goat shed of Indra Bahadur Rai and killed one goat. The slide also disrupted the Dikchu-Singtam highway today which resumed at around 11 AM after restoration work was undertaken by the BRO.
The residents have been shifted to a safer location at Jang village while the IRBn personnel remain on duty. The Zero Point check post is prone to such risks as a slide had occurred here last year as well.

Landslides hamper tourist traffic around East and North Sikkim

GANGTOK, 18 June: Road connectivity to major tourist destinations in East and North Districts have begun suffering monsoon uncertainties, and the reliability of some roads have become so suspect that the Tourism Department has stopped issuing permits to tourist destinations like Tsomgo and beyond.
The most visited tourist destinations like Tsomgo, Baba Mandir and Nathula have been closed for tourists for the past five days due to slides along JN Road while North Sikkim roads have been open in fits and starts for the past three days.
While permits to Tsomgo have been stopped, tourists willing to take the longer alternate route via Rongli and Jelepla to Tsomgo are being considered, it is informed.
Meanwhile, the Chief Engineer, Border Roads Organisation [BRO] Brigadier Rajeev Sawhney informs that the road to North Sikkim which was disrupted due to a slide at Theng-Toong was restored last night along with the opening of the blockage at Rangang on North Sikkim Highway. Light motor vehicles have started plying along this route and the road to Lachen has also opened for light vehicles but will open for heavy vehicles only by 20 June.
He mentioned that due to the incessant rainfall state-wide various landslides have started hindering the normal flow of traffic and in addition the rainfall is also causing obstruction in dispatching machinery for the clearing of blocked roads.
As for the status of JN Road to Tsomgo and Nathula, the BRO Chief Engineer informed that the slide was cleared last night and that the BRO has also erected a Bailey bridge beyond 4th Mile and traffic has been opened for light motor vehicles for now. Meanwhile police sources add that a slide at 17th Mile near the army camp area is yet to be cleared.

Centre sanctions Rs 53 crore as 1st installment under MGNREGA for Sikkim

GANGTOK, 18 June [IPR]: MGNREGA is currently in its 7th year of implementation in the State. This Scheme has been universalized and is operational in all the 165 Gram Panchayats of the State. The Scheme has been able to put money in the hands of the poorest of the poor on a scale that is unprecedented. 
In 2011-12, 60,000 rural households participated in this program. Wage payment to the tune of Rs. 60 crore was released to them through bank and post office accounts creating a multiplier effect and stimulating the rural economy. The average person days per household was 83 days, which translates to an additional income of Rs 9,800 per household which compares favourably with the national average of 42 days.
MGNREGA was able to dignify labour work in the villages, and provide purchasing power among the rural households. Unmatched scale, decentralized people driven implementation, coupled with stringent transparency norms marks the DNA of this program in Sikkim. No wonder, the State has bagged 4 national awards over the last few years.
During 2011-12, one thousand six hundred village level assets were completed which include 42 minor irrigation channels, 125 jhora training works, 167 village footpaths, 31 village roads, 43 school playgrounds and land terracing, 314 forestry, horticulture and fodder plantations, 65 water storage tanks, 14 Rajiv Gandhi Seva Kendras and other land development works.
Recently, the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India has approved a labour budget to the tune of Rs 120 crore for 2012-13, and also sanctioned Rs 53 crore as the first installment. North district has received Rs 5.60 crore, East District Rs 13.16 crore, South District Rs 14.01 crore and West District Rs 20.49 crore.
Sikkim is amongst the few states where 100% implementation is being done by Gram Panchayats. The average annual outlay for a Gram Panchayat is about Rs 70 lakh. The wage rate has also been enhanced to Rs 124 per day with effect from 01 April, 2012.
Also, for the three high altitude Gram Panchayats of Lachen and Lachung in North District and Gnathang in East District which are located above 8,000 feet, 50% enhancement of the wage rate which amounts to Rs 186 per day has been permitted. The Dhara Vikas (spring shed development) initiative to revive dying springs, streams and lakes by taking up ground water recharge initiatives has been recognized by the Planning Commission, Government of India and included in the list of expanded permissible works under MGNREGA. This spring shed development initiative (dhara vikas) is a gift of Sikkim State to the larger Himalayan region which is also facing the similar problem of large scale drying up of springs.
The plan of action this year is to improve work site management by empanelment and training of the mates, better record keeping at the village and block level, stronger inspections and oversight in implementation and more elaborate social audits which will span for 2 weeks in each gram panchayat. MGNREGA has helped in empowering Panchayati Raj Institutions by bringing in real democracy to the grassroots, and facilitated the transformation from Contractor Raj to Panchayati Raj. This flagship programme has the potential to help the State achieve the target of faster and more inclusive growth as envisaged during the 12th Five Year Plan.

