Saturday, July 21, 2012

Contempt proceedings opened against respondent and counsels in sexual harassment case


GANGTOK, 19 July: A woman, whose efforts brought about a sea change in the administration and governance in Sikkim especially for the women employees and in the manner in which they were viewed, is now also part of a spat within the lawyer community here; this has led to the filing of a contempt petition in the High Court against two advocates.
It may be recalled that it was the unwavering and dogged pursuit for justice by a peon employed at a nationalized bank in Gangtok, through her advocate, Dr. Doma Bhutia, which led to the Supreme Court issuing directions to the state government on the protection of women employees in all state government departments, public sector units and even private companies which have a sizeable number of women employees.
This in turn led to the state government issuing a notification early this year and in compliance with the directives of the Supreme Court that each department should have a committee comprising of certain members to look into complaints of sexual harassment in workplace. The woman had initially filed a case against her superior official in the bank accusing him of sexual harassment.
Now, her advocate has filed a contempt case against the opposite party and his advocates alleging interference in the administration of justice. This resulted after the woman filed for withdrawal of her present case pending in the High Court without the knowledge of her advocate. This case was filed recently after a committee, as per the apex court’s directions, had been set up by the bank to look into her allegations of sexual harassment. The committee reported that the allegations could not be proved.
It has been alleged that the woman was influenced into withdrawing her case by the opposite party, an official with the said bank, and his advocates after having called her for a meeting in the chamber of the opposite party’s advocate who is a senior advocate with the High Court. It is further alleged that during the meeting the woman was offered certain benefits if she withdrew her petition.
This, she allegedly agreed to, following which a withdrawal application was filed. The woman has subsequently deposed before the High Court that her decision to file for withdrawal of her pending petition was not voluntary thus raising doubts that there had been some allurement or pressure.
Advocate Doma Bhutia submitted before the court, in the course of the contempt proceedings, that such practice should be stopped. Noting that this was unfortunate, the High Court observed “…the seriousness of the allegations has prompted us to take cognizance of this contempt proceeding though the allegations relate to some happenings outside the court but since the allegations relate to the administration of justice, we feel that this is a case where cognizance should be taken”.
Following this, notices were issued to two junior advocates, allegedly present at the forementioned meeting and also to the official of the bank against whom the initial case of harassment had been filed.

UD&HD to withdraw provision of NOC from house owners for renewal of trade licenses

GANGTOK, 19 July: The State Government reportedly decided today to withdraw the recently introduced mandatory requirement of ‘No Objection Certificates’ from house owners for renewal of trade licenses for businesses operating out of rented premises. The decision was reportedly taken at a meeting held today between representatives of the business community, UD&HD officials and state government.
The move comes after the business community approached the State government that this provision in the renewal of trade licenses regime has created havoc among the business community as house owners sought to raise the house rents taking advantage of the situation.
The business community in their representation made to the government had highlighted that the UD&HD has no power to invoke this unnecessary provision and in such cases only court has the discretionary power to decide the NOC and examine the NOC from the house owners.
The state government has taken a policy decision to withdraw the requirement of NOC from house owners even for renewal of trade licences, a provision it had introduced five months ago. Earlier, the house owners NOC was required only at the time of applying for a trade licence, not for the yearly renewals.
A large number of the trade license holders have not renewed their licenses owing to their inability to furnish the new NOCs.
As per UD&HD’s official statistics only five percent of Sikkimese own businesses while it is mostly those from outside the state who set up business here. Needless to add, most of these businesses operate from rented accommodations.
The UD&HD will come up with the notification within two or three days, it is informed.

Mobile Veterinary Clinic service launched for all 4 districts

GANGTOK, 19 July: Mobile Veterinary Clinic for different districts to provide veterinary services at the doorsteps of the rural masses was launched by Chief Minister Pawan Chamling here today. On the occasion, five Mobile Veterinary Clinics were flagged off by the CM, one for each district and the fifth dedicated for awareness programmes. 
On the occasion, the CM was accompanied by Minister, Dawcho Lepcha, Secretary, DP Sharma and senior officials and staff of the department of Animal Husbandry, Livestock, Fisheries and Veterinary Services.
It is informed that during the Chief Minister’s 42 days village-to-village tour, the CM was apprised of the practical difficulties faced by the department and villagers and accorded sanctions on the spot for procuring five numbers of Mobile Veterinary Clinic at Sudunglakha, East Sikkim on 22 July 2011.
The aim of this mobile clinic is to provide rural animal health care for specific areas with a team of veterinary professionals and para-professionals, supporting equipment and veterinary medicines in order to provide preventive, curative services as well as breeding facilities. It is mentioned that this could provide prompt animal health care and service at the people’s door step, disease surveillance, monitoring of livestock and poultry disease and create awareness about modern technology for improving productivity with a view to uplift the socio economic status of the people living in rural areas and inaccessible pockets.
It has been mentioned that in a predominantly rural economy based state of Sikkim, animal husbandry plays an extremely important role in bringing about substantial improvement in the living standards of rural people. It is further stated that eighty percent of the domestic products come mostly from agriculture and animal husbandry sectors and about 70% to 80% of the people reside in rural areas and most of them practice livestock rearing for substantial income generation.
A press release of the department states that at present due to various pro-poor people programmes of the present government, livestock sector has been regarded as one of the potential livelihood options for the people of Sikkim for providing self employment among unemployed educated youth and the department plays the role of facilitator to provide technical knowhow, skill development and veterinary services in terms of providing curative treatment of livestock in the villages.
However, considering the terrain of the state, animals are usually not brought to the hospitals/ veterinary centers for treatment and vaccinations and given this situation a good number of farmers remain deprived of veterinary services at the desired level. The Mobile Veterinary Clinics seek to fill this gap and take veterinary care to the people and their livestock.

Khyen Rinpoche Dechen Dorje cremated at Tashiding

GANGTOK, 19 July: The mortal remains of the late Dorje Lopen of Phensang Monastery, Khyen Rinpoche Dechen Dorje was consigned to flames purified by the chanting of prayers and mantras by Rinpoches, Tulkus, Khyenpos and Udor-Choe-Sum of Sikkim at Drakar Tashiding on 18 July, a SIBLAC press release informs. 
The Kudung of the late Rinpoche reached Tashiding Monastery at 12: 20 PM and was straight away taken into the Monastery where short prayers were offered while the Kudung was placed on top of the specially erected Tri (Seat) in the main prayer hall.
The SIBLAC general secretary, Pem Tshering Lepcha, informs that when the Kudung arrived at Tashiding, it was accorded “Supreme Sikkimese Buddhist honor and protocol as elaborated an reserved for very high and accomplished Buddhist Lamas by the Sikkimese Parliament of Tingrigang declaration of Rabdentse palace (17th century) under the guidance of the 3rd Denjong Chogyal Chador Namgyal”.
A very long and elaborate ceremonial reception of Serbang from several monasteries accompanied the Kudung till the sacred crematorium of Thurte Silba-Tsal.
The Serbang was preceded by a large number of Jang-nga (Traditional Sikkimese Copper Drums) pairs offered by the various monasteries and students of the DPCA, Pelling and which rang across the entire serenity and thereby truly espousing the volume of the late Rinpoche’s greatness and wisdom, the release mentions.
Reverently called Phensang Khyen Rinpoche by his disciples, the connection of ‘samaya’ was reflected in the presence of the monks and disciples from almost the major and minor monasteries of Sikkim. Hardly any monastery of Sikkim remained unrepresented yesterday to pay their last homage to the great Lama.
All the prayers were presided over by Kyabje Denjong Lhatrul Terchen Rinpoche (Yangthang Rinpoche). The mortal remains were consigned to the flames at round 1 PM on a specially built Phurkhang amid chanting of prayers by monks amid the impressive mourners of around 10,000 -15,000 mourners. In fact, the late Phensang Khyen Rinpoche glows to his fullest at Tashiding, the release expresses.
“However, it is very unfortunate that this historic moment escaped the notice of our press and media as well as the local district administration to represent or at least attend the same,” the release further comments.

Landslides disrupt South roads

NAMCHI, 19 July: The torrential downpour in the state has triggered some major landslides in the South district. The main road linking Namchi to Siliguri via Melli was blocked at Mickhola, around 5 km away from Namchi, due to a landslide and was eventually restored by 2:30 PM today. 
SDM-Namchi, Purna Yonzon, while speaking to this correspondent informed that the Namchi- Rangpo stretch was closed at Narak Jhora which was also restored by this afternoon.
Similarly, the Melli-Jorethang road was also blocked due to a landslide at 16th Mile but following prompt action by the concerned department traffic resumed this afternoon. The road between Ravangla and Yangang is still blocked due to a major landslide at Dojok and Yangyang to Makha at Bhaley Khola.
The district administration is gathering more information on major and minor disasters and is prepared for the necessary action, said SDM Mr. Yonzon.

