Thursday, July 5, 2012

High Court takes serious note of ‘forceful’ occupation of land by army and other agencies in North Sikkim

GANGTOK, 04 July: The Division bench of the High Court of Sikkim comprising of Chief Justice Permod Kohli and Justice SP Wangdi has taken a very serious view of the army occupation of land in North Sikkim in light of the fact that there has not been any compensation paid nor any land acquisition process completed. In fact, it was revealed during the course of the hearing that there is no proposal for land acquisition even after so many years of occupation.
The army has been in occupation of the land in North Sikkim for several years without having acquired it and without compensating the land owners. On enquiry by the court, it was revealed that there does not appear to have been any requisition either made for the land by the army or any proposal with the DC North office for land acquisition. On being summoned by the court the Defence Estate Officer, Siliguri and also the DC, North were present for the hearing on 03 July.
The division bench noted “… the fact remains that the land of the private persons belonging to these remote areas has been forcefully occupied by the Army and other government agencies without payment of any compensation or rent which is a serious matter”. The High Court has now issued directions to all the concerned respondents to submit their proposal or plan specifying the time frame within which they will pay the rental compensation to the owners of the occupied land for the past occupation and also to indicate the timeframe for initiating the process of acquisition wherever the authorities intend to acquire the land. This is to be filed as an affidavit with the court within four weeks.
It was also observed that the earlier order passed by the court on 01 June, 2012 had not been complied with wherein the respondents had been directed to provide necessary details including the records pertaining to the acquisition of the lands under occupation of the army. Moreover there is no formal proposal by the Defence Estate Officer for land acquisition.
The lands at Thombu, Yakthang and other areas have been occupied by the army on the basis of No Objection Certificates obtained from the land owners. A plot of 2.38 acres at Thombu and land measuring 860.47 acres in other areas are under army occupation.

New batch of nurses takes Florence Nightingale pledge at SMIMS

GANGTOK, 04 July: The Eighth Lamp Lighting Ceremony of 2011 batch of the College of Nursing of Sikkim Manipal Institute of Medical Science [SMIMS] was held at the SMIMS auditorium today. On the occasion, the students of the 2011 batch took the 'Florence Nightingale pledge'.
Florence Nightingale also known as Lady with the Lamp and as a tribute to Florence Nightingale’s dedication, the lamp icon became symbolic with Nursing. The tradition of lamp lighting and pledge recognize her ideals before a student nurse steps into the world of nursing and before following the steps of Lady Nightingale. It was mentioned that the ceremony provides the opportunity, guiding the students and making them aware of the responsibility they carry as a nurse.
In her address, Sikkim Women’s Commission Chairperson, Subhadhra Rai, who was present as the chief guest, mentioned that the lamp lighting ceremony was a remarkable occasion for the nursing students. She mentioned that lighting of the lamp also symbolizes eradication of ignorance and passing of knowledge. She further congratulated the students for choosing a noble job like nursing.
SMU Vice-Chancellor, Brig Somnath Mishra mentioned that all hospitals and centres providing medical care cannot do without nurses and added that there are huge job opportunities in this field. The Vice Chancellor mentioned that this lamp lighting ceremony is an important event in a nurse’s career.
He congratulated the students and the College of Nursing for their performance.
SMU Pro Vice Chancellor and SMIMS Dean, Dr TSK Singh mainly spoke about the large employment opportunities in-and-outside the country in nursing. He highlighted that due to an increase in the number of hospitals and health centres there is huge demand for nurses everywhere in the world. He also highly appreciated the services provided by the students of the college in the aftermath of last year’s earthquake.
Principal of the college, Prof Mridula Das presented the annual report of the college. She highlighted on the academics, clinical and other activities of the college. She also informed about the role played by nursing students of the college in last year’s earthquake where they provided their services to the people of different areas in Gangtok.

HC not impressed with BRTF projections for Dikchu-Sangkalang road

GANGTOK, 04 July: In a matter related to the road conditions in North Sikkim and the apparent lackadaisical attitude of the administration and other agencies the High Court came down heavily on both the state government and the army agency.
The public and panchayats of North Sikkim have filed a petition in the High Court regarding the construction of the Dikchu-Sangkalang road. A report regarding details of the works proposed was submitted to the High Court on 03 July but the court did not seem too impressed with the report of Colonel PH Reddy, Commander, 758 BRTF as it did not contain anything substantial. The division bench of the High Court directed that land acquisition process begin immediately.
The court noted that the report mainly consisted of steps which the agency and the government intended to take in the coming year but there was nothing specific on what the government was actually doing about the work at present or what the government had done so far. “However it is found that no substantial steps have been initiated to carry out the actual execution of the works”, the court noted. The court was particularly skeptical of the proposal in the report to construct a bridge in the area over a period of 3 years when there was no date of commencement mentioned. The court was also skeptical of the mention of 9 months to seek permission from the government and other agencies as mentioned in the report.
It was observed that on the 21 km stretch black topping was done on only 1 km in one year. The Chief Justice noted that one cannot speak of access to justice when the people there had no access to livelihood. The road is a primary link for the people of the area and they have been suffering hardships due to the incomplete and pending road construction. Even land acquisition process had not been initiated for improvement and widening of the road and construction of bridges. DC North, TW Khangsarpa who was present submitted that he was not aware of any details of the proposal or if any proposal was received by his office regarding land acquisition.
Colonel Reddy was directed to immediately put up a proposal for land acquisition; the DC North was directed to take appropriate steps on receipt of such a proposal either in accordance with the provision of the land acquisition or by negotiation as may be deemed appropriate to expedite the land acquisition. The court directed that the process should be initiated not less than one month from the date of receipt of the proposal. The court also directed that the process of collecting hydraulic data for upgradation of bridges be completed within two months and a compliance report in the form of an affidavit is to be filed with the court.

Spices Board announces cash awards for best cardamom plantations

GANGTOK, 05 July: To recognise and encourage healthy competition among farmers for improving production, productivity and quality of large cardamom, the Spices Board, Govt. of India has initiated cash awards consisting of one first prize of Rs. 1 lakh, a citation and a certificate, two second prizes carrying a cash award of Rs. 25,000 each, a citation and a certificate (one for women farmers and other for general category), informs a press release.              
The nominations are collected through Spices Board offices and an expert committee will be visiting the nominated cardamom plantations before the harvesting starts to make an assessment.
The release adds that farmers having minimum of 0.40 ha well managed plantation, free from pest and diseases and having exceptionally high yield, may compete for the awards and such farmers are requested to file their nomination in Spices Board Office on or before 30.8.2012.
For details, they may contact the nearest Spices Board office.

Law Secretary cleared for voluntary retirement

GANGTOK, 04 July: Law and Parliamentary Affairs Secretary, RK Purkayastha, has forwarded an application seeking voluntary retirement from government service. The High Court has accepted his application for voluntary retirement and as per the Sikkim Government Service Rules he will retire after 3 months. 
A Full Court of the High Court of Sikkim comprising of Chief Justice P Kohli and Justice SP Wangdi on 02 July considered his application which was also recommended by the government of Sikkim.
The application was put forward by RK Purkayastha on 28 June and received by the High Court on 30 June, however, there is no reason available for his seeking voluntary retirement.  RK Purkayastha is an official of the Sikkim Superior Judicial Service which is under the High Court and any decision regarding retirement, transfer, promotion etc of such officials is taken by the Full Court of the High Court.
 As per the Sikkim Government Service Rules, three months notice has to be served by the person seeking voluntary retirement and the decision of the Full Court is that the official shall retire from service on 30 September, 2012. He was also found to be fulfilling all necessary conditions for voluntary retirement.

High Court Registrar General retired

GANGTOK, 04 July: The High Court of Sikkim has retired the Registrar General, SW Lepcha, who was currently under suspension facing disciplinary enquiry. The Registrar General was retired in a decision taken by the Full Court of the Sikkim High Court comprising of Chief Justice P Kohli and Justice SP Wangdi in a meeting held today. 
The order of retirement comes into effect from today itself.
Additionally, the Registrar General’s application of 28 June seeking voluntary retirement was dismissed by the Full court considering that there was a disciplinary proceeding initiated against him. As per Sikkim Government Service Rules voluntary retirement cannot be granted when an official is under suspension. Mr. Lepcha was under suspension for reported dereliction of duty.
Mr. Lepcha had already attained more than 50 years of age and as informed, an apex court direction holds that judicial officials having attained more than 50 years of age can be retired depending upon their performance. Besides, Mr.Lepcha had rendered more than 25 years of service. The decision to send him on retirement was taken by the Full Court in public interest, it is informed. Mr. Lepcha had been placed under suspension by the Full Court of the High Court on 18 June 2012.