Dubdi monks demand monastery’s removal from ASI jurisdiction

File foto of the Dubdi Monastery above Yuksam in West Sikkim

GANGTOK, 18 June: The monks of Dubdi Monastery, the oldest monastery of Sikkim, Dubdi Norbugang Kathog Sungkyob Committee and the Dubdi Duchi Committee received member of the National Minorities Commission, Government of India, KK Daruwala at the Monastery on 15 June and submitted a memorandum to him calling for removal of the Dubdi Monastery from the purview of the Archaeological Survey of India [ASI].
A press release informs that the monastery and Norbugang Chorten are currently under the “care and supervision” of ASI, which, they highlight, “has caused immense disturbances to the routine activities of the Monastery.”
The memorandum submitted to Mr Daruwala states: “By virtue of being under the ASI, any activity within the radius of 100 metres [which has now been extended to 300 metres] is restricted and subject to the authorization of ASI thereby disturbing performance of our age old and daily religious activities which frequently requires ASI’s permission”.
It further states that even regular rites like the annual Tordhog ceremony, regular Khangso and solkha, etc, have been disturbed over the years and efforts to revive the annual Gutor Chham on the occasion of Lossoong has remained long pending.
With the extension of area under the ASI’s purview from 100 to 300 metres, the memorandum expresses that even private holdings and local settlements are under the “illogical jurisdiction” of ASI.
The monks have further expressed their disapproval of ASI undertaking renovation of the monastery and the Norbugang Chorten which have been damaged by last year’s 18 Sept earthquake since they contend “ASI is not in a position to take care of the sacredness of the Dharma treasures [Terma] that the monastery has housed for centuries”.
The monks have requested for withdrawal of the Dubdi monastery and Norbugang Chorten from the jurisdiction of the ASI and renovation to be taken up with the view to preserve the traditions associated with the monastery.
A meeting of the monastic authority was also held on 15 June to deliberate on the Dubdi Oracle which indicates bad days ahead due to massive tempering and pollution of the local land and environment. The oracle has instructed performing of remedial pujas like Sherab Nyingpo, Dolma, Barche Lamsel and Sampa Lhundrubma, the release mentions.
The meeting also decided to approach the Chief Minister shortly to have their grievances meted out and thank his government, particularly for having such an efficient Chief Secretary, the release adds.

TB made notifiable disease in Sikkim

GANGTOK, 18 June: Tuberculosis [TB] was declared “a notifiable disease” by the Indian government on 07 May earlier this year. Following this, the Department of Health Care, Human Services and Family Welfare, Government of Sikkim has also issued an office order today stating that all TB cases are now “notifiable” and that all health institutions and all health care providers will comply with the 07 May notification with immediate effect. 
This means that all private doctors, caregivers and clinics treating a patient suffering from TB will now have to report every single case of TB to the government. More than 60% of the country’s population first visit a private practitioner when it comes to TB treatment. Since the private sector was till now outside the purview of the RNTCP [Revised National TB Control Programme], complete information on TB was lacking.
The private sector plays a vital role in the spread of drug resistance which has become a menace in the country. Making TB a “notifiable” disease could also bring about some sort of regulation in the private sector and address the issue of rising drug resistance in the state as well.
India lags far behind in comparison to China, second after India in terms of prevalence of TB, when it comes to accurate information on the disease. China has the world's largest internet-based disease reporting system. This has also led to an increase in its effectiveness to control the spread of the disease made evident by the decline in the number of TB cases in China.
Correct information could translate into proper management and cure of the lethal disease and making it “a notifiable disease” if implemented properly is a step forward.

MOVING AWAY TO STUDY: Tips for Students and Parents

Determine What and Where first
For many young students who graduated from school this year, finding the right college is the next step. In today’s competitive world, a Bachelor’s degree is pursued with high hopes towards a better life and career. Living in the comfort of your home and being provided with all amenities, stepping out of that secured zone, especially to an unknown city does sound exciting but one has to be prepared. Stepping out to a city like Bangalore from Sikkim in the year 2005, was one of the best moves of my life as I owe a lot to the resources and opportunities available in a city like Bangalore, there are so many options one can choose from keeping in mind the budget as well as infrastructure of the colleges. Every day becomes a learning process and since some of the most valuable lessons in life are learned outside of the classroom, you discover a lot about yourself and the nitty-gritty of being an adult.
Here are a few tips I would like to share, to help you transition into your new, exciting yet unknown life even more smoothly.
First of all, you all have worked really hard and managed to score well in high school, do not overload yourself with anxiety regarding college admissions. You will have to think clearly now, so I hope you have taken time to go out and have fun.
Determine what you might like to study:
Understand why you’re going to college first, so you can make the most of your experience and be honest about it. It’s not just a competitive phase for students, but also for parents who are completely devoted in the race for the best, which is absolutely amazing as all parents, want the best for their children, the only thing to keep in your mind as a parent is let the children choose and keep in mind that your child’s future is not based on your colleague’s child who is a genius in science; your child might be a step ahead in literature instead. Please keep in mind you are looking at a leader not a follower. If you have some idea of a career or a major, that information can help in finding colleges that offer and even specialize in that field.
# Do you know what you are good at?
Determine where you want to live:
The next step is to pick a nice place you want to live for the next  four or five years and use the time as one of life’s transitions, learning to live on your own, expanding your circle of friends and experiences, for most teens, whose geographic exposure is limited, that alone can be a daunting thought. Do not rely only on word of mouth, go ahead and research the internet keeping in mind things like weather, languages spoken, connectivity in terms of transport system as well as medical facilities, living standard, keeping in mind your budget for food and accommodation. If you have family or friend who is from your local area, living in that specific city, they will be able to give you an insight on the standard of living, depending on which you can finalize the budget.
# Do you want to live close to home, or far away?
In the next article we will be discussing in brief which cities are most likely to give you the best platform for the course you choose.