31/32 legislators vote for the 13th President of India

GANGTOK, 19 July: The election for the 13th President of India, in Sikkim, took place at the Sikkim Legislative Assembly Secretariat in the presence of the official Observer, Dr Rajendra S Shukla and Presiding Officer/ARO-cum-Secretary, SLA, D Rinchen.
The voting took place in a secret ballot system, wherein an electoral college consisting of Members of Parliament and the Legislative Assembly participated in the election process. Voting took place between 9 AM to 5 PM. The Chief Minister arrived at around 11 AM to cast his vote.
Presiding Officer / ARO-cum-Secretary SLA, Mr Rinchen informs that out of the 32 legislators of the State Legislative Assembly, 31 exercised their franchise along with one Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament, at SLA Secretariat, Sikkim which accounts for 97% of the votes. The Upper Burtuk MLA, PS Tamang, was the only legislator who did not vote today.

RGNIYD students assess Service Delivery System and Public Participation at Melli Dara Paiyong GPU

GANGTOK, 19 July: Melli Dara Paiyong Gram Panchayat Unit invited two students from Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development, Chennai, Sudharshana Laxmi and Vishnu Prasad S, both pursuing MA in Local Governance to assess the success of various initiatives taken by the Gram Panchayat in its tenure and also to make an assessment on the satisfaction rate of the people of the Gram Panchayat regarding the Service Delivery System adopted in the Gram Panchayat Unit. 
It may be mentioned here that the Gram Panchayat had visited Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development, Chennai in the year 2011 headed by the president Ganesh K. Rai.
According to a press release, under a program supported by State Institute of Rural Development, the two students have prepared case studies on Service Delivery System and Public Participation of the Gram Panchayat Unit. The Gram Panchayat wants to assess all the initiatives taken in its tenure of five years which is going to end this year.
The case study on Service Delivery System has been prepared by Sudharshana Laxmi with an aim to find out the satisfaction of the public towards Service Delivery System. The release informs that during the case study, it was found that more than 50% of the beneficiaries agree that: Services are provided within stipulated time, Staff are available throughout the working hours, Receipts are provided for all fees paid, Staff are efficient and quick service delivery saves lot of time, Grievances are addressed promptly while 100% people strongly agree that revenue generated is utilized properly
In the concluding remark, it was mentioned that the GPU has attained high level of satisfaction from the residents.
The case study on Public Participation has been prepared by Vishnu Prasad S. The main objective of the case study is to understand functioning of Panchayati Raj in Sikkim with respect to 22-Melli Dara Paiyong Gram Panchayat Unit and to make a critical assessment of public participation in Gram Sabha and other allied activities.
During the course of the study, many facts were revealed which are: Active participation of senior voters in the Gram Sabha is very high, Active participation of youth in Gram Sabha is low and Around 60% of the people are actively participating in Cooperative Societies.
It was further revealed form the study that main strengths of the GPU are Infrastructure, Fund, use of Information Technology and good leadership. The major weakness highlighted was less importance to institutions like SHGs, Youth Club, SMC etc, the release adds.

Seeking their rightful identity. Can they expect some assistance

In Rakdong-Tintek, a small hamlet of East Sikkim I came across two families belonging to the scheduled caste who are going through some tough times but their hopes and courage is still very much alive.
In a small 50 Sq. ft hut and a small blacksmith workshop live two families consisting of 10 members. It was surprising to see their poor living conditions in a place like Rakdong Tintek which is a relatively well to do village. A teacher, YB Bista of Rakdong Junior High School, was gracious enough to provide a small piece of land for the families to stay.
The family members do not have Certificates of Identification and only possess proof of “Dhuri Khazana Receipt” dating back to 1952-1953. As told by them, they remember that their grand father Late Dhan Bdr. Biswakarma (Kami) used to stay in this village and after that their father Late San Bdr. Biswakarma (Kami) also spent his life in this village.
However, the government has not issued them CoIs till date even after approaching the concerned authorities. The families consist of Sita Biswakarma [widow of Late Motilal Biswakarma] and daughter in-law of Late San Bdr. Biswakarma along with her 3 sons and 1 daughter and youngest son of Late San Bdr. Biswakarma, Laxuman Biswakarma along with his 3 children. One of Sita Biswakarma’s children is studying in Class V in the village’s Sunrise Public School, the education is being sponsored by a kind hearted teacher GP Nirola. Amongst the other children, one is studying in Govt. Degree Collge, Rhenock in II year, other one in Class XII in Samdong Sr. Sec. School and one in Rakdong JHS in Class VIII.
While, Laxuman Biswakarma’s children are studying in Class VII, VI and V respectively. The youngest son, Roshan Biswakarma is deaf and dumb and was provided free education and hostel facility upto Class IV at the Special School for the Deaf at Arithang, Gangtok but had to arrange for the uniform and books themselves. Later, the school stopped sponsoring his education and he had to be shifted to a Special School in Darjeeling where he is now studying in Class V.
I was surprised to learn that only 1 person in this family of 10 is earning. The lone breadwinner of the two families earns around Rs. 3,500 per month working as a blacksmith and labourer. It has been difficult for these families to survive on such meager income. Though they have been provided BPL cards, Voters Card and some Aluminium Sheets they are in a pathetic condition. With his limited means, Laxuman Biswakarma is somehow managing to educate his brother’s children and his children supported by the ladies of the two families. He told me that the MLA of this constituency had visited once and assured of help but they are yet to receive any good news after the visit.
A simple man, Laxuman Biswakarma would like to request the government to provide him with Certificate of Identification as he has enough proof required for a CoI. Considering the family’s condition, the Class XII passed son of his Late brother could be given a proper job to support the family while his own son who is born a Sikkimese and suffers from disability should be given proper education in his own state. The Social Welfare Department and other concerned departments and associations should come forward and help the two families.
[The writer is a resident of Majhitar, Rangpo]

Thursday, July 19, 2012

CM urges deeper involvement of Agri and Horti Deptt personnel

GANGTOK, 18 July: “65 percent of the entire state’s budget goes towards payment of salaries to the 50,000 government employees. It is time for the employees to now realise that since a major share of the funds go to them, they should deliver exceptionally well on the responsibilities shouldered on them and leave no room for complaint,” said Chief Minister Pawan Chamling at the daylong interactive meeting with officials and staff of Food Security & Agriculture Development Department and Horticulture Cash Crop Development Department here at Manan Bhawan today.
Also in attendance were around 200 farmers, service providers, and NGO and SHG representatives from all the four districts. The concerned Minister, DN Thakarpa, Chief Secretary Karma Gyatso, Chairman Farmers Welfare Board, PL Subba, Advisor BM Ramudamu, Secretary Agriculture, Vishal Chauhan, Secretaries from different line departments and officials of the various state and central agencies associated with the sector were also present.
The CM, while stressing on the need for government employees to have a more pro- active approach towards the development of the State and keener understanding of the vision of the policy makers, urged all present to deliver on their services with dedication and in the process develop a true sense of belonging and ownership towards the state and its people.
“The farmers and labourers working in the fields depend solely on the decisions officials make for them. Since 90 percent of all employees are also from rural backgrounds, they are expected to understand rural issues, realities, plight and requirements better and address them efficiently. However, such engagement is still awaited and I sincerely hope that you will introspect and keep this in mind from henceforth,” added the CM.
He directed the VLWs and other field functionaries to come forward with proposals on what is feasible and best suited for their respective areas and submit them to the department.
In this context, he remarked that in his 18 years as the Chief Minister, no proposal or solution had come up from government offices dedicated to areas such as agriculture and horticulture towards making this field of employment and revenue generation more lucrative, attractive and appealing to the coming generations.
“Professionalism in this sector has to be developed and a farmer should be made to understand and rewarded in a way that he or she will not abandon this sector for other professions and for that matter also attract the unemployed youth  into this sector that has enjoys so much respectability in other countries,” stated the CM.
Here, he added that opting for the revolutionary State Organic Mission was one such venture that had been envisioned by the government to make this sector lucrative with high benefits and less volume.
“We have to start taking examples from regions that are still working hard and doing well without the required natural resources, a feature that we are so rich in. We have all the required aspects to be the best so why don’t we capitalize on it? We should all realise that without understanding our responsibilities we are not going to achieve our goal of a totally organic and self reliant state by 2015,” he highlighted.
Further, the CM expressed that he had considered opting for organic farming since he deeply felt about the need for transformation in the existing agriculture sector.
“I have seen my mother and father work tirelessly in the fields and still their lives carried on without even being able to give proper education to their children. Even today, when you ask a child from the villages what their parents do, they still hesitate from saying that they are farmers. Why this mindset still prevails and how we can change this should be our aim now,” explained the CM.
Another reason cited by him for opting to go totally organic was for health reasons. “Going organic is going for a healthy Sikkim. There is nothing more valuable than life and in existing times, the food we consume is actually killing us. By going organic we want to counter this problem first and then other benefits will follow. Recently, we were also on national television for our revolutionary role towards this positive transformation for which we have now been recognized everywhere, we have become the trendsetters,” he stated.
On the day, the CM also announced that an auction house would soon be set up at the Greenfield airport coming up at Pakyong where horticulture and agriculture produce can be sold in bulk. This auction house will have all the required facilities like warehousing and cold storage, and will be managed by the Agriculture and Horticulture Department, he informed.
Earlier, officials from the two departments made power-point presentations on the Sikkim Organic Mission and preparation made thus far for the International Flower Show 2013, the progress made by the Agriculture and Horticulture departments respectively. It was informed here that the major challenges in the sector at present were sustainability and market linkages.
It may be informed that the state has planned one of the biggest flower shows from 23 to 27 February 2013. The International Flower Show was initiated in 2008 and this coming year the government has plans to make it a grand event as well.
It was also mentioned that Rs. 422.31 lakh has been used by the department in the sector as per directions given by the CM during his 42 days village-to-village tour last year. Similarly, light was also shed on the establishment of livelihood schools and initiation of training programmes for farmers on their roles and responsibilities.
Lastly, it was also informed that the State Organic Mission had started with a certified area of 8,128 Ha and during its first phase in the year 2010-11 covered 18,242 Ha and similarly covered 20,708 Ha during the second phase 2011-12. The third phase during the year 2012-13 will see 11,058 Ha being covered under organic farming which will amount to approximately 58,218 Ha of total land under organic farming in the state.