Birth anniversary of Padre Ganga Prasad Pradhan celebrated at Temi

GANGTOK, 04 July: The 161st birth anniversary of Padre Ganga Prasad Pradhan was celebrated with a colourful function at Temi Bazaar under Temi Namphing constituency.  Area MLA BS Panth was present as the chief guest accompanied by litterateur Gahar Udashi  as the guest of honour who spoke at length on the life of Padre Ganga Prasad Pradhan.
Calling him the father of Nepali literature in India, Mr Udashi said that the Indian government as well as great Indian literary figures have recognized Padre Pradhan as the first Nepali literary figure. His talent and contributions are yet to be recognized which must be done soon, he added.
Area MLA Mr Panth, in his address lauded the role of New Generation Social society in spreading awareness among the masses in the area. “We feel that Padre Ganga Prasad’s Birth Anniversary should be celebrated properly in the days to come. I will place this demand to the government for proper recognition of Padre Pradhan”, said Mr Panth.
“Padre Pradhan’s contributions and work have been kept in darkness and needs to be popularized”, he added.
He also announced that Rs. 5,000 will be awarded to the student who secures the highest marks in Nepali in the constituency.
On the day, New Generation Social Society also felicitated persons who have contributed to the society and awarded certificates to them. It may be mentioned here that the society after the earthquake last year had organized a door-to-door survey to assess the damages. The organization also felicitated those who donated blood to the needy following the earthquake.
Block Development Officer Temi, SK Pradhan, BDO Sikip Milan Rai, Temi Namphing SDF party president Shiva Kumar Sharma, local panchayats, believers and others were present on the occasion. New Generation Social Society general Secretary Dass Tamang thanked the Chief Minister and his government on behalf of the Christian community of the area.

Zydus Wellness workers resolve issues with management

NAMCHI, 04 July: A meeting was held at the office of the District Collector South in the afternoon of 02 July to discuss issues raised by contractual workers engaged at Zydus Wellness Sikkim. Many points were discussed and agreed upon by all sides and it was agreed that a joint committee consisting of four casual workers and four management staff be formed as early as possible. 
This committee will meet at regular intervals and address the common working conditions and related issues to maintain harmonious relations at the site. Bonus payment of 8.33% will be paid to all eligible employees covered under the Payment of Bonus Act and the payment will be done before the Dussehra festival.
One workers’ representative will monitor the canteen service, from preparation of food to service of food at canteen and this duty will be on rotational basis every month. With reference to workers going on strike, the management agreed not to terminate workers representatives without the permission of the District Collector South.
As per company policy increment of 10% will be considered to those casual workers who have completed 80% attendance for the period April 2011 till May 2012, the management will decide the name of the best employee of the month on performance basis and will announce appropriate reward for the same.
If a worker is ill he/she may take leave without pay with submission of medical certificate, the insurance copy and monthly on line EPF copy will be displayed in the notice board and all contractors will issue photo identity card to their workers.
In the absence of ESCI Scheme in this region, the management will revert to Policy on Medical Treatment for certain genuine long term illness, if required the case will be put forward in joint committee to decide on partial help for genuine cases.
The meeting further decided that in the beginning of the month, workers who are unable to stay on extra working hours due to their personal reasons will have to intimate the contractor in advance. The wages will not be payable to workers who went on strike for the period from 27 June to 01 July. All workers representatives agreed to maintain discipline in the company premises and ensure healthy work environment in company premises, if any violation of company rules is observed the management will take disciplinary actions. It was further informed that the management will need some time to organize transport facility for casual workmen staying overtime beyond 7 PM.
The meet also decided that the workers will not resort to illegal strikes and stoppage of work in future. This meeting was attended by District Collector South, AK Singh and DLC South, SM Neopaney along with representatives from Zydus Wellness Sikkim Vice President, DK Patel, Sr. Vice President Rishikesh Raval and Manager HR, Bibek Nandi while eleven members from Contract Workmen also attended the meeting after which the members gave their approval by signing the minutes of the meeting.

4 transfers at Sessions Judge level

GANGTOK, 04 July: The High Court of Sikkim today directed four transfers at the Sessions Judge level.
Meenakshi Rai, currently posted as District & Sessions Judge South and West at Namchi has been transferred to the District & Sessions Court [East & North] in Gangtok and will hold additional charge of District & Sessions Judge Special Division-I [East].
Meanwhile, the District & Sessions Judge Special Division [East], KC Barfungpa, has been transferred as Registrar General High Court of Sikkim while District & Sessions Judge Special Division-I [East], Lakchung Sherpa has been transferred as District & Sessions Judge [South & West] at Namchi.
Registrar, High Court of Sikkim, NG Sherpa, has been given additional charge as District & Sessions Judge Special Division-III [East], Gangtok.

State Open Boxing tourney concludes in Gyalshing

GYALSHING, 04 July [IPR]: The 12th State Open (men and women) Boxing Championships, 2012 which commenced from 30 July concluded on 02 July successfully at Community hall Gyalshing. The event was organized by the committee of Gyalshing, under the aegis of Sikkim Amateur Boxing Association (SABA). 
A total of 198 boxers (124 boys & 74 girls) participated from all districts of the state in different categories. The chief guest on the final day was Deputy Speaker, SLA, MB Dahal and the guests of honor were MLA, Yangthang, PL Subba and District Collector West, Santa Pradhan.
Speaking on the occasion, chief guest Mr Dahal expressed his happiness at Gyalshing being chosen as the venue of this state level boxing championship by the organizing committee and was pleased to announce that such an event was organized for the first time in west District.
“This event shall certainly encourage the youth to take up boxing professionally and take the game to the international level making the state as well as the nation proud”, he added.
Further he recalled the various policies and schemes adopted by the government to encourage sports persons and the financial aid provided to them by the department.
Sr. S.P (Reserve line) PHQ, Pravin Gurung who is also the president of SABA outlined the objectives and aims of SABA. He said that he is overwhelmed to see the increase in number of young participants in the field of boxing over the years in Sikkim and added that it is due to the selfless efforts of the members of SABA for the last 17 years in the state. He thanked all the members of the organizing committee led by Sr. S.P (W), D.B Giri for organizing such a big event in Gyalshing.
The chief guest and guest of honor gave away the trophies, medals and certificates which were sponsored by Navin Cintury, who is also a reputed boxer of the State, in the memory of his beloved wife Late. Kripa Cintury.
In Sub-junior boys category, Sikkim Young Star Boxing Club bagged the 1st position and in Sub-junior Girls category, East district stood 1st.
In the Mens category, Sikkim Police were declared winners and East district were declared winners in the women category.
Madan Rai (East district) was declared the Best Boxer in the Sr. men category while Vabya Gurung (West district) bagged the Best Boxer title in the Sr. Women.
Milan Hang Subba and Arma Pradhan (East District) were declared Most Promising Boxers. Cash award was also handed over to Laltita Gurung for being selected for the National Boxing Camp at Bhopal.

No wins in a day of draws

GANGTOK, 04 July: The two matches played today in the ongoing Sikkim Football Association’s Second Division Sikkim-League-2012 here at Paljor Stadium both ended in draws. 
The first match between Friends’ FC, Singtam and Boys Club A ended in a 1-1 draw. Boy’s Club’s Suman Rai scored the first goal of the match in the 2nd minute, while Topden Lepcha scored for Friends’ FC in the 27th minute.
The other match between JVC FC Singtam and United Brothers FC Rabong also ended in a 1-1 draw. Sonam Rigzing scored for UBFC in the 26th minute and Kamal Pradhan scored for JVC in the 48th minute.
On Thursday, the first match will be played between Howlers FC Singtam and Dolom SA Sombaria, while in the other match, Boys’ Club A will take on Lower Arithang FC.

