Thursday, July 12, 2012

200-seater Community Hall reincarnates as a 1,050 seater Rs. 34.25 crore Mannan Kendra

GANGTOK, 11 July: Chief Minister Pawan Chamling today remarked that earlier, people from outside used to come to teach the Sikkimese, but nowadays people are coming to the state to learn from Sikkim. This, he said, was his and Sikkim Democratic Front government’s contribution to the people of Sikkim. He was speaking at the inauguration of ‘Mannan Kendra’ at Jeevan Theengh Marg, which he dedicated to the people of Sikkim. He was accompanied by Speaker, KT Gyaltsen as the guest of honour. 
The Rs. 34.25 crore multipurpose cultural centre has been developed on the compound where the erstwhile Community Hall stood. Although delayed, on completion the project is a lavish addition to the infrastructure now available in Gangtok. Where the earlier community, for all its quaintness, could seat only 200 people and cramped in the library in the same complex, the new centre is a six-storied building with a total plinth area of 1,45,000 sq ft, making it one of the largest such structures in all of North East Region. The structure has been designed as per the prevailing code of practices duly incorporating seismic considerations and withstood the 18 September earthquake so resolutely that it now provides the temporary accommodation for the State Secretariat.
The state Central Library and its allied sections have been accommodated in the 3rd floor level. [turn to pg2 for detailed Technical Report of the facility].
Himself impressed with the infrastructure created, the CM remarked that the hall now offers an apt and exciting venue for get-togethers ranging from the cultural to intellectual engagements. Inviting the people to use the facility well, the CM remarked that as the name suggested by him – “Mannan Kendra” – conveys, this should be used for deeper thinking on issues of the State.
He also pointed out that when was approached for a name, he thought the Department wanted a name for the hall and not the entire facility. “If it is for the entire facility, then perhaps Mannan Bhawan would be a more apt name. The intellectuals should perhaps discuss and decide this,” he said.
The CM also spoke directly to the students in the audience today, urging them to be serious about their studies and all pursuits, competitive in their approach to challenges and creative and open in their thinking. It was for the young to lead Sikkim out of its present status as a consumer of the knowledge world, and make the Sikkimese knowledge creators.
The CM cited the work done by his government for every community by way of recognizing the various festivals, languages, and cultural and traditional heritage. He added that the government has worked towards providing equal opportunity to every community and has succeeded in this regard.
Addressing the representatives of different communities, the CM stressed that leadership should show the right path to the society and heads of associations of different communities should be particularly earnest towards this responsibility.
“As a leader, I have never taken advantage of the weakness of people but have always worked to transform their weakness into strength so I have never politicized issues related to students, employees or the society,” he said.
The CM further mentioned that he and his government had to face several allegations and criticisms while introducing the concept of Organic Farming in the State, but today the whole world is appreciating and learning from the Sikkim model. It was important to be far-sighted and look at long-term prospects before getting swayed by opportunist rumour mongering, he pointed out.
On the same, the CM urged everyone in the state to contribute and deliver on their individual responsibilities towards the state to continue the development process in Sikkim.
Endorsing the idea of the need of debate for the proper functioning of a society, the CM stressed that this should not mean meaningless criticism and allegations, which tend to divert focus from the real issues and amounts to evading one’s responsibilities towards the state.
The CM also took the opportunity to dismiss allegations being circulated on the internet and some newspapers about alleged corruption involving hydel projects in the state. Informing that there are 18 hydel projects under construction in the State involving a total expenditure of Rs 8,000 crore so far, the CM turned the question on the allegations: “How can allegations of corruption amounting to Rs 20,000 crore and Rs 50,000 crore be leveled on the government when that much money has not even been spent in the entire range of projects?”
He further clarified that most of the hydel projects have been taken up by private companies and the government has no role to play. With the government not handling any funds, how can there be corruption, he asked.
He urged the students and general public of Sikkim to speak out and debate on such issues. He added that the state has to earn its own revenue for a better and secure future for all and even for the maintenance of such infrastructure as the one inaugurated today. “If the hydel projects are scrapped, where are we to find the finances to sustain and develop Sikkim in the long run?” he posed.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Cultural Affairs and Heritage Department [CA&HD] Minister, Sonam Gyatso Lepcha, highlighted the activities of the government in the protection, propagation, preservation and development of language, literature, art, music and tradition in the state. He mentioned that the Manan Kendra will provide a platform to young people of Sikkim to showcase their talents to further encourage them towards preserving and developing the culture, traditions and heritage of Sikkim.
The technical report was presented by the Principal Chief Engineer-cum-Secretary of Roads and Bridges, TB Rajalim and the vote of thanks was presented by CA&HD Commissioner-cum-Secretary, Nalini G Pradhan.

Monsoon inundates BRO with challenges

Stones shoot down the Theng slide zone in North Sikkim. BRO proposes to tunnel through this trouble-spot. Officials inform that this project for an 800 metre long tunnel at this spot is an advanced stage of surveys and studies.

GANGTOK, 11 July: With the monsoon season picking up pace in Sikkim road conditions become the primary concern of citizens as well as government and other road agencies in the state particularly the Border Roads Organisation which is the primary agency tasked with the responsibility to keep the roads free of blockade.
In view of the monsoon and the likelihood of landslides in multiple areas including chronic trouble spots and new eruptions the BRO has dedicated its resources from its other works such as road widening, surfacing, etc to ensuring smooth traffic in the state including in North Sikkim informed Col. UC Prasad, BRO.  Sikkim being accessible only via road this becomes imperative along with the fact that North Sikkim is important for strategic reasons as well.
In fact BRO has proposed to construct tunnels through certain trouble spots including one at Theng in North Sikkim where there is an active slide and which is particularly dangerous as there are shooting boulders and rocks which endanger any clearing activity. Another tunnel is proposed at 13th Mile and 17th Mile on the JN Road on the way to Nathula.
At present, the route is blocked due to a massive slide at 17th Mile which has washed out 200 m of road. Col. UC Prasad informed that they are now cutting into the slide to make a roadway which will be 300 m in length. There is also a proposal for a tunnel at Chisopani along the national highway. While the proposal for the Theng tunnel is at an advanced stage surveys and studies are being conducted for the other proposals of tunnel construction in coordination with the Geological Survey of India.
With an average of 3 landslides daily, especially frequent on the North Sikkim roads, the BRO is hard-pressed to maintain smooth road connectivity in the state especially along the national highway and North Sikkim. Also in view of the tendency of the public to blame BRO for road blockages, the BRO maintains that it has been doing its best in clearing landslides particularly on the national highway where it has been clearing the roads for traffic within hours.
BRO officials give the example of the recent landslide at Biring along the highway where the slide was cleared within 4 hours.  The BRO maintains that it is probably the only agency in the country which can deal with the terrain like that of Sikkim as far as road and bridge construction is concerned especially in the monsoon season.
The BRO has deployed a fleet of 16 JCBs, 16 dozers, 6 excavators, 30 tippers and around 400 labourers to maintain the highway including the North Sikkim highway stated Col. UC Prasad explaining the resources that the BRO had dedicated to maintain smooth traffic along the states roads. With an approximate road stretch of 1400 km including the national highway through and about Kalimpong and the roads of North Sikkim BRO officials explain that they get information by 6 AM each morning on the status of roads from their detachments following which necessary action is immediately taken. Support is also available from the Army when required.
Recently in June the BRO ensured connectivity along the Chungthang – Lachen stretch when the Phimchu bridge collapsed and it took up work on a war footing to make it pliable for light vehicles and then for heavy vehicles as well a few days later. Then again there was a major landslide on the national highway near Singtam which also damaged a hydraulic tracked excavator. The slide was cleared the same day. At the moment, the BRO is dealing with a major landslide at 17th mile on the JN Road to Nathula which has washed out 200 m of road. Restoration work is being carried out on a war footing and is tentatively scheduled to be reopened for traffic by next week, it is informed.