Report of State Govt committee on Omchung Jail miscalculation still awaited


GANGTOK, 18 July: The report of the state government on the Omchung Jail misadventure is still due. The report was to be submitted to the State government by the concerned agency on 30 June. The state government has been much lambasted in the latest CAG report over the decision to construct the jail at Omchung in West Sikkim.
However, even before the CAG report had been placed before the Sikkim Assembly in the last week of June 2012, the state government had set up a committee to examine the issues with regard to the damages of District Prison at Omchung, Gyalshing, West Sikkim.
This committee was set up in early May 2012 by the government ostensibly sensing that something had gone very wrong with the project and also probably in anticipation of the criticism coming its way regarding the project in the report of the Comptroller and Accountant General.
This was a high powered committee headed by the Secretary, Roads & Bridges department as chairman and included Secretaries of Buildings & Housing, Water Security and PHED, the principal director, Mines and Geology; DIG, Prisons; Additional Secretary, Land Revenue and the Chief Engineer, Building & Housing.
The committee was to inspect the affected site and prepare a technical report; besides the government had also directed it to conduct field studies and prepare a set of recommendations based on the field findings and submit its final report to the government by the end of June, 2012.
As of now there is no indication that the report is ready or submitted to the government. While the construction of the sub jail had been taken up in the year 2005-06 it was only 6 years later that the government woke up to the fact that there had been a miscalculation and mis-assessment of the project leading to the constitution of a fact finding committee in May this year.
However it is learnt that before the project was executed, the Mines & Geology Department had been asked to give its opinion following which the department forwarded that the area fell under subsidence zone since 2001-02 and was thus unsuitable for construction.
The Building and Housing Department however went ahead and took up the construction of ‘Sub-Jail Complex at Omchung’, West Sikkim on the requisition of Police Department from April 2005 at an estimated cost of Rs. 5.14 crore, and subsequently revised on October 2008 to Rs. 6.61 crore, under the scheme of Modernisation of Police Force. Till date, an expenditure of Rs 5.90 crore was incurred towards completion of 90 per cent civil work.
While the report of the committee is overdue the CAG has come out with its report on the project which states “absence of detailed survey and investigation of the land profile to identify its suitability for construction of jail at Omchung in West Sikkim ultimately led to abandoning of structure and infructuous expenditure of Rs. 5.90 crore, besides denying accommodation to the jail inmates of West district.”

Khadi Board employees not paid salaries for 2 months

GANGTOK, 18 July: The Sikkim Khadi and Village Industries Board employees have not got their salaries for the last two months i.e May and June. The employees have approached all the higher authorities but the release of their pending salary is still awaited.
The Board’s employees have already approached the management of the Board and the authorities have also reportedly approached the Department of Commerce and Industries, the nodal department of SK&VI Board, Minister concerned and Finance and Revenue Department but the matter remains unaddressed.
The aggrieved employees of the Board expressed that non-payment of salaries for two months is causing a lot of financial problems for them. The Finance and Revenue Expenditure Department had assured the SK&VI Board that salaries will be released in the first week of July, however this has not happened as yet, they inform.
The department of Commerce and Industries has reportedly submitted a cabinet memo, but the Cabinet is yet to sit and pass a decision in the matter, official sources informed. The Third and Fourth grade employees, in particular, are obviously facing a host of difficulties.
The SK&VI Board, which has more than 70 employees [including the Chief Executive Officer who is under deputation from the State government], is under extreme pressure for early payment of salary.
As per the Sikkim Khadi & Village Industries Board Act 1996, the office expenses and salaries of the employees of Board is to be borne by the State Government.

Inspection reveals impending disaster at Bringbong

GANGTOK, 18 July: The District Collector [North] accompanied by the Passingdang BDO along with the concerned Assistant Engineer and other officials of the district level Disaster Management team conducted a joint inspection of a spot near Hee-Gyathang where a landslide had occurred recently.
A press release informs that during the inspection conducted on 17 July, it was observed that owing to last year’s earthquake, visible cracks had developed on a land mass along the DSM road and a heavy boulder was hanging precariously on the hill above the Bringbong area. This poses a threat to the government Primary School and seven houses located directly below it, the release adds.
On inspection, it was felt that immediate action needs to be taken before a disaster occurs and the public, panchayat and DC North assured full cooperation for this purpose.
Taking all this into account, the BDO concerned has alerted the general public of Bringbong and asked them to take safety measures. The concerned officials of the GREF have also been intimated to take up restoration of the disrupted road connectivity, the release further mentions.

Another minor sexually assault

GANGTOK, 18 July: Following the recent sexual assault on a minor at Development Area, Gangtok, comes news of another alleged sexual assault on a minor, this time at Dalep under Temi police jurisdiction in South Sikkim. 
According to reports, the accused, who is also a minor aged 17, working as a handy-boy lived with the relatives of the victim’s family. The incident took place at around 7:30 PM on 17 July when the mother of the minor asked her to go down to the ground floor of the house on some errand.
When the daughter did not return for some time, the mother went downstairs; this was when she caught the accused in the act. The accused has been arrested and both the accused and the victim were forwarded for medical examination.

Vehicle set ablaze in Soreong

GANGTOK, 18 July: A case of arson has been reported from Soreong, West Sikkim. According to reports a vehicle belonging to MK Subba of Singling was set on fire at around 1:30 AM of 18 July. The vehicle, a Maruti van, SK04 –T- 0024 had been parked at Singling Gumpa phatak, police sources inform. 

11 taxis plying to North Sikkim challaned

GANGTOK, 18 July: A nakabandi at Chungthang by the Chungthang police resulted in 11 vehicles being challaned for not having proper documents for ferrying tourists towards North Sikkim. A total of 29 vehicles were checked and 11 were found to be plying without the required permits, it is informed.
Permits for the tourists themselves are issued by the SDM, Mangan but vehicle documents are also required to be verified. The police explain that this is necessary for vehicles travelling further into North Sikkim as the poor road conditions can lead to accidents.


In reference to the “Viewpoint” published in your newspaper on 17 July 2012, “Seeking their rightful identity. Can they expect some assistance” written by a resident of Majhitar, Rangpo. Anushuchit Jati Kalyan Sangh, Namchi, South Sikkim thanks the writer for bringing up the issue through his write-up which works as a eye-opener for the Sangh like AJKS which is committed to work for the welfare of the Scheduled Caste community of the State.
AJKS sincerely express the apology to those family members of Rakdong Tintek, a small hamlet of East Sikkim, who are going through the tough time and AJKS unable to extend any help to them and also unaware till the matter was brought to light by the print media.
AJKS thanks and is really in debt of Mr. Y. B. Bista, a teacher of Rakdong Tintek JHS for providing a piece of land and Mr. G.P. Nirola, Principal, Sunrise Public School, Rakdong for sponsoring the children of that family. We salute both of them for their kindness.
If Sita Biswakarma and Laxuman Biswakarma are regularly paying Dhuri Khazana to the concerned department and posses BPL cards, Voters Cards, AJKS hopes that the Government or the concerned District Collectorate will provide the Certificate of Identification (CoI) as per the norms. AJKS agrees that if they are given CoI, then the educated members of the family will be able to secure a proper job to support the family.
AJKS though the newspaper appeals to the All Sikkim Scheduled Caste Welfare Association, Scheduled Castes Officers Club, politicians, social workers and the conscious individuals of the Scheduled Caste community to come forward and become the eyes, ears and mouths of this family. It’s high time to all of us to come together this family. AJKS assure full support to this family.
Binay Gazmer, Chief Co-ordinator, AJKS