Learn to sift facts from allegations and do what is best for Sikkim

Pay no attention to what the critics say. Remember, a statue has never been set up in honour of a critic – Jean Sibelius
This is what I would suggest to the State Government given the rumour mongers trying to cry hoarse all around in Sikkim. Critics seem to be present everywhere. At home, at work, in social dos, at funerals, marriages and even in share taxis! We are becoming very good critics if nothing else. We have been gripped by an insatiable hunger to criticise. We never miss an opportunity to lambast the Government, mock its policies, jeer at its decisions, and criticise, criticise and criticise! We even target individuals depending on our mood!
I have nothing for or against the Government or anybody. I am just an average Sikkimese who believes in verifying facts before jumping the gun. That is all I want others also to do. Facts have to be brought to light and falsehoods have to be shunned. We cannot claim to be good citizens if we do not have the faculty of discrimination, if we do not have a sense of right and wrong.
Power projects in Sikkim have become a talking point. They have become everyone’s pet subject. In matters of economic proposition, hydro-power generation has provided a very convenient handle to individuals opposed to development and the ruling government, never failing to whip up local sentiments trying to impose individual wishes and settle political score. We hear of hydel project scams running into astronomical figures which are based on very complicated arithmetic beyond a lay persons understanding. And the figures keep increasing everyday in mysterious ways.
We live in a democracy and it is perfectly acceptable to criticise the Government and voice resentment. But we cannot create allegations out of sheer imagination. If to criticise is a right, then to examine the facts is a duty that all of us have.
As a layman, I understand that hydel projects are not an overnight phenomenon. They did not just appear out of the blue. They are the result of years of deliberations, meetings, discussions and paperwork. And Sikkim can no longer afford to live in exalted isolation being part of a federal democracy. It is answerable to the Central Government for all its actions.
We all know that whatever initiatives the State Governments take, they have to be in tandem with the policies of the Central Government. So why would hydel projects be an exception? The hydel projects have to be executed as per the National Policy of Government of India, The National Electricity Policy and under the Electricity Act. In the recent meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he highlighted the need for additional power generation in the next few years. The Central Government has also recently decided to give major push to infrastructure creation including increase in power capacity by another 18,000 MW.
Those of us who have been tracking the development of hydel projects very closely in Sikkim are aware of the Investors Meet(s) that were held in not so distant past so as to forget. There was widespread coverage in the media about these meets. It was in these meets that the State Government extended its invitation to industries and power developers to be a part of the developmental process of Sikkim.
The work of the State Government paid off when a number of reputed power developers visited and expressed their decision to invest in development of hydel projects in Sikkim. For hydel projects at the State Level, a Hydro Committee was also constituted in 2004 with the Chief Secretary heading the Committee. As a result the State Government signed Implementation Agreements for 32 hydroelectric power projects with a total installed capacity of around 4300 MW to various Independent Power Producers (IPPs) including NHPC.
As per the Clauses enshrined in the Implementation Agreement (IA) entered into with the developers, certain deadlines had to be achieved by the developer.
Since the developers could not adhere to certain specification in the agreement due to various reasons, as per officials of the Energy & Power Department, total of 16 (sixteen) Projects have been scrapped/cancelled as on date.
Therefore, the Implementation Agreements has been valid for only 20 power projects of which two projects namely – 510 MW Teesta-IV HEP and 60 MW Rangit-II HEP have already been commissioned and the remaining 18 projects with total installed capacity of 3774.50 MW are under various stages of execution. This is known to all.
After the devastating September 18th earthquake, we went crazy blaming the hydel projects for the earthquake. But we refuse to admit that hydel projects DO NOT cause earthquakes. To the extent that the devastating earthquake delayed the developmental process of the state which is open for everyone to see.
In our bid to criticise and scream and shout, we become blind to the benefits industries like hydel projects and pharmaceuticals have brought to the Sikkimese people. These industries have generated direct and indirect employment to thousands of Sikkimese people under various categories of employment generating handsome revenue to the state. But employment? You must be kidding! Employment for us strictly means a government job. Nothing less, nothing more.
Sikkim for the nth time is a hilly area with difficult terrain. I don’t think the Sultan of Brunei would be interested to have a Formula One racing track here. Or Nokia would be interested to open a factory in Sikkim. So we have to identify and rely on our natural resources and assets that will make us self-reliant. Countries like Bhutan and Canada have realised this fact early. Bhutan and Canada that have been doing extremely well in the hydel project sector.
The success of the Tala project has spurred Bhutan to develop its hydro-power resources. Primarily fuelled by the hydro-power projects, especially after the commissioning of the Tala project in the middle of the last decade, Bhutan's GDP growth has averaged over 7 per cent during the past six years. In 2007 and 2008, Bhutan actually grew faster than China, with growth rates of 12.6 per cent and 10.8 per cent respectively, according to Asian Development Bank estimates. Bhutan's economy is projected to grow at 7.2 per cent this year, according to estimates firmed up by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.
Faced with the challenges of climate and territory, the Canadian energy industry has developed expertise in the generation and transmission of energy, in particular clean, reliable and renewable hydroelectric power. Over the years, Canada has also become world-renowned for its hydro power project design and construction. That today the country is home to some of the largest and most powerful hydro power facilities in the world, eg:
• Churchill Falls underground power plant in Labrador (5429MW).
• Robert-Bourassa Complex near James Bay, Quèbec (5328MW).
• Daniel-Johnson arch and buttress dam on the Manicouagan river, Quèbec (214m high).
Today there are approximately 450 hydroelectric power plants operating in Canada and more than 200 small hydro plants (<10 MW). Canada also has more than 800 dams that are used for hydroelectric power generation, irrigation and flood control. With an installed capacity of 67,121MW (year 2000) Canada is the world’s biggest producer of hydro power, leading the US, Brazil, China and Russia with production of more than 13% of the global output of hydro power.
Canada generates about 350TWh/yr of hydro power, an amount that represents more than 60% of the country’s total electricity production, and further opportunities remain for new hydro power project development across the territory. Another 118,000MW of hydro power, twice the amount that is currently in operation, could technically be developed. Every province has some remaining potential.
Hydro power projects must undergo a lengthy regulatory process, including comprehensive environmental assessment and public consultations. This regulatory process significantly slows down the development of new hydro power projects. However, the growing concern for greenhouse gas emissions should lead to the development of new hydro capacity to address climate change while helping to meet growing electricity demand. Electricity consumption has increased by only 2.2% (year 2000), and the average projected increase is 1.3% per year over the next two decades.
So if Bhutan and Canada can reap benefits from hydel projects, why not Sikkim? The only thing that keeps us from deriving benefits is our cynical attitude and an attitude that promotes individualism rather than collectivism. We have to see the larger picture instead of indulging in blame game and mudslinging. If we continue to resort to blame game among ourselves, no one will be the winner. It will become endless in an era of number games. People from other states hardly care and people from New Delhi would also not be bothered to listen to our wranglings at a very local level in Sikkim. Therefore, the loss is all ours while others in other parts of the Country are entangled with their own problems..!
In any case, we need to understand that all these power projects in Sikkim are under Build Operate Own and Transfer basis. After 35 years, projects would be handed over to the State Government and the land would be reverted back to the Government. Unused land will be reverted to t6he land owners after the project is reverted to the State Government.
The State Government has confirmed that the Government has never stood guarantor to all the projects and has agreed upon to invest its 30 percent of equity share towards completion and commissioning period to save ourselves from interest payment. Sounds very rational. The 12% free power and 15% free power after 15 years is a foregone conclusion. The state will get free power and as per equity share, dividend will come to the Government revenue.
Among claims and counter-claims, let truth prevail. All the power projects once commissioned/ completed will add approximately 2,000 crore as revenue to the State Government. Apart from this, Sikkimese people have directly or indirectly got employment opportunities.
We hear or overhear talk about winds of change blowing hard all around. But let me inform you about the People’s Action Party of Singapore. It is undoubtedly the most prominent political party in Singapore's history. Ever since winning the 1959 GE to form the government, it has made the then mosquito net of Asia into a first world country under Lee Kuan Yew. He served as Singapore's first Prime Minister for 32 years and PAP's secretary-general for nearly 40 years. PAP has been able to retain its invincible position because the people of Singapore know that it is a party with a vision and mission, a party that delivers on its commitments.
Therefore, there is no force and rationale in the argument of change without any qualifying character to it. We say Change for better. Is the purported alternative better than this?? This is a question that people must always define. Like in Singapore, we can well visualize the same leadership and party as long it does not deviate from the principle and ideals that it stands for in the interest of the Sikkimese people, State and the Nation.
The State Government has said again and again on its commitment to make Sikkim the best state in the country. It has set certain deadlines for itself to achieve the targets. This is only possible if we put our unwavering faith and trust in the Government and let it work in the best interest of the Sikkimese people.
We must not falter because of the criticisms and allegations. We must continue doing whatever is in the best interest of the Sikkimese people even if it means upsetting a handful of those who can never be pleased.
[The writer is a resident of Rinchenpong]