NASBO and SIBLAC condole passing away of Phensang Khyen Rinpoche

GANGTOK, 11 July: National Sikkimese Bhutia Organisation [NASBO] and the Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee [SIBLAC] in spate press releases issued today, have condoled the passing away of the Dorje Loben of Genchen Phensang, Denjong Khenchen Rinpoche Dorje Dechen, reverently known as Phensang Khyen Rinpoche. SIBLAC has also resolved to observe a two-week long official mourning.
In his renouncing the physical body, the Rinpoche practically displayed his disciples and devotees on the nature of impermanence of everything, states a NASBO press release. The late Khyen Rinpoche will be remembered and recognized for his simplicity, perfection on dharma philosophy and above all, for his insight knowledge of the Bayul Dremo Jong and its hidden treasures for all time to come, it adds.
“We deeply respect his concerns and emphasis on preserving, identifying and practicing the necessary teachings of he Rigzin Sogdrub tradition as originally espoused by Lhatsun Namkha Jigme,” the release expresses.
Furthering adding that the extent of attraction, respect and recognition that he received from the the Late Dudjm Rinpoche and the present Dodrubchen itself speaks volumes of his incomparable spiritual accomplishment.
“At this hour of bereavement, we pray for the swift transmission of his re-incarnation for the benefit of all the sentient beings as he did in his lifetime. We also pray for bestowing of courage ad tolerance to all his followers at this hour of difficulties”, the release further adds.
SIBLAC has also mourned the demise of the Phensang Khyen Rinpoche and declared a two-week official mourning period. A SIBLAC release informs that the Committee held a meeting chaired by its convenor Tseten Tashi Bhutia and passed a resolution that reads, “...the Dorje Lopen Khenchen Rinpoche Dechen Dorje of Phensang Monastery was much revered by hundreds of his students and disciples across Sikkim, he was known for his principle and discipline while as the Principal of the Namgyal Institute of Higher Nyingma Studies, Deorali. He was gravely worried to see the never-ending human and materialistic interference of the sacred abodes and sites of the Bayul Dremo Jong which otherwise are mentioned as very sacred in our religious scriptures.
His keenness to uphold the tradition amidst all the odds is reflected in his founding of Sheda in Rinchenpong, which now becomes our common responsibility to ensure that the Sheda flourishes and all the aspirations and objectives as inaugurated by him is fulfilled.
We further pray that the Rinpoche would reincarnate not before too long and continue with his dharma activities for the welfare and benefit of all the sentient beings. Grateful Sikkimese devotees thank the Rinpoche for all his inspirations, guardianly advise and solace whenever solicited.”

53 SICB trainees find job placements in MP and UP

GANGTOK, 11 July: The State Institute of Capacity Building [SICB] has placed 53 trainees from Chujachen, Namchi-Singithang and Yangthang Livelihood Schools for computer hardware and software at different places in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
A press release informs that considering the need for competency on Computer and English teaching at the primary school level, the Shree Sanshkar Academy has appointed 12 SICB candidates this year. The Academy which has a large number of schools in Madhya Pradesh had appointed our trainees last year also, the release mentions.
Following, good reviews of the performance of Sikkimese teachers in Madhya Pradesh, now some other schools like Yatharth Futuristic Academy of Ujjain, Ambition Convent School and MM International have also selected Sikkimese youth in large numbers.
In addition, some of the candidates have been appointed by Tekchand Jain Public School and Katiyani Public School in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. The teachers will be paid minimum of Rs. 9000 along with free accommodation in their campus teachers’ quarters, the release informs. They will also get leave and summer and winter vacation as per the schools’ academic calendar.
Besides Madhya Pradesh, some of the schools in Ajamgarh and Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh have also started approaching SICB for campus recruitment. The placement Cell of SICB is in touch with the different employing agencies within the country including local employers, the release adds.
On the other hand, the SICB held the convocation for Driver-cum-Tour Guide Trainees from Chujachen, Khamdong and SICB Livelihood Schools on 10 July. They were provided with Driving License including a Certificate from IGNOU and mark sheet of the State Board of Livelihood School.
Altogether 100 trainees passed after three months of training in these Livelihood Schools. It may be recalled that the SICB has so far trained 650 Driver-cum-Tour Guides after its inception and barring this batch all of them are working either in private institutions, companies and some of them are earning their livelihood through their own source of capital.
The SICB is in the process of starting another Livelihood School in Yangthang constituency in consultation with the area MLA, PL Subba considering the huge number of applicants from the area, the release further informs.

Politicking with allegations, counters, posters and pamphlets begins

GANGTOK, 11 July: Ever since the Budget Session of the Sikkim Assembly last month which featured the Assembly debut of dissident SDF MLA, PS Tamang [Golay], for this term and his lashing out against his own party’s government, there have been a string of events around the State which have, in a way, sustained the momentum which the ‘Golay Camp’ seeks to ride. In the past couple of days there have been incidences of postering against the government in Rangpo, pamphlets surfacing in Melli and tit-for-tat accusations made by and against two brothers who find themselves on either sides of the ‘fence’. 
Today there was a group of youth, purportedly of the Golay Camp, gathered at the Sadar police station in a show of what is timidly termed as ‘moral support’ towards a government employee who is suspected of being a ‘supporter’.
In an interesting case NK Sharma, a government employee posted at Mangan had a complaint registered against him by OP Bhandari, OSD Legal, in the Sadar police station. It is informed that Mr. Sharma was present during the Assembly session for Mr. Tamang’s sessions and this led to the question of a government employee engaging in politics or appearing to take sides. Following the complaint the accused was summoned to the thana this morning following which a group of youth also attended uninvited. There was also talk of meeting the SP, to complain against the alleged high handedness of the state administration.
Interestingly, it is informed that Mr. Sharma has also registered a complaint against OP Bhandari at the Pakyong police station. As per his complaint, Mr. Bhandari is alleged to have used threatening language against him. However he has not pressed his case further, it is informed.
In another incident in Melli, South Sikkim, Melli Sonam has filed a complaint with the police after pamphlets started appearing in the South district town in his name. The pamphlets, it is informed, particularly targeted Tseten Bhutia, Convener, SIBLAC. Initially there were rumours that the police refused to register the diary but the SP South informed that the diary has been recorded; in fact it was recorded on 09 July against unknown persons. Melli Sonam, it is informed, had approached the police to clarify that he was not behind the pamphlets. The diary was recorded after the Melli police did their inquiries in order to ensure that the complaint was genuine.
The Rangpo police too was busy yesterday when anti-government posters propped up in Rangpo. The posters were put up along the Rangpo Mining Road and were soon brought down. Sources inform that the posters had anti-government and also anti-police content.
While there have not been out-and-out postering by the so called Golay Camp there are indications that they are not going to take things lying down either. After the vitriol targeted against the calls for resignation by Tilu Gurung and the meeting held at Chongay, East Sikkim where DT Lepcha made similar calls, the Golay camp is reportedly following this up with its own closed meetings at the same locations.

In tribute to the litterateur Sharad Chhetri


Many may still be unaware that Sharad Chhetri – a prolific writer of the Nepali literary world is no more amidst us. Even I could not believe my ears when another eminent writer friend of mine, Gupta Pradhan of Darjeeling, broke the tragic news to me on the morning of 05 July. That day, busy with writing, I had not checked the e-mail or read the Himalaya Darpan’s e-paper, otherwise I would have learnt of this sad news earlier. Gupta informed that Sharad had been admitted in the ICU of the Mitra's Nursing Home in Siliguri where he had breathed his last the previous morning itself and the news came as a shock to me. I soon sent a SMS to his brother Subhash with a condolence message to the bereaved family and posted the news on Facebook.
Sharad Chhetri (1947-2012), an eminent writer better known for his short stories that earned him the sobriquet, KathakaKamdhenu (goldmine of stories), was also a poet, essayist, dramatist and critic. He has 32 books to his credit. He was awarded the Bhanubhakta Puraskar (West Bengal 1986), Sahitya Akademi Award (New Delhi 1986) and Ratnashree Gold Medal (Kathmandu 1988) for his stories in the Chakrvyuha (1985). He has been felicitated and interviewed often. His works appear in newspapers and periodicals regularly and many have been translated into Hindi, Bangla, Assamese, Telegu, Oriya besides English.
We have seen instances where such recognition early in one's life often turns a writer away from the love of writing, but for Sharad Chhetri it served as an incentive and he dedicated himself to the cause of Nepali literature and worked devotedly till the very end despite his ill health. So diligent was he that he took time out to collect all his published and unpublished works from various newspapers and periodicals including the interviews he gave to a veteran literary critic like Guman Singh Chamling in the Hindaiharu: Aalapharu (2009) and published them as books enriching the Nepali literary world. Simple and modest, when I met him last on 29 April at his residence in Darjeeling I asked him if he was still contributing articles as I had seen his writings in periodicals like Hamro Dhwani from Guwahati and he said that they were all his earlier writings. Not only did he contribute one such work for the Udaichand Pradhanprati Shraddhanjali brought in the memory of my sister Sunita and her husband whom we lost together in a tragic road accident earlier that month, but also called to confirm whether we had received it or not. His gesture towards use was exceptionally kind and humane.
His greatness is evident in the tribute he paid to the honour we bestowed on him for his contributions to literature in the Karuna Smarak Samman as well as on every opportune moment in his books and life-sketch that we felicitated him with during the Rachna Silver Jubilee Celebrations in 2005. We were preparing for a bigger felicitation but since the family was in mourning he wanted us to wait till the year got over – so magnanimous was he in this consideration he had for our family!
He is survived by his wife Shobha, son Vivek, daughter Shailika and son-in-law Sachin Thapa.
A perfect gentleman with a pleasing personality, I always found him in robust health ever since we met during our Darjeeling Government College days in 1964. When we met last, he shared with me that during his entire life serving the State Bank of India there was not a single occasion when he had to take sick leave even for a day nor did he get even a rupee in the name of the medical reimbursement. Things however changed, soon after his retirement. The story he narrated in his Bhranti ra Vastaviktako Dwandwama was about the first attack and thereafter he had another bout that took him to the nursing home. He was able to pull on and accomplish more things in between.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

