Friday, June 29, 2012

Discussions completed annual Budget of Rs. 5,277.10 crore passed in the Assembly

GANGTOK, 28 June: The annual budget of Rs. 5,277.10 crore comprising of Rs. 2,540.23 crore under Plan and of Rs. 2,736.87 crore under Non Plan accounts for 2012-13 was passed by the Sikkim Legislative Assembly here today. Chief Minister and Minister-in-Charge of Finance, Revenue and Expenditure Department had tabled the budget on the floor of the House on 26 June.
Besides this, the House also unanimously passed separate Demands for Grants for Animals Husbandry, Livestock, Fisheries and Veterinary Services and Irrigation and Flood Control departments under the Charge of Minister, Dawcho Lepcha.
The separate Demands for Grants for Tourism, Forest, Environment and Wildlife department, Mines, Minerals and Geology and Science and Technology departments under the charge of Minister Bhim Dhungel were passed after a short discussion. Tulshi Devi Rai and Sonam Gyatso Bhutia participated in the discussion and demanded that the problems and developmental aspirations of their respective constituencies be taken up on priority basis.
Meanwhile, the separate Demands for Grants for Department of Building and Housing department was passed without discussion.
While taking part in the discussion of Urban and Housing Development and Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs department under the charge of Minister DB Thapa, Gangtok MLA Dorjee Namgyal re-iterated his demand for a proper system of recording addresses and house numbers in the Gangtok Municipal area and urged the Leader of the House and government to consider the establishment of the film industry in Sikkim by providing relaxations on entertainment tax.
Minister DB Thapa in his reply informed the House that numbering and proper addressing of households in GMC area is being undertaken by the GMC and that it will take some time to finalize the model for household numbering.
On the issue of Morf discotheque at Adampool [into which Upper Burtuk MLA PST Tamang had demanded an enquiry since it shouldered a school], the Minister informed the House that the establishment was operating on a provisional licence for one year and that when the licence expires on 11 July, the department will not renew it. He admitted that the discotheque was situated within 100 meters of a school compound.
He, however, denied that any complaints from the local public or school management committee were received by the UD&HD or HRDD.
The Demand for Grants for the department under the charge of the Chief Minister was also passed by the house.
The focus of deliberations also fell on the state’s media as Salghari-Zoom MLA Madan Cintury demanded that a motion of breach of privilege be moved against media reports on dissident MLA Prem Singh Goley’s statements.
Similarly, Mangan-Lachen MLA Tshering Wangdi Lepcha contended that it was media pandering which had inspired the ‘unruly behaviour’ of the Upper Burtuk MLA and urged the house to impose restrictions on the media.
While commenting on the points raised by the members in the House, the Chief Minister endorsed the demand to move a motion of breach of privilege against the media and appropriate action as per the rules of the House.
Mentioning that there have been too many instances of misuse of democratic institutions in Sikkim, the CM argued that allowing such abuse to continue unchecked would compromise democracy and the Constitution. He left it to the Speaker of the house to take action on the matter since the breach of privilege motion is the Speakers’ prerogative.
He also urged members to maintain decorum in the House and alerted them to be responsible to the State and the people and further asked them to respect the people’s mandate. On Mr. Tamang’s conduct through the Budget Session, he said that the MLA had gone out of line with his actions which were not in accordance with the business of the House and supported the Speaker’s ruling suspending him for the day as being in line with the rules for conduct of the house.
The CM highlighted that even those who choose to oppose are bound by the rules of the House and bound by the Constitution to respect them. The Upper Burtuk MLA’s actions were “against the interests of the people, law and proceedings”, stated the CM.
Besides this, the SLA today also passed the Appropriation Bill moved by the Chief Minister.

State’s revenue surplus down by Rs 376.57 crore in 2010-11 compared to previous year


GANGTOK, 28 June: The Reports on Accounts and major audit findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General [CAG] for the year ended 31 March 2011 on the Government of Sikkim was placed by Chief Minister Pawan Chamling before the State Assembly today. A brief report on the major findings contained in the CAG Report was also shared by the Principal Accountant General [Audit], Sikkim, LAC Singh, during a press conference today.
The CAG Report on the State Finances contains audit findings on matters arising from examination of Finance Accounts and Appropriation Accounts of the State Government for the year ended 31 March 2011 and an overview and status of the State Government’s compliance with various financial rules, procedures and directives during the current year. The Audit Report includes five chapters comprising four performance reviews and 18 paragraphs, based on the audit of selected programmes and activities of the Government including a separate chapter on Integrated Audit of Urban Development and Housing Department.
It is informed that according to the existing arrangements, copies of the draft audit paragraphs and draft performance reviews were sent to the Secretaries of the departments concerned by the Accountant General (Audit) with a request to furnish replies within six weeks. The press briefing was informed that replies were not received from the concerned departments with respect to 4 paragraphs.
Audit findings and recommendations in the report state that the fiscal position of the State viewed in terms of key fiscal parameters – revenue surplus, fiscal deficit, primary deficit etc. indicate that the State has been able to maintain revenue surplus over the past five years but the revenue surplus decreased by Rs 376.57 crore - from Rs 516.35 crore in 2009-10 to Rs 139.78 crore in 2010-11.
Likewise, Revenue Receipts in the report mention that the revenue receipts had shown a progressive increase upto the period 2009-10, however, during 2010-11, the revenue receipts decreased by 8.26 per cent over the previous year.
“While 24.25 per cent of the revenue receipts during 2010-11 had come from the State’s own resources comprising tax and non-tax receipts, the share of Central transfers comprising State’s share in Central taxes and duties increased by Rs 150.31 crore whereas grants-in-aid from GOI declined by Rs 194.60 crore during 2010-11,” it is informed.
It is further informed that the tax revenue exceeded the projection of XIIIth FC whereas non-tax revenue was less by Rs 66.58 crore [21.57 per cent] in comparison to XIIIFC projections.
On Revenue and Capital expenditure, the report highlights that the overall revenue expenditure of the State increased by 10 per cent from Rs 1,829.02 crore in 2009-10 to Rs 2,011.92 crore in 2010-11, while revenue expenditure constituting 81.50 per cent of the total expenditure grew by Rs 182.90 crore over the previous year, the expenditure incurred under capital head which constituted 18.27 per cent of the total expenditure decreased by Rs 197.46 crore over the previous year.
“Out of the total capital expenditure of Rs 451.07 crore, there were 138 incomplete projects as on 31 March 2011 in which Rs 294.16 crore were blocked, out of which 58 incomplete works [Rs270.89 crore] were due to be completed by 31 March 2011,” it is added.
The Report also mentions that the developmental expenditure of Rs 944.80 crore in 2006-07 increased to Rs 1,708.44 crore in 2010-11, however, its share in aggregate expenditure decreased from 72.62 per cent to 69.20 per cent during the period.
It was informed that the ratio of development expenditure as a proportion to aggregate expenditure had also come down by 3.45 per cent in 2010-11 as compared to the year 2007-08 which indicates that the State had given lower priority to this category of expenditure during the year 2010-11 as compared to 2007-08 and the share of committed expenditure in the Non-Plan Revenue Expenditure was 92.56 per cent leaving meager funds for developmental purposes.
The report recommends that the State needs to accord higher priority to its developmental expenditure considering the reduction in this category of expenditure during the year 2010-11 as compared to 2007-08 and reduce its committed expenditure in the overall non-plan revenue expenditure.
It further recommends that the State also needs to ensure timely and effective implementation of incomplete projects to avoid time and cost overrun.
The report points out that the investment of Government money in Government Companies and Statutory Corporations was increasing year after year. However, while the return on the investment was 2.62 per cent, the Government paid an average interest rate of 9 per cent on its borrowings during the year.
It is recommended that the Government ensure better value for money in investment by identifying the Companies/ Corporations which are endowed with low financial but high socio-economic returns and justify if high cost borrowings are worth being channelized there and initiatives may be taken to revive or close down or sell out the huge loss making Corporations/ Companies.
On Financial management and budgetary control, the report mentions that there was an overall savings of Rs 859.66 crore and excess expenditure of Rs 1.59 crore against 46 Grants/Appropriations during 2010-11.
“This excess expenditure of 2010-11 compounded with an excess expenditure of Rs 7.46 crore pertaining to 2007-10 requires regularization by the Legislature under Article 205 of the Constitution of India. Out of a provision of Rs 809.60 crore in 115 sub-heads, Rs 654.84 crore [81 per cent] constituting 15 per cent of the total budget provision of the State were surrendered, which included cent per cent surrender in 62 sub-heads,” it is recommended.
On Financial Reporting, the report highlights that there were deficiencies in furnishing utilization certificates in time against grants/ loans received, non-furnishing of detailed information about financial assistance received by various Institutions and non-submission of accounts in time. It further mentions that there was delay in placement of Separate Audit Reports to Legislature and arrears in finalization of accounts by the Autonomous Bodies/Authorities and cases of misappropriation and losses also indicated inadequacy of controls in the departments.
The Report recommends that an effective mechanism be put in place to ensure timely placement of reports, finalization of accounts and speedy settlement of cases relating to misappropriation and losses.