Editorial: Lessons From the Televised Assault

The Guwahati monstrosity in which a teenaged girl was molested by a mob of around 25 men on a major thoroughfare was a beamed into living rooms across the country courtesy 24x7 satellite news channels. The incident, now notorious as the “televised assault”, was undoubtedly shocking and served as a reminder on the horrors women in our country are exposed to on a regular basis. The footage was revolting, and the blurring of the victim’s face did nothing to cover the trauma she must have experienced. Although several hands could be seen rising to shoot MMS recordings of the episode, none reached out in help. The abomination, one is told, played out for nearly half an hour, allowing enough time for a TV crew to reach the spot and film, but not enough for humanitarian or even timely police intervention. There is no denying that the episode deserved unanimous condemnation, and it did shriek from every TV news studio. Eventually, when the National Commission for Women flew in a fact-finding team from Delhi to distant Guwahati, it fulminated with righteous outrage, but returned with one of its members not only divulging the name of the teenaged victim at a press briefing, but even claiming that she had done no wrong in giving out the name. The Assam government matched the insensitivity by including a photograph of the victim in a press release on their chief minister’s visit and assurances of help and justice. The disclosure was immediately retracted, but the attitude had already been exposed.
The recap is not just to refresh details of the incident, but to flag attitudes which make public spaces so unsafe for women in India. The macabre incident played out on a busy street [vehicles can be seen slowing down and passing on in the background], but no one bothered to enquire or intervene. We remain a country [and this is not about Guwahati alone] where a mob can turn vicious on the smallest pretext, but a crowd rarely gathers to save a child in obvious distress. What could have held back the passersby from stopping the madness? Disinterest maybe, and in even worse possible scenario, a suspicion that the victim had probably invited the assault. Media coverage of the incident does not get into how the assault began. This overlooked angle needs prying, not because it can justify or condone the attack, but because it will provide important lessons on how the beast [the molesters and onlookers were all undeniably beasts] has grown so strong. For one, the increasing susceptibility of media agencies to respond to tip-offs and film grotesque episodes of moral policing is to blame, but in the Guwahati incident, the role is even more macabre. What is disgusting is that this role is being largely ignored, left unexplained beyond mentions that there are allegations that the journalist in question instigated the mob. Why is no one asking how? No matter how depraved a journalist might be and no matter how desperate he might be for a story, he cannot instigate a mob into molestation for TV. Friends of the victim quoted is some reports coming out of the northeast, reveal that the reporter had been filming them since they were inside the bar outside which the incident transpired. Apparently, the group of girls created a scene inside the bar and were evicted. The reporter began filming them on his mobile phone outside the bar. In his twisted mind, he was probably putting together a sensational story on the moral degeneration of the youth. Outside, one of the girls confronted him and demanded that he stop filming, which is when he revealed that he was journalist and called in a camera crew. As a ‘scene’ broke out, he called out to some bystanders to detain the girls. This is when the group panicked and ran away, but one of them could not escape the paws. Incidentally, this version has reportedly been corroborated by two of the accused, who claim that they were told by the journalist to detain the girls. This perhaps explains why the mob can be seen posing for the camera instead of breaking the camera which a mob so caught in the act would have done. Once in the hands of the mob, the situation deteriorated and the televised mob molestation was served up. Why is it that this sequence of events, which in no way relieves the blame on the molesters, but also shoulders blame [perhaps larger blame] on the role of the media in the incident, not being more widely circulated? The debate over the media’s role is limited at present to whether they should have filmed and aired [initially without blurring the girl’s face] the incident instead of helping her. And then there is the joke that goes by the punch-line – National Commission for Women. An incident which had justifiable caused national uproar was provided a fact-finding team staffed by such poorly groomed and disinterested members as the one who not only revealed the name of the victim at a press briefing, but also saw nothing wrong in it. She was removed from the team, but then the NCW chairperson opened her mouth and said that women should “dress safely”. Coming in the wake of the Guwahati episode, this demoralising comment explains the offensive mindset which looks at incidents such as this and suspects that the victim might have somehow invited the outrage. “Aping the West blindly is eroding our culture and causing such crimes to happen,” she has been quoted as saying! With a Commission dedicated to Women being so insensitive, it is not surprising that government agencies slip up and a society groomed on a popular culture which equates “western” dresses with “loose morals” and sees gender inequalities played out all around them, ends up harming women every time an opportunity presents itself.
Admittedly, this portrays a rather dismal picture, but the shame, all shades of it, needs to be confronted before it can be hounded out. It is important that the story not end with arrest of all the accused molesters. The media needs to investigate its own agent provocateur role. Questions need to asked on why national TV channels accepted edited versions of the episode and not secure the raw footage to ensure that all culprits, including its own, were publicly shamed and exposed? The NCW itself needs to be reinforced with members who understand their roles better and recognise the challenges more clearly. Bored time-servers will not do, and stronger laws will not help as much as stronger members. The Guwahati incident has returned all these issues to the public domain [even if they are still not being recognised as such], and if a lesson is to be learnt, it will have to address all these issues and make amends.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

CM offers Saawan prayers in South Sikkim

NAMCHI, 17 July [IPR]: Saawan is supposed to be an auspicious and holy month especially for offering prayers to Lord Shiva. Chief Minister Pawan Chamling along with his wife Tika Maya Chamling visited the Shiva Mandir at Khola Ghari and offered their prayers there today.
During the visit to the temple, they prayed for the well being of the people of Sikkim and for peace and serenity in the state. They also took part in the Yagya performed at the temple.
The CM also met with the various priests at the temple and requested them to pray for the well being of the people as well as for the state of Sikkim. Later in the afternoon, the CM along with his wife also visited Siddeshvara Dham in Solophok and offered prayers.

Landslide at Tarkhola cuts off Sikkim

GANGTOK, 17 July: Sikkim was cut off from the rest of the country for most of the day today following landslides on NH 31A at 10th Mile, Tarkhola in West Bengal beyond Rangpo towards Melli after heavy rains continued through the weekend.
Official sources from the Rangpo Police Station inform that hundreds of vehicles, mostly trucks and transport utility vehicles carrying supplies and essential commodities, were lined up on either side of the landslide that occurred at around 11PM last night. It is further informed that smaller passenger vehicles including taxis are plying the Rangpo- Monsoong-Kalimpong and Chitrey route to get to Siliguri. (The alternative route takes around 2 hours or more and is unfit for big vehicles to ply). The slide was eventually cleared at around 4 p.m. for one-way regulated traffic.
SNT trucks and buses that left for Siliguri this morning from Gangtok are informed to have returned back with the passengers opting to travel to Siliguri in smaller vehicles via the alternative route from Rangpo. Many passengers who went to the SNT bus stand this morning had to come down to the private bus stand since SNT did not send any more buses to Siliguri today. Passengers could be seen waiting for vehicles to get them to Siliguri through the alternative route at the Siliguri stand in Deorali today with many taxis staying off the road because of the glitches along the highway.  
Work gangs of the Border Road Organisation (BRO) were hard at work trying to clear the debris and eventually cleared it for one-way traffic at around 4 p.m. The fact that it did not rain the entire day helped in the road clearing works.

Sikkim to introduce e-filing of Sales Tax, VAT and Environment Cess

GANGTOK, 17 July: Filing of taxes such as Sales tax, VAT and even the Environment Cess payable by dealers and enterprises will be a lot simpler with the government preparing for the e- filing of such tax returns, payments and assessments. 
The state government has effected an amendment to various tax related Acts and rules including the Sikkim Sales Tax Rules, 1983, Sikkim Value Added Tax Rules, 2005 and the Sikkim Ecology Fund and Environment Cess Rules, 2007 which would save a lot of paperwork for businessmen and the concerned department alike when it comes to tax related functions under these rules. By the insertion of a new rule, enterprises, dealers and traders will be enabled with the facility of being able to file application for registration including payment of taxes etc with the Commercial Tax Division by electronic communication media.
Filing of tax returns, declarations, registrations, assessments which come under the Acts related to these rules will be a lot simpler with the provision of accepting the same through electronic communication media. As per the new rule, the various processes which can be done electronically include application for registration, generation of declaration forms, payment of tax, filing applications for refunds, filing of periodical returns, framing of assessments and any other purpose as may be notified by the Commissioner.
The concerned authority will, however, have to issue necessary procedures for the various tax related functions by way of notification to make them effective and to bring them into practice by dealers and business houses. While these are still awaited it is definitely a good move which should make life so much more simpler for the dealers with the option to file their taxes and returns etc electronically and also save a lot of paper work.