INTO THE SLIDE: The Jawaharlal Nehru Marg from Gangtok to Tsomgo and on to Nathula has always been susceptible to slides which slip out consistently with every monsoon. The September 2011 earthquake has further weakened the slopes and the biggest challenge for Project Swastik of the Border Roads Organisation, under whose watch all the strategic roads in Sikkim fall, is a 200 metre slope failure at 17 Mile en route to Tsomgo. Negotiating this stretch even on rain-free days is harrowing and the importance of keeping this road open is forcing some out of the box thinking. As the above picture illustrates, a new alignment is being bulldozed through the slide even as a lost section of original road can be spied on the lower left corner.

Suspected scamster fishes in Uttarakhand using SBS as bait


GANGTOK, 10 July: The Criminal Investigation Department of Sikkim Police has registered a case of forgery, cheating and fabrication of documents against M/s Shree Balajee Water & Power Engineer’s PVT Ltd, a company registered in Srinagar in the Pauri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand by a businessman from Siliguri. The case was registered late last evening following a complaint filed by the General Manager of State Bank of Sikkim. The company, bidding for a contract work in Uttarakhand, had allegedly forged documents to make it appear that it had the backing of SBS.
The company was seeking contract work from Uttarakhand Peyjel Nigam [Drinking Water Corporation] for construction of a Sewerage Treatment Plant there.
The Managing Director of Shree Balajee Water and Power Engineer’s Pvt Ltd had allegedly forged the State Bank of Sikkim’s letter-pad, seal and signature of the General Manager and submitted it to Uttarakhand Peyjel Nigam claiming that the SBS was sitting guarantor for the company to the tune of Rs.3.61crore.
The letter claimed that SBS was ready to release Rs.36 lakh as initial investment for the said contract work. The MD of the said company, as mentioned, is believed to hail from Siliguri, West Bengal.
The office of the Project Manager, Construction and Maintenance Unit [Ganga], Uttarakhand Peyjel Nigam, Srinagar [Pauri Garhwal], on 26 June wrote to the General Manager, State Bank of Sikkim for cross verification and factual position of the firm, details of its bank statement [submitted by it] and its arrangement with SBS.
Upon receiving the letter from Uttarakhand Peyjel Nigam along with the copy of the said Bank Guarantor letter, SBS clarified that the letter and account details presented in the name of the firm and the signature in the Bank Guarantor’s letter were forged.
The State Bank of Sikkim upon cross verification of the account, the accused MD has a personal savings account in SBS, discovered that it had a balance of Rs.4,000 and had been opened recently. It was obvious by then that a scam was being attempted with an attempt to even implicate SBS.
In an FIR lodged by General Manager-I of State Bank of Sikkim, Gangtok, it is stated that the Bank has not issued any such Guarantor Letter in favour of M/s Shree Balajee Water and Power Engineer’s Pvt Ltd adding that the signature on the documents, seals and letter pad are also forged and fabricated.
On the basis of the FIR, the CID has registered a case under section 471/468/420/120 ‘B’ of the Indian Penal Code [using as genuine a forged document, forgery for the purpose of cheating, cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property and punishment of criminal conspiracy] and the case is under investigation.

Landslide claims two in North Sikkim

GANGTOK, 10 July: Two persons have been reportedly killed in a landslide at Munsithang near Chungthang in North Sikkim.
Police records reveal that on 08 July, at around 4 AM, Chewing Lachenpa, Chedup Tamang and B Tshering proceeded on a hike towards the Intake of Rabom Power House. On the way, however, they were caught in a landslide and Chewing and Chedup crushed under the debris while B Tshering managed to escape. He returned to Munsithang and informed the villagers about the incident and a search and rescue effort was launched immediately.
Towards the evening of 08 July, the dead body of Chewing Lachenpa [30], a resident of Munsithang was recovered and brought to Munsithang, it is informed.
Inquest was conducted at Munsithang, but since the road was damaged at several places, including at Theng and Meyong Khola towards Mangan, the dead body could not be taken for post mortem to Mangan District Hospital. With the approval of CMO [North], the autopsy was conducted at Chungthang PHC.
On the afternoon of 09 July, the dead body of Chedup Tamang, also known as Nim Tanzee Tamang [38], a resident of Phaparkheti, Kalimpong, was also recovered and post mortem was conducted at Munsithang.

High Court upholds KCT appeal against construction or repairs at Dharma Chakra Centre

GANGTOK, 10 July: The High Court of Sikkim has set-aside the order passed by the District Judge Special Division-II allowing repair works at the Dharma Chakra Centre, Rumtek and further issued directions to maintain status-quo in accordance with an earlier order passed by the trial court on 01 September 2000. It has however left the door open for the State Government and Gyaltsab Rinpoche to approach the Trial Court seeking vacation of the status quo order, which, in turn has been directed to decide on such an application, if filed, within two months.
Chief Justice Permod Kohli states in the order that, “…the status-quo definitely enjoins a duty upon the parties to maintain the position as was in existence on the date of passing of order. Deviation, in any manner amounts to violation of the status-quo order”.
The Karmapa Charitable Trust had filed a First Appeal Order (FAO) in the Sikkim High Court challenging the order passed by the lower court allowing Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche to repair damages caused by the 18th September 2011 earthquake, arguing that this was against the order passed by the District and Sessions Court to maintain ‘status quo’ in the Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre.
Kunzing Shamar Rinpoche had appealed to the High Court to maintain the ‘status quo’ as passed by the District Court in 2000, since the dispute of properties of Dharma Chakra Centre was still pending before the court.
The High Court said that respondents, including Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche, were not entitled to carry out any repair without seeking leave of the court or modification/ vacation of the order (of 2000).
The High Court observed that the terms of the order passed by the District Court is not suitable in law, notwithstanding the fact that the plaintiff-appellant had filed a separate application seeking fresh injunction and it was the duty of the trial court to have directed the parties to adhere to the status-quo, which had not been modified or altered in any manner.
Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche’s counsel strongly argued that in view of the damage caused to the building under occupation of the Institution, urgent and necessary repair works were required to keep the institution functional and that repair works does not amount to violation of status-quo order.
“Deviation, in any manner amounts to violation of the status quo order. If the respondents were desirous of carrying out any repair urgently needed to the building to keep it habitable and operationsal, it was their duty to approach the trial Court seeking modification/ vacation of the status quo order. This having not been done, the respondents were not entitled to carry out any repair without seeking leave of the Court or modification/ vacation of the order,” the High Court order details.
However, the High Court has given the liberty to the respondents to approach the trial court for modification, alternation or vacation of status-quo on the basis of facts that may be brought to the notice of the court. It further directs that once such an application is made, the Trial Court shall decide the same within two months and even hold day to day hearings for this purpose.

Mumbai resident arrested in Gangtok on charges of torturing Sikkimese wife

GANGTOK, 10 July: The Sadar police arrested one Manmeet Singh Khambay of Mumbai here yesterday on charges of subjecting his wife to cruelty. The arrest was made on the basis of a complaint filed by the wife.
In her FIR the wife has alleged that Mr. Khambay conned her into marriage by misleading her about his financial status, giving false picture about his career and making false assurances about her future security and compelled her to leave her regular government job to be with him. Later, the wife alleges, he also sold off all her gold ornaments without her permission or knowledge.
From what the police have pieced together thus far, the complainant came in contact with the accused in 2006 while she was working at a call centre in Mumbai where the accused too was working. On 13 March, 2006, the two got married as per Sikh rituals at the Gurudwara Sahib here at Deorali and moved to Mumbai.
It is learnt that the accused had claimed that he had an export and import business and compelled her to quit her regular government job on the assurance that she will be taken care of properly. On reaching Mumbai after their marriage the complainant found that all the claims made by the accused were false and soon she was allegedly subjected to mental torture.
Finally, in November, 2011, the complainant returned to Gangtok and began to live with her parents. Since then, she and her family members have been receiving threatening calls from him. She had earlier filed a general diary entry at the police station here.
The complainant has alleged that Mr. Khambay was financially dependent on her for basic needs which she was supporting for the past two to three years. Initially she fulfilled his demands, but his demands increased and became more frequent and fearing her own safety she somehow convinced him to reach her home.
Since he knew that she was financially bankrupt and not earning any more, he slowly started to avoid her but kept harassing her with calls threatening her and her parents to give more money or file for divorce.
The accused has been taken into police custody for investigation and a case under section 498-A [husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty] of the Indian Penal Code has been registered against him at the Sadar Police Station.