Speaker suspends Golay from final day of Budget Session

GANGTOK, 28 June: Speaker, Sikkim Legislative Assembly, KT Gyaltsen, today suspended Upper Burtuk MLA, PS Tamang, from the House for the day taking exception to statements issued by him to the media on the day’s proceedings after he left the Assembly session yesterday. Quoting Rule 317 of the General Rules of Procedure Notices, the Speaker informed Mr. Tamang that he was withdrawn from the House for the day and that his participation in the day’s proceedings were suspended.
When Mr. Tamang, instead of withdrawing from the House, stood up and started challenging the order, the Speaker called in the Marshals and directed them to escort Mr. Tamang, who had by then also pulled out a black scarf of protest, out of the House.
Taking up the ruling on the issue as the first order of legislative business, the Speaker pointed out that Mr. Tamang had been allotted time like other members on both the preceding days to address the house and of how against the allotted time of 15 minutes yesterday, he insisted on speaking for up to 22-25 minutes despite being told not to veer out of context and conclude his remarks. And yet, on leaving the House yesterday, he alleged [in media statements] that he had not been allowed to speak and instead of registering his protest in the House, proclaimed outside that he had walked out.
The Speaker also explained today that Mr. Tamang’s leaving midsession yesterday was not a walk-out, as reported in a section of the media [including NOW!], because he had not registered his protest in the floor of the House first.
The Speaker while expressing his unhappiness with yesterday’s proceedings involving Mr Tamang and the media reports urged that the role of the press and media was to deliver responsible, fair and constructive information and that action would be considered against media which had reported ‘unwisely’ even when he had given a ruling stressing on various aspects about the proceedings clearly.
“How do you expect to be a leader if you do not realize your responsibilities? You have come here these three days just to disturb the house,” he told the Upper Burtuk MLA even as he argued against the order.
The Speaker also announced that he will not allow the House or the Constitution of India to be disregarded or diminished and also warned other members against overstepping the boundaries of conduct set for the conduction of business in the House.
Later, outside the Assembly Secretariat complex, Mr. Tamang told reporters that the entire episode was a ‘conspiracy’ to suppress the voice of the people. He alleged that there was no democracy left in the State which had been proved with the way in which the Speaker had ousted him from the legislative assembly today.
“I have put on this black band in protest since I was not allowed to speak the truth. I was about to disclose many more discrepancies within the SDF party which is why I have been treated in this way. However, this is a victory for the people as the truth will now come out in the open. The time will come when truth shall prevail,” he said.

Journos protest ‘obstruction’ by security personnel

GANGTOK, 28 June: Journalists have come out strongly against the manner in which members covering the Budget Session proceedings were not allowed to return to the secretariat premises after they had stepped out while the Assembly was in session to interview Upper Burtuk MLA PS Tamang after he was suspended from the day’s proceedings.
In a joint press release signed and issued by 37 working journalists, they have protested that manner in which security personnel disallowed them from re-entering the secretariat citing Breach of Security rules.
While referring to the episode as ‘suppressive’ and one that was intended at foiling the democratic freedom enjoyed by the Fourth Estate, the journalist fraternity has pointed that this episode had disrupted the flow of information of the Budget Session to the general masses.
The Journalists have also registered their concern over the manner in which the press and media were ‘targeted’ by various speakers during the proceedings of the Budget Session.

Golay’s suspension ‘pre-planned’, alleges Bhandari

GANGTOK, 28 June: Former Chief Minister, Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee president Nar Bahadur Bhandari today condemned the suspension of dissident SDF MLA, PS Tamang from the proceedings of the final day of the budget session 2012-13, terming it as ‘pre-planned’.
He stated that the act of the Speaker has lowered the dignity of the Chair.  Adding that it was ‘a painful moment in the history of Sikkim Legislative Assembly’ he mentioned that indiscipline began from 1992 when the breach of privilege was evoked against the Leader of the House lowering the dignity of the SLA.
Mr Bhandari further demanding that the Speaker should apologize to the people and members of the house, contended that the Speaker’s action today was “irresponsible” and “biased”. “The whole act of the Speaker was pre-planned and this shouldn’t be repeated in future,” said the former CM.
He further alleged that, “The prescribed and allotted time and topic for discussion should be restricted within the parameters of the proceeding, however, the Speaker allowed other members beyond these parameters which has led to this incident”.

Organic produce stall inaugurated at Pheedang Bridge

MANGAN, 28 June: In order to help farmers increase their earnings, the Lum/Gor/Sangtok GPU of Lower Dzongu has established an organic stall near Pheedang Bridge in North Sikkim which will sell the vegetable produce of Lower Dzongu farmers.
Constructed with bamboo, the stall was inaugurated yesterday by ward panchayat Dawa Dorjee Lepcha who was present as the chief guest for the function. He was accompanied by panchayat secretary Tshering Gyatso Lepcha, headmasters of different schools like Pheedang Primary School, Sangtok Primary School and Tarent Primary School.
The stall will be run by Phugureep Self Help Group of Lower Dzongu where organic vegetables will be available along with traditional Lepcha equipments made of bamboo. On the day, the chief guest urged all the farmers to undertake the organic mission sincerely as agriculture is the main source of income for the people of Dzongu.