Eallina Pradhan is the founder of “Innovate”. Innovate, she explains, is not just a company or an organization- it is a road to “Access” and “Guidance”. 
This is how she introduces Innovate:
“Having spent my last 9 years in Bangalore I realized that the admission process for our students of Sikkim has become a time-consuming, highly stressful process for both parents and students, keeping in mind the high donations and broker fees and the struggle with the local language and connectivity at first. Looking at these things always troubled me a great deal and was always keen to do something about it.
At Innovate, we are trying to educate people about the pros and cons involved in the process and guiding students to make a career choice as well as helping them evaluate the college they want to study in, while offering options keeping in mind the budget and career choice of the student.
Also making sure that we keep a tab of a students’ progress even after they start attending college as well and keep parents informed about their child’s progress, providing relief to parents while their children are away from home.
Providing guidance and admission with no service fees.”]

Editorial: West Sikkim, Cut Off

West Sikkim is not new to monsoon mayhem. The district has consistently been among the worst suffering districts when it comes to suffering the ravages of the wet season. Its relative remoteness, comparatively poorer infrastructure and topographical challenges have bestowed it rather weak defences against the monsoon months which are wetter here in comparison to other parts of the State. Most of its roads regress into a procession of slides and slips the moment the skies open up, and this year has been no different. The opening fortnight alone has forced the relocation of more than a 100 people from slide ravaged homes to safer locations. Once a landslide peels away, it keeps gaining strength at least throughout the season, and given what is already being reported from the West District, the coming months are bound to demand many more evacuations and many more sheets of tarpaulin sheets which seem to be the only landslide containment response the concerned authorities have figured out thus far. One reads of monsoon preparedness meetings being held across the State, but these are essentially mitigation-preparedness efforts by concerned authorities mostly limited to checking whether adequate stocks of essential commodities are being maintained or not. While this may be necessary in the event of monsoon-triggered blockades, not enough is being done by way of precautionary efforts. Evacuations to safer locations are almost always undertaken after the existing place of residence has been damaged. Disaster preparedness requires more long-term planning and better advance warning systems. While all of Sikkim finds itself handicapped in these aspects, the case for West Sikkim is even worse. They suffer the monsoon without even knowing how much it has rained. The Meteorological Office in Gangtok releases daily weather updates for Sikkim, but has data only for parts of East, South and North Sikkim. The West district draws a blank. While one can argue that rainfall data is of little use after a slide has torn away, it is not necessarily so, because recording such data becomes important for future planning when correlated with the severity of slides. Sikkim might still lack realtime disaster preparedness informed by, say half-hourly weather updates during severe weather, but it will have to incorporate something on these lines eventually. When that happens, West Sikkim will find itself out of the loop because it apparently does not have the infrastructure to collate such data. There was talk of having weather recording systems at all BACs, maybe these have even been installed, but is anyone keeping records? West district also suffers because it has no real ‘investments’ either by way of hydel projects or industries. While there is no denying that these projects have caused much heartburn everywhere, the men and machinery maintained by them have proved useful in times of crisis. West Sikkim is also not strategically located, which is perhaps why its compromised connectivity does not evoke the sense of urgency which road disruptions to less populated areas [like Tsomgo and beyond in East Sikkim, and North district] receive. It should be to overcome these disadvantages that the district receives even attention.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Work on 6 of 13 proposed Micro Hydel Projects to begin soon