Bear attack on livestock rouses fears of worse confrontations at Nom Panang

MANGAN, 10 July: A bear killed two goats belonging to Tashi Namgyal Lepcha of Nom Panang today. Apart from the fear of attacks on humans, villagers also fear that their standing crops will also be destroyed by the animal. Such confrontations have happened in the past in the region. 
The villagers complain that they have been complaining to the Forest Department for many days now but no action has been taken.
“We have also submitted a written complaint to the Dzongu Range Officer, Dzongu but there has been no response from the department till date,” said Sonam Wangchuk Lepcha of Nom Panang while speaking to NOW! today.
There are 32 households in the village of Nom Panang which falls under Saffo-Passingdang GPU of Upper Dzongu, North Sikkim. The villagers also claim that the maize crops for this year’s season which was nearing harvest time has been totally damaged by bears.
Villagers are also afraid of attacks when they go out to collect fodder and firewood. The residents expressed that the Forest Department should take immediate action in order to stop further damage to crops and human life before it is too late.

Vigilance Directorate registers case against Buildings & Housing DE

GANGTOK, 10 July: Following establishment of prima facie case, Vigilance police registered a case against MK Subba, Divisional Engineer, Building & Housing Department on 09 July, 2012.
A criminal case under section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act has been registered against the Divisional Engineer. While officials are tightlipped on the details of the investigation, it is learnt that the Vigilance Directorate had a complaint or information that Mr. Subba had amassed wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income. Section 13 of the PC Act deals with criminal misconduct by a public servant, particularly in relation to misappropriation of funds or property entrusted or under his control, or the abuse of his position as a public servant for obtaining pecuniary advantage.
Soon after the case was registered, the Vigilance police conducted a raid at the residence of the DE at Development Area here during which various items and properties were documented and their valuations recorded. A memo of the items evaluated was also prepared.
The Vigilance police, it is informed, has been on Mr. Subba’s case for quite some time now and it was only after a series of preliminary investigations and scrutiny of his property and other holdings that the case was finally registered.
However the Vigilance Directorate is yet to establish a check period within which it can definitely say that the so called disproportionate assets were amassed or for which there is no satisfactory explanation. Mr. Subba, it is informed has been in government service for a long time, more than 20 years and a check period is important to pinpoint the period during which the allegations of acts omission and commission made against him were done.

Editorial: Effective Vigilance & Monitoring

The Lok Sabha MP chaired a meeting of the District Level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee Meeting (DLVMC) in Gangtok on Tuesday. This was part of a series of such meetings which have been reported on over the past month. The concept of vigilance & monitoring committees from the GPU level onwards up to the district level is a brilliant concept, which, if implemented earnestly and freed from bureaucratic control, can take Sikkim to new levels of planning from the grassroots up. Because the information sharing works up in stages from the GPU to the Zilla and the State level, stocktaking and course corrections become possible in quicker time. The initiative is not new, but the energy with which it is being pursued appears fresh. Sikkim has already been recognised at the national level for the effectiveness of its decentralisation process and as more powers and responsibilities pass on to the panchayati raj institutions, the monitoring of projects and programmes bankrolled by them becomes important. The State Government had begun the process of devolving powers in a more planned manner with the institution of BDOs across the State, and after some initial hiccups, the BACs have found their rhythm and are delivering well. It can be safely vouched that policy intentions have seldom been misplaced in Sikkim. Yet, the scale of development in the rural areas leaves a lot to be desired because there was no effective monitoring and evaluation. The shoring up of the vigilance and monitoring committees with regular attendance of higher profile office bearers and elected representatives is thus welcome. This complements the wider devolution of powers to the panchayats and should guarantee more immediate results.
The basic problem with “overall” development is that those involved in the micro projects [at the village or even BAC level] lose focus of the larger picture. They get confused on what exactly success of the project at hand contributes to “overall” development of the State. Because the deliverers of these developmental projects answer to offices distant from their areas of operation, even those at the village level who wanted to complain could not do so because they were too distant from the corridors of power. As more projects get sanctioned by the panchayats and as the Monitoring Cells become more effective, the accountability factor too will increase. This, not only because the office of authority and the people are based in the same place, but also because the elected members [panchayats and through them the MLAs and now also the MP] will be forced to pay more heed to the aspirations and objections of the people who should become more vocal once the platform to voice their woes is made more accessible. The elected leaders will know how they will fare in the next elections not through how many complaints are voiced in their constituencies, but how quickly and effectively these complaints are redressed. That will be instant justice delivered by a democratic set up. That should be the goal that every vigilance and monitoring committee at every level should aim for.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Delimitation of Zilla and Gram Panchayat Units completed

GANGTOK, 09 July: The delimitation process for the upcoming two-tier Panchayat elections in Sikkim [scheduled to be held in September-October later this year] has been completed by the department of Rural Management and Development and the Panchayat ward-wise voters lists have also been compiled by the State Election Commission.
This time, after the delimitation for Territorial (Zilla Panchayat) and Gram Panchayat Units, there has been a 10 percent increase in the number of seats. The territorial wards for Zilla Panchayat have been increased to 110 from 93 [32 for East, 28 each for South and West and 22 for North District]. In comparison to 2007 list of territorial wards, 9 more seats have been added in East, 3 in South, one seat in West and four seats in North.  
Similarly, 13 new Gram Panchayat Units have been created in the new delimitation process. The 161 Gram Panchayat Units in 2007 have been increased to 174 in 2012 [increased from 45 to 52 in East District, 25 to 47 in South District, 27 to 55 in West and 19 to 22 in North district].
Simultaneously, the number of wards for Gram Panchayat Units has increased to 987 from 889 wards in 2007.
“After carving out Bazaar areas into notified urban areas under Gangtok Municipal Corporation and the five Nagar Panchayats, the State Election Commission with the cooperation of RMDD has carried out fresh delimitation for rural areas for both Territorial and Gram Panchayat Units in Sikkim,” informed State Election Commissioner, SK Gautam.
Mr Gautam added that the delimitation process was carried out as per the Panchayat Act 1993, which has empowered the State Election Commission to do so.  On Sikkim Himali Rajya Parishad’s allegations of not holding any public hearing while finalizing the delimitation process, he clarified that there is no provision in the Panchayat Act to hold a public hearings while undertaking the delimitation process for Territorial and Gram Panchayat Units.
He informed that the delimitation and finalization of voter lists for the ward level has also been completed, adding that distribution of reserved seats is under process.
He said that the polling dates are yet to be finalized, explaining that the dates for September cannot be confirmed in view of the ongoing monsoon season. However, he added that could possibly be held around mid-October.
The State Election Commission will finalise the dates after due consultation with all political parties and Rural Management and Development Department, which is the nodal department for the Gram Panchayats, Mr Gautam informed.
The State Election Commission has completed all the formalities for the upcoming elections but in view of the monsoons that might cause problems in transportation, which is important for holding elections and for other security concerns,  the polling dates are still be confirmed, he added.