Wild Fruits and Wildlife in Sikkim


Wild fruits represent the floral biological diversity of a region. All fauna and flora depend on the fruit diversity for an ideal forest. Host specificity of specific fauna is responsible for the animal matrix of the region and is accordingly, classified and identified. In the ecological chain, the proximity of moths or butterflies towards wild flowers and fruits, undoubtedly, is responsible for the development of birds,   valued forest assets and others. This reveals that all elements of a forest have an integrated bio-dynamism. Thus, any action or policy development for the forest fringes, forest land and forest resources have major impact on the people and diversity as well.
Likewise, one of the forest produce of Sikkim is Machilus edulis, Lapche phal or pomse.  Machilus edulis of family Lauraceac is a temperate plant species and known to be found in the habitat of the Himalayan black bear (Ursus thibetanus), Sikkim Stag (Cervus elaphus), Snow leopard (Uncia uncia), Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens), Indian Bison (Bos gaurus), Leopard (Panthera pardus), Leopard cat (Felis bengalensis), Clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), Satyr Tragopan Pheasant (Tragopan satyra), Kaleej Pheasant (Lophura leucomelanos), Takin (Budorcas taxicolor) and so on. For this reason, the dynamism of animal and vegetation matrixes are noteworthy, for the strategic development of a region.
In this connection, the yardstick of ideal good habitat is an important tool for the analysis of forest resources.  Based on the ideal forest value or index, the forest quality can be improved with tangible and intangible outcomes. Keeping this in view, the unscrupulous estimation of resources needs to be avoided; at the end, such action not only destroys the vegetation matrix but also exerts pressure on the movement of animals to the boundary region in search of ecological equilibrium.
Recent methods in use, to obtain the ideal vegetation matrix in Sikkim, are namely, artificial regeneration and natural regeneration. Moreover, the natural regeneration is a low-cost viable method for the conservation and augmentation, as opposed to artificial regeneration. Besides vegetation matrix, the ideal animal matrix is also required for forest quality standardization.
As Sikkim, maintains one of the best ecology in the country at present, it requires principles and guidelines of forest travelers with valued information to reduce anthropogenic forest pressure. Now onwards, the strategy of replanting young or mature trees (or valued species) may be a better solution for the augmentation and conservation of endangered, rare and threatened species on the ‘Red data list’. Re-planting strategy of young or mature trees or suitable valued species on the wastelands or degraded land or degraded forest land is a suitable approach to save plant, environment and tree age.
Otherwise, a new sapling will take at least 30-40 years to mature, depending on species to species. To get benefit of 10-30 years of tree age on an average, the replanting tree strategy would be a successful measure for endangered, rare and threatened species in the future.  In the occurrence of global crisis in green economy, Sikkim, now requires to develop a fundamental plan for infrastructural or technological development according to region and availability of manpower. Such action may be crafted to turn Sikkim’s wastelands or degraded forests green in a year or more.
The statistical data for the degraded land of Sikkim, according to 2008 remote sensing report, estimates ‘mixed degraded forest’ at forest land and non-forest land at 194.56 Km2 and 235.06 Km2, respectively.  Likewise, degraded conifer forest is estimated at 156.89 Km2 and 16.30 Km2, for forest and non-forest land; as well as, the land slide area estimated at 5.37 Km2  and 5.16 Km2  in forest land and non-forest land , respectively. Therefore, the re-planting tree strategy may be the sustainable approach for augmentation and conservation of Sikkim’s forest resources.
Lack of awareness on the vegetation matrix of specific region, is another major threat to Sikkim’s green economy. In recent times, vegetation shifting in the hills is a new issue in the biodiversity of Himalayas. Reinstating earlier regional vegetation and establishing awareness among the stakeholders may control vegetation shifting in the Himalayas. In addition, the adaptation of small or large plants at the tree line area, of 2 to 20 years old, is a better step for the augmentation of threatened, rare and endangered species of the world.  The correct age estimation and identification are, nevertheless, significant points to be considered for the best outcome. Such pace and strategy, are, undoubtedly, worth mentioning and shall, moreover, contribute in reducing the anthropogenic pressure on forest.
Regional or environmental management planning is another imperative intervention for the comprehensive development of the region for better flora and fauna management. Senior citizens, regional experts, researchers, concerned institutions, etc. ought to be involved to prepare regional or environmental management plan for high-quality results. The forest committees, such as JFMC (for sub-tropical, tropical and sub-temperate forests), Watershed Committee (for watershed area), Eco-development Committee (for temperate, sub -alpine and alpine forests) should be properly educated with the methods and principles of forest management in idea exchange programs.
Furthermore, the work components of the Eco development areas are properly made for the sustainable development of a region including livelihood options, with standardized skills for addressing the issues of overlapping of eco-development areas in forest land. Until and unless, a suitable alternative livelihood for villagers of the forest fringes is not found, knowingly or unknowingly, the stakeholders will trespass or enter forest land and fetch resources for their use and to resolve their temporary problems.  Addressing the issue of sustainable livelihood activities at the forest fringes, will certainly reduce the anthropogenic forest pressure, provided that the plan of action is made keeping in mind the regional customs and cultural elements.
In fact, the concept of sustainability is designed on social, economy and environment principles and  Machilus edulis (Lapche phal) fruit is an example of such Sikkim forest produce. In a survey on this plant, it was found that, the plant bears fruit in the period between October to January, meaning that it almost holds 3 – 4 months in a year.  In total, the Gangtok market requires 9000- 12000 kgs of this forest produce in a season. In contrast, a single household from the villages at the forest fringes requires 15-20 kgs per season.  
As a whole, the maximum requirement per season in the state may be upto 15000 kgs, a production of  150-200 trees. Consequently, this fruit is a good prototype of wild fruit market and requires an enhancement for market development.  A successful model of such livelihood activities of  Machilus edulis  (Lapche phal) at forest fringes was reported by the Forest Committee members and Ucha Pahari Jaributi Sanstha of Ilam, Nepal. Such adaptation on livelihood activities with Machilus edulis (Lapche phal) may be a good solution for reduction of forest anthropogenic pressure.
Invasive species in the forests of Sikkim is one more threat and is responsible for the quality of soil and forests. Identification of such invasive species, therefore, to a certain extent, may help to develop the quality of forests and control the movement of wildlife towards human habitat. In this context, roles and  responsibilities given to the Watershed Committee of each Watershed area of Sikkim or to any forest statutory body, can help the augmentation and conservation of wild animals and forestry as  a whole.
Likewise, sustainable Joint Forest Management activities, through Joint Forest Management Committee and Eco-development Committee, would provide a control tool for the wildlife menace in the wildlife affected areas, undertaking several high valued activities.  In retrospect, the history of Taungyadar custom in Sikkim forestry can be referred to as an example of eco-development and restoration.  The guidelines of National Afforestation Programme for the JFMC and EDC has given clear directives to carry out   defined activities to meet the objectives outlined.
Policy and plan reflect the system and state of any country and such interventions were included by Sikkim as well. At the outset, the then Chogyal of Sikkim had put forward a pioneering step to augment and conserve the habitat of the region in his Council in 1905 and established the set of first  general rules for reserved forests of ‘Sikkim State’. The first policy for the forest management of Sikkim was - “ Reserved forests will be demarcated in the Teesta, Rungeet and a few other valleys, where sal grows well turning out the present cultivators and compensating those who are not cultivating against orders”.  Besides this rule, other rules, upto 1909,  related to forest management, augmentation and conservation were fuel  and fodder (Council minute (C.M)  dated 1.4.1908),  Grazing ( C.M dated 1.4.08),  cultivation and temporary measure of grazing ( C.M  dated 11.11.1908),  Rules for Sikkim Forests( Council Minute of 30th April, 1909) and  so on.  
In 1910, in accordance to the circular no 685 dated 18th June, 1910 for ‘Sikkim Forests Rules Regulating Grazing’, published by the then Political Officer of Sikkim, C.A Bell, defined at section 15 that, “Forest Officer means the Maharaj-Kumar of Sikkim, landlord of the Elaka, Forest Manager, Forester, forest Guards and Chaprasis whether kept by the State or the landlords to look after the Forest”.  In the light of such rules, the then ‘Sikkim State’ had provided complementary flexibility for the management of Sikkim’s forests. The honor provided to the Sikkim Forests, by Maharaja Kumar, Sidkeong Tulku, as the first declared Forest Officer, was a golden era of Sikkim forestry. In short, the earlier pre-merger policies related to the sale of forest produce had rules to regulate the sale of forest produce, rate of forest produce, timber agreement, bamboo pulp agreement and so on.  This reveals that the forest policies have direct impact on the rural economy at large and, thus, need to be prepared in compliance to the rural economy.
Anthropogenic pressure on forest vis-a-vis wildlife pressure on human habitat, is a known fact. Thus, at the end, irrespective of  legal tools on the items such as bamboo, Arisaema (gurbo) and  Machilus edulis,  the  development of ‘eco-development areas’ of forest fringes is only a significant and a valid point for integrated progress in Sikkim and adjoining Himalayan countries. The protocols for quality forest and its assessment, protected area networking, trans-border issues, forest boundary clearance, clear demarcation, etc, may be adopted for sustainable ecological equilibrium. Otherwise, the wild life may once again venture out of the jungles in search of new equilibrium and management.
[The writer is Principal Scientist, High Altitude Research Centre, Forest, Environment and Wildlife Management Department, Government of Sikkim]

Editorial: Beyond the Fireworks

The disgruntled SDF MLA from Upper Burtuk officially acquired the stripes of dissidence on the floor of the Sikkim Legislative Assembly by attending the Budget Session and broadcasting his opposition to everything that his party proposed. The rubicon now crossed, it will be interesting to see how his politics matures, both, in the House and on the streets. 
Although his dissidence was obvious ever since the Cabinet composition was announced for the SDF’s fourth term, he has thus far only been spoken on behalf of by his supporters, and it was only with his Assembly debut of the fourth term this week that he unveiled the tone of his opposition. His tone was expectedly aggressive and confrontational, an attitude which earned him suspension from the House on the last day. All this may be fine to make headlines for a day and draw cheers from the already converted, but the fence-sitters and the other constituencies he needs to acquire to have a serious shot at filling in the vacuum of opposition, will want more substance. Frankly speaking, although his attitude was new to the Legislative Assembly, there was nothing new in the points he raised, all of which have already been circulated in the public domain, some by his own supporters and some by other opposition groups. Also, for all the intensity with which he and his party colleagues levelled allegations and counter allegations at each other, there was very little in the exchange which contributed to the proceedings of the House and are best left to political public meetings and press release battles, not the Legislative Assembly. Since this was his first appearance in the House as a dissident, maybe the approach was required to underline his stand, but it would be a shame if he kept offering up reasons to be left out from future discussions as well. Since he has taken on the mantle of dissidence in a House which officially has no Opposition party members, he has also acquired the responsibility to deliver on the role by playing by the rules and getting his points on record. Although he might disagree, as would his supporters, fact remains that he was allowed the space and time to have his say and even get some valid points across during the Budget Session. For example, his protest against the voting on the Budget proposals the day it was tabled was admitted and discussions re-scheduled for the next day. It is another matter that while participating in the discussions the next day, he used up more of his time to speak, as the Speaker reminded him, “out of context”. While the political statements were challenged and vehemently contested, treating visitors to rare ruckus in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly, all specific comments and queries raised by Mr. Tamang on the proposals of different departments were addressed by the concerned Ministers and replied. For example, although not directly related to the HRDD Bill tabled in the House, when he raised the issue of a discotheque allowed to operate next to a school at Adampool below Gangtok, he was not only informed that the issue was being looked into but the UD&HD Minister also put on record that the establishment was operating on a provisional licence which will lapse soon when it will be reviewed afresh.
Although other performances made the headlines for Mr. Tamang, it will be such engagements which have longer staying power and should be the role that he plays in the Assembly from here on.  Efforts aimed at embarrassing each other should be invested in press releases and public meetings but are wasted energies when indulged in the Assembly, because even if the shenanigans provide some vicarious entertainment to the visitors’ gallery, they neither go on record, nor influence policy decisions; and Assembly goes into session to decide on latter matters and should not and does not take too well to unfruitful digressions as Mr. Tamang, as also other members, were reminded by the Speaker on the last day.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