GANGTOK, 17 June: Out of the 13 Micro Hydel Power Projects [MHPP] proposed by the Power & Energy Department for East and North districts, six have received all required clearances and work on them is scheduled to commence shortly. A micro hydel project is usually allotted to villages where the Grid supply or transmission is not possible, but electricity supply deemed necessary considering the population and requirement. Micro hydel is a type of hydroelectric power that typically produces up to 100 kW of electricity using the natural flow of water.
The MHPPs proposed by the Department for East and North Districts are: Bala MHPP with a capacity of 100 KW, Buthang- 100 KW, Lingtam- 100 KW, Lamaten- 100 KW, Kumrek- 100 KW, Bakcha- 100 KW, Phensong- 45 KW, Lingdem- 100 KW, Linza- 100 KW, B-9- 45 KW, Lower Dalapchand- 25 KW, Sawa- 100 KW and B-8- 40 KW.
Speaking to NOW!, the Power Department Secretary, AK Giri, informed that the total generation of power from the all the proposed micro hydel projects is 1,045 KW and the total cost of construction projected at Rs. 19 crore. Out of the total expenditure required, the Ministry of New and Renewal Energy will provide 70% while the North Eastern Council will fund Rs. 5 crore as gap-funding while the state’s share is about Rs. 4 crore.
The Forest clearance for six MHHPs of the 13 proposed projects has been received and the works have already been awarded. Out of the 13 MHHPs, the one of Lower Dalapchand has been awarded to a cooperative society. After completion, the project would be handed over to the local NGOs or Panchayats to operate and maintain the same, added the Secretary.
The six MHHPs ready to commence work after availing all necessary clearances are Bakcha, Phensong, Lingdem, Linza, B-9 and B-8 and the remaining seven MHHPs, mostly in East District are yet to get the forest clearance along with other necessary clearances.
The concept of carrying out mass MHPPs is to make Sikkim the first model state in micro power generation across the nation, the Secretary informs. Such micro hydel projects are mostly located in the North Eastern part of the country and if the projects planned turn out to be successful, then the model will be initiated in the other two districts of the state as well, it was further informed.

Landslide at Lower Burtuk, 2 families relocated

UNSETTLED AT SERENITY HOME: The slide, its starting point covered in tarpaulin, which has started tugging away at the Serenity Home in Lower Burtuk and already forced the evacuation of two nearby families.

GANGTOK, 17 June: Two families have been relocated after a major landslide tore away an approximately  50x40 sq feet plot of land that supports around 50 houses and buildings above Gurung basti below Manbir Colony in Lower Burtuk at around 8:30 a.m. on Saturday. The crash of the landslide was so loud that it woke up the entire area and panic grew as the rain refused to let up yesterday.
The displaced families are those of Ugen Tamang and his neighbor, Sita Sharma, a widow who lives with her only son. Both families have shifted to safer locations. The damage was mainly to the office and other adjoining structures of the Serenity Home rehabilitation and detoxification centre here. With the approach footpath also taken away by the slide, negotiating a way to areas below and around the slide zone now presents a risky proposition.
“I was asleep when the noise of the slide woke me up. I and my son ran outside and moved to higher ground to save ourselves. We thought that our entire house will be swept away but fortunately that did not happen and only the office structure of the rehab and the gates were all gone. We were totally helpless till the boys from the rehab came to our assistance,” informed Sita Sharma, still in a state of shock, as she recalled the episode.
Residents of the area are convinced that as much as the slide was an act of nature, the careless construction and jhora training works done by a private contractor under the Irrigation Department on the main jhora contributed to the slide.
Initially estimated at around Rs 6 crore, the structure has developed severe cracks and water is continuously seeping away, eroding away an already sinking zone.
Trying to recover some important documents from the debris at the base of the slide which is still unstable, Uday C Rai, Founder, Serenity Home that houses around 25 patients along with residential staff, informed that even if the slide did not claim human casualties, the damage had already been done since the area where the slide has occurred is supporting a huge load below the main Bye-pass road.
“I was a working in the office in the morning when one of my friends called me out as he could see mud slipping from the previous day’s slide (a minor slide was reported to have started at the same spot on Friday afternoon itself). It was drizzling outside and as soon as I was out in the open the entire land and structure gave way after a huge bang. It was just that call from my friend that saved my life,” recalls Pempa Rapgyal, Counselor, Serenity Home.
Members of the displaced families and locals of the area while showing NOW! the damage caused by the seepage of water through the heavily cracked and damaged jhora, informed that officials from the district administration’s disaster management cell led by the DPO had also arrived on the spot with rescue workers and after evacuation had also helped cover most of the accessible areas of the slide with tarpaulin sheets.
The affected families have been assured quick relief packages and measures for reconstruction of pucca houses after a detailed study, it is informed.
“We want a permanent solution to this problem as now the water seeping from the jhora poses a big threat for the other structures below the main road. We have also learned that the Irrigation department has still not completed the tendered work and with the state of things here, a major disaster could occur any time,” stated irate locals.
It was also informed that engineers from the Irrigation department had also visited the spot and assured that ‘temporary’ restoration works would be carried out as soon as the DPR is prepared. Locals state that the department representatives had said that the lack of budgetary provisions had tied down the department to take up any ‘permanent’ reconstruction and reinforcement works at the site of the slide.
Similarly, engineers and officials of the UD&HD along with the Burtuk Councilor also visited the area wherein the department officials assured a ‘permanent’ solution by way of reinforcement and training of the landslide.
However, the locals who are now suffering sleepless nights, want ‘something’ to be done fast, before the full fury of the monsoons unleashes over the capital. “Bureaucratic red-tape should not delay urgently required works,” said Neelu Chettri, a resident of the area.