Acoustic Traditional in Sikkim with tales of the Yeti

GANGTOK, 09 July: A group of young story tellers under the banner of Acoustic Traditional, a Bangalore based NGO launched a nine-month long campaign ‘One Tribe’ to rediscover the folk tales among different communities about the mythical snowman – the Yeti. The organisation this time aims to conduct a study on the Yeti in the eastern Himalayan region covering Nepal, Sikkim and few of the North Eastern states and some other states of India. Apart from that, the organisation also has plans of conducting a National Story Telling session based on myths and legends in particular.
Speaking to the media at the Press Club of Sikkim today, the Acoustic Traditional founder, Silal Mukhia, informed that they plan to stay in Sikkim for around 25 days during which the organisation will be visiting schools and hold storytelling sessions.
He added that the organisation had visited Sikkim in the year 2010 and organised a confluence on storytellers and also prepared a 100 meters long banner using digital art [on traditional stories] which has been registered in the Limca Book of Records- 2012.
He went on to add that, a new hunt has begun to discover tales of the Yeti and document the oral history, myths and legends related to the ‘Big Foot’ that many believe existed in the Himalayan Region of Nepal and Tibet.
“There have been many myths and confusion surrounding the existence of the Yeti, we will explore the specific areas in the Eastern Himalayan Region where sightings of the Yeti have been reported,” he said.
Speaking about the organization, he stated that the organisation was formed in 1999 and the members of Acoustic Traditional, mostly young tribals, are working with fifteen communities’ story tellers across the country to record their myths and legends.
“It is a voluntary organization based in Bangalore that works to promote oral storytelling and tribal folklore, especially of the mountain and forest-based communities”, Salil added.
During the nine-month long venture the team comprising of six members will explore parts of Sikkim, Darjeeling, Bhutan and Nepal interacting with the Shamans and the elderly who carry knowledge on Yeti.
He added that the members of the organization will spend a month in Sikkim and visit places such as Jawaharlal Nehru Road in East Sikkim, Sokphey in South, [a place named after the Yeti in Nepali ‘Sokpha’] and Samandim, a Western border between Sikkim and Darjeeling where the sightings of Yeti have been recorded in books written by some foresters and scholars.
“We have spoken to people of various communities and we believe that the yeti, ban jhankri and sokpa [another mythical creature that appears often in Nepali literature] are the same. Unlike people from the West who paint yeti as an abominable creature, local communities believe that it is a guide to the spiritual world on which shamanism is based,” he added.
Acoustic Traditional has already published “Lost Stories”, a book on oral storytelling about a year back. He added that lecturer at Gyalshing Government College and story teller Kachyo Lepcha is helping the team to reach out to the people of these areas. He also added that the findings and the research would be documented in the form of films and books.
“For the next one week we will finish all the official work of taking permission from the Sikkim Government to visit these places to avoid any kind of complications in the future” added, Abhishek Pradhan, a documentary film maker and also a team member.
This is also the first project of the upcoming Mountain Center for Study of Indigenous Story Telling Traditions in Darjeeling. The center will be an autonomous institute set up by Acoustic Traditional which will preserve indigenous oral history, folklores and many more which are on the verge of extinction. It will also help in research work related to indigenous studies, added Abhishek.

Land Record confusion created by rushed nature of 1980 survey

GANGTOK, 09 July: It has been acknowledged that there could be more anomalies in the recording of land holdings similar to that of Kumar Pradhan whose plots of land had been erroneously recorded as government land during the second land survey conducted in the state in 1980 [read “Irresponsible land survey consumes private lands, indifferent bureaucracy sells it on” published in NOW! issue dated 09 July 2012]. But while there is the case of Mr. Pradhan and about 30 other landowners of East District whose lands were wrongly recorded as government land, the State administration, while accepting part of the blame for the consequent confusion, also holds the landowners in question as being partly responsible. The High Court is currently adjudicating the issue with directions to the state administration to come up with a proposal to resolve the issue. This proposal will cover all those people whose lands have been wrongly recorded as government land in the land records with the administration.
A probe into the issue reveals that land disputes are quite common in the State due to wrongful recording of plots and also incomplete procedures regarding sale and mutation of land by landowners and buyers.
Meanwhile, one of the reasons behind the erroneous recording of plots is the manner in which the second land survey of 1980 was conducted in the state. A land survey is an exhaustive exercise and requires adequate time as well as sufficient funds.
It is informed that the 1980 survey was funded by the Central government and for starters, the funds were not sufficient. The amins or land surveyors were young and new and apart from the local amins, also roped in for the task were amins from Garhwal. There was a stiff stipulation laid down on the target for each day which was 3 or 7.5 acres to be surveyed each day, failing which the particular amin was disengaged from the assignment. This itself led to confusion and a larger concern among the surveyors to meet the daily target rather than meet the standards of the survey exercise.
Moreover, running concurrently at around the same time was the Bhoomisudar [land reforms] campaign which advocated that an individual could not hold more than 12.5 acres of land. The additional land, it was being advocated, would be taken over by the government. Though this campaign was eventually not successful, at the time of the survey, it was effective in disheartening the landowners as a result of which their cooperation in the survey was not all that forthcoming, it is informed.
While it can be speculated as to why or how landowners whose lands were recorded as government land could have been kept at bay for so long, there is an opinion that they may not have pursued their cases at the right forum or delayed due to lack of information, with may not have known how to go about it.
However, it is informed that the administration had, through the Mandals, which were the village bodies before the panchayats, tried to sensitize the people about the survey. In fact, it is informed there have been and still are land disputes because of the failure of the buyer to go in for mutation largely because he was not aware of it. Without mutation, the purchased land continues to remain in the name of the original owner and subsequently, his progeny may dispute the sale of the land.
The government is aware of the need to update and modernize the land records, for which, a proposal has already been mooted. In fact the proposal along with its financial implications was mooted quite some time back. This time, the survey is to use modern technology and methods but has not been able to take to field due to non availability of experts to handle the technology as one of the reasons. As of now, the government intends to train and prepare land surveyors and other officials on the technology. The new survey, if and when conducted, is expected to settle a variety of confusions and disputes.

House constructed from Panchayat fund at Maniram-Singithang GPU

NAMCHI, 09 July: In a first for South district, a house was constructed for an underprivileged family at Maniram-Singithang Gram Panchayat Unit with Panchayat funds. The two-room house and a toilet was constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 92,725 and was inaugurated by area MLA, Binod Rai and handed over to the beneficiary today. 
The inaugural programme was also attended by the South Upadhakshya Himal Tamang, Namchi BDO Bimal Rai and Maniram-Singithang GPU pamchayats.
Addressing the function, the area MLA highlighted that this was the first time in South district that panchayat fund has been used for constructing a house for the needy. He thanked and congratulated all the panchayats for this initiative.
The State government has already taken the initiative of making pucca houses for every individual in Sikkim and such innovative work by the panchayats here will definitely reap good results, he added.
Panchayat president Topda Bhutia informed that the house was constructed for Kul Bdr. Kami who is a voter of the state but does not have a domicile or Sikkim Subject which would leave his family out contention for several schemes. He said that the state government’s CMRHM scheme for the poor in the state is given to Sikkim Subjects and added that with their initiative, they hope to provide benefits even to those who live in Sikkim and cast their votes here.
Later, speaking with this correspondent, Mr. Kami thanked all the panchayats for constructing the house for him. He informed that there are five members in his family. He added that he was very happy for this assistance provided by the panchayats since it was very difficult for them to construct their own house with their meagre earnings. He is a farmer.
Following this, the area MLA also inaugurated the RCC building of Rajen Gajmer constructed under CHRHM at Lower Salleybong at an estimated cost of Rs 4,50,000. Here, the Namchi BDO informed that a total of 46 houses under CMRHM have been completed and handed over to beneficiaries. He added that more than hundred houses are in the final stages of completion and will probably be handed over to the beneficiaries before Dussehra.

Excise raids against trade malpractices and underage drinking

GANGTOK, 09 July: The enforcement wing of the Sikkim Excise Department recently conducted a series of raids across the State to curb trade malpractices, underage drinking and employment of minors in liquor businesses. An Excise Department press release informs that the raids resulted in the registration of 15 cases under various provisions of the Sikkim Excise Act, 1992 in the East, West and South districts.
Out of the 15 cases, 13 were of illicit trade and 2 were of underage drinking. A total of Rs 10,300 was collected as fine and confiscation. Further, the department has also appealed to the general public to lodge complaints against illicit trade, underage drinking and employment of minors in liquor businesses, the release mentions.
As per the Sikkim Excise Act, 1992, section 55 [a] as amended vide notification no 12/LD/P/2011 dated 12.11.2011, if any person sells or delivers any liquor or intoxicating drug to any person apparently under the age of eighteen years then a penalty of upto Rs 20,000 will be charged in case of a first offence, if its repeated then license will be suspended or cancelled and third time offenders can expect imprisonment for a term which may extend up to five years.

Editorial: Seek Solutions Beyond Road Repairs

The monsoon has been weak by Sikkim’s standards thus far, its lashings, varying in intensity over parts of Sikkim, as over the rest of the country. And yet, even this subdued season of downpours, has been strong enough when the skies do open, to convert culverts into raging rapids and jhoras into torrents bringing down boulders, washing away bridges, sweeping away road formations and catching the concerned agencies wrong-footed yet again. The monsoon remains moody, but its impact on daily life in Sikkim remains consistent in its ability to impose disruptions. 
The fragility of Sikkim’s mountains, a condition further impaired by the September temblor, contributes to the instability of the roads and the precariousness of the houses here, but the most substantial role in the annual ritual of road-blocks is played by the continuing prioritizing of knee-jerk repairs over long-term solutions and the triumph of ignorance over science. Deploying bulldozers to clear out debris and depositing tonnes of stones and crores of rupees in erecting retaining walls are, at best, short-term measures for immediate relief. Unfortunately, these have been the only engineering skills applied to the annual assault of slush and debris that roads here come under. Much more refined science should have been applied to fortify Sikkim’s roads by now. The level of preparedness should have evolved into a multidisciplinary exercise by now. The problem is obviously not only in the intensity of the monsoons or the vehicular load on the roads. Worsening the situation is the degradation of the catchment areas, the weakening of the jhoras [through quarrying and encroachments, for example], the obvious seismic activity [which, it appears, no one bothers to keep track of or share information on despite the very recent scare], and, of course, the still only sketchily understood reasons behind load limits for different roads. Those responsible for the care of roads have to realize that roads can be tended properly only if all these aspects are factored in and the reasons behind at least the traditional trouble-spots understood better. Solutions will have to then be devised through interventions in all fields and not just by throwing more stones and more crores into repairs. Even the technology deployed for repairs appears to be as archaic, if not older, than the vintage of the roads themselves.
An alternate highway for Sikkim will be helpful, but one must keep in mind that even this alternative will snake through the same hills, and, will be managed by the same agencies, ergo, will be beset by the same problems and limitations. Repairs are necessary, but for the long run, customized solutions are required.