SRM State University Bill and amendment to Environment Cess rules passed

GANGTOK, 27 June: The third day of the budget session saw two Bills- the Shri Ramasamy Memorial (SRM) State University Bill and the Sikkim Ecology Fund and Environment Cess (Amendment) Bill, both introduced in the house on 25 June, being passed unanimously in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly today after discussions.
Participating in the discussions was Upper Burtuk MLA, PS Tamang, who first questioned the HRD Minister, NK Pradhan, as to why the SRM State University Bill was not published and brought to the public domain for public whetting before being brought into the SLA.
While stating that there had been instances of private universities operating in the state violating various clauses in the MoUs that had still not been looked into by the concerned authorities, Mr. Tamang highlighted the example of Vinayaka Mission (the University to which the Kyongsa College has been affiliated) which is facing a Supreme Court case after it was found operating an off campus medical university in Thailand.
“I have come here to ask these questions on behalf of the people since there are still some discrepancies that need to be addressed. We have seen how these universities are functioning and still the government has affiliated the government college at Kyongsa to this University. UGC norms clearly state that only Sikkim University’s affiliation can give value to the certificates that the students receive when passing out from this college, so isn’t this illegal?” questioned Mr. Tamang.
He also stated that a State University should have been given the name of a Sikkimese leader instead of its present name and questioned why the department was giving this honour of naming such a big and noble scheme of the State government to an outsider.
Similarly, member BS Panth, asked the HRD Minister about the criteria for job reservation for eligible local candidates in the proposed state university and whether the Department was considering building its own infrastructure in all the four districts for running the University instead of taking-up rented buildings.
In his reply, the HRD Minister stated that since the State government had not given the proposed State University any funding or land, it was not up-to the government to change the name of a University either. Likewise, he stated that affiliation for Kyongsa Government College was an urgent need of the hour at the time since the people of the area had demanded immediate starting of the college.
“Surely our first priority was affiliation to the Sikkim University but that did not happen and SU refused the affiliation outright despite many requests. It was then up to the government to look for other options since we had to start immediately, thus Vinayaka Mission was chosen,” the Minister explained.
He also informed that the MoU signed between the State government and SRM University clearly spelled out that all C & D class jobs will be reserved for locals and that priority will be given to eligible and qualified local candidate in other employments.
He also assured that the point on rented buildings and the construction of government buildings will be looked into by the department very soon.
Similarly, during discussions held earlier on the Sikkim Ecology Fund and Environment Cess (Amendment) Bill, Mr. Tamang who was the only member to participate, stated that conservation of the ecology and environment  was a very important issue that the state government was ‘neglecting’ in many forms. While stressing that the Cess should instead be levied on the industries and power projects that were polluting and damaging the ecology of the state, he suggested that the same should be done immediately if the department wanted to conserve the depleting natural resources of Sikkim.
In his reply, Forest Minister, Bhim Dhungel, said that the suggestions from the member were welcome. He did however challenge the suggestion that the Forest Department was ‘negligent’ and ‘lackadaisical’ in its approach towards conservation.
“There is a strong mechanism in place and agencies such as the SPCB and the CPCB continuously monitor and check the same. The positive effects of our conservation efforts is the 10 percent growth in forest cover since 1994. Along with the development of industries, the government has worked towards conservation and different surveys conducted by recognized and renowned institutes have given us the recognition,” the Forest Minister pointed out.
While stating that the Cess was for inclusive growth of the state by facilitating different conservation efforts, the Minister invited Mr. Tamang to approach the Department with valid complaints if he came across any violations in the future.
The Assembly session also saw general discussions on the Budget 2012-13 after which the Budget was passed unanimously by the House. Further, separate demands for grants under WS&PHE and Transport Department, R&B and Cooperation Departments, HRD, Sports and Youth Affairs and IT departments, Health, FS&AD and H&CCD and Parliamentary Affairs departments, Commerce and Industries, Excise (ABKARI) and Labour departments, Energy and Power and Cultural Affairs and Heritage Departments and the RM&DD, IPR departments were also passed by the house without discussions.

Allegations and counters continue in the House

Golay walks out of Assembly
GANGTOK, 27 June: Disgruntled SDF MLA from Upper Burtuk, PS Tamang [Golay], walked out of the budget session today after he was interrupted while participating in the discussions on the annual budget by other members and the Speaker refused to allot him more time to speak because he was digressing from the topic of discussion [the Budget].
Mr. Tamang was countering comments made by Chief Minister Pawan Chamling [in response to points raised by Mr. Tamang] in his closing statement on the motion of thanks on the Governor’s address yesterday.
Stating that he will stand by his words, he also submitted documents referred to in his discussion to the Speaker today. He added that if he was wrong, then the Speaker can use the privilege motion and initiate contempt proceedings against him.
Clarifying on his absence from the Assembly for the last three years, he said that the government and leader of the SDF party had appointed a proxy MLA, DT Lepcha, for Upper Burtuk to snub him and had also directed officials and Ministers not to accept his recommendations. He alleged that this ‘step-brotherly treatment’ on the directions of the CM was intentional and aimed at embarrassing him.
Referring to the ‘Rolu Picnic’ incident, he questioned the suspension of 31 officials and launching of departmental inquiry against them for what according to him was “nothing but a simple picnic on a holiday”. Refuting the allegation that he had turned sour on not being given a Ministerial post, Mr Tamang said that some ‘inside elements’ had conspired against him by circulating defamatory pamphlets during the 2009 Assembly elections.
Later, when he walked out of the House, the MLA criticized the role of the Speaker and said, “Sikkim Legislative Assembly is becoming undemocratic”. The MLAs, who support the Chief Minister were afraid of the evidence and facts he was going to reveal in the house against their leader and hence interrupted him, he contended.
He further demanded that the CM too step down on moral grounds since he too has a large number of pending cases against him. This was in obvious reference to the CM’s comment that he was not included in the Cabinet because of the chargesheet submitted in Court against him by the Vigilance Dorectorate.
Adding that it is not a healthy trend for Sikkim and its people that the government wants the Assembly to finish legislative business within five minutes, he stated that the “CM has put out the candle of democracy which he himself lit in the Assembly some 20 years ago”.
Responding to media queries, Mr Tamang said that time will create an alternative for Pawan Chamling in the days to come.

CM dismisses Golay outburst as irresponsible and unparliamentary
Leader of the House, Chief Minister Pawan Chamling, in his reply to the discussions on the General Budget 2012-13, dismissed the charges and allegations leveled by the Upper Burtuk SDF MLA Prem Singh Tamang and commented that the MLA’s conduct in the House today was undemocratic, irresponsible and unparliamentarily.
On the documents Mr. Tamang submitted to the Speaker [to attest allegations leveled yesterday], Mr. Chamling said that the documents were not a collection of facts as was being suggested, but a collection of allegations with no substance aimed at maligning the SDF Government and denigrating the achievements and image of Sikkim.
Such allegations have been thrown up even in the Courts but have not stuck anywhere, the CM pointed out while suggesting that in resorting to regurgitating them again, Mr. Tamang was only notching up political points and not contributing anything to further the discussions taken up in the Legislative Assembly.
Elected representatives should behave and abide with discipline and decorum of the House and its privileges, the CM said.
Responding to the suggestion that Mr. Tamang stayed away from his constituency fearing victimization of his constituents, the CM said that this again was an empty claim an attempt at character assasination.
Taking up Mr. Tamang’s rejoinder that even the CM had surrounded himself with intellectuals and advisors from outside Sikkim, including the SU VC whom he had brought to Sikkim as his Economic Advisor, Mr. Chamling underlined that while subject experts and consultants from outside have been engaged, the Government has never surrendered decision-making to them. The government has sought counsel and then decided by itself in favour of the people, he stressed, adding that Mr. Tamang in contrast was just echoing what was being fed to him.
On the corruption counter posed by Mr. Tamang, the CM pointed out that although many politically motivated petitions have been moved against him in various courts of law, none of them have been proven or admitted. He also clarified that there the CBI had not registered an FIR against him on any case.
Responding to comments and suggestions forwarded by other MLAs, the Chief Minister applauded their participation in the discussion on the annual budget and reiterated his commitment to keep working towards improving on the pro-people schemes and policies of the government. The members had earlier lauded the Livelihood Schools concept, health mission, prioritization of the education sector and importance given to organic. Puran Gurung, Am Prasad Sharma, Dorjee Namgyal, Madan Cintury, Binod Rai, Beg Bahadur Rai, Tulshi Devi Rai, Tshering Ongdi Lepcha and Chandra Maya Subba participated in the annual budget discussion.

Speaker issues ruling against ‘irresponsible behavior’ of members

GANGTOK, 27 June: In view of the interruption in the proceeding of the budget session today, Speaker K T Gyaltsen passed strict rulings that the House should not be disturbed by undemocratic and irresponsible behavior of members of the Sikkim Legislative Assembly. 
He said that the decorum of the house should be maintained by the members, all of whom, including the presiding officer are bound by the rules and privileges of the House.
Later, the Speaker passed the ruling that unparliamentary and uncharitable words will be expunged from the proceedings and directed the members to maintain decorum governed by the laws in the interest of the people and institution.
The Assembly saw a wave of loud exchanges when the Upper Burtuk MLA PS Tamang insisted on speaking beyond the allotted 15 minutes to members wishing to participate in the discussions on the annual budget and ignored the Speaker’s appeals to stick to the theme and not veer out of the context of the budget being discussed. Soon, several members raised loud protests against Mr. Tamang and the din continued for some minutes until the Speaker came down strictly and reprimanded all members to maintain decorum.