Editorial: Stay Longer With Seasonal Concerns

The monsoon has been severe in the Northeast, where Assam is wading through the worst flood in a decade, even as North India is staring at a drought with rains having been 60% in the deficit thus far this season. Concerned officials and the government insist that it is too early to ring the drought alarm for North India, but should the rains fail, so will agriculture. But what will eventually get the Delhi media buzzing will be the power cuts that become routine once the hydel projects find no hydro power to supply the metro cities and the industries.  Agriculture and farmer woes will receive the token reference, but focus of a failed monsoon and hotter and longer summer will be urban. That said, should the season continue playing in extremes, at least it will make news, some of which might even be insightful and detailed. In these times of climate change, it is important the media reports more on climate patterns. This is important for India because the impact of climate change will be compounded by the over-exploitation of natural resources which has already taken place.
Take for example, the Assam floods. One is told that it is the worst in a decade, but it is uncertain whether the rainfall has been the heaviest in 10 years. The State is also now realising the ineffectiveness of its dyke-building exercise to combat floods. These embankments are now crumbling away and unleashing heavier damage than what a more gradual rise in water levels would have claimed. Then there is also the toying with nature aspect in which the embankments end up raising the river-bed by keeping silt trapped and settled in the river, and also robbing the flood plains of their usual quota of alluvial silt which have made them so fertile. Assam is now talking of bringing in interdisciplinary experts to help the State understand Brahmaputra better. They would also be well advised to invest in reliable advance warning systems instead of trying to fight the river. It should also look into the factors which could be contributing to more intensive floods of late. And this is something [the intensity, not the flooding] that even Sikkim could do well to look into in more detail. The monsoon has been average at best for Sikkim this season. Surface run-off has consistently increased in the recent past much to the chagrin of farmers living around or below the urban slopes. Even a strong drizzle has the jhoras around Gangtok running big and roads turning into rapids. Most of the rainfall that the Gangtok hill receives nowadays follows the quickest course to empty into the Rani Khola. Gangtokians might not notice it, but the few farmers who still hold on to paddy terraces below town are feeling it. The barely month-old monsoon in Sikkim [the rains officially arrive on 01 June here and were a week late this year], has been on average, 32% higher than normal for the period between 01 June to 04 July. Speak to the farmers around the Capital and they will counter that the rains have not been that good this year. For reference they will point out some of the terraces in their land holdings which are still dry even though paddy planting season is already on the wane. Asad ko Pandra Gatey [the 15th day of the month of Asar as per Vikram Sambad calendar], the date traditionally held as ideal for planting paddy is already past and a major reason contributing to the paddy fields not being watered enough is because the week ending 04 July, during which the said date fell, was among the driest in East Sikkim with only 66 mm rain having fallen this week against the mean average of 145.5 mm for this week during normal monsoons. The 54% deficit of one week wiped out the extras of the preceding weeks primarily because water did not percolate enough, it just emptied into drains and out into Rani Khola.
Farmers here will also inform those interested that the village springs which used to start flowing with the first rains and remain in strength at least a month into winters, are now spewing water in fits and starts – flowing big when it rains and drying up if it does not rain for even two days.  This is not because of climate change, it is because of human disruption of the catchment areas. This might hold true for rural Sikkim as well, which is why the spring rejuvenation programme underway in the State needs to be guaranteed effective monitoring and flawless delivery. It will be through efforts like this that Sikkim will cushion the more damaging effects of urbanisation and also the impact of climate change. Conservation is more important now.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Not such a good carrier

GANGTOK, 03 July: A white Utility vehicle [SK-01D-0240] truck belonging to the Goodwill Company met with an accident while on its way to Children’s Park Taxi Stand this morning.
The vehicle was carrying a load of mineral water bottles for delivery at the time.
Shortly after the vehicle began its climb up from the MG Marg bifurcation, it lost traction near the private car park and started skidding backwards. The driver lost control and the vehicle veered off the road and crashed into the resting bench next to the District Control Room at MG Marg opposite the Tourism Office. The accident took place at around 7:15 AM. Fortunately, with schools on summer break and the incident taking place early in the day, this resting shed was unoccupied at the time and there were no pedestrians nearby either.
One of the workers of the company informed that the reason for the accident was due to brake failure, but as per eye witness accounts the vehicle was over loaded and could not pull the load up the road. Only the driver was inside the vehicle and escaped with minor injuries, it is learnt.
A case of rash and negilgent driving has been registered against the driver at the Sadar Police Station and the case is under investigation.

HC rejects contention of 31 temporary employees seeking appointment as VLWs

GANGTOK, 03 July: A group of 31 temporary employees who have been working under the Agriculture and Horticulture Department for periods ranging up to 20 years have been found ineligible to be considered for appointment to the post of Village Level Workers in the department by the High Court of Sikkim under the Sikkim State Direct Recruitment (Special Provision) Rules, 2008. 
It was observed by the Court that the post of Village Level Worker is higher than the posts they are currently holding and with a higher pay scale as well. The Court did however observe that it was a different question whether the 2008 Rules are in consonance with the mandate of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India.
The group of petitioners had based their arguments for consideration for the above mentioned posts on the Sikkim State Direct Recruitment (Special Provisions) Rules, 2008, particularly Rule 3 and also on the submission that they also perform duties of Village Level Workers in addition to their own duties. Five of the petitioners have been working as Field Assistants, 8 have been working as Data Recorders and 18 have been working as Lower Division Clerks.
It was noted by the High Court that these positions are lower than that of a Village Level Worker. All 31 have been employed on Muster Roll basis for periods ranging between 14 to 20 years and as per their submissions, possess Class XII pass qualifications in the Arts and Commerce streams.
The bid to be in considered for the posts of Village Level Workers began when the Department of Food Security and Agriculture Development published an employment notice on 20 October, 2011 for filling up of 81 vacancies of Village Level Workers. The minimum qualification required was Class 12 pass with Bio Science which was later altered to Class 12 pass with Agriculture / Horticulture as subjects.  While the petitioners admitted that they did not possess the requisite qualification of Agriculture or Horticulture as subjects they sought consideration under the Direct Recruitment Rules, 2008 with respect to temporary employees working in the government departments.
Rule 3 allows relaxation in matters of eligibility criteria for temporary employees in direct recruitment to posts under certain conditions. Posts so filled by temporary employees are not to exceed 50% of the total number of vacancies and they also have to go through tests and interviews.
Chief Justice P Kohli noted that the rules permitted relaxation with respect to candidates with experience and expertise gained by the temporary employees to be able to compete and that their selection depended on their performance in the test and interviews. He also noted that the vacancies advertised were of a higher rank and pay scale.
Advocate A Moulik, appearing for the petitioners, contended that the Rule 3 does not in any manner restrict the right of the temporary employees to the same category of posts against which they are working and they are entitled to apply and be considered for the higher posts though in relaxation of the eligibility criteria prescribed for the posts.
The CJ however noted that this contention was totally devoid of merit. Sub Rule (4) of Rule 3, it was noted, indicated that a “…temporary employee is eligible to apply in respect to the post to be filled up by direct recruitment in the same department where he/she is working and for the same category of posts. Thus the temporary employee is not entitled to seek consideration against direct recruitment vacancy for a higher post or in any other department.”
The Court noted that the advertised vacancies are higher in status and pay scale and “…on account of embargo created under sub-rule (4) of Rule 3, the petitioners are ineligible to seek their consideration for recruitment against the advertised vacancies even under the 2008 Rules…”.  Accordingly the petition has been dismissed.

Dolom SA and Howlers FC register wins

GANGTOK, 03 July: Dolom SA, Sombaria, and Howlers FC, Singtam, registered victories at the ongoing Sikkim Football Association’s Second Division Sikkim-League-2012 at Paljor Stadium today. 
In the first match, Dolom SA beat GVC FC, Pendam with a solitary goal by Chandra Prakash Subba in the 33rd minute.
In another match, Howlers’ FC thrashed Lower Arithang FC 07-01. Howlers’ FC’s Phip Raj Subba scored for the team in the 7th, 29th and 38th minutes of the match, while his teammate Karan Subba scored a brace in the 19th and 58th minute followed by Robin Pradhan in the 34th minute and Ruben Lepcha in the 41st minute.
A lone goal for Arithang FC was scored by Rukesh Tamang in the dying minutes of the match.
On Wednesday, Friends’ FC, Singtam will take on Boy’s Club A in the first match, while the second match will be played between JVC FC Pendam and United Brother’s FC Rabong.

World Bank Water & Sanitation Specialist visits Melli Dara Paiyong’s Solid Waste Management Unit

GANGTOK, 03 July: World Bank Water & Sanitation Specialist of the Water & Sanitation Program (WSP), New Delhi, Suseel Samuel recently visited the Solid Waste Management Unit of Melli Dara Paiyong GPU at Melli Paiyong. 
A press release informs that the objective of the visit was to have firsthand information about how the Solid Waste Management Unit is operating in the Gram Panchayat Unit and to make a compendium of good practices in water & sanitation in India.
The unit was selected by the Water & Sanitation unit under RMDD, Govt. of Sikkim as a model unit in the state at a Gram Panchayat level.
The release mentions that Mr. Samuel was quite impressed with the way the garbage is managed in the GPU. The panchayat president, Ganesh K. Rai appraised him about how the unit has come into being and also talked about the future plan for this SWM Unit.
Citing the examples of Kerala, Sweden and Malaysia, Mr. Samuel suggested some good practices which could be emulated here as well and wished success for the sustainability of the unit, the release adds.