Cherry Blossoms

Centenary Cherry

Some of you may be surprised to know that the Cherry tree belongs to family Rosaceae and has common relatives like the peach, plum, apple, apricots, almonds etc. To an untrained eye, a peach tree in flower looks similar to a cherry tree and hence a mix up in identifying is very common. But then, they also belong to the same genus.
The family Rosaceae is a large flowering group and several edible fruits come from this family. Prunus cerasoides commonly called as the Himalayan Cherry or Paiyun or Kongki-Kung figures amongst the most prominent of flowering trees. It is indeed a tree suitable for aesthetic plantation. It stays evergreen and in winters when everything is dull and dry, its blossoms to decorate the highways and townships of Sikkim. The cherry tree of Sikkim is planted widely for avenues plantation.
Prunus Carmesiana
Prunus cerasiodes has blossoms with five petals. It is light pink in colour. There is a peculiarity in flowering. Flowering starts from 7,000 ft to 8,000 ft in Sikkim from the first week of November and proceeds down to 5,000ft in the 2nd week and on the 3rd week to 3,000-4,000ft. After the flowering is over, new leaves emerge from the 3rd and 4th week of November.
Simultaneously with Prunus, blooms Erythrina arborescence or Phaledo. An attractive tree with leaves intact when it blooms.
Prunus serasoides
 We also have an April flowering cherry tree called Prunus carmesiana with a darker shade of pink, the flowers of which are pendulous. Commonly referred to as the Geyzing type of Cherry, this nick- name possibly stuck because a tree is found at the complex of the resident of the Divisional Forest Officer of Geyzing which has been serving as mother tree, the seeds of which are collected and planted in forest nurseries. It has dark pink pendulous flowers. In Gangtok one tree can be seen standing alone at the road to Zero Point and another at the parking lot of Forest Secretariat.
I wish to quote a few lines from the book “The Life and Times of Plantsman in the Sikkim Himalaya” by KC Pradhan: “Sikkim does have a spring flowering cherry, a variant of Prunus ceracoides botanically P. carmesiana (syn. P. ceracoides var. rubra). In the early 1960s our lovable plant connoisseur Tse Ten Tashi coined it P.denzongensis”. The book further claims that it was distributed to various arboretums in Europe and still holds it by the name of P. denzongensis.
Further the book reads, “It was first observed by Sir Basil Gould Political Officer and his father (Forest manager- Rai Saheb Bhim Bhadur) between Singhik and Toong in North Sikkim. Its real habitat being the Dzenga Reserve Forest in North Sikkim opposite Menshithang and I had an occasion to see the whole area ablaze with red well mixed with Poplar during one of my visit”
Now along with P. carmesiana, blooms the reddish Erythrina stricta, the flowers red and upright and trees entirely devoid of leaves when it blooms. An exciting find on a trip to Namchi on Nov. 2010, a pure white coloured cherry tree was noted by S.T. Lachungpa. This is the first white cherry reported in Sikkim and incidentally it co-incided with the 100 years celebrations of the Forest Department and was aptly nick-named the “Centenary Cherry”
Besides being a very beautiful tree the Cherry tree finds many uses. It’s a good fodder and fuel tree. It is one of the popular food sources for birds, bees and small rodents. The Cherry is a good shade tree for cardamom plantations at higher elevation where it suffers from frost and snow-bite. Prunus protects the cardamom when leafing starts during winter. It protects the cardamom field in drought prone areas since it provides shade when all other trees are bereft of leaves. The honey produced during the season of cherry blossom is of the best clear variety. Fruits are edible but bitter in taste.
 A popular Japanese cherry called “Sakura” is now finding its place in Sikkim’s landscape. This was introduced for the first time during the coronation of Chogyal Palden Thendup Namgyal. The second time was sometime in 1989 in the form of scions and grafted at a private nursery. The Department of Forest is now promoting the plantation of grafted varieties of Sakura in certain districts. There are basically two varieties introduced in Sikkim. Trees with blossoms more that five petals are called “yae-zakura”. Cherry trees with more than five petals are typically the last one to open their blossoms. The Department of Forests in its programme the “State Green Mission” has planted lakhs of cherry seedlings over the years, many of which have started blooming. If we continue this trend Sikkim can also think of having a “Cherry Blossom Festival” honouring our very own species of Cherry tree.
In Japan, the cherry blossom is widely celebrated, they have a “Cherry Festival” name “Hanami” which is a practice of picnicking below the cherry trees. This tree is reported to having a special significance in the Japanese Culture. I have personally witnessed a Japanese song being played by ladies in kimono over a traditional Japanese musical instrument praising the cherry tree. I was told that the song is very popular among the locals. Influenced by the Buddhist belief of impermanent and transient nature of all things. The cherry tress blossom with great beauty and dies soon after. This change-over symbolizes mortality of all things. It is also symbolizes “clouds” because whole tree blossoms at one go. In fact during World War II, cherry blossoms was used by the Japanese to inspire a sense of Nationalism and unity in the army. The soldiers were encouraged to believe that the souls of deceased were reincarnated in the blossoms. They also planted cherry trees as a means of claiming an area as Japanese territory. For instance, in China where cherry is naturally found, the two most famous cherry parks there reflect the brief occupation of China by the Japanese. The trees were also introduced in South Korea at time of Japanese occupation, which was however destroyed after the Japanese left.
Cherry trees have also been used as a symbol of friendship with other nations. E.g. the Japanese donated thousands of cherry trees as a gesture of goodwill to the United States which has been planted in Manhattan in the Sakura Park. Similarly such instances of strengthening bond through Sakura with other nations by the Japanese are numerous. Likewise these countries also celebrate with grandeur with the Cherry Blossom Festival. The blossom and leaves also feature in Japanese food ingredient. A special rice cake called “Sakuramochi” is topped with leaf from sakura tree, “sakurayu” is Cherry Blossom tea.
If you are interested in planting the cherry tree here are some golden rules to ensure 100% success. In case of P. ceracoides plantation is to be done during the period of dormancy ie. immediately before the flowering bud sprouts, which is sometime in the month of September. The seedlings should be uprooted carefully and all unnecessary roots should be pruned back and also shoot growth up to the second year pruned back. If plantation is being carried out in the month of June-July, only poly-bag seedlings should be used. Same for P. carmesiana.
Happy planting this season.

Irresponsible land survey consumes private lands, indifferent bureaucracy sells it on


GANGTOK, 08 July: Gross irregularities in the recording of land holdings by State government agencies have come to the fore, but what is even more astounding is the lack of any will on the part of the concerned government agencies to rectify the irregularities even where the mistakes are clear and even admitted. It only follows then that the consequent injustices like lost ownerships or claims to compensation remain unaddressed as well.
Kumar Pradhan pursued his ‘file’ for rectification of his land wrongly recorded as government land with the Land Revenue and Forest Departments, and finally, when nothing came of it, had to seek intervention of the High Court of Sikkim through his advocate, Doma T Bhutia. This step, he was compelled to take, when the State government sold his land to a hydel project developer.
It has surfaced that the State government had wrongly recorded Mr. Pradhan’s private land as government land during the last survey operation carried out in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. That was the last land survey operation in the State and the Land Revenue Department is reported to be preparing for a fresh land survey of the entire state. For the past more than three decades, the private land of Mr. Pradhan has officially been under the government but what has now surfaced is that it is not just his land which was wrongly recorded as government land during the survey but that there are about 30 other similarly affected land owners in the concerned area of East District under the Singtam and Rangpo range.
Till the land remained with the government, Mr. Pradhan and others were content with trying the persuade the agencies to release their lands, but their patience broke when their lands were sold off a few years ago to a hydel project developing company – the Madhya Bharat Power Corporation Limited which is developing the 96 MW Rongnichu HEP in Rorathang, East Sikkim. No compensation was paid to them.
In fact, it is reported that after Mr. Pradhan was made to run from pillar to post to get his lands rightly recorded as his, he was finally told by the Forest Department to visit the regional office of the Ministry of Environment & Forests in Shillong. This was beyond his capacity. Mr. Pradhan has two plots of land which have been sold off to Madhya Bharat, one about 1.28 acres and the other of about an acre.
It has emerged that the State government has admitted that several lands had been wrongly recorded as government’s during the last survey operation and this has also been recorded in the minutes of a meeting held among relevant agencies and departments, including the Forest and Land Revenue departments. While this meeting was held in July 2007, there has been no concrete move to rectify the situation and no steps initiated towards compensating the affected landowners and in the interim, portions of the lands in question sold off to a third party.
Only in 2011 were some inspections conducted of the area to ascertain and verify the claims.
However, now the High Court of Sikkim has taken cognizance of the matter and issued directions to the State government to take a decision on the matter for compensating the affected landowners.