Press Club marks decadal foundation day with Khangchendzonga Kalam Puraskar for Jigme N Kazi

GANGTOK, 17 July: Press Club of Sikkim [PCS] celebrated its decadal Foundation Day in grand manner today at Janta Bhawan. The function was chaired by former PCS president, CD Rai, while senior journalist and playwright, CK Shrestha, was present as the chief guest and Information and Public Relation Department Secretary, KS Topgay, the guest of honour.
On the occasion, the 8th Khangchendzonga Kalam Puraskar was conferred on senior journalist, Editor Sikkim Observer and Himalayan Guardian, Jigme N Kazi, while the correspondent of Hindustan Samachar news agency, Bishal Gurung was awarded the Laganshil Yuwa Patrakar Puraskar [Dedicated young journalist award]. Likewise, the Press Club of Sikkim also felicitated the Samay Dainik correspondent for Darjeeling, Mohan Lama, today.
Addressing the function, the chief guest, highlighted that journalists should not misguide readers and should always be proactive is searching out stories. He added that journalists are part of the society as others, but because they are part of the information media, had a more significant and more responsible role towards addressing social concerns.
IPR Secretary, Mr Topgay, in turn assured to extend all possible help and support for the development and welfare of the journalist fraternity and the Press Club.
PCS president, Bhim Rawat mentioned that the club has been working for the welfare and unity of the journalists in the state and urged everyone remain united. He expressed his gratitude to Mr. Shrestha for helping the PCS build a Journalist Welfare fund through his play performed by journalists in 2008.
The Khangchendzonga Kalam Puraskar awardee, Mr. Kazi, in his acceptance speech, said, “I believe that by conferring this award to this long-time black-listed man, who is forced to live in self-imposed exile in his own homeland, the Press in Sikkim is sending a clear message to those who care to listen. And that message is loud and clear: the Press in Sikkim wants to be more free and independent and those in power and the people at large should take note of it and respect its stand.”
The programme concluded with a vote of thanks speech proposed by Amber Gurung.

Incorrect and incomplete addresses holding up distribution of UID cards

GANGTOK, 17 July: The Department of Posts has been at the receiving end of criticism for its failure to deliver Adhaar cards [Unique Identification cards] to the people. The distribution process started way back in October last year and at present as many as 1.5 lakh cards still need to be delivered out of the 4 lakh or so cards released by to the Department of Posts for delivery to card holders. And the number is increasing as more consignments get deposited at the post offices every day. 
It may be informed that the postal department has been commissioned by DESME for the delivery of the cards to the general public, who, at the moment, are dissatisfied with the entire process.
NOW! spoke to the concerned officials at the Head Post Office here to find out the reasons for the alleged irregularities in the distribution process of UID cards. Officials highlighted that even with all the manpower and extra hours put in by all, the manner in which the addresses have been marked and other major discrepancies in the data put into the cards has created this ‘confusion’ for the general public as well as the Department of Posts.
Pointing at the huge bundles of UID cards that have addresses marked in the most confusing manner – for eg. “Arithang, below Paljor Stadium” and other similarly confusing addresses like “Tibet Road, below Lall Market” - the officials at the post office have also shed light on lapses on the part of the concerned authorities for not putting in the required phone numbers in the cards even when there is space for the same to be filled along with permanent addresses.
“We are facing a lot of problems in delivering the cards since the addresses are very confusing. There are cards of small children with their ages mentioned as 47 years and photos of old people. We also want to clarify that some people in a particular family have received the cards while others have not and this is because of the way in which the cards have been sent to us. Whatever cards are sent to us in bulk we immediately distribute them through the 18 postmen and women we have deployed for this purpose within Gangtok alone,” informs an official.
Similarly, she adds that the postal department has also gone out of its way to put in late nights and ‘heavy-duty’ for the delivery of cards by putting in additional beats for the postmen to cover. These postmen are doing double duty by actually delivering cards up to areas such as Banjhakri Falls and then moving towards Sichey towards Bhojoghari and Burtuk.
“As you can see we have also transformed our speed post section as one area which is specifically dedicated to distribution and data for UID cards. Other than this we have also given another room in the head office where people can come and collect their cards on their own as well. It is very difficult for us to balance the already posted letters, parcels, speed posts etc to be delivered but we have not compromised in any way. If there are no proper addresses then where will we deliver the cards?” questioned the official.
It was also informed that the department in a recently convened a meeting with DESME had proposed that the respective panchayats and councilors come and collect the cards of their localities in bulk which would be an effective means for distribution since these people would know the people in their areas personally. However, even this proposal has not materialized although some panchayats have come forward at their personal level to take over the task.
“To make it more convenient, we have even opened the sealed envelopes so that the postmen and women can identify the people in the photographs and have also delivered some cards in this manner. However, there are problems like some people getting two cards, one that has the correct data and photograph and one that does not. This we want to highlight is not the postal department’s fault that these cards do not have the correct data,” added the official.
Reasons, like people changing their temporary addresses and delivering the cards to people from outside the state who have already changed residence after the 18 September earthquake or for that matter gone back to their respective states is also one big challenge the postal department.
The department also informs that they have been sending the UID cards for the districts to the district head offices every-time a new bulk of cards come in with no cards pending at the moment for delivery and that it is convenient for the delivery of cards in rural areas rather than urban areas where people change their residence more frequently.
“We know that there are still problems that exist and we are trying our best to iron out all these problems. We want to add that we have put in extra manpower and extra computers and have taken all necessary steps and are trying our best not to leave any stone unturned in this process,” stated the official.

DoP introduces time-bound promotion scheme for police personnel

GANGTOK, 17 July: There has been much consternation and dissatisfaction among members of the State Police service over promotions and while much of the dissent over this matter never spilled out into the open there was disgruntlement within the ranks over the issue of long pending promotions especially those in the lower ranks; the petition filed by Adup Tshering also added to the consternation. However, the State government, through the Department of Personnel, has now issued a scheme of time-bound promotion for those in the state police service from Constable to Assistant Sub Inspectors. 
As per the scheme, a Constable is to be promoted to the rank of Lance Naik on completion of 10 years of service; a Lance Naik will be accorded the rank of Naik on completion of 5 years of service and a Naik is to be promoted to the rank of Head Constable on completion of 5 years. On completion of 5 years, a Head Constable will be entitled to promotion to the rank of Assistant Sub Inspector.
Furthermore, and what should also bring cheer to the police ranks, these promotions up to the post of ASI will be on a time bound basis and not linked to any vacancy. Needless to add, most of the force in the lower ranks is pleased with the issuance of this order of the state government.
On the other hand the department has also notified the scales of pay to the members of the State Police Service as follows: a PI is entitled to Pay Band-2 of Rs. 9300-34800 & Grade Pay of Rs. 5000 as admissible to Under Secretary in the State Civil Service which is already availed by the Inspector of Police.
A DSP is entitled to Pay Band-2 of Rs. 9300-34800 & Grade Pay of Rs. 5400 which is already availed by the Deputy Superintendent of Police; ASPs are entitled to Pay Band-3 of Rs. 15600-39100 & Grade Pay of Rs. 6200 as admissible to Deputy Secretary in the State Civil Service which is already availed by the Additional Superintendent of Police; an SP is entitled to Pay Band-3 of Rs. 15600-39100 & Grade Pay of Rs. 7200 as admissible to Joint Secretary in the State Civil Service; SSPs are entitled to Pay Band-3 of Rs. 15600-39100 & Grade Pay of Rs. 8700 as admissible to Additional Secretary in the State Civil Service and officer in the rank of a DIG is entitled to Pay Band-4 of Rs. 37400-67000 & Grade Pay of Rs. 9000 as admissible to Special Secretary in the State Civil Service.

BJP to contest panchayat polls

GANGTOK, 17 July: National Executive Member and the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] State In-charge for Sikkim, Indirasena Reddy, who is on a three-day tour of the State interacted with the media-persons here at the BJP office at Tadong today.
Speaking to the press, he stated that the BJP will be contesting the upcoming Panchayat Elections scheduled to be held in the state in September-October. “I had come on a visit to Sikkim and during our executive party meeting we decided to contest the coming Panchayat Elections to be held in Sikkim”, said Mr Reddy.
“We will be fielding candidates for all the wards and the party will not be getting into an alliance with any other party,” he said and added that with this local body election the BJP wants to enter the villages and strengthen the party and prepare the ground for the next Assembly elections. He informed that the party was confident of giving a good show during the Panchayat elections.
“There are tremendous anti-incumbency factors playing against the Chamling government and the people are thinking of an alternate who can fight the present Chief Minister without any compromise, particularly with regards to corruption, price rise, farmer’s issues, illegal site alotments, students’ issues and other public issues,” he contended.
The Sikkim State In-charge further informed that to strengthen the party, he will be visiting Sikkim again in the month of August and will also be here during the Panchayat elections.
“We will be holding further meetings regarding the same and after the poll dates are announced we will start our campaigning,” informed the BJP President, Sikkim Unit, Padam Chettri. He added that the party is taking the upcoming panchayat elections seriously and will start campaigning from the first week of August.