Section 144 imposed around Legislative Assembly

GANGTOK, 27 June: The East District Administration has imposed Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPc) within and around 100 meters of the Sikkim Legislative Assembly. The imposition came into effect this morning. 
The Budget Session for the financial year 2012-13 has been in progress since Monday and on the second day, the SDF MLA from Upper Burtuk, PS Tamang [Goley] launched his attack on his political mentor and Leader of the House Pawan Chamling. A sizable number of supporters had gathered outside the Assembly to greet him when he emerged and the police had a difficult time keeping the crowd in check.
Senior Superintendent of Police, East, Dr. MS Tuli, informed NOW! that in view of yesterday’s activities, the East district administration has imposed Section 144 to  prevent, obstruction, annoyance or disturbance of the public during the Assembly Session and to avoid political clashes.
The administration has deployed a large detachment of police personnel around the Assembly and is keeping a close watch.

One arrested on rape charges

GANGTOK, 27 June: A case of alleged rape was registered on 26 June at the Temi Police Station.
According to the complainant, on 26 June at around 3 PM Hem Kumar Nepal of Rorathang in East Sikkim, driver of a truck [WB-73/B/7258], was going towards Ravangla with a consignment of rice from FCI Godown, Rangpo.
The driver gave a lift to the complainant in his vehicle and around 6.30 PM the accused driver stopped his truck near Pabong Bridge and sexually assaulted the complainant.
After registration of the case both, the accused driver and the victim, were forwarded for medical examination and later on the accused was arrested and the vehicle seized, while further investigation of the case is in progress. A case under section 376 [punishment for rape] of the Indian Penal Code has been registered against the accused driver at the Temi Police Station.

PG courses in 5 core subjects to commence at SGC on 10 July

GANGTOK, 25 June: Post Graduate courses in five core subjects [not offered by the Sikkim University thus far] are all set to begin from this academic session itself as assured by the Sikkim University and the Human Resource Development Department while resolving a student protest some time ago. The first batch of MA courses in English, Political Science, History, Commerce and Mathematics will begin from 10 July 2012 [when the new semester of the Sikkim University begins] at the Sikkim Government College, Tadong. This is the arrangement for the first year, following which the it shall be taken over by Sikkim University as per the agreement signed between the University and the State Government, informs a press communique issued by the Director [Higher Education], HRDD, today.
Students seeking admission in the aforementioned subjects can download the application form from the official website of HRDD (
While speaking to NOW! some days back, the HRDD Secretary, CS Rao, informed that the syllabus for the academic session 2012-13 has been finalized by the Sikkim University and that the accommodation for classes and teaching faculties will be managed by the State government for the current academic year.
The department will shortlist and conduct interviews for the required teachers from within and outside the state for a period of one year and will engage some lecturers and faculty from Sikkim Government College, Tadong, as well to cater to the immediate requirements, he said.
HRD department approached the Sikkim University for establishment support and the Sikkim University is ready to extend support to some extent, he added. The final modalities on recruiting teaching faculty and other support staff and the syllabus will be taken up after the budget session, the Secretary further said.

15 trade licenses seized in surprise inspection of Ravangla Bazaar

GANGTOK, 27 June: An official team conducted a surprise inspection of Ravangla Bazaar, South Sikkim today and seized a total of 15 trade licenses.
The team headed by SDM, Ravangla, PK Rai, comprised of SDPO, Ravangla, Mordent Thapa, SHO, Ravangla P.S. K.B.Gurung, Deputy Commissioner and Inspector Excise, DCSO, Dy. Director, Animal Husbandry, Bazaar Inspector and Health Inspector.
According to a press release, during the daylong verification in the Bazaar, 15 trade licenses were seized on account of sale of banned and unauthorized items and as invalid licenses. Two rateboards, one Pool Parlour being run without license by one Rikshal Bhutia and many packaged commodities with no expiry date have also been seized by the UD&HD officials.
Similarly, four domestic LPG cylinders were also seized by DCSO from some hotels while one illegal Bar was found being run in the Bazaar and the case has been registered, the release mentions. Health Officials also issued fine for smoking in Public Place under COTP Act. The licenses of a tea shop owned by Norden Bhutia and a hotel owned by Tara Diwas Gurung were also seized on account of unhygienic condition of the kitchens.
All shop owners, hoteliers, have been directed not to sell decayed food items and banned items henceforth by the inspecting team of respective departments, the release adds. SDM, Ravangla also issued a warning to maintain cleanliness in all hotels, shops and bazaar adding that if any one is found violating the same then they will be punished as per the law.

Children Park Taxi Stand drivers go on strike protesting alleged assault on taxi driver by traffic constable

GANGTOK, 27 June: A taxi driver was allegedly assaulted by a lady constable of the Traffic Police at the Children Park local taxi stand this morning following which taxi drivers of the said stand went on strike in protest.
While speaking to NOW!, the driver in question, 23 year old Sachin Gurung, who drives a Maruti Alto and plies between Children Park Taxi Stand and Bojoghari Phatak, stated that on returning from Phatak as he was entering the Children Park taxi stand, a lady constable of the Traffic Police, stopped his vehicle and asked for the vehicle documents. He then told the lady constable that his papers were at the Motor Vehicles Department, hearing which she assaulted him while he was still on the wheels.
According to eye witnesses, it is learnt that the lady constable reacted after the vehicle rashly overtook other vehicles which were in line to enter the stand and when the taxi turned and came towards the entrance, she stopped the vehicle and asked the driver for the documents. When he could not produce them, she slapped the driver. On the other hand, the constable alleged that the driver drove over her feet.
“Whatever happened should not have taken place. In the first place, the lady constable should not have raised her hands on a driver when he was on duty. She should rather have reported to her senior officers or reported the offence at the Sadar Police Station nearby,” commented Chung Chung Bhutia [president, Central Joint Action Committee of Local Taxi Drivers Association, Gangtok], while speaking to NOW! today.
He further informed that after the incident, all the taxi drivers plying their vehicles from the said taxi stand went on a strike and stopped plying their vehicles. The drivers have demanded that the lady constable apologize to the driver she assaulted, he said and added that the situation was brought under control on the intervention of the Superintendent of Police [East] Dr MS Tuli and senior officers of the Traffic Police.
“We were asked by the SP [East] not to do anything rash or take things into our own hands and start plying our vehicles,” said the president adding that the SP [East] has asked them to file a report regarding the incident after two days as the Assembly session is in progress at present. The SP [East] has stated that after the report is filed he will personally call both the parties to his office and sort out the matter. The culprit will be punished and strict action will be taken against the guilty, he further added.
Meanwhile, a member of the Children Park Executive Welfare Association, NT Bhutia informed that they want action to be taken in writing by the SP [East] after he finds who is guilty, otherwise all taxis of the Children Park Taxi Stand will stop plying, he said.
It may be informed here that there are eight associations that operate out of the Children Park Taxi Stand. They are: Chandmari, Rongyek, JN Road, Phengla, Helipad-Luing, Vajra-Swastik, Phatak-Penlong and Laxmi Sweets. Following the incident, while some drivers had started to ply their vehicles, most chose to keep theirs off the road.

Opioid Substitution Therapy Centre inaugurated at STNM Hospital

GANGTOK, 27 June: Principal Director, Health Services, Dr. IL Sharma today formally inaugurated the Opioid Substitution Therapy [OST] Center at the Psychiatric center, STNM Hospital. 
The inaugural programme was held at the European commission building, STNM Hospital complex organised by Sikkim State AIDS Control Society [SSACS] which had Dr. IL Sharma as the chief guest along with Additional Director, Drug Control, Health Department, Additional Medical Superintendent STNM Hospital, Dr. KB Gurung and Project Director SSACS, Dr. Uttam Pradhan.
The chief guest in his address stated that since long scientists and doctors had been working on finding apt solutions, methods of harm reduction in Injecting Drug Users [IDUs] and after several years of hard work the OST was traced as one of the measures to control and reduce harm in IDUs.
Injecting drug through veins increases the risk of transmission of various life taking diseases like HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C so to avoid any such harm these centers are established and operated by National AIDS Control Society, added Dr. Sharma.
The process in OST center treatment is long and involves low risks, the OST way of treatment is the best for IDUs. If the IDUs cooperate with the centers and the doctors concerned, then the users can be detoxified and later can even lead a normal life, he informed.
Whereas on the other hand Dr. Sharma also stressed that the doctors or counselors present in the center need to interact with the IDUs to motivate and build a healthy reputation so that the IDUs undergo the treatment course till detoxification is complete. He also urged the doctors, counselors and nurses appointed in the center to adopt such practices till the treatment procedure is completed.
He further urged all departmental staff present not to take the OST center as a programme but rather to coordinate in all possible ways to eradicate IDUs from the state totally.
PD, SSACS, Dr. Uttam Pradhan stated that IDUs have emerged as an important high risk group with potential of contracting and transmitting HIV due to unsafe injecting practices including sharing of needles, syringes and other paraphernalia. The strategy in NACP III to prevent transmission of HIV among IDUs is ‘Harm Reduction’. The harm reduction strategy includes needles syringe exchange programme, behavior change communication [BCC], out reach and substitution therapy.
Dr. Pradhan added that Substitution therapy with Opioid is a well accepted treatment strategy for harm minimization in IDUs and several studies from around the world have shown that OST can reduce the prevalence of HIV and HIV risk behavior among the IDUs.
Adding more he mentioned that the two most commonly used Opioid medications for OST are Buprenorphine and Methadone and both medications have been found to be effective in HIV prevention.
Further explaining the OST, Dr. Pradhan stated that Opioid substitution therapy involves replacing the client’s primary drug of use [Opioid] with a medically safe drug or the same Opioid in a safer mode of administration under medical supervision. In OST, an Opioid [such as Heroin, Spasmo Proxyvon dilution and injection in case of Sikkim] which is unsafe, requiring repeated administration through unsafe/ hazardous route is substituted with a medication such as Buprenorphine which is long acting, safer and administered through oral or sublingual route. The medication used in OST helps the client not to experience either withdrawal or euphoria.
Further more, OST helps in achieving a comfortable level and the client stops injecting drugs which eventually prevents the potential harm of contracting HIV and other diseases transmitted through injecting routes as well.
Earlier during the programme, a power point presentation on OST was also presented by north eastern regional technical officer, IDUs NACO, Saubhagya Chakraborty. The inaugural session of OST was also attended by doctors, nurses of STNM Hospital along with staff of SSACS and NGOs.