Skies open up, NH 31A slips out


GANGTOK, 08 July: With areas in Darjeeling district through which the NH 31A courses on the way to Siliguri receiving up to 24 cm of rain on a daily basis through most of last week, it was only a matter of time before the national highway started receiving slips and slides to stall traffic. And now the trouble-spots have started acting up with each one creating a traffic snarl of its own as GREF workers and machines clear the slush and debris.
The most imposing slide this season has been the one at Birik Dara, about an hour’s drive out of Siliguri [slightly short of Lohapool] while proceeding towards Sikkim. The slope above the highway here failed on 05 July and refused vehicular crossover for 24 hours. The 120 metre stretch remains active and unstable and requires constant pressing of men and machinery to keep clear. A considerable section of the highway on the valley side has also slipped away here with dislodged sections of retaining walls poking through the slush below.
GREF (BRO) has deployed five JCB excavators, hundreds of laborers, trucks and bulldozers at this section but this remains a bottleneck with waits of more than 2 hours becoming a routine delay for commuters here.
Met officials at the spot informed now that three districts of West Bengal – Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Coochbehar – have been receiving extremely heavy rainfall through the past week and add that the forecast for the coming week suggests that the weather pattern will continue. Even they advise against travel on NH 31A after dark, explaining that with heavier downpours forecast for the night-time, the slide zones are bound to act up, making such travel risky.
Daytime travel, while safer, is only tortuous for the long waits that one-way traffic over the trouble zones [the worst being Birik Dara] working in fits and starts in between BRO work on clearing the debris. Traffic jams snake upto seven kilometers on both sides at this spot sometimes.
Earlier, even transhipment was not an option since the slide was too dangerously active, throwing down boulders and slush on a regular basis, To avoid the traffic snarls, several drivers are opting for the Lava, Kalimong detour which takes about three hours longer than the normal travel time. Needless to add, complaints of overcharging have also coming up in this regard.
“We have issued warnings to all concerned authorities of very heavy rains forecast for the weeks ahead. Continuous torrential downpours have wreaked havoc at almost all the eight declared trouble-spots on NH 31A with new slides and mud-slips getting reported with every rain. Vehicular movement is definitely going to get disrupted,” Darjeeling district police personnel deployed at Birik Dara to manage traffic and people said.

East cops bust forged driving licence racket

GANGTOK, 08 July: The East District Police busted a fake driving licence racket with the arrest of the alleged forger and seizure of incriminating evidence on Friday. A press release issued by the Senior SP [East], Dr. MS Tuli, informs that the arrest followed from elaborate planning, effective police work and the deployment of decoys.
Put on the trail of the alleged forger by reliable sources, a decoy was sent to a photo-studio near MP Golai to order a fake driving licence. Sources, the Sr. SP informs, had indicated that fake diving licences were available at the said photo studio on a payment of Rs. 1,500.
The decoy sought such a driving licence under a fictitious name and the accused, one Raju Pradhan, took an advance of Rs. 800 and told the decoy to collect the driving licence the next day after paying the balance payment of Rs. 700, the press release details.
The next day, the decoy was handed over a Driving Licence issued in the name of Licensing Authority, Siliguri, for the fictitious name provided by him. The racket confirmed, a raid was conducted at the location and the accused taken into custody.
The release informs that several incriminating pieces of evidence, including partially fabricated licences, bundles of laminated cards [to be processed into fake licences], a computer and printer/ scanner were recovered from the photo-studio.
The Sr. SP adds that a preliminary scan of the computer has revealed a list of fake licences produced by the accused in the last two months of operation.
“East District Police will be following up on the leads revealed including any accomplices, if found to be involved in this racket,” the Sr. SP assures.
Meanwhile, a case under sections 418/ 420/ 465/ 468 of the Indian Penal Code has been registered. The press release adds that the accused is a known drug peddler who has been previously involved in two cases under the Sikkim Anti-Drugs Act at Sadar and Ranipool Police Stations.

Khangchendzonga Kalam Puraskar for Jigme N Kazi

GANGTOK, 08 July: Senior journalist and a prolific writer Jigme N Kazi has been named for the ‘Khangchendzonga Kalam Puraskar’ for the year 2012 by the Press Club of Sikkim. Mr. Kazi, who edits two English weeklies –Sikkim Observer and Himalayan Guardian – has also authored two books, “Inside Sikkim Against the Tide” and “Sikkim for Sikkimese”, will receive the award during the decadal foundation day celebrations of the PCS on 17 July, a press release informs.
Mr. Kazi’s name was unanimously endorsed during the executive body meeting of the Club held here on Friday. He has also been associated with various news organizations such as The Telegraph, Eastern Express, Statesmen, United News of India (UNI), English weekly ‘ Hill People’ and ‘ Bhoomiputra’ a vernacular weekly and was instrumental in institutionalising journalism in Sikkim.
The PCS has also decided to felicitate the Darjeeling Bureau chief of Samay Dainik for his contributions of journalism and continuing with its initiative to encourage younger scribes, the PCS has selected Sikkim correspondent of Hindustan Samachar, Bishal Gurung, for the ‘Most Promising Journalist’ award of 2012.
The meeting also decided to celebrate the foundation day by organizing cultural events. Those interested in participating in the cultural event have been invited to contact the Cultural Secretary of the Club, Sagar Chettri at 98324-24750.

Bhandari’s pistol recovered

GANGTOK, 08 July: The pistol reported missing by the Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee president Nar Bahadur Bhandari some days back has been recovered. The recovery was reported by Mr. Bhandari to the police on 06 June, a few days after he filed an FIR reporting it missing. It is informed that the loaded pistol was found in his house itself, dispelling any fears that it may have been stolen by miscreants. Meanwhile, the weapon, it is informed, has been seized by the police and the matter is to be investigated as to how the firearm, licensed to Mr. Bhandari for security purposes, went missing in the first place. 

Two Sikkim Karatekas to represent country in Asian Championship

GANGTOK, 08 July: It is again a proud moment for Sikkim as two of its karatekas have been shortlisted to represent India in the Asian Karate Championship scheduled to be held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan from 14 to 17 July. On the basis of their performances in the National championships, Hem Kumari Rai and Neemu Lepcha have been shortlisted for the national team.
Hem Kumari Rai will be taking part in the 11th Asian Senior Karate Championship, while Neemu Lepcha will be taking part in the 12th Asian Junior Karate Championship. The girls are participating in an international competition for the first time. Both the championships will be held at the same venue and time mentioned above.
Hem Kumari had bagged gold in the Senior Nationals held in December last year, while Neemu also won a gold medal in the Junior Nationals held in May, earlier this year. On the basis of these wins, the duo has been selected to represent the nation.
Hem Kumari hails from Deu-Damthang in South Sikkim while Neemu Lepcha belongs to Ray-Mindu in Tintem in East Sikkim.
Sikkim State Karate-do Association [SSKA] expressed its best wishes to both karatekas in a small function held at Paljor Stadium today.
Addressing the function, Ms Rai and Ms Lepcha said that they have prepared well for the championship and hope of winning medals for the country. They further expressed that it was their dream to take part at the international level and with this Asian championship their dreams have come true.
The duo further informed that they have undergone a rigorous one-month training at Paljor Stadium under their Chief Coach, BB Subba and other coaches of SSKA.
Sports and Youth Affairs Deputy Director [Coaching], Thupten Rapgyal Bhutia lauded SSKA’s efforts in bringing out many promising karatekas in the state. He mentioned that Karate is a discipline which has been regularly fetching medals for the state.
While expressing his best wishes to both players, the Deputy Director mentioned that the Asian championship is a tough competition and it is a golden opportunity for these karatekas to be given such a big platform.
SSKA chief coach, BB Subba mentioned that both karatekas are in their best form and the association has full hopes that the two will bring home medals from the competition. He added that the two young upcoming karatekas have been consistent in their performances till date and would continue to do so at their debut in the Asian level competition as well.
The Chief Coach also expressed his gratitude to the Sports and Youth Affairs Department and especially the Secretary for the support and encouragement extended to SSKA.