There have been several complaints against the Energy & Power Department with regard to issuance of bills in the Yangang Bazaar area. One such bill issued by the department shows a number of mistakes and errors [overwriting] in the preparation of the bill. 
In view of the errors in billing, there is widespread confusion among consumers here in Yangang as some have been billed very low amounts while others have received bills of extremely high amounts. This, points towards the need for a completely computerized system of billing in order to avoid such mistakes and errors. Computerized bills with barcode issued to consumers in the capital are yet to be introduced in the Yangang area.
Bikash Basnett, Yangang


I have come across an article published in your newspaper as well as other newspapers dated 02/07/2012 and the local TV Channel “Nayuma” circulating incorrect information regarding me and my land situated at Nam Nang, adjacent to the ropeway, below the Sikkim Legislative Assembly and above the Big Bazaar. This clarification is deemed necessary from my end as the true facts have been distorted/fabricated.
The fact is that the land in question situated at Nam Nang, is owned by me and was gifted to me by the Chogyal Wangchuk Namgyal. The unauthorised occupants residing on my land had to be requested by me to vacate the said property to enable me to start construction work, etc. A letter dated 29/05/2012 was also issued to the said occupants therein, who had received the said letter and in reply vide letter dated 31/05/2012 had admitted that the property belongs to me and they would vacate the same, however, they requested for sometime until the government allots housing accommodation to them. To which, I had told them that due to paucity of time I had no option but to decline requests as I had all along accommodated them but finally having no alternative I had issued them a letter giving them a month’s time to make alternative arrangements.
In the circumstances there is no question of using threat or undue pressure, etc on the unauthorised occupants on my land.
Princess Sodeun Wangdi, Happy Cottage, Development Area, Gangtok

ASESEUA to begin state-wide tour on 05 July

GANGTOK, 03 July: All Sikkim Educated Self Employed and Unemployed Association [ASESE&UA] will kick off its state-wide tour from 05 July to address issues pertaining to the state along with the Sikkim Democratic Front [SDF] party led governance.
Speaking to the media, ASESE&UA president, Nawin Kiran Pradhan, alleged that none of the promises made by the Chief Minister Pawan Chamling while coming to power in the year 1994 have been kept.
He contended that under the SDF party’s 19 years in government, corruption has increased, law and order situation worsened and social divisions widened. People in the State feel insecure and are scared of raising their voice against the government, he alleged further.
On the economic front, the government has incurred huge debt and the state government alone has a direct loan amounting to more than Rs. 3,000 crore, alleged Mr Pradhan and called upon all individuals across the state to come together to oppose, what he sees as the injustice being done by the government.
Referring to the suspension of dissident Upper Burtuk MLA, PS Tamang, from the legislative assembly on the last day of the budget session, he said that a people’s representative being suspended for raising social issues is a first in the history of Sikkim and termed it as the ‘Black Day’ in the state’s history.
“When a member of the house is not allowed to speak or address issues of the common man in the house, then it is clear that democracy no longer exists in the state”, contended Mr Pradhan.
The ASESE&UA president further said that any obstruction or hindrance during the tour will not be accepted and action will be taken against any such incident.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bhandari’s pistol goes missing

GANGTOK, 02 July: A pistol belonging to the president of Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee [SPCC], Nar Bahadur Bhandari, has gone missing from his house.
Speaking to NOW! over the phone, Mr Bhandari informed that he keeps his pistol, which is of German make, at his house at Church Road, Gangtok.  “I had gone out of station for two days [29 and 30 June] on personal work and returned on 01 July. When I returned I could not find my pistol,” he said.
There is a police guard posted at the house 24 hours and without his permission no outsiders are not allowed to enter the house, he said and added that only family members were present in the house and even his daughter was away at Malbasey.
The pistol, he informed is loaded and has seven bullets. He further informed that he was happy that the police, including the Superintendent of Police [East], have taken the case seriously and were doing everything possible as per the law.
The complaint lodged by Mr Bhandari states that he had gone out of station and that on his return on 01 July, found his pistol missing from the place where he had left it. Not being able to trace the gun, he filed a complaint at the Sadar Police Station on 02 July.
There are no signs of forced entry into the room, so it could be the handiwork of an insider, informed the PI Sadar Police Station, Tshering Sherpa. He further said that this was a personal gun [German .32 pistol] kept by Mr Bhandari and the license is valid till 2013 and added that the police are looking into the matter and carrying out investigations.
A case under section 380 [theft in a dwelling house] of the Indian Penal Code has been registered at the Sadar Police Station.

It’s raining goals at 2nd Div S-League

SOCCER SEASON: Eight clubs are fighting it out in the main round of the Sikkim Football Association Second Division Sikkim League 2012, which started last Sunday at Paljor Stadium. A total of 32 clubs from across the state played the qualifying round which concluded on 29 June with only eight making it to the main round. The eight teams are Howler’s FC Singtam, Friend’s FC Singtam, JVC Singtam, United Brother’s Rabong, Dalom SA Sombaria, Boy’s Club A, Lower Arithang FC and GVSFC, Pendam. Although the spectator galleries remain sparsely occupied despite the summer break at schools, the league has been successful in providing a platform to budding footballers of different local clubs.

GANGTOK, 02 July: It rained goals here at the ongoing Sikkim Football Association’s Second Division Sikkim-League-2012 at Paljor Stadium today with a total of twelve goals scored in the two matches held. 
Boy’s Club A thrashed United Brother’s FC 5-1. A hattrick by Ongdup Lepcha helped the Boy’s Club score big in today’s win.
United Brother’s FC took an early lead in the game with the help of Sonam Rinzing in the 6th minute but in the next minute, Dawa Sherpa scored the equalizer. Keeping the pressure on, Ongdup Lepcha scored another goal for Boy’s Club in the 21st minute and completed his brace in the 27th minute.
In the second half, UBFC played their hearts out to come back in the game but could not score any further and in the 67th minute, Chandra Tamang scored the fourth goal for Boy’s Club and within two minutes Ongdup completed his hattrick sealing the 5-1 victory for Boy’s Club A.
The other match of the day between Dalom SA, Sombaria and JVC FC, Singtam ended in a draw.  Biswas Chettri of JVC scored an early goal in the 3rd minute itself but unfortunately JVC missed some golden opportunities to take the lead further with two of its players missing two penalty shots offered in the early minutes of the match.
One penalty shot was successfully saved by the DSA goalkeeper, while the other missed the goalposts. Soon, Khagen Subba scored the equalizer for DSA in the 26th minute and within two minutes his teammate L Hang Subba scored the second goal for his team.
With DSA leading the match 2-1 in the second half, Smile Rai scored the equalizer for JVC in the 43rd minute. Just as it seemed the match would end in a draw of 2-2, Suraj Subba scored the third goal for DSA which was quickly followed up by another equalizer by Pranay Rai for JVC. The match finally ended in a draw of 3-3.
On Tuesday, Dalom SA Sombaria will take on GVC FC, Pendam in the first match, while in the second match Howler’s FC Singtam will be playing against Lower Arithang.

Japanese ‘Pariwar’ extends financial support to Padma Odzer Choeling Secondary School

GANGTOK, 02 July: Two delegates of ‘Pariwar’, a Japan-based NGO that supports underprivileged children in India, donated U$ 1,000 and a consignment of toys to Padma Odzer Choeling Secondary School [POCSS], Chongey, Gangtok on 02 July.
Speaking to the media, Padmashree Keepu T Lepcha, who heads the Human Development Foundation of Sikkim which runs the school, inform that a total of 356 students study at the school t Chongey, most of whom are boarders. Seventy-five of the students are from Lepcha families.
She went on to add that the results posted by the school in class X CBSE board exams, since inception to date, has been 100% and that the highest marks scored this year was 92%, slightly high than the 90% that last year’s topper scored.
Ms. Lepcha, affectionately called “Nekung” by those who know her, went on to mention that the trust was formed in the year 1997 and the school has been in operation since 2003.
With respect to support for the school, she informed that Children of Sikkim Foundation [COSF] a registered non-government organisation with members from Switzerland supports the school financially along with grants provided by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and local well wishers.
She added that the organisation also holds meditation camps in the area and currently one-fourth of the teachers at the school are undergoing such a camp. Similar camps are also held for the students between 08 to 16 years of age. She believes that if teachers undergo such camps then they can pass on positive ideas to the students whereas for students the meditation reinforces moral values.
General Secretary ‘Pariwar’, Yukie Hiramathu, in her address informed that the organisation was formed by Japanese women who have been engaged in voluntary service in a school for street children in New Delhi since 1994.
“There is a big gap between the rich and the poor in India and the association cannot ignore the fact that many poor children are begging on the streets while there is also discrimination of poor women”, she said.
Ms. Hiramathu mentioned that the association till date has supported training institutes for poor women, schools for children and provided facilities for homeless widows and many more but this time under its services for under privileged children the support to the Chongey school is being initiated by the association.
The cheque was handed over by Ms. Hiramathu to Ms. Lepcha during a function held at the school auditorium during which the students also presented a short cultural programme for the guests.
The programme was also attended by Misuzu Hasegawa of Pariwar along with members of Universal Peace Foundation, Sikkim Chapter and by more than 80 children of the school.