Nation’s biggest water fountain to come up in Jorethang, announces CM

NAMCHI, 17 June: Chief Minister Pawan Chamling today announced the construction of a multi-storied parking plaza at the existing community center at Namchi to meet the demand for parking space along with setting up of an Archery Academy here and the nation’s biggest water fountain to be constructed at Jorethang.
The Chief Minister made the announcements at a meeting on tourism development convened here today with tourism stakeholders of the district. The meeting was organized by the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department at the Indoor Stadium here.
“Sikkim needs constructive youth to lead our State. With this objective, the government has developed extensive infrastructure for the tourism sector and we are in the process of launching even more initiatives for which our educated youth need to come forward and take up responsibility,” said the CM.
“We should implement sustainable tourism with ecological approach”, said the CM further adding that development should not come at the cost of ecological imbalance or loss of culture and tradition. He went on to add that the Government is also coming up with pro-youth tourism programme and will give full emphasis on adventure tourism.
To benefit from the opportunities being opened up, the youth need to stop taking things for granted, he said, stressing that even the best policy intervention needed to be complemented with people’s support and hard work to deliver on their potential.
There are no easy routes to success or prosperity, the CM said, pointing out that while the government was trying to facilitate the process for the future generation, they need to claim ownership and invest hard work. This, he stressed, was not time to sit on the fence or get misled by the rumour-mongering of self-centred opportunists. “The State Government has not only delivered real development in Sikkim, but also created a positive image about the State, the governance here and its people. This image needs to nurtured and further burnished with an involved participation in the development process,” he said.
Addressing the meeting, the Tourism Secretary, R. Telang, highlighted that the CM’s commitment to develop Char Dham had brought a “paradise within reach” and informed that till the month of May this year, 4,00,000 tourists had already visited Sikkim and that this figure is expected to reach 8-10 lakh by the end of the tourist season.
The Secretary further informed that till today there are only 17 registered travel agencies and 75 hotels in Namchi, underlining that this reflected a huge gap between demand and supply. Tourism stakeholders of Namchi must put more effort he stated and urged the educated youth to enter this sector.
The programme was also addressed by MLA Namchi Singithang where placed the demands related to tourism development in South District. During the programme 14 beneficiaries of South District were presented with the cheques of Home Stay allotment orders.
The programme was also attended by Ministers, MLAs, Officers, tourism stake holders and youth of the district.
After the meeting, the Chief Minister also visited the grieving families of the victims of the 13 June accident that took place near Kirney on NH 31A.

Sikkim doctor bags prestigious European award

GANGTOK, 17 June: Dr. Aarti Sarda, a consultant dermatologist from Sikkim, has been conferred the Imrich Sarkany Memorial Award for her contribution on vascular skin disease at the recently concluded European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV) Spring Symposium held in Verona, Italy (06-10 June,2012). She was invited to present her work at the symposium and was one of the three awardees from Non-European countries.
Dr. Sarda is an alumni of Tashi Namgyal Academy, Gangtok, and graduated from Sikkim Manipal Institute of Medical Sciences and completed her post graduation in Dermatology from Kasturba Medical College, Manipal. She was awarded a National award last year for her research on Prurigo - an allergic skin condition. She was also invited to the World Congress of Dermatology, Seoul, South Korea to present a paper on Lupus Band Test in 2011.
Dr. Sarda is the daughter of SK Sarda and Shobha Sarda of Sikkim and regularly contributes articles in national and international journals and is a freelance writer for local and national newspapers.