South SP accused of mental harassment by govt employee

NAMCHI, 27 June: A government employee working with the Disaster Risk Management, Land Revenue Department posted here at the South district headquarters, Namchi has levelled allegations of mental harassment against the Superintendent of Police, South, Manoj Tiwari.
According to Deeki Bhutia of Land Revenue Department, Namchi, one Esther Pradhan had claimed of receiving text messages from Deeki’s mobile number and placed a complaint with the SP South. The matter was later settled between the two at the Disaster Risk Management DPO’s office, after Deeki gave her clarifications and Esther issued a written apology to her.
Deeki further mentioned that few days later she had come to Gangtok to sit for some examination. When she came out of the examination hall she found several missed calls from the SP South and a text message that read, “Since you have failed to appear before my office at Namchi PS despite being informed twice and failed to answer my calls, legal action is now initiated against you. Since the matter is cognizable and non-bailable you are being given a last opportunity to clear your position at Namchi PS by 04:30 P.M. today. Regards! Manoj Tiwari, I.P.S. S.P. South Sikkim”.
Deeki immediately called the SP informing him about the reasons for not answering his calls. She was then asked to report to his office the same day. Already late in the day, Deeki said that she somehow managed to find a vehicle and reached Namchi PS at around 8 PM. After a long wait she was asked to go home at 10 PM and to come the next day. The next day, she reached Namchi PS along with her parents at 10 AM and the SI Namchi PS called the complainant, Esther a number of times but received no answer. Deeki was finally asked to return home at 2 PM.
While speaking to media persons yesterday, Deeki said that she along with her family is being harassed by the SP South regarding a case which she has no connection with.
When contacted by NOW!, SP South accepted that the case is under investigation and clarified that Esther had filed a complaint stating that she had been receiving lewd text messages from different numbers and Deeki’s number was one of them. Further clarifying that he has ‘no personal interest’ in the case, the SP said that when he had called the number [Deeki’s] earlier, a male voice had answered the call which raised his suspicions.
However, he said that when Deeki answered the call i.e on the day of examination he was led to believe that there could have been some misunderstanding. “She was asked to report to Namchi PS as it is the legal procedure of Police,” the SP said.
The SP further informed that some days later, Deeki contacted him presenting phone records from her phone company which showed that no message had been sent from her number to Esther’s. On this, the SP stated that a message received from Deeki’s number is stored in Esther’s phone which raises questions on the phone company and the records. He also said that investigations into how Deeki procured the phone records from the phone company without any official authorization are on.
The SP further stated that now South district police is planning to file a case against the phone company now.
Regarding allegations of not entertaining the FIR filed by Deeki, the SP said that he will first investigate how she got the call details and only then look into the FIR following the authenticity of the details. On the matter being resolved earlier at the DPOs office, the SP said that since the DPOs office is not entrusted with law enforcing duties and a complaint was registered with the South district police investigations had to be continued.
Meanwhile, not satisfied with the action taken by SP South, Deeki has now decided to approach the Women’s Commission, Tribal Forum and even the Chief Minister with her grievances.

SIBLAC passing away of Prof BK Roy Burman

GANGTOK, 27 June: Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee [SIBLAC] held a condolence meeting today to mourn the passing away of Prof BK Roy Burman on 26 June. A respected anthropologist, Prof Burman also headed the Commission for Review of Social and Environmental sector policies, plan and programme (CRESP) in Sikkim.
The SIBLAC press release informs that its members observed a two-minutes silence and decided to adopt a condolence resolution in memory of Late Prof BK Roy Burman.
“This organization deeply condoles the passing away of Prof. BK Roy Burman on 26, June, 2012. Prof Burman was a renowned anthropologist and always worked for the betterment of the indigenous people,” the release states.
Prof Burman is the former Chairman, Study Group on Land Holding System of Tribals, Planning Commission, Government of India (1985-86), and former Chairman, Committee on Forest and Tribals Backward Classes Unit, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India (1980-82).
A former visiting Professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University and Professor of Visva-Bharati University and ex-officio Director of the Council of Social Development, Prof. Burman also served as a visiting Senior Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.
Considered an authority on the northeast, Prof. Burman stoutly opposed the imposition of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Manipur and Operation Green Hunt, and had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh several times.
The Commission for Review of Social and Environmental sector policies, plan and programme (CRESP) he headed in Sikkim was shouldered with the responsibility of reviewing the constitutional status of castes and communities of Sikkim in historical, cultural, ecological and political-economic contexts to make appropriate recommendations and also to review the policies, plans and other programmes in respect of SCs, STs, OBCs and other socially and economically backward communities for improvement of quality of life of all sections of people of Sikkim. The SIBLAC release goes on to contend that the Commission’s recommendations were biased and believes that Prof. Burman resigned from the Committee “realizing the faults of the committee and being misused”.
“The passing away of Prof Burman is an irreparable loss to the nation and more particularly, the indigenous people who shall always miss the academic deeds and contributions of late Burman,” the release expresses, adding, “We deeply condole his passing away and pray the almighty to bestow him eternal peace at death and power to tolerate this tragedy to all his surviving family members.”

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

CM dedicates Rs. 5,277 crore budget to the State’s youth

GANGTOK, 26 June: Chief Minister Pawan Chamling tabled his 13th consecutive budget in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly today, proposed at Rs. 5,277.10 crore comprising of Rs. 2540.23 crore under the Plan and of Rs. 2,736.87 crore under Non Plan accounts for the fiscal year 2012-13. 
The plan includes allocations under the dispensation of North Eastern Council, Non-Lapsable Pool of Central Resources and centrally sponsored schemes while the Non-Plan includes recoveries which are adjustable as reduction in expenditure.
The Chief Minister in his budget proposed that revenue receipt of Rs. 9,098.03 crore which comprises of tax receipts of Rs. 353.35 crore, non-tax revenue projected at Rs 1025.50 crore, Rs 79.69 crore from North Eastern Council dispensation, Rs 206.57 crore from Non lapsable pool of central resources, Rs 321.71 crore from centrally sponsored schemes and Rs. 2806.11 crore under grants-in-aid from central government.
He also proposed for disbursement of Rs. 9098.06 crore which includes annual plan of Rs. 1877 crore, non plan of Rs.2601.12 crore, centrally sponsored schemes of Rs. 321.71, schemes under NEC Rs. 79.67 crore, schemes under non-lapsable pool of central resources of Rs. 206.57 crore and spill over provision year Rs. 24.39 crore and public accounts Rs. 3987.60 crore which is contains deficit of Rs. 3 lakh.
Chief Minister who is also In-charge of Finance, Revenue and Expenditure department dedicated the budget 2012-13 to the youth and said, “…this year’s budget is dedicated towards encouraging our youth to become more enterprising and competitive to participate in the growth stories”.
The CM has proposed the construction of a new college in Sikkim and allocated Rs. 150 lakh for this purpose along with the proposal of construction of a Vidyarthi Bhawan [students constitute 18 percent of Sikkim’s population] in order to facilitate larger interaction and complimentary programmes among the students. He also announced the provision of two additional buses to Tadong, Rhenock and Namchi colleges to solve the transportation problem.
“As a priority sector, we have put the best effort to promote education with the highest annual allocation of over 20% in Sikkim,” he announced in his budget address today.
To promote religious tourism in Sikkim, the CM proposed to construct Santa Kabir Bhawan in Lingmoo, South Sikkim, Ramayana Basti in Barang, Lower Tumin, Vrindavan with Gaushalla in Dentam, Tantra-Mantra-Jantra centre, statue of the last Lepcha King Puna Mun Solong at Passingdong, statue of Sleeping Buddha in North Sikkim and a Prayer Tower.
Pointing out that Sikkim had crossed many development benchmarks in the past 18 years, the CM stressed that the State Government was “equally anxious to ensure that economic indicators as reflected in per capita income and GDP growth bring about positive impact on the living condition of our people”.
Contending that “there are certain elements” in Sikkim moving with the “sole purpose to oppose for the sake of opposing”, the CM stressed that the time was instead “to examine our financial position and our fiscal health and chart out collective mission to make ourselves stronger economically”.
The development model worked out by the State Government, he said, was based on an assessment of what Sikkim’s development strengths could be, potential revenue generating avenues and avenues to engage all of Sikkim’s educated youth in gainful employment. Towards this end, the government has identified hydel generation and tourism, he said.
He informed the House that if Sikkim was to shut down all the hydel projects being developed, the State stares at an internal revenue shortfall of Rs. 1,137.53 crore in the 12th Five Year Plan alone. The State could not afford this, he said.
About the tourism targets, he said that the projection to host 50 lakh tourists per annum by 2020 will require Sikkim to have an additional 3,500 hotels and 1,000 homestays; a required investment of Rs. 250 crore per annum. Even by conservative estimates, this would mean 1.35 lakh direct employments apart from the indirect benefits.
If the flagship programmes of hydel, tourim and organic farming were properly harnessed and successfully completed, the cumulative resource generation “based on quick estimate” would be an impressive Rs. 2,064.871 crore during the 12th FYP, he said.
Highlighting that the development model being pursued by the SDF Government has been recognized and feted at the national and international levels, the CM added that those opposing these programmes were “doing a great disservice to the people of Sikkim”.
“As a very innovative Government, we are looking 20 years down line and moulding our own socioeconomic programmes to address future needs and requirements,” he said.
The discussion and voting on the budget proposed by the Chief Minister is scheduled for Wednesday.
Mr Chamling also offered his heartfelt condolences to the victims and bereaved families of the recent Rolep flashflood and last year’s 18 September earthquake.