Ranipool food godown shifted to Lagyap

GANGTOK, 17 July [IPR]: The Food and Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Ranipool Food Godown has been shifted to the newly repaired and renovated shed at Lagyap provided by the Energy and Power Department and it has become functional w.e.f. 10 July 2012. Earlier the food godown was accommodated in rented premises but had to be shifted temporarily to Central Car Workshop at Jalipool after the earthquake.
The Food and Civil Supplies and CA Department appreciates the gesture of the Transport Department for providing temporary accommodation in the hour of need and to the Energy and Power Department for allotting the present premises which is convenient for distribution of foodgrains under Public Distribution System to the public of Ranipool and surrounding areas.

Two new bikes stolen

GANGTOK, 17 July: Two new bikes have been reportedly stolen from Dalep under Temi police jurisdiction. These are two separate incidents of thefts but reported on the same day and from the same locality.
A motorcycle belonging to Bikash Chettri of Dalep, a black Yamaha Frazer, 07-4620, was stolen from his front porch on the morning of 15 July. Similarly the bike of Suraj Subba also of Dalep, parked in front of his room on the night of 14 July, was missing the next morning. This was also a recently purchased bike, a Pulsar WB-R-1004. There no leads yet on the whereabouts of the motorcycles.

Magisterial probe underway on 18-yr-old housewife’s death

GANGTOK, 17 July: A magisterial probe is underway to determine the death of an 18-year-old housewife. The deceased had married two years ago; her husband is reportedly a taxi driver by profession. On 16 July locals of Middle Lingding called the Sadar police informing them of the teenaged housewife’s suicide. A medico legal autopsy has been directed by the SDM, East, to ascertain the cause of death as per the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code. 

Ambulance falls into Rangeet, claims one

GANGTOK, 17 July: An accident on 14 July, involving an ambulance claimed the life of one person. The ambulance, a Tata Sumo [SK-04P-2217], of the NHPC Rangeet Nagar, fell off the road into the Rangeet taking with it the driver and two other passengers. The driver, LB Chettri, is reported to have succumbed to his injuries. 
The accident took place at Champa, about four and a half kilometers from the Melli police station. The ambulance was returning from Siliguri to Rangeet Nagar when it met with accident at around 5:30 p.m. on Saturday evening. The vehicle, it is learnt fell down around 80 feet and landed in the river. The Melli Police Station was informed in time and a team led by SI Kessang Bhutia and cincluding Constables Chogyal Lepcha, Santa Kumar Rai and Aita Hang Subba and Home Guards Bir Bahadur Rai and Yog Bahadur Gurung rushed to the spot and mounted the rescue effort.
When they reached the spot, the three occupants of the vehicle, including the driver, were still inside the ambulance which itself was in the Rangeet.
All the three victims were rushed to the Melli PHC for treatment. One of the passengers, Amit Pandey, was referred on to Siliguri for treatment while B. Pandey received first aid for the minor injuries sustained. Unfortunately the driver, LB Chettri, succumbed to his injuries at the PHC at around 6:50 PM the same day. All three were NHPC employees stationed at Rangeet Nagar.

Sikkim’s Magnolias- Overshadowed but still beautiful

Magnolia campbelli var alba
Rhododendrons occupy much space in the popular imagination when one thinks of Sikkim and its floral beauty but this small flowering tree, the Magnolia, in its different forms also deserves equal, if not more, appreciation and concern, writes DECHEN LACHUNGPA

My father and I happened to drive to Darjeeling with the intention of taking photographs of Magnolias in bloom. The place is famous worldwide for its magnolias. Infact it has served as a gene pool for some of the hybrids propagated commercially. The first tree we came across was at Jorebungalow. It was a pink form of Magnolia campbelli growing very close to the main road. From there on the entire area of Ghoom, Darjeeling town, Jaldapahara, Rongbull, Sonada, Sukhya Pokhari was found covered with pinkish and white forms of Magnolia. We noted that magnolia trees were found concentrated in urban areas. It may be the case that these trees were planted by the Britishers for whom Darjeeling was a summer retreat. It is quite a spectacle when these trees that flower gregariously are in full bloom. Darjeeling looks more beautiful and picturesque at this lean period from last week of May to June, than during the peak tourist season. Since these magnolias are found in urban areas, due to population pressure, there may come a time when these trees have to be removed to make way for constructional space. I pray and hope that the trees will be preserved over years to come. Magnolia campbelli is native to Himalayas and found at altitude of 7000 ft to 10000 ft. It’s the “Queen of Magnolias” named after Archibald Campbell by Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker. Amongst these pink and white forms a lot of variation were observed - creamy white, deep pink, light pink, some with darker pink at base. It is high time that these trees are propagated vegetatively in order to preserve and protect these new variants.
Closer home, Sikkim is blessed with the white form of Magnolia campbelli var. alba commonly called as Gogey Chaap. It can be seen growing in scattered patches at Phadamchen, Lachung, Lachen, Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary and Tholung.  A small patch plantation can be seen on the way to Tsongmo. It was planted during 1985 by forester Late Chezung Lachungpa, which has now started blooming. The pink form is very rare in Sikkim and one tree can be found at Raj Bhavan Complex behind the Governors’ residence. I chanced upon this tree while doing an inventory for the book “Biodiversity of Raj Bhavan” along with SZ Lucksom.
M. Globosa at Lachung
Incidentally Sikkim’s rich forest also has a beautiful species of Magnolia globosa commonly called as Kokre Chaap. It is found as a large shrub or small tree at 8000 ft to 11000 ft from Eastern Nepal to China. It is found in the areas of Tholung and Lachung. Hidden amongst the grove of the popular Sikkim Rhododendrons and the majestic Silver firs these truly very beautiful trees seem to go unnoticed - in all probability overshadowed by the hypnotic aura and beauty of Rhododendrons. Its flowers are creamy white with red anthers which do not open fully and form egg shaped cups, commonly referred to as “hen magnolia”. It is a deciduous tree and the size of the flowers found in the Eastern Himalayas is the biggest.
Another such species found in the forests of Sikkim is Magnolia hodgsonii (syn. Talauma hodgsonii). It is a small evergreen tree found at 4000-5000 ft in forests of Dzongu, Toong, Naga and Rhenock. It flowers from the months of May to June. Sir JD Hooker has regarded this tree as the handsomest of Magnolia species in the whole of Eastern Himalayas. Sadly this tree is fast becoming rare and sincere efforts should be made towards its propagation.
Magnolias are the most primitive of flowering plants. The magnolia flowers do not have distinct petals and sepals and hence the name “tepal” was coined for the first time. It evolved millions of years before bees, wasps and butterflies so they rely on beetles as their pollinators. Beetle pollinated flowers are characterized by their large size, white pink or red colour, abundance of pollen and lack of nectar. Beetles are fond of pollens which is a rich food source.
Magnolias find a special place in gardens all over the world. M. campbellai has been hybridized and many beautiful garden hybrids have been developed. Magnolia flowers have been featured in Chinese porcelains tapestries etc since they symbolize purity and candour. Magnolias can be considered as an indicator species for climate change. M.liliflora, M.grandiflora, M.soulengiana, M.stellata are some of the exotic hybrids introduced and cultivated in gardens of Sikkim and neighbouring states.
Magnolias are propagated through seeds, grafting, layering and cuttings. Seed propagation takes a longer time to flower, about 5-15 years. Seed should be collected after the fruiting clone splits open. Seeds should be cleaned by soaking in detergent to remove the oily film. It is advisable to propagate these trees through vegetative propagation in order to maintain a pure line. The favourable season for plantation in case of dormant varieties is January to March and in case of evergreen variety after the first monsoon shower in June.  During plantation care has to be taken that the root system of magnolia is not damaged, since they have fleshy roots and will not heal easily.
In the wild it usually grows in association with other tree species and takes advantage of the shade provided by the trees. This is so because the associate trees serve as nurse plant, the family magnoliaceae requires protection at early stage of growth till it attains height of 10 to 12 ft. Magnolias are tolerant of urban areas which tend to have warmer temperatures and shelter provided by the buildings. They grow well in small beds or adjacent to buildings with only paving slabs. The root grows under the slabs and takes advantage of the protection provided by the slab. Since they do not have penetrating roots it can ideally be grown close to buildings.
The saying “we do not realize what we have until it’s gone” holds very true. We have such a rich repository of very beautiful flowering trees. The trees may not be commercially valuable for timber but nonetheless these trees because of their beauty have to be given importance and people should be encouraged to grow them. The trees are ideal for plantation during the State Green Mission and Ten Minutes to Earth.
[The writer is a Divisional Forest Officer, JICA assisted SBFP project, of the State Forest Department]