It is fortunate that cases received by the State Women’s Commission are declining and very unfortunate that there are still some cases that say otherwise despite the fact that women constitute nearly half of the entire Indian population. The condition of women in Sikkim is somehow miserable due to; illiteracy, poverty, backward social values and household drudgeries.
I am referring to an assault case ''with a cursory glance'' that was lodged at a Police Station near Gangtok [location details withheld] exactly a year ago. Following the complaint the Police were swift in bringing justice, they beat the crap out of the husband and the victim’s wife had her front tooth replaced. Nevertheless she entered into yet another unhappy marriage, this time after mentally torturing her, the husband deserted her and left with another woman. Prior to this incident there were widespread rumours of the husband having an extra-marital relationship.
Ironically, we talk about Panchayats being responsible for bringing democracy to grassroots level but in this case the Panchayat was none other than the victim’s mother-in-law.
By virtue of constitutional amendments the maintenance rights are guaranteed but limited to those equipped with adequate knowledge and support systems only. Therefore follow up policies like personal counselling require to be mandated, a hot-line may bridge the gap. Once the justice is delivered the victim may need further necessary assistance from the concerned authorities.
In the above mentioned case it is apparent that the husband played tit for tat, but the magnitude of asperity the victim had to face is absolute injustice.
Wrecked and worn out by her earlier marriage, the victim sought refuge in the second husband leaving her home and child, which, of course also did not turn out as she had expected.  I once asked her about the unfortunate series of events in her life and in a suppressed voice, she replied “it is like living for dying”.
Is our tranquillity thriving on the misfortune of those; innocent, semi-educated, backward class rural women of so called privileged Sikkim or are all those; titles, honours, accolades, recognition, esteem and respect conferred upon us self proclaimed?
Karma Bhutia [recvd on email]


5 Addls promoted to Special Secy rank 
GANGTOK, 17 June: The Government of Sikkim has promoted five Additional Secretaries to the post of Special Secretaries in an officiating capacity with immediate effect. The five promoted are Laden Tshering, SCS, Additional Secretary of Food Security & Agriculture Development Department, L P Barfungpa, SCS, Additional Secretary, presently posted as Director, Commerce & Industries Department, C C Wangdi, SCS, Additional Secretary, RMDD, S T Gyatso, SCS, Additional Secretary, DPER&NECA Department and Surendra Kumar Pradhan, SCS, Additional Secretary, presently posted as Secretary, SPSC.
Their regular promotion will be made in consultation with the SPSC, states an office order.
Similarly, Kishore Pradhan, BDO,BAC Martam under RMDD has been transferred and posted as Under Secretary, District Hospital, Singtam under Health Care, Human Service &Family Welfare Department in place of Anita Subba, Under Secretary, District Hospital, Singtam who has been transferred and posted as BDO,BAC Soreng.
Somnath Adhikari, BDO,BAC Soreng has been transferred and posted as Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Soreng under Land Revenue and Disaster Management department vice Aishwariya Singh. Rinzing Choden Bhutia, Under Secretary, Jorethang, UD&HD has been transferred and posted as BDO,BAC Yuksom under RMDD in place of Suraj Gurung, BDO Yuksom, who was transferred and posted as Under Secretary, Jorethang under UD&HD.
Similarly, Khemraj Bhattarai, BDO,BAC Parakha has been transferred and posted as BDO,BAC Martam, East Sikkim under RMDD in place of Kishore Pradhan and Tshering Bhutia, Assistant Chemist, Mines Minerals &Geology department has been transferred and posted as BDO,BAC Parakaha, under RMDD, on deputation in place of Khemraj Bhattarai.

Thupden Lachungpa condemns Coop Deptt statement on cooperatives for Lachung

GANGTOK, 17 June: Thupden Norzang Lachungpa, president of Lachung Dzumsa Educated Unemployed Cooperative Society, engaged in a tussle with the Lachung Dzumsa over the cooperative society and who has been boycotted by the Dzumsa, has condemned a recent statement attributed to a Cooperation Department official and demanded an inquiry against him.
The official was quoted in a local newspaper as stating that no Educated and Unemployed Youth, Labour or Contractor Cooperative Societies will be registered in Lachung without the permission of the Dzumsa.
The official had also stated that the Department of Cooperation has not received any letter from the Chief Minister’s Office regarding the recent controversy over the cooperative society in Lachung. Mr. Lachungpa claims that on 11 June, Principal Secretary to the CM had written to the Cooperation Secretary pointing out that “as per the Government approved norms the registered Cooperative Societies are permitted allotment of work below Rs.2 crore in the area”.
Mr. Lachungpa, while speaking to media-persons here yesterday, added that the concerned official of the Cooperation Department had registered the Lachung Dzumsa Educated Unemployed Co-operative Society on 26 March “violating his own position and undermining the laws that he is now stating and had also approved the bylaws of the Cooperative Society under his name, signature and official seal”.
“The statement is self-contradictory and clearly reflects his mala-fide intensions,” alleges Mr. Lachungpa. He stressed that the official should have brought to notice that certain laws and notifications related to the formation or registration of cooperative societies did not apply in the case of the Dzumsa system before registering the said cooperative society.
“The officer should be punished as per the government service rules for misleading the common people, not only the people from Lachung and Lachen, but he is equally responsible for creating confusion among the people of entire Sikkim. Irresponsible officers should be punished as per the laws and rules,” he said.
He went on to allege that the statement issued by the official was influenced by some members of the Lachung Dzumsa. He also clarified yesterday that the registration of the cooperative society has not been withdrawn as was being rumoured.