Chamling vs Goley debate intensifies budget proceedings


GANGTOK, 26 June: With the dissident SDF MLA PS Tamang finally attending the Assembly proceedings, the House saw its first confrontational debate of the fourth term of the SDF Government today with the Upper Burtuk MLA refusing to endorse the motion of thanks on the Governor’s address moved by the Chief Minister. He spoke for around 45 minutes delving on the points in the Governor’s address he had issues with and the Chief Minister, in his rebuttal and concluding remarks, spoke extempore for nearly two hours addressing every point raised by his former Cabinet colleague.
“The manner in which Prem Singh Goley has opposed the Governor’s address by resorting to fabrications and white lies, shows his defiance towards the Indian Constitution and the Parliamentary form of government. This is an un-democratic move by the member since he has violated the decorum that is to be maintained in the Assembly. I condemn every part of his speech and ask him to apologize to the House,” began Chief Minister Pawan Chamling in his reply to the discussions held before the Motion of Thanks on the Governor’s address was passed by the Sikkim Legislative Assembly today.
Mr. Tamang was the only member who disapproved of the Governor’s address during the discussions on the motion of tanks in which five other members were allowed to participate by the Speaker owing to time constraints in the house.
The three-time minister and fourth time SDF MLA had come prepared with written notes to challenge various points in the Governor’s address. He put forward his views while stating that the SDF government was diverting from its very agenda of a pro-poor people’s party. He said, “SDF has now become the party of the elite and the rich. Politics is being played by the corrupt in the name of the poor who are actually being used selfishly by the SDF.”
He contested the data on GDP growth and BPL numbers put forward in the Governor’s address, arguing that these did not tally with the figures and data released by different agencies such as National Family Health Survey (NFHS), the state government’s Food Security Department, MGNREGA and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
“There are different reports and statistics that suggest otherwise, so on what basis are these claims being made? Either these reports are all false or someone is misinformed. Infact, the GDP has gone down and the BPL along with the urban poor have been deprived of their rights in Sikkim. I also want to add that in reality every Sikkimese born is actually being born with a debt on his or her head. The loans taken by the government has burdened even those in the womb,” Mr. Tamang contended.
He further questioned the claims in relation to the 18 September earthquake relief and rehabilitation. In this regard, while claiming that experts have reported that power projects were instrumental in the extent of damage caused by the natural calamity, he sought a White Paper on the amount of donations and contributions the State government and the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund had received thus far.
“There is still no mathematics on what the actual amount of contributions in cash or kind has been and where these have been utilized. There is a book, ‘Sikkim-The Earthquake’, published by the government but even that does not mention the donations that the different organizations have contributed. I have a list of contributors whose names have not been added to that book. I also want to ask the government what is the actual number of deceased in the earthquake is since the numbers have fluctuated in different reports,” the Upper Burtuk MLA said.
While referring to points related to education and the youth, Mr. Tamang said that the process of affiliation for Kyongsa Government College in West Sikkim was done in a haphazard manner and without following the norms of the UGC which, he said, was illegal since as per the law only Sikkim University had the authority to affiliate colleges in Sikkim.
“These differences the government has with some individuals will lead to an insecure future for the students and the youth who will pass out of college without proper recognized degrees. Even the Sikkim Manipal University has cases against it in the courts in Delhi for opening off-university campuses and still the state government is not bothered,” he alleged.
He also spoke on the land acquisition process for SU at Yangang and why the same had still not come about.
He also put on record the opening of the discotheque by the HRD Minister’s son shouldering a government school, violating and challenging the entire system put in place by the Supreme Court to curb ill- effects of the same. He demanded an enquiry into the matter.
Mr. Tamang further raised issues on the power projects and the ‘scams’ being reported in national newspapers like Delhi-based weekly ‘Current News’. While mentioning that these power developers had to avail heavy loans from financial institutions to start these projects, he questioned the state government’s role of standing as guarantors for such projects and enquired why the state government could not carry out such projects on its own.
While stating that he was not against power projects that could contribute to the development of the state, he questioned the state government on why it was charging low rates on ‘up-front payment per mega-watt’ as compared to the other states. He also pointed out that even the CAG report had mentioned these discrepancies in the power development sector.
“I want to ask the state government why it does not hold competitive tenders for such projects since many of these companies which do not have the expertise are retendering the same. Also why the projects that are scrapped because of being unviable being reconsidered again,” he asked.
In conclusion, after the Speaker had already called in him to wind up his address because other members too had to be given a chance to speak, Mr. Tamang took up the seat reservation for Limboo and Tamang communities, alleging that the SDF was using it only as an election issue. Pointing out that the two communities had already waited nine years for the reserved seats, he enquired after the State government’s stand on the issue.
In his reply to the discussions, the Leader of the House commented, “These are the words of the people from Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Assam and New Delhi and not PS Tamang’s. I thus do not have to reply to any of these points as I condemn every single one. The Governor’s address is an important document that speaks of the state’s development and its pace but the manner in which it has been contested shows the level of negative politics some people can stoop to.”
The Chief Minister stated that it was “these few people” were not important, because the priority for the SDF Government was the entire population of Sikkim which had given a full mandate to the SDF, “a party under which Mr. Tamang also contested and won, to run the government. “The SDF party has delivered, benefitting the people who know what the party has done and achieved in the past 18 years since it came to power,” he said.
“I just want to tell the House that the people of Sikkim, especially the students and youth should be wary of such so called leaders since they are misleading everyone by telling lies,” stated the Chief Minister.
While stating that these were ‘invalid’ points being raised by an MLA who had failed to deliver to his constituency in a time of crisis and a member who had come to the assembly after a gap of three years, Mr. Chamling countered that the Upper Burtuk MLA’s “personal disgruntlement with the party high command for not making him a Minister this time had led him to such desperation”.
“I did not give PS Tamang a minister portfolio since there is a case of Animal Husbandry Milching Cow Scam against him in the courts. It is this disgruntlement that has led him to compromise on maintaining the sanctity and peace in the state,” the CM retorted.
On the points raised by Mr. Tamang, the CM said that the MLA must be ‘confused’ between GDP and GSDP since he did not understand what the Governor’s address meant. While explaining the point, he confirmed that the GDP of Sikkim was actually on the rise and that the GSDP fluctuated with issues such as the recent earthquake.
The Chief Minister also explained that the BPL figures quoted in the Governor’s address were based on statistics compiled by the Centre and not misrepresented by the State Government as was being inferred by Mr. Tamang.
“Sikkim is on its way to a prosperous future and all indicators suggest the same. Poverty is being eradicated slowly and a new middle class has emerged. We want a poverty-free Sikkim and we are achieving the same. I do not know about other statistics, but Sikkim has a total of 13 percent BPL. However, since we are a welfare State we subsidize essentials items like rice to other [non-BPL] sections as well. I also want to inform the House that Sikkim is the only state that gives free rice to its BPL,” stated the Chief Minister.
Further, while explaining that the country itself was in debt and that all developed nations like China and America also had a huge credit economy, the CM informed that Sikkim received substantial subsidies on loans and unlike other states had never defaulted in paying the annual interest of the 44 percent of the GSDP which was Sikkim’s actual loan.
While informing the House that there was Rs. 63 crore in the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund, Rs. 1,000 crore (yet to be received, but committed in principal) from the Centre and Rs. 240 crore through NDRF for earthquake relief and rehabilitation, he suggested that the that the MLA must have been misinformed or confused on this matter as well. The CM added that a White Paper on earthquake relief and rehabilitation has already been announced by the State Government and also informed that 60 people lost their lives in the 11 September earthquake in Sikkim.
Regarding the affiliation of Kyongsa College, the CM said that the MLA appeared to be mouthing words drafted by the Sikkim University Vice Chancellor. “It is the SDF Government that brought the central University to Sikkim and acquired the land for the same; however the VC’s conduct and attitude have created a situation where the residents of the area have now decided to opt out of giving their land. The government has facilitated every aspect to develop education in the state but it is the people like the VC who have now put up obstacles in smooth and efficient functioning, how does the member justify his queries now,” he countered.
He added here that it was the Sikkim University VC who refused affiliation to Kyongsa College which led the State government to look for alternatives to secure the future of the students who were to be enrolled there. Had it not been for the timely affiliation from a private university, the students would have suffered, he informed.
About the HRD Minister’s son who operated a discotheque near a school, the CM said that an inquiry has already been initiated into the matter and if there were discrepancies, then action would be taken legally as prescribed by law. He also pointed out that even the children of ministers and public representatives had a fundamental right to do business and politics should always be kept out while someone was exercising their rights.
“Time and history will speak what these projects and industries will do for the economy of Sikkim. We have never stayed guarantors for any power project and these projects have come to the government and we have not gone to them. All information suggesting otherwise is fabricated and since these matters are in the court I would refrain from commenting more since that would be sub-judice,” the Cm said on the hydel projects query.
Lastly, he concluded by stating that it was the SDF Government which had won Scheduled Tribes status for the Limboo and Tamang communities, so it did not hold to logic to suggest that the government was not as committed to secure them their political rights as STs as well. Adding that even this matter was now in the Courts, he said that commenting any more was not advisable at this time except pointing out that the two communities knew very well what the actual problem was and that Mr. Tamang raising these issues even while knowing the cause “was only manifesting the political agenda of the disgruntled MLA.”