VC’s extravagance, if curtailed, could have sponsored free education at SU, student group contends

GANGTOK, 02 July: A group of Sikkim University students, some of whom have earlier been allegedly harassed by the University authorities for their support towards protesting former faculty members, have come up with fresh allegations against the VC, this time accusing him of extravagant spending on networking on a scale which should rather have been invested in assisting students in their education.
The group contends that dinner parties hosted by Prof Lama through his tenure could have cost the university anything in the vicinity of Rs 72,00,000.
None of these dinner parties were organized in non-star hotels and included cultural programmes and attendance of at least 100 guests including the university’s members, the group contends.
The VC visited China along with many other countries which makes for an average of at least 6-8 such foreign trips per year incurring expenditure amounting to Rs 40,00,000 in his 5-year tenure while the cost of his domestic travels have been estimated to have cost around Rs 22,40,000, by the group.
“Recently the President of India was under scrutiny and criticism for her foreign trips and expenditure even though her trips can be justified for maintaining friendly relations with other nations,” the students point out, questioning how, in the light of such accountability, can the VC justify such expenses.
Further, the release mentions that in August 2011, Prof Lama left the quarter at DPH area provided by the State Government and shifted to a rented bungalow which commands a hefty rent and has also received expenses by way of beautification.
Another “unnecessary expenditure”, according to the student group, is the hosting of the result declaration programme in star-rated hotels. The University has its own hall with all the required facilities but University programmes are hosted in hotels, which burdens the University with at least Rs. 50,000 for each event which totals to Rs. 5,00,000 in five years, it is further alleged.
The students contend that the total of all such expenditures amounting to approximately Rs. 1.80 crore is sufficient to provide free education to all the 400-500 students of the University for five years. On this, they have stated that few of the scholarships mentioned in the prospectus are actually implemented in practice and the funds used in such ‘reckless expenditure’ by the VC could be utilized in providing such benefits to the students of the University instead.
“We would like to clearly state that our statement is not against the Chair and we mean no disrespect to the chair of the Vice Chancellor but our complaint is against the individual,” the release states.
“We are looking forward to the New Vice Chancellor who will be less selfish and publicity crazy and who shall put the students as his priority,” they state.
The group of students who have issued the quoted press statement are: Mahendra Prasad Gurung, Ugen Bhutia, Rajiv Rai, Suman Das Rai and Sandeep Chhetri, all enrolled in the SU.

Wildlife quick, compensation slow

MANGAN, 02 July: The people of Nom-Panam ward of Passingdang GPU, Dzongu have been distressed by wild animals like bears and monkeys entering their fields and destroying their crops.
Speaking to media persons today, the public complained that their crops have been destroyed by these animals and they have informed the Forest Department but no action has been initiated yet.
They further rued that farmers’ whose crops have been destroyed had submitted applications seeking compensation for their damages last year as well but are still to receive the compensation.
Stating that farmers in the area have been suffering heavy losses since last year which has affected their livelihood, the public have urged the government to take the necessary action at the earliest.

SU public appeal seeks contributions for museum and archives projects

GANGTOK, 02 July: Sikkim University has appealed to the public at large to donate old manuscripts, artefacts and books of historical value and other literature in various forms available. 
A press release from the University informs that this is being done with a view to collect these rare items and make use of them for larger academic purpose and knowledge generation and sharing. It is also being designed and done to conserve them scientifically in the University premises.
If the University gets adequate number of such items, it even plans to devote a fully acknowledged section to the donating individual or institution in the University’s Library and Museum, the release states.
Suggestions on enriching the Library and Museum are also welcome. Please contact the following management professionals.
For Library: Dr   Tamal Guha, Librarian, Central library, Sikkim University, Samdur, 6th Mile, PO Tadong, Sikkim. Ph :  03592-251060, e-mail :
For Museum: Ms Sangmu Thendup, Assistant Professor, Sikkim University Museum Project, School of Planning and Policy Studies, Sikkim University, Samdur, 6th Mile, PO Tadong, Sikkim. Ph :  03592-251339, e-mail :

Pachey Khola bridge in precarious condition

I want to draw the attention of the authorities regarding the wretched condition of State Highway bridge at Pachey khola between Pakyong and Mamring in East Sikkim. The bridge is the only way to connect the area with other parts of the state and its condition is not so strong to support heavy vehicles to pass through. In view of the bridge collapse at Rangchang, North Sikkim last year, concerned authorities should take this issue very seriously and take strong initiatives as soon as possible to avert another catastrophe at the earliest.
Binod Bhattarai, Doctoral Fellow, Department of Sociology, Pondicherry University
[recvd on email]

Golay-Group protests arrest of duo for anti-government postering

GANGTOK, 02 July: Jorethang Police arrested Dhurba Sharma of Nandu Gaon and Phurden Lepcha of Denchong today for allegedly putting up posters against the government at Jorethang, Nandugaon, Chisopani and nearby places in South Sikkim and tearing down hoardings of the ruling party and the State Government on the night of 28 June, informs a press release issued by Jacob Khaling.
The release mentions that after learning of the arrests, a group supporters of dissident SDF MLA, PS Tamang, assembled at Jorethang and protested against the arrests following which the two were released on bail.
Later in the day, a meeting was also held in a hotel at Jorethang and the assembled youth declared to start a ‘movement of change’ under the leadership of Mr Tamang, the release adds.
Mr. Khaling adds in his release that the two arrested persons were founding members of the SDF party but have since left the party and joined the dissidents aligned to Mr. Tamang.

Editorial: Spend More Wisely

The latest Report of the Comptroller Auditor General of India for the Government of Sikkim [for the year ended 31 March 2011] stresses that the State needs to accord higher priority to its developmental expenditure. 
Developmental Expenditure, as the name suggests, constitutes that part of the annual budget invested on education, medical care, public health, labour and employment, agriculture, cooperation, irrigation, transport, communication etc., making this expenditure the main focus of planning since it directly addresses the aspirations of the citizens. Although this expenditure has leapfrogged from Rs. 944.80 crore in 2006-07 to Rs. 1,708.44 crore in 2010-11, its aggregate share of government expenditure has come down from 72.62% [in 2006-07] to 69.20% in 2010-11. The other direct investment the State makes towards boosting the economy is Capital Expenditure which is the investment made towards acquiring or creating assets of material character, infrastructure creation in other words. In 2010-11, this segment was a slim 18.27% of the total expenditure, with Revenue Expenditure [expenses towards normal running of government departments and various services, debt servicing etc; broadly speaking, expenditure which does not result in creation of assets] constituting 81.5% of the total budget, burgeoning by Rs. 182.90 crore in the financial year when capital expenditure fell by Rs. 197.46 crore. Economic terms can be confusing, and when it comes to outlining the budgetary allocations in this manner, they become even more so because the different heads overlap into each other. So here’s one more which could either clear the picture or confound the projection even more. 66.44% of the State’s expenditure in 2010-11 was in the Non-Plan segment. To understand Non-Plan expenditure, one needs to understand Plan first. Plan expenditure refers to the expenditure incurred by the government on new and continuing programmes and projects [usually begun on the recommendations of the Planning Commission]. Non-plan expenditure is everything else, a generic term used to cover all the expenses which are obligatory in nature like debt servicing, pension payments, law and order and generally classified to include expenses required to keep the government running. As mentioned earlier, these are not watertight segments and overlap into each other, but even as ballpark figures, provide a general idea of how the government spends and what its priority sectors are. Before one begins speculating that part of the Non-Plan expenditure might have gone towards development, hold no such aspersions- committed expenditure [interest payments, salaries & wages, pensions and subsidies] comprised 92.56% of Non-Plan expenditure.
For all the data one might crunch or economic theories one may throw, the bottom line is that the test of public expenditure is the amount of satisfaction it gives to the people with the quantity or quality of services it makes possible. Substantial crores flow out of the state exchequer towards payment of salaries and wages, so let’s see how far the buck travels on that count. Revenue Expenditure [expenses towards normal running of government departments and various services, debt servicing etc; broadly speaking, expenditure which does not result in creation of assets] had a predominant share of the total expenditure in 2010-11 at Rs. 2,011 crore - 81.50% of the total expenditure. Salaries and wages, at Rs. 882.31 crore, constituted 43.85% of the entire revenue expenditure bill, significantly higher than the norm of 35% recommended by the Twelfth Finance Commission. Many already begrudge the handsome salaries and wages the government pays out to its employees, but maybe it is time to make a different approach. While this confounding economic model - of the government paying more than the investment to its employees to oversee implementation - may be the one there is no escaping from anymore, what could be possible is to demand and achieve better services. For example, of the Rs. 451 crore invested by the State Government by way of Capital Expenditure in 2010-11 to create assets, Rs, 294.16 crore was blocked in 138 incomplete projects as on 31 March 2011. With the Non-Plan component, including revenue expenditure, already eating into the funds available to invest in sectors and infrastructure which directly affect the people, it is important that what is left over is handled judiciously and projects completed in time to avoid time and cost overruns. On its part, the government can take the first step by establishing a system of proper accounting and monitoring and the people by insisting on more accountability.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Served with eviction notices, Nam Nang squatters appeal for regularization or alternate sites