Editorial: Invite Counsellors to Nuance Sikkim’s Ant-Drugs Campaign

Sikkim has a customised anti-drugs law which makes peddling in prescription drugs not covered by the Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances Act but abused commonly, and dangerously, in the State, a much more ‘criminal’ offence. Prescription drugs like Spasmoproxyvon and a range of cough syrups are extensively abused in Sikkim, but did not attract any severe enough penal punishment to deter their peddling. This loophole was addressed by the Sikkim Anti-Drugs Act of 2006 and the rules which were subsequently notified under it. Those who were expecting substance abuse to decrease with SADA have been expectedly let down. Although individuals caught with prescription drugs of abuse can now be tried and sent away for jail-terms, substance abuse has definitely not come down in Sikkim; not because the law is inadequate in itself, but because laws, no matter how strong, cannot combat a social challenge in the absence of complementing initiatives. This collaboration is normally expected of the civil society, but since there is none in Sikkim, it is time that the government approached the challenge of substance abuse afresh and catalysed the required involvements and interventions. One needs to bear in mind that SADA was necessitated by the peculiar nature of substance abuse in Sikkim and it is to the State Government’s credit that it recognised the situation and took the first step, but it has been some years since and a second step towards addressing addiction needs to be taken. SADA, in its present form, is deployed exclusively as a law and order device – by the cops on ‘drug busts’. In its original draft, the Act was more holistic in its approach and sought to make clear delineation between peddlers and addicts, between punishment and help. To achieve this, its implementation needs to be nuanced with compassion and wider understanding about addiction and the traumas of the drug-dependent. For this, a wider engagement is required to address the challenge. Peddling can remain a law and order issue, but individual addiction needs more considerate handling [as was also envisaged in the original Act], and this understanding can be gained only if more minds are invited to address the implementation and suggest required course-corrections in Sikkim’s efforts to contain addiction. A good place to begin will be in the reconstitution of the Sikkim Anti Drugs Authority Committee [established under the Act] to include those who are working with addicts and helping rehabilitate all they can reach out to. At present, this Committee includes only government officers, most of whom find themselves in the committee ex-officio and cannot be expected to make any substantial contributions because of their ignorance of the issue at hand and the many other responsibilities which compete for their attention. Those who have dedicated their lives to help repair the damage of addiction among others, if included in such a committee, will definitely table practical suggestions and effective interventions through SADA to give Sikkim a fighting chance at combating addiction among its young. Allowing such engagement will not be easy for the bureaucracy to recommend, but is a leap of faith which will land Sikkim in a better place...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Clarification on Customs Duty exemption for new items of Border Trade pending with Union Finance Minister

GANGTOK, 15 June: Customs duty exemption on the 5 newly added items in the Border Trade list between Sikkim and Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) has been lying at the highest level of the Finance Ministry for consideration and directions ever since it triggered confusion and heartburn among border traders here. The demand for a revision of the obsolete trade list was finally granted on the seventh episode of trading this year, but unclear directions have left the traders upset.
While border trade has traditionally been duty-free, when five new items were added to the list this year, the permission came without any specific directions on whether or not they were also exempt from customs duty. The concerned officials here decided to interpret the absence of specific exemption as a tacit direction to impose duty. This is being protested by traders here who had even boycott border trade in the initial days. Border Trade had resumed for the current season on 21 May last month.
Sources in the Ministry of Commerce and Industries inform that the matter has been pending with the Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s office for clarification. The Customs office comes under the Ministry of Commerce and Industries but raises revenue [by way of Customs Duty] for the Finance Ministry.
The exemption being a policy decision, the Union Minister’s endorsement becomes necessary, it is explained.
Officials further assure that the office of the Director General of Foreign Trade [under the Ministry of Commerce & Industries] has taken the matter seriously after traders and the Sikkim government took up the issue with it.
The Customs Office at Gangtok has also sought clarification on the issue through an official communiqué to its seniors but is yet to receive any communication from the Ministry or higher authority in Kolkata.
Meanwhile, the State Commerce and Industries Department Secretary, BK Kharel, while speaking to NOW!, said that the proposal for exemption is still under consideration with the Centre.
He stressed that logically and legally, Border Trade is exempted from customs duty since it involves only limited trading and is essentially an initiative to promote border areas and its people.
“The clear exemption of customs duty from the new items is yet to be issued by the Finance Ministry (Revenue Department of Finance Ministry) and the Ministry of Commerce and Industries has taken it up with the Finance Ministry, the executing agency of customs duty,” Mr Kharel informs.
The State government has taken up the issue with the Director General of Foreign Trade and Poorest Produce Export Promotion Council to expedite the matter at the highest level.  
At the same time, the Director General of Foreign Trade and Poorest Produce Export Promotion Council has also recommended Sikkim’s case as being purely that of border trade in terms of taking a policy decision at the highest level.
Mr Kharel further stated that since the earlier 15 items on the trade list are exempted from customs duty, the 5 new items cannot be levied with taxes either. “There should not be two types of border trade policies,” he added.