Govt to cut expenses by 10%

GANGTOK, 26 June: Chief Minister Pawan Chamling has proposed strict austerity measures in this year’s budget in view of the economic downturn across the globe and in the country and the impact of economic slowdown felt by all the States as well. 
At present the value of Rupee has depreciated considerably in the international market and the nation’s GDP growth for 2011-12 has slumped to 6.5% as against 8.4% of the previous year (2010-11).
The trade deficit gap is widening and Foreign Direct Investment has decreased substantially, said the CM in his budget address, adding that recently the Union Ministry of Finance has also issued certain austerity measures to reduce unproductive and wasteful Government expenditure.
“The adverse impact of economic slowdown is a global phenomenon and I propose to put in place the austerity measures to rein in unproductive Government expenditure,” he said.
He proposed a 10 percent cut in all administrative expenses which includes, travel expenses, office expenses, etc.
Sikkim, with limited employment avenues has hit the saturation point and creation of large number of white collared jobs is virtually unsustainable, he stated.
The CM announced that an Austerity Committee has been constituted and in unavoidable cases jobs are created on the recommendation of the Committee.
He also proposed that with the exception of the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, officers entitled for a Government vehicle will have one official vehicle only and directed the heads of departments responsible for strict compliance. Tours outside the State will be controlled and regulated, very strictly, he added.
The CM assured the floor of the house that the Sikkim Government (Medical Facilities) Rules will be enforced strictly to curb the heavy expenses in medical facilities to the State government employees.
In a related comment, he said that general inflation and the recent petrol price hike will put landlocked states like Sikkim in great trouble.
“In order that we provide maximum relief, we are paying our employees the highest salary in the country. We wish we could enhance wages and salaries of our employees by cent percent. There are constraints we face. However, we are trying our best. In fact, it is widely held that people entering public service should not even think about the pay. All the sacrifice and hard work would ultimately benefit the general good of the public and that itself should be greater satisfaction than any salary package,” he said.

VAT on tobacco products proposed for hike from 12 to 20%

GANGTOK, 26 June: The State government has proposed to increase Value Added Tax on the sale of tobacco products from 12 percent to 20 percent from the current financial year. In this regard, Chief Minister Pawan Chamling tabled the Sikkim Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill 2012 in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly during its budget session for the financial year 2012-13. 
While tabling the amendment bill on the floor of the house, the state government in its statement of objects and reasons, explains that a new Schedule in the Sikkim Value Added Tax Act 2001 will be introduced in order to increase the VAT rates levied on sale of tobacco and all its products including cigarettes and chewing tobacco, other than ‘beedis’ and raw tobacco leaves.
The Chief Minister further said that the measure seeks to reduce health problems caused due to tobacco consumption and to discourage such practice in the vulnerable section of the population such as the poor, children and youth. The voting and discussion on the bill will be taken up on 28 June.

CM proposes legislation to levy Earthquake Cess

GANGTOK, 26 June: Chief Minister Pawan Chamling has proposed to bring a new legislation to raise an Earthquake Cess to be utilized for repair and rebuilding of infrastructure damaged by the 18 September 2011 earthquake.
This new legislation, the CM explains in his budget speech, is to mobilize resources “to embark on rebuilding the damaged infrastructures and rehabilitating the shattered lives of the people in Sikkim”. He said that Sikkim’s economy, mostly dependent on energy and tourism sectors, too, suffered greatly resulting in revenue shortfall which is likely to continue for some years till the restorations works are completed and the economy is put back on the rails.
The State government has passed a policy resolution to create a “Sikkim Earthquake Management and Rehabilitation Fund and Sikkim Land Policy for Private Sector Development, 2012” with a view to improve the resource base, the CM said.
Under this policy, all investors wanting to set up hydro power projects, hotels, industries etc. are required to contribute and deposit anywhere from Rs. 5 crore to Rs. 50 crore [depending on the cost of the project], prior to allotment of the land.
“Sikkim government also raised the power tariff by 16 percent in April and these measures reflect the determination to improve our resource position. But for a small State resource starved state, this is a formidable task, especially after the devastating earthquake,” the CM said in the budget speech.
“There is an urgent need of fiscal consolidation to enable the State to keep up the Plan funding from the Central Government and the pace of economic development of the State to optimum level despite the setback received due to the earthquake,” Mr. Chamling said.
He added that Sikkim government has demanded special package of Rs. 600 crores for completion of ongoing projects as well as to bridge the resource gap and another package of Rs. 150 crores to improve internal road connectivity. Sikkim needs the help of the Central Government to put the growth path back on track to maintain the tempo of development and progress for State.

Goley greeted by supporters outside Assembly

GANGTOK, 26 June: After the budget session today, which ended at 6 PM, PS Tamang [Goley] was warmly welcomed with khadas and garlands by his supporters outside the State Legislative Assembly. There was a huge crowd of supporters waiting for the Upper Burtuk MLA, who greeted him with shouts of “PS Golay Zindabad”.
Mr Tamang briefly halted near the Nam Nang turning where he addressed the crowd of supporters wherein he thanked all who had come today. “To bring about change in the state we need to start a revolution, so we will start it from here today. Let’s work together for the betterment of the state”, stated Mr Tamang.
Supporters of the disgruntled MLA were spread out in MG Marg till Nam Nang today while tight security measures were taken in the assembly premises. Large number of police personnel were deployed in and around the assembly complex as well as MG Marg today.

Casino Mahjong turns One

GANGTOK, 26 June: Casino Mahjong has turned a year old and to mark its first anniversary, a 3-day celebration was organized from 23-25 June at its complex.
Casino Mahjong is owned and operated by two local entrepreneurs who apart from rotating the funds have been keen in keeping their promises made at the time of the establishment of the Casino of supporting organizations working for the betterment and upliftment of the physically and mentally challenged in Sikkim.
To mark the first anniversary and as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility activities, the Co- Managing Directors of Casino Mahjong, Ugen Ladakhi and Bishal Chamling donated a total of Rs 2.25 lakh to three such organizations. The cheques were presented by the Casino’s working partners who were present for the celebration.
Casino Mahjong handed over a cheque amounting to Rs. 50,000 to Mayalmu Sangh, Rs. 75,000 to Balika Niketan and Rs. 1 lakh to Spastics Society, Sikkim.
Speaking to NOW!, Co-Managing Directors of Casino Mahjong stated that the duo will continue the charity and support work for all such organizations that are working for the needy in the state.
The duo stated that they want to create maximum employment opportunity for the locals as well. “We have opened a casino school wherein training is being provided to locals on casino handling with the aim to get trainees absorbed in the best casinos in the state and even outside”, added the managing directors. The best and those interested to serve Casino Mahjong are facilitated with the opportunity and till date about 35-40 students of the casino school have been absorbed in casinos of Goa too, it was informed.
Speaking on the casino’s first anniversary, the two managing directors mentioned that first class entertainment like Brazilian Samba dance performance, other local and national level musical and cultural events were held to entertain the guests during the anniversary. The cultural troops from Mumbai, guest artist from Nepal, Hemant Rana and local cultural troops showcased their talents during the anniversary.
The anniversary was attended by working partners Pradeep Churiwal, Sewa Singh, Sanjay Jain, Sanjeev Bhagat, Sunanda, Sajit Tamang, Dambar Khawas and many more who hail from different parts of the country.