GANGTOK, 01 July: Sixteen families living in temporary sheds and huts in land situated below the State Legislative Assembly here in Nam Nang have now decided to approach the Chief Minister to place their grievances and problems. They have urged the government to make some arrangements to either regularize their present settlement or make alternative arrangements for their welfare. 
Speaking to media-persons this morning, they informed that the families of Jasoda Gurung and Phurba Lama, who is a retired gardener of the Forest Department, have been living on this land, which belongs to the Forest Department, since 1961. They added that later the families started to spread and at present the land has 16 families, most of whose members work as daily wage labourers.
On 29 May, the families received a notice from a private party claiming to be the owner of this land to vacate the premises within one month. Following this, some people have been regularly visiting them with threats to run bulldozers over their huts, the families allege.
They informed that earlier as well, in the year 2000 and then later in 2010, they had received similar notices from the Forest Department to vacate the land, so now they are at a loss as to who actual owns the land.
However, it is informed, that these families also approached the landlady who served the latest notice and submitted a petition to her on 31 May, but she refused to back down and asked them to immediately vacate the said land. It is informed that they have been trying to meet the Chief Minister regarding this but have not been able to do so as yet.
They informed that they had also asked their area MLA to get them an appointment with the CM to which Mr Pradhan had said it would be difficult but had assured to make some arrangements for them.
The families stated that they are not in a condition to leave their houses and cannot afford other rented accommodation either. “Most of the time, the houses are occupied by the elderly and children as others go out on work so we are scared about bulldozers running over our houses”, they expressed. Further stating that they are supporters of the ruling party the families expressed hope that the CM would sort out their problem.

CAG report unravels shortfalls in land acquisition and site allotment practices

GANGTOK, 01 July: The Land Revenue and Disaster Management and Urban Development and Housing departments have unnecessarily invoked the urgency clause for land acquisition depriving landowners of the right of objection while acquiring land citing reasons like public importance to increase in human population and a paradigm shift of social and economic development from primarily agriculture to industrial and service based sectors.
A performance review by the Comptroller Auditor General of India reveals that in 40 cases, acquisition was done invoking the urgency clause under Section 17 of the Act, without determining the necessity of urgency for such acquisition. In all 40 cases, no possession of the land was taken within 15 days from the publication of notice.
This was further corroborated by the fact that in two cases (acquisition of land for Sikkim Central University at Yangang and acquisition of land and building of Star Cinema Hall, MG Marg, Gangtok) though the acquisition process commenced in June / July 2008 under Section 17, the process had not been completed even as of June 2011 – more than three years since the commencement of the acquisition procedure. Thus, application of Section 17 in all the above cases was unnecessary which deprived the right of the land owners to object under Section 5-A, as per the CAG report.
Section 17 of the Land Acquisition Act confers on the authorities a very extraordinary power under which the appropriate authority is satisfied about the urgency of acquisition of land it dispenses with the normal procedure laid down in the Act and takes away the right of the citizen to object under Section 5-A  of LA.
The CAG report further states that ‘…despite this categorical requirement under the Land Acquisition Act, no such publication of Preliminary Notice for acquisition was made in local newspapers and notifications displayed at convenient places in the locality. The notices were published only in the Government Gazette. Failure to adhere to the provisions of the Act involved risk of illegality in case of disputes.’
It is mandatory to publish the ‘Preliminary Notice’ for acquisition of land from the land owners, the notification should be published in two local newspapers including a regional paper, the CAG report underlines.
The department of Urban and Housing Development, in turn, had not maintained detailed list of applicants till date seeking sites in the notified bazaar areas. However, for selection of beneficiaries, the department constituted ‘Site Allotment Committee’ from time-to-time and on the basis of recommendations of the Committee, beneficiaries were selected from the list of applicants and approved by the government.
In the absence of list of applicants, total applications received, final selection amongst applicants, the basis adopted for selection could not be available with the department, mentions the CAG report.
On the other hand, while allotting site to applicants at Lumsey at Tadong in August 2008, the department (Site Allotment Committee) recommended names of 13 individuals from 55 applicants which were approved by the Chief Minister and methodology and criteria adopted for the selection of 13 beneficiaries and reasons for rejection of remaining 42 applicants were not on record, states the report.
Further, it is revealed that among the 13 selected beneficiaries, two beneficiaries were sitting MLAs and presently holding the charge of Ministers in the State Cabinet and other two beneficiaries were Ex-MLAs. Proper identification of remaining nine beneficiaries could not be ascertained due to non-submission of records and absence of proper information system with the department.
Thus, due to absence of clear cut selection criteria and eligibility norms in the Act, ‘well off persons’ were extended ‘undue favour’ thereby depriving the real and needy members of the society. The selection procedure adopted by the department was thus ambiguous and non- transparent.
The audit further reveals that in one case, two members of the same family were allotted house sites at Gangtok. Former Minister, S.B. Subedi was allotted house site at DPH complex in July 1999. After five years (February 2005) another site measuring 2225 sq. ft. was allotted to his brother Bikash Subedi diverting the land of Transport Department. However, immediately after allotment of site at SNT complex, both the brothers exchanged their sites in March 2005 which was approved by UD&HD after two months. Subsequently, SB Subedi was allotted additional site at the same area measuring 600 sq. ft. in December 2006 and 335 sq. ft. in September 2007.
After getting two additional sites Mr Subedi leased out the above land in favour of M/s Prasant Commercial (P) Ltd for running hotel business in the constructed building. The additional land of 245 sq. ft. and 225 sq. ft. at the same spot were again allotted to the company by the UDHD. Thus, an area measuring 3627 sq. ft. belonging to the Transport Department was irregularly allotted to Mr Subedi, states the report.
Similarly, to facilitate allotment of house sites, land located at various places belonging to Roads & Bridges, Building & Housing, Transport Department (SNT) and Energy & Power Department measuring 2.7256 hectares were transferred to UDHD. The UDHD has diverted the government land for allotment of house sites of 2.7256 hectares to the beneficiaries included ex-MLAs/relatives of MLAs/ VIPs. This indicated that land of government departments were transferred to the UDHD with the objective of extending benefits to influential members of society, the report mentions.
Land measuring 6,600 sq. ft. belonging to the Energy & Power Department at Lower Lagyap, Ranipool, East Sikkim earmarked for housing disabled people which was allotted to 11 persons including former MLAs and other individuals other than the disabled people following approval by the Chief Minister in October 2010 has also came under the CAG scanner.
Even the land initially earmarked exclusively for allotment to disabled persons was diverted and allotted to ineligible and selected individuals. In two other cases, land belonging to Energy & Power Department at Sichey, East Sikkim was allotted to an ex-MLA and wife of an ex-MLA, states the CAG report.
Children Park at Naya Bazaar, Jorethang, South Sikkim was allotted as house site to one individual defeating the very purpose of establishment of Children Park, the report further reveals.