Sessions Judge seeks voluntary retirement, High Court clears file same day

GANGTOK, 15 June: District and Sessions Court Judge [East & North], Tashi Wangdi, today submitted a letter to the Chief Justice, High Court of Sikkim, Justice Permod Kohli seeking ‘voluntary retirement’ from the service. Highly placed sources in the High Court further confirmed that upon receiving the application, the full court of the High Court of Chief Justice Kohli and Justice Sonam P Wangdi ‘accepted’ his application and ‘relieved’ him from his post from today itself.
It may be recalled that the High Court Justices had carried out a surprise inspection of the lower courts here at Sichey yesterday and seized several court files pertaining to court cases after finding gross irregularities in them.
Judge Tashi Wangdi, sources inform, had attained superannuation in December 2011 and was currently on a six-month extension [Jan to June 2012].

Green Mission 2012 kicks off

GANGTOK, 15 June: The State Green Mission, launched across Sikkim in the year 2006, began its seventh round of plantations today. The state-level launch of the Green Mission was held at Pangthang here today and the drive will continue across the state till 25 June. The Forest Department will be carrying out numerous activities including plantation drives within the forest and private holdings.
Following the state green mission, the Wildlife Division, East District headed by Divisional Forest Officer [DFO], W/L East Ravi Kumar along with Range Officer, W/L, East Maniraj Rai, officials from Wildlife Division, members of Pangthang Eco Development Committees [EDC] and Panchayat carried out plantation drive, at Fambonglho Wildlife Sanctuary road side starting from Pangthang Junior High School premises and continuing till Gurdung Ghumti, Bhusukey Plot.
During the drive the officers, Forest Guards and members of Pangthang EDC covered a 3 km stretch wherein they carried out weeding around the saplings planted last year. Saplings of species like Cherry, species of Rhododendron were also planted in the blank spots identified.
Speaking to NOW!, DFO W/L Ravi Kumar stated that the green mission plantation drives are mainly focused on government areas, school premises and vacant public spaces.
The plantation initiated during the phase consists mostly of plants possessing aesthetic beauty and fuel or fodder oriented ones. The idea of planting fuel or fodder plants is so that the people refrain from entering the protected forest for collecting fuel or fodder.
Apart from that, during the mission the department will also be supplying saplings to the schools, panchayats, Zilla Panchayats and also to interested local people for plantation in their respective identified premises. He also appealed to the local people, schools, panchayat and Zilla members to approach the nearest forest officers for supply of required amount of planting materials as well.

South DDMA meets to take stock of monsoon preparedness

NAMCHI, 15 June [IPR]: A high level meeting on Monsoon Preparedness of District Disaster Management Authority was held under the chairmanship of District Collector South, AK Singh in the conference hall of District Administrative Center, South District this afternoon.
The meeting was attended by the departmental heads of South District, as well as the representatives of various companies based and established in the district.
During the meet DC, Mr. Singh appealed to all the heads of the departments and companies to be ready and well equipped during this season of monsoon with disaster management equipments, man power and machinery.
He also requested the representatives of various companies to provide the government with their machinery as well as manpower in the hour of need.
BDOs and the officials of the concerned departments should furnish him with daily reports of any disaster which has occurred in the district and in the absence of any such incidents they should report it as nil, but it should be reported everyday, Mr. Singh urged.
Further he added that no matter how small the incident or disaster maybe, it should be reported and not ignored so that it can be treated in time and not allowed to swell in the future.
The main challenge during the monsoon is to keep the roads free from blockades due to landslides, so all the roads should be immediately cleared in case of landslides and blockades should be prevented in order to keep the district connected to the rest of the state as well as country, he stressed.
Any excavation works being carried out in the district should be stopped immediately and the cutting and the widening of the roads should also be stopped till the end of monsoon season he added.
All the schools which fall under vulnerable areas during this season should be well equipped and the students should be educated on disaster management and about its consequences and its prevention, the District Collector appealed to the officials of Human Resource Development department.
The DC further appealed to all the departmental heads not to leave the headquarters during the season and in case of certain unavoidable circumstances, it should be reported to him immediately and the second in-command of the department should be given all the instructions and charges to deal with any disasters.
Superintendent of Police, South District, Manoj Tiwari who also attended the meet in his address appealed to the people to try and avoid any sort of man-made disasters and drive carefully during the monsoon season.
SDM Headquarter, P Yonzon earlier welcomed the guests and also gave an account of last year’s meeting on Monsoon Preparedness of the District Disaster Management Authority.