USFC ropes in record number of local players for I-League debut

GANGTOK, 08 July: United Sikkim Football Club [USFC] is gearing up for the new season and the club’s senior division I-League debut, with the management keeping busy signing players in preparation for the 2012-13 season. The club has already signed 11 local players so far and is also working on getting Santu Subba, who is currently playing for Army XI, and is confident that the Army XI will release him to play for USFC.
The club has retained its old players Nim Tshering Lepcha, MD Lepcha, Thupten Tshering Bhutia, Sagar Rai, Nima Tamang, Sahinsha Ansari and Tenzing Tsephel and bolstered the local roster with new players in Don Tshering Lepcha, Ashish Chettri and Mobin Rai.
Speaking to media persons over the phone from Chandigarh, USFC co-owner, Bhaichung Bhutia mentioned that this time there is record signing of local players and including him there are likely to be 12 local players in the club this season. Last year, the club had 8 local players on its rolls.
He also mentioned that the club is still in talks with the Army XI coach for the release of Santu Subba.
Bhaichung informed that the club has already signed Nadong Bhutia from Kalimpong and the club is likely to conduct another set of trials in Kalimpong and Darjeeling in July and August as the last trials held for these areas were not so satisfactory. He informed that the club has also signed Nima Tamang and Mobin Rai from Sikkim Sports Academy this season.

Bangalore NGO and locals rebuild earthquake damaged house at Tamang basti

MANGAN, 08 July: A resident of Tamang basti, Upper Singhik, North Sikkim, Diki Choden Tamang’s house had been damaged in last year's earthquake and the Government had provided instant relief of Rs. 15, 000. Local youth, Nursesus Lepcha of Upper Singhik, in coordination with a Bangalore based NGO took the initiative to rebuild the damaged house which was completed recently.
The house has two rooms, a kitchen, toilet and a bathroom. The family, which had been rsiding in a temporary shed since the earthquake, has shifted into their new home.
On Saturday, Ms Tamang and the villagers held a meeting and thanked Mr. Lepcha and the NGO from Bangalore for their help. The team is now reconstructing a second damaged house, this one belonging to Zongmit Lepcha in Ringhim above Mangan. They have plans to rebuild five more houses in the GPU.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Tibetans host grand celebration to mark Dalai Lama’s 77th birthday

GANGTOK, 06 July: The Tibetan community here and their well-wishers gathered here at the Sera-jey Dro-phen-ling Monastery at Chandmari in strong numbers to celebrate the 77th birthday of the 14th Dalai Lama today. The celebration was hosted jointly by the Tibetan Settlement Office, Gangtok, Panjha Kiduk and the Tibetan Youth Club and featured a host of cultural performances and prayers.
Addressing the congregation, chief guest for the day, Speaker, Sikkim Legislative Assembly, KT Gyaltsen, paid rich homage to the Dalai Lama and his teachings, stressing that the Dalai Lama has always spoken and acted for the well being of all mankind.
“We have come together to celebrate the 77th birthday of our spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, and on this occasion it is all the more important for us to dedicate ourselves to his teachings which we have a responsibility to promote and spread,” he said.
“The Dalai Lama is an emanation of the Bodisattva of Compassion and his knowledge and his teachings need to be accepted and practised in our day to day life,” the Speaker said and added that people may belong to different religions, castes and communities, “but our race is one and that is being human”.
He further highlighted the various topics such as democracy, religion, non violence, harmony, women’s rights and empowerment on which the Dalai Lama has spoken over the years and stressed that his wisdom needs to incorporated into our daily lives to prove beneficial.
He also commended the Tibetan community in Sikkim for their contributions towards the development of the State, the Speaker and expressed hope that their involvement in Sikkim’s progress and development would continue in the future as well.
The celebration was also attended by Minister for Health and Animal Husbandry DN Thakarpa, the HRDD Minister NK Pradhan, Gangtok MLA Dorjee Namgyal, Deputy Mayor Shakti Singh, Secretary Ecclesiastical Department, Rimpoches, head lamas of various monastries and the people of the Tibetan community.
Earlier, the felicitation message of the Tibetan Kashag and the welcome address was read out by the Tibetan Settlement Officer, who also thanked the State government and the Sikkimese people for having hosted the Tibetan people for the past 53 years. The felicitation message of the Tibetan Parliament was read out by Tashi Phuntsok [president, Bod Rawang Denpai Legul Tsokchung].
A cultural programme was also presented by students of Thumbi Sambota School, along with performances by children of the Tibetan community. A Citation was also presented on the day to a Tibetan senior citizen for his contributions towards the Tibetan struggle and an award to a student from Thumi Samghota on the day.

HC records displeasure over slow progress of NH 31A works

GANGTOK, 06 July: The High Court of Sikkim has recorded its displeasure over the slow pace of progress of works on the National Highway 31 A. The Court had taken suo moto cognizance of the sorry state of affairs relating to the maintenance and improvement of the national highway and has been hauling up the state administration and other agencies, including the Border Roads Organisation and other central government agencies, over the apparent lack of urgency in their efforts towards such an important component of national security. The primary stumbling block in the progress of works seems to be the process of receiving forest clearances and also the bureaucracy’s tendency to keep decisions pending. 
In this regard, the Court noted that some decisions have been pending for two years with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and Indian Railways as also the Director General of BRO.
“The Court has no option but to record its displeasure,” it stated.
The court further directed that all concerned agencies to finalise the decision making process and issue appropriate sanction/ direction within 2 months with monthly progress report to be submitted to the court.
In its order dated 02 July, 2012, the High Court noted, from the progress report submitted by Director, Works of Project Swastik, on the construction works on the national highway, that though there was some progress at various places “…we are at pain to say that various agencies are totally lackluster in taking their decision particularly  in regard to grant of clearance by the Wildlife, Forest and Land Acquisition at various levels”.
With Mile 27 of NH 31A under the maintenance of the NHPC due to the Teesta HEP there, the Court directed that NHPC be impleaded as a party to the proceedings.
While progress of works at 27 Mile has been shown as 50% complete, there was no indication as to when they would be completed. Similarly, the Court noted that 9 Mile beyond Ranipool which is a sinking zone is be maintained by the state PWD. However, there were no details as to the status of the work and whether it had been sanctioned or not.

2 Kumrek accident survivors referred to Siliguri for treatment, One admitted at CRH

GANGTOK, 06 July: The four passengers, one of whom died on the spot, on board the SNT bus which met with an accident at Kumrek near Rangpo last evening, have been identified. It may be recalled that the SNT bus, hired by Golden Cross pharma company to ferry employees from the factory at Rorathang to Rangpo, had met with an accident at Kumrek at around 8 p.m. Thursday evening, veering off the road and plunging into the Rangpo-Sawney khola below. While none of the pharma company’s employees were on board the bus at the time, the driver, killed in the accident, appears to have picked up passengers on the way. While one of the passengers was also killed in the accident, three were injured and rushed to medical care. At the time of going to print yesterday, none of them, save the driver had been identified.
The two persons killed on the spot have been identified as Raj Kumar Sunar [44], a resident of Rangpo and the driver of the bus; and Man Bahadur Baraily, a resident of Bhasmey.
Biswajit Mandal, a resident of Murshidabad in West Bengal, and Pranay Verma of Narayan Tak in Kolkata were grievously injured and were first evacuated to Rangpo PHC and then referred to North Bengal Hospital in Siliguri for further treatment. The person injured in the mishap, Ratna Bahadur Lohar [20], who had minor head injuries and had fractured his thigh bone has been admitted at the Central Referral Hospital here at Tadong and will be operated upon soon. These details were shared by the Secretary, Transport Department, Tsegyal Tashi, while speaking to NOW! today.
The Secretary, along with other departmental officials, visited the accident site Friday morning and also called upon the wife of the deceased driver at Rangpo later. The deceased driver is survived by his wife and two children.
The spot where the accident took place is quite narrow and dangerous as the edge from where the bus fell off has nothing reinforcing it, the Secretary informs, adding that the bus was inaccessible thus hampering the rescue efforts from the road which is why officials had to call in the rafters from Chitrey to help recover the dead and rescue the injured last night.
The dead bodies have been sent to the Singtam Hospital for autopsy after which SNT will conduct the last rites, the Secretary informed.
A detailed investigation into the cause of the accident will be conducted by the department, the Secretary informs.