Bhanu Jayanti to be celebrated with 3-day mega event this year

GANGTOK, 01 July: The 198th Bhanu Jayanti celebrations this year is being planned as a mega event with festivities, literary seminars, competitions, award ceremonies, cultural extravaganzas and gala entertainment for three days ( 11 to 13 July) in the capital.
At a press conference organized here at Nepali Sahitya Parishad Bhawan, Minister RB Subba who is the president of the organizing committee told reporters that the state level Bhanu Jayanti celebrations this year is being organized with an objective to generate more awareness and attachment towards the concept behind the celebrations.
The three-day event spread across different venues in the capital is being considered as an event that will ‘ignite’ the feeling of brotherhood and unity between the three ethnic communities in Sikkim with the culture and traditions of the Lepchas, Bhutia and Nepalese being highlighted at par throughout the celebrations.
“This year the other ethnic communities have also stepped up to make the celebration a fusion of Sikkimese culture. Unlike other years when Bhanu Jayanti was being branded as a celebration of only the Nepalese community, this year the celebrations will be a melting point of actual Sikkimese culture,” stated the Minister.
It may be informed that this year a mixed bag of cultural progarmmes have been lined up with the participation of a Darjeeling based dance and drama troupe and renowned singers and musicians from Nepal which include Swaroop Raj Acharya, Ram Chandra Kafle, Hemanta Rana, Sushma Shrestha and Bimla Rai.
“We have formed more than 14 sub-committees that will look into the different sections of the three-day celebrations. This year we have also added new features to the existing programme that include the addition of awards to the existing Bhanu Puraskar in various categories and also for the toppers of the board exams and competitions at all school levels,” informed the Minister.
He said that previously the celebration committee gave away awards only to the students who had performed exceptionally in Nepali language but this year the toppers in different languages will also be awarded.
Competitions have also been categorized at different levels with debate for college students, the senior secondary schools competing for the title of the best speech, while the secondary schools will compete in the poem competition and the junior high school students will compete in the drawing and painting competition.
Like always, there will also be the title of the best folk dance performing cultural troupe which has also been categorized in the open category and a category for schools. Similarly, organizations can also participate in the Ramayana Path recitation competition which is also the highlight of the programme.
The inauguration of the three-day event as informed will begin from the newly constructed ‘Manan Kendra’ at the new Secretariat Complex which is scheduled to be inaugurated by the Chief Minister, Pawan Chamling on 11 July. On 12 July, the organisers have lined up a number of seminars and deliberations on “Sanskriti Ko Fulbari- Sikkimali Chinari” which is also this year’s theme for the celebrations.
Dr. Ghansyam Nepal will be the main speaker at the seminar in which participants from all over the country and abroad will be presenting papers.
The second day apart from the seminars will also host the grand musical extravaganza. On 13 July which is the final day of the celebrations, the Governor, BP Singh and the Chief Minister will start the day’s activities with the garlanding of the statue at Bhanu path which will be followed by a mega Shova Yatra which will proceed to the venue in front of the Tourism department where a programme will be held. After the rally the congregation will head to Manan Kendra where the programme will conclude after a great line-up of events.
It may be informed that the cultural competitions will be organized at SDF Bhawan, By-pass and only the winners of the competition will be allowed to perform at the final day’s programme at Manan Bhawan.

Assembly should discuss ‘real issues’: Nakul Das Rai

GANGTOK, 01 July: Former Lok Sabha MP, Nakul Das Rai, contended that instead of personal attacks and pointless debates, the assembly sessions should deliberate and discuss the real issues of the state. He alleged that instead of responding to issues raised by Burtuk MLA, PS Tamang, the other legislators resorted to personal attacks and unnecessary debate.
Addressing a press conference on Saturday, Mr Rai further alleged that even if someone just speaks in the assembly then it is taken as undemocratic. He added that Sikkim needs change and people’s voice should not be sidelined, and in this regard, he contended that Mr Tamang’s suspension on the last day of the budget session was ‘unjust’.
The former MP questioned that instead of pointing out Mr Tamang’s absence from the assembly till now the party leader should have corresponded with the MLA to seek out reasons for his absence. If such correspondence had taken place, then it should be made public Mr Rai demanded. He also commented that the CM’s allegations on Mr Tamang ‘misleading the house’ is not of the former’s concern but is the lookout of the Speaker of the Assembly.
Mr Rai further suggested training for the legislative members on correct parliamentary proceedings.
 “I was expelled from the party for alleged anti-party activities but the party has not been able to clarify till date about what my anti-party activities were. Mr Tamang, however, is openly opposing the party then why hasn’t the party expelled him as yet,” the former MP questioned.

Dzumsa cannot double as cooperative, Thupden Lachungpa challenges

GANGTOK, 01 July: Responding to a statement reportedly made by Sikkim Democratic Front’s North district president, NT Lepcha, published recently in a local daily, wherein he had said that the Dzumsa itself is a cooperative society, Lachung Dzumsa Educated Unemployed Cooperative Society president, Thupden Norzang Lachungpa, warned Mr Lepcha not to interfere in Lachung’s issues and to concentrate on his own area. 
Addressing a press conference today, Mr Lachungpa said that Mr Lepcha lives in Naga in North Sikkim and does not have full knowledge on Lachung so he should not interfere in matters concerning Lachung and the Dzumsa. Stating that the Dzumsa system has been in existence for hundreds of years as compared to the modern concept of cooperatives, he contended that the two cannot be said to mean the same thing.
Mr Lachungpa reiterated his stand against the ‘block system’ with regard to contract works in Lachung. He stated that the Lachung Dzumsa Educated Unemployed Cooperative Society was officially registered as a cooperative society in March earlier this year and thanked the Chief Minister and Chief Secretary for their support in this regard. He also thanked Sr SP North for providing him the required security.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

North Sikkim Highway closed at Rangrang for last 5 days

MANGAN, 29 June: The North Sikkim Highway to Mangan has remained closed for the last five days due to back cutting work at Rangrang near the GREF camp there. GREF labours and staff are working at the site but the public feel that the pace of work is inordinately slow.
The public and commuters suggested that all debris and stones be cleared from the stretch so that at least light vehicles could ply. At present, vehicles have to take a two hour longer route accessing Pheedang from Dikchu and travelling on to Sankalang and through to Mangan. Travel time from Dikchu to Mangan when Rangrang is open, is a quick half an hour.
The BRO officials posted in the area informed that dumping the debris is a problem since it cannot be dumped on the roadside as it is a sinking zone and the area also falls under private land holdings. Hence, the boulders have to be broken down and moved to other places through GREF tippers which takes time. Meanwhile, traffic is expected to resume from Saturday.

Rockfall damages Bhaley Khola steel bridge on Yangang-Makha road

GANGTOK, 29 June [IPR]: On the night of 20 June, a massive boulder slip occurred along Yangang-Makha road at 4th mile NH 31 A. The Bhaley Khola steel bridge located below was completely damaged by the boulder slip.
The left portion of the bridge has been dislodged from the abutment. The impact on the bridge has been so huge that it twisted the whole structure of the bridge; traffic on both sides had come to a standstill. Keeping in view the urgency of the matter, Addl. Chief Engineer(S/W) accompanied by Superintendent Engineer (South) and other field engineers visited the site the very next day i.e. on 21 June. The matter was also reported to the Chief Secretary on 23 June.
 The road is a major district road that connects far flung areas right from Lingipayong, Makha, Lingmoo, Tokdey, Mangzing to Yangang where the Block Administrative Centre is located. No immediate temporary diversion of traffic can be done as the river flows in a deep gorge and the opposite banks consist of very steep rocky cliff.
Construction of temporary foot suspension has already been started and will be completed within the next fifteen days. Bridge materials for vehicular traffic have already been requisitioned and will be erected soon after its arrival at the site. The estimated time for completion of this bridge is around four months.
Therefore, the general public is requested to bear with the department till such time.

Tourism Deptt initiates action on tourist complaints

GANGTOK, 29 June: The Tourism and Civil Aviation Department has initiated action against those guilty of cheating, fraud and overcharging visitors to the state. This was done in response to complaints filed by tourists with the department.
Speaking to NOW!, Secretary Tourism and Civil Aviation Department, R Telang, informed that this season, the department received six to seven written complaints from tourists related to overcharging, cheating, and fraud by either tour operators, travel agencies or by drivers.
The Department in response on these complaints, is reported to have solved all the issues placed before it even initiating action such as refunding the over charged sums to the tourists after thorough enquiry into the matter.
The refunds made this year range from Rs. 1,000 upto Rs. 4,000 and the money was transferred to the tourist’s bank accounts or through cheques, it is informed. Strict action was taken against one travel agency after confirming the facts where the department also sent a showcase notice giving a time frame of about 15 days, added the Secretary.
He added that if the said stakeholder does not comply with the notice, the department will cancel the operator’s registration whereby the said agency will not be issued permits.
The Secretary added that under the provisions of the Sikkim Tourist Trade Act, 1998 and Rule 2008 the Department of Tourism can take serious actions but so far no such extreme cases have been reported in the state.
He went on to appeal to all the stakeholders across the state to refrain from such activities which can invite strict action from the department mentioning that tourism is very important for the state’s economy.
Likewise, the Public Relation Officer, Tourism Department, Karma Tshering stated that apart from written, numerous verbal complaints were placed by the tourists this season which were also resolved on the spot through the department’s intervention. The PRO added that the complaints received this season were less compared to earlier years but among all, one major complaint was received and action is being carried out against the concerned stakeholder.