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


With heavy rains reported along the valley and as the Teesta Stage V dam at Dikchu opened the sluice gates for another round of flushing the reservoir [of silt] on Sunday, the Teesta flowed thick and fast downstream, surging as it reached Singtam washing away a makeshift toilet and inundated the meat stalls along the left bank with water and slush. The increase in water level can be seen here as it now kisses the ground floors of most buildings along the river bank [on the right bank]. It was neither possible, nor safe for the meat stall to be kept in operation and the stall shifted to the embankment, operating out in the open. [from NANDU DUTRAJ]

Learn from Bhanubhakta and bring communities together, CM appeals

GANGTOK, 15 July: Chief Minister Pawan Chamling will undertake a new ‘bhraman’, this time touringthe State to visit schools and interact with the students. Making this announcement during the final day of the Bhanu Jayanti celebrations, the CM underlined that the State has been developing physically [infrastructure-wise] but is still lacking when it comes to adopting a positive mindset and thinking.
The CM was present as the chief guest on the final day of the three-day 198th Bhanu Jayanti Samaroh 2012 at Mannan Bhawan on 13 July. The occasion was marked with various cultural events and included a Sobha Yatra earlier in the morning.
On the occasion, Nepali Bhasa Sewa Shree award to former Chief Secretary, PK Pradhan, Nepali Bhasa Patrakarita Shree to Wangchuk Bhutia, North District Correspondent of NOW!, Nepali Kala Sangeet Shree to Madhusudan Lama, Nepali Kala Natya Shree to Thaman Naubagh, Nepali Kala Chitrakala Shree to Hem Khawas and Nepali Sahitya Srijana Shree to Chandra Dulal were also presented by the CM.
Speaking further on the topic, the CM said, “I have no personal agenda and just want to work more for the people of Sikkim and especially for the student community in the state”. He mentioned that despite the priority given to the sector, education in the state still remains “certificate oriented” so now he hopes to make education “life oriented” for students of the state.
Speaking on Bhanu Bhakta Acharya’s contributions, the CM said that it was the poet who made Nepali the language of the masses which not only helped in communication but also brought the community together. People should understand and evaluate his contributions and continue the work which he started towards the unification of the Nepali community, the CM added.
He rued that complacency has set in within the Nepali speaking community which it needs to shake away and urged all to think seriously on the issue.
The CM also mentioned that sections of the educated in the state have been raising poorly informed bogeys and that some politicians were taking advantage of the situation. He urged the heads of different communities to lead the society on the right path in order to strengthen the Sikkimese society.
He further stressed on refraining from giving a communal twist to issues and stated that until the Sikkimese did not have the capacity to use their rights and deliver on their responsibilities, the social justice and empowerment institutionalized by the government would be useless.
Earlier, in his welcome address, Bhanu Jayanti Celebration Committee president, Road and Bridges Minister, RB Subba informed that the celebration also sought to get the younger generation in touch with their roots with respect to their culture, language and tradition.

International seminar on Tamang language begins in Namchi

NAMCHI, 15 July: The three-day ‘Antarashtriya Tamang Bhasa Sahitya Gosti- 2012’ [International Seminar on Tamang Language] was inaugurated here at Namchi on Saturday. The literary meet-cum-workshop is being organized under Bhasa Vikas Board of Sikkim Tamang Boudha Sangh and will continue till 16 July. 
The inaugural session had area MLA Binod Rai as the chief guest who formally inaugurated the programme with the lighting of lamps, which was then followed by the seminar and workshop. Also present were Chairman of Namchi Municipal Council, BT Tamang as the guest of honor.
The other participants were language experts from Nepal and other surrounding places like Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Mirik, language teachers, writers and members of Bhasa Vikas Board. Among the guests present were president of Nepal Tamang Ghedung Kumar Blown, president of Sikkim Tamang Boudha Sangh Kumar Yonzone, president of Akhil Bharatiya Tamang Boudha Sangh KM Tamang, along with Ajit Maan Tamang, Rajen Thokore, Pratik Neshure from Nepal, BB Syangden, Bakshing Dong and Pradeep Tamang from Mirik along with members of Akhil Bharatiya Tamang Boudha Sangh.
The chief guest in his address congratulated Sikkim Tamang Boudha Sangh for organizing such a seminar related with the upkeep of their language and for being able to come up with language text books for class IX and X. In Sikkim’s context, he informed that the state government has been successful in getting the Tamang community included in the Scheduled Tribes list.
He added that such programmes, seminars and workshops are important in generating awareness on one’s language and customs as it helps a person in understanding the community to which he belongs.
Other guests who had come from far in their respective address highlighted on the seminar and briefly addressed the gathering.
The main focus of this international ‘gosti’ is to discuss whether the text books (vernacular) of class IX and X were fit to be included in academic curriculum. The seminar will also go over the flaws and see to what changes are needed.
This is the third international seminar on Tamang language in Sikkim, the first was held in the year 1995, while the national ‘gosti’ takes place annually. The seminar held will also include serious discussions focusing on Tamang language and related topics.

One arrested for alleged sexual assault on minor

GANGTOK, 15 July: The Sadar police, on late Friday evening, arrested one person on charges of sexually assaulting a minor girl. According to reports the accused has been identified as Ramesh Thapa, 45 years of age, of Darjeeling, West Bengal and currently residing at Development Area, Gangtok. 
He is accused of having sexually assaulted a 6-year-old child of the same area. As per the reports the child had returned from school when she was lured by Ramesh Thapa who later threatened her not to tell anyone about the incident.
Both were sent for medical examination at the STNM hospital. Apart from charges of sexual assault on a minor the accused has also been charged with causing hurt and criminal intimidation.

Dzongu cut off

MANGAN, 15 July: The heavy downpour of Saturday night disrupted traffic at several places in North Sikkim. Dzongu has been cut off from the rest of the state as the road is blocked at Ring Khola in Upper Dzongu.
Similarly, the road to lower Dzongu was also blocked at Hee-Gyathang, Kabar Dara, Maney Khola and Gnon-Sangdong in lower Dzongu where some portions of the road formation has been washed out by the heavy rain.
The road was also blocked at Chandey, a few kilometers ahead of Sangkalang towards Mangan. Commuters here have to walk on foot for 4kms from Hee-Gyathang to Gnon-Sangdong. Restoration work on the road which falls under BRO is yet to begin, it being a Sunday today.

Multidisciplinary committees constituted to monitor Dikchu and Bhasmey power projects

GANGTOK, 16 July: The State government has notified the constitution of multidisciplinary committees for monitoring the two hydro electric projects of Dikchu and Bhasmey being developed by Sneha Kinetic Power Ltd and Gati Infrastructure respectively. These were recently notified by the Forest Department following directions issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and also as per the agreements signed between the State government and the two power developers. 
These multidisciplinary central level committees are for monitoring of environmental safeguards of the project development and to monitor issues arising during the implementation of the projects. Besides, the committees will also draw up the methodologies to regulate payments to be made by the respective companies to the various departments of the state government in connection with the implementation of the projects.
The 96 MW Dikchu hydroelectric project is being undertaken by Sneha Kinetic Power Projects Ltd in East and North districts and the company is based in Hyderabad.  The direction for the formation of the committee was issued by the central Ministry in April 2008.
On the other hand the 51 MW Bhasmey hydroelectric project is being undertaken by Gati Infrastructure Bhasmey Power Private Ltd and the company itself is based in Secunderabad. The multidisciplinary committees are also as per the conditions laid out in the Environmental Clearance of the MoEF.
The nature and content of monitoring will be as per the conditions of Environment Clearance and are to be communicated to the members of the respective committees from time to time after due consultation with the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests-cum-Secretary, Forests, Environment and Wildlife Management Department, Government of Sikkim and Director, Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India.
The multidisciplinary committee for the 96 MW Dikchu HEP has the Chief Conservator of Forests, Land Use as Chairman and includes representatives of the central MoEF and also north east regional office of the MoEF at Shillong.
The committee for the Bhasmey project has the Additional PCCF (Planning and Administration) as chairman and same central government representatives. Other members in the committees include the respective SDMs under whose district jurisdiction the projects comes under, officiasl of Power, Land Revenue, State Pollution Control Board, Fisheries and the respective company Project Heads as member secretaries.

Arcelor Mittal and Harley Davidson recruit ATTC students

GANGTOK, 15 July: A number of final year students of ATTC Bardang have found placements in reputed companies this year. First to start the campus drive for the 2012 batch was Yorozu JBM TN Pvt Ltd, a Japanese joint venture company based in Chennai to manufacture car chassis for Indian operation, recruited 16 final year students. 
Next in the line was Makino India Pvt. Ltd, a Japanese machine manufacturer based in Bangalore which selected 2 Mechanical Engineers. Arcelor Mittal Dhamm Processing Private Limited, a unit of world’s largest steel manufacturer, operating from Chennai conducted their second campus recruitment at ATTC and selected 4 students this year.
MAHLE Filter Systems (India) Limited, a German joint venture company based near Delhi ,was yet another company this year  to explore the technical human resource of ATTC wherein they recruited 8 of its students. Harley-Davidson initially shortlisted four final year students based on academic performance and conducted the interview in Delhi and finally hired one of them.
A press release informs that placement for final year students is still underway and Maruti Suzuki India Ltd has scheduled to conduct Off-Campus recruitment at Kolkata on 23 July. Victor India Ltd is scrutinizing the resume through emails and have shown interest to hire through telephonic interview.
Outgoing students who have finished their 3 year diploma courses are groomed to be skilled technicians suitable for potential employment within and outside the state, the release mentions.
“In general it has been observed that majority of passing out diploma engineers from ATTC have opted to pursue higher studies through Lateral Entry Scheme rather than joining industries right away. Parents from working background have expressed their support for their ward to go for higher studies”, said Training and Placement Cell in-charge, Lochan Adhikari as per the release.
“If any local company in Sikkim have requirement of Diploma Engineers, they may contact Placement Cell of ATTC for data base of candidates” he adds.
ATTC has put its maximum effort to reach the companies and inviting them to Sikkim for recruitment, however, the geographical location and the time required to conduct the recruitment process is still a concern to many big brands even though they have identified us as a potential institute to support them in technical human resource, the release further adds.

Post Office buckling under UID pressure

GANGTOK, 12 July: While the second round of enrolment for the Unique Identification Number [UID], or Aadhaar Cards as they are popularly know, is all set to begin from August, many of the citizens of the state are still to be delivered their Aadhar cards from the first round. While many have got their Aadhaar cards, many more are still waiting and it is feared that a good number of the cards could even be misplaced or lost.
There is general confusion, both among the public as well as the concerned agencies, as to how and where the Aadhaar cards are to be delivered. There had been tremendous publicity and awareness raised when the scheme had been announced and undertaken but it seems that the agency responsible for distribution of the UID cards, the Post Office, seems to be buckling under the pressure.
The number of Aadhaar cards is informed to have simply overwhelmed post offices in the state which, it is informed and known as well, are not equipped to handle such thousands of postal orders and tasks. But that is not the only problem. A bigger complication arises because the addresses in the Aadhar Cards are not as detailed as should be for delivery at home. In many cases, only the general locality of the person is mentioned, without the address details required to deliver the cards door to door.
As a result, it is not surprising that the post office, during the last check, had almost 1.5 lakh Aadhaar cards still awaiting delivery. And now it is learnt that the post office may not be able to fulfill its obligation of distributing the UID cards to each and every citizen in the state.
Officials here stated that the help of the municipal councilors and panchayats has been sought for card distribution among the public of their respective areas. However, this is not yet clear as the Deputy Mayor and the GMC Commissioner have denied any involvement in the distribution of the cards and have stated that the process of distribution of UID cards was not in their jurisdiction. As a result, the public are not sure whom to approach for their cards.
As per the scheme of things, the central government is informed to have disbursed necessary funds to the post office here for the distribution of the cards to the public. The Department of Posts has been entrusted the distribution of Unique Identification Cards by DESME, however, the distribution process undertaken by different post offices is unsatisfactory and complaints related to delays and ‘unprofessionalism’ in the manner in which the general public is being handed out the cards have come to light.
Just a week back, the Tadong post office had to call in cops from the nearby out post to control a mob of hundreds of people who had been reportedly told by the post men of their locality to come to the post office at 3 PM that evening to collect their cards since many card holders had still not received the same.
Locals say that while their entire families had taken photos standing in long queues, only one or two members have received the cards and this was a problem that most of them were facing. “When we enquired why only one member of my family was given the card the postman said that he had brought only the card of the person that he recognized and told us to come to the post office and when we reached there, chaos broke out,” states a local resident.
This will obviously take place as there are thousands of people in any given locality and the post offices, as is known, cannot handle such a large volume postal traffic.
However, officials at the post office inform that DESME and the head post office recently held a meeting and now the respective panchayats and councilors of the different wards and areas were taking the cards in bulk to be distributed by them since they would know the people in their localities better.
Earlier, the postmen were distributing the cards to people whom they knew or which had proper addresses and as officials inform addresses in some of the cards are not clear.
Similarly, it is informed that there are many children with similar names enrolled for the UID cards, which is also emerging as a problem.

Three grievously injured in truck mishap in South Sikkim

NAMCHI, 12 July: Three persons are informed to have been critically injured when the truck they were travelling in met with an accident at Ben Dozong near Zero Point, Tarku, at around 3 PM yesterday.
The truck bearing registration number SK-01D-2363 was carrying pipes for the Horticulture Department from Rangpo to Ravangla. There were a total of five occupants in the truck and the three who were critically injured have been referred to Central Referral Hospital, Gangtok. The other two occupants also sustained injuries, it is informed.

DESME to undertake census of business enterprises in Sikkim

GANGTOK, 12 July: Starting from July and continuing till the next month, the Directorate of Economics, Statistics, Monitoring and Evaluation [DESME] is undertaking a census of all units engaged in economic activity in Sikkim.
A press release informs that the objective of this census is to record the number of enterprises operating in the State in order to build a Business Register. Based on this census, the Business Register will be built which will be useful in estimating the contribution of the enterprises to the State’s economy.
At the same time, the department is also collecting information on differently abled children between the age group 6-18 yrs.
The Census will be conducted house-to-house and Enumerators will be visiting each and every enterprise and household of every nook and corner of the State to collect the socio-economic data.  Therefore, the release mentions, the department appeals to all citizens to extend their full cooperation to our enumerators and provide all information asked for by them.
The DESME is the Nodal Agency for all statistical works of the state and the present endeavour of the department will help in strengthening the hands of the policy makers and planners.

Section of Ravangla-Zarong road washed away, traffic temporarily restored

NAMCHI, 12 July: Last night’s torrential rainfall in the Ravangla belt of South Sikkim washed away the the Ravangla-Zarong road formation at 10th KM. 
Following prompt action by the concerned department, traffic has been restored temporarily and immediate restoration work has also begun. Meanwhile, RM&DD Ravangla Sub-Division has engaged an excavator and casual labourers for clearing slips at various PMGSY roads like 9th mile turning, Sanganath, Tingmo, Ravangla, Deythang.
On the other hand, the house of one Tika Ram Limbu of Namphok ward under Sripatam-Gagyong Gram Panchayat Unit has been severely damaged by a slide. No casualties have been reported and the occupants have been shifted to a safer place as per information provided by BDO, Yangang.
Meanwhile, the Bhaley Khola foot bridge was made operational on 10 July.

Managing Committee constituted for Khangchendzonga Tourist Village

GANGTOK, 12 July: A Managing Committee has been set up by the state government for the purpose of management of the Khangchendzonga Tourist Village cum Socio Cultural and Amusement Park at Ranka, East Sikkim and chiefly to look over the accounts and expenditure of the enterprise. 
A press release informs that the committee has been established under the Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation and is headed by the Secretary, Tourism.
Being a joint venture enterprise, the committee also includes members of the Civil Engineers Enterprises Pvt Ltd (CEEPL).
It has further been notified that for the operation of accounts, the signature of the member secretary, who is the Chief Accounts Officer, Tourism Department, along with a representative of CEEPL will be necessary on all cheques. Furthermore, there can be no expenditure incurred without the approval of the Chairman of the Committee, the release adds.
This is an inter-departmental committee which also includes Controller of Accounts, Finance Department; Chief Engineers, Power Department and Tourism department respectively; SP, East and DC, East.

Stand-in bridge at Rangchang raises safety concerns

GANGTOK, 11 July: With the old Rangchang bridge re-commissioned to span the khola where the Rs 2.7 crore new bridge constructed by Project Swastik collapsed last year within three years of inauguration, safety, especially when heavier loads move across, remains a constant worry.
Even after seven months since the bridge collapsed under circumstances which are still unclear [a committee had been constituted but the report is still awaited], no work appears on the anvil to construct a more robust bridge at the spot. The new bridge was obviously constructed because the old one was not sturdy enough for the nature of load which now traverses on this stretch. As the above photograph also amply illustrates, the re-commissioned old bridge does not evoke too much confidence. But this is the one which remains in use.
It may be recalled that 10 people were killed in a bridge collapse at Rangchang Khola, about 18 kms from Singtam towards Dikchu on the Singtam-Mangan highway, on 11 December last year. The incident took place when a 48-wheel heavy trailer engaged by the Teesta Urja company was attempting to cross the bridge. Just as the vehicle was in middle of the bridge, the entire span collapsed, taking along with it the vehicle and all inside along with 4 pedestrians. The vehicle was on its way to Chungthang from Siliguri. Teesta Urja is constructing the Teesta Stage III hydel project at Chungthang.
However, now with only the old bridge to support the heavy vehicles deployed by a number of hydel power projects up North, the debris of the collapsed bridge alongside provides an eerie reminder of what could be in store if adequate steps are not undertaken at the earliest.