Friday, July 27, 2012

State govt finally gets 15 % equity in Teesta Stage III; en route to get complete 26% equity as per MoU

GANGTOK, 26 July: The Energy and Power Department and Teesta Urja, the joint venture partner developing the 1200 MW Teesta Stage III at Chungthang, North Sikkim, are on course to settle their dispute and in the process, the state government has finally got its equity in the near Rs.6000 crore project. Not only has the Board of Directors of Teesta Urja agreed to the infusion of the state’s share of 26% equity into the project, which has been a matter of dispute for a long time now and also pending in two separate forums, but in a meeting held on 19 July, the Board also allowed for three state nominated officials to be part of the board with one of the nominated officials to be the Chairman of the board, as per the conditions laid down by the state government. 
The dispute between Teesta Urja and the state government has been on for some years now particularly over the infusion of the state’s share of 26% equity into the project as per the memorandum of understanding. The state government, till now, had not infused any equity into the project to lay claim on its share of equity. However, and as officials confirm, the state has now attained over 15% equity into the project and would soon acquire the remaining 11% of the total 26% equity. It has been informed that the Power Finance Corporation of India has sanctioned Rs.162 crores as the state’s equity into the Teesta Stage III project; this is out of the total amount of Rs.296 crores which the state government has to infuse in the project. The sanctioning authority being the Power Finance Corporation and the amount sanctioned as yet being Rs.162 crores, the state has now acquired over 15 % equity; the remaining amount is to be sanctioned soon, it is informed.
With the infusion of Rs.162 crores being made by the state government the Athena Projects Private Ltd (APPL), which has floated Teesta Urja, has approved the transfer of over 29 crore partly paid shares of the project to the government. In other words the state has paid share subscription of Rs.162 crores out of Rs.296 crores, this amount is equal to just over 15% equity of the total 26% equity due to the state.  In fact these shares have been approved for transfer to the Sikkim Power Investment Corporation Limited which is the vehicle floated by the government for equity infusion in the mega hydel projects in the state. This, as informed, is without prejudice to all the cases underway concerning the disputes between Teesta Urja and the Power Department.
Besides this the Board of Directors of Teesta Urja on 19 July agreed to one of the principal conditions of the state government, that of inducting 3 officials of the government in the Board with one of them to be Chairman of the Board. Two officials, namely the Power Secretary and Finance Secretary have already been nominated as state representatives in the Board and the third official is yet to be nominated. The state official who will be chairman of the Board will remain so till commercial operation of the project, it was decided at the meeting.

Power Deptt Vs Teesta Urja dispute may yet find an out of court settlement

GANGTOK, 26 July: Disputes between the state government and Teesta Urja which is developing the 1200 MW Teesta Stage III at Chungthang, North Sikkim are being heard in two forums which include the State Electricity Regulatory Commission and also at the District Court, East at Gangtok. Teesta Urja on April 25, obtained a stay on the order of State Electricity Regulatory Commission appointing a sole arbitrator upon an application filed by the government of Sikkim. The state government had approached the State Electricity Regulatory Commission on April 5 alleging that Teesta Urja has denied the government it's 26 percent equity shares in the Rs. 6000 crore mega power project, a pre-condition in the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the company with the government. Teesta Urja Limited filed an appeal before the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity against the order of the State Regulatory Commission, referring the matter to a sole arbitrator. The matter is fixed for final hearing and disposal before the Commission. 
On the other hand the state government had also approached the District Judge East and North District at Gangtok praying for interim injunction restraining Teesta Urja from changing the constitution of its board of directors. The District Judge through an Order dated April 7, passed an interim order restraining the company from re-constituting its board of directors. The government of Sikkim apart from staking claim of 26 percent equity shares has also raised a claim with respect to its right to appoint two directors. However it now seems that the two entities, Sikkim government and Teesta Urja may yet find an out of court settlement as indicated with the infusion of state’s equity and the approval by Teesta Urja to induct 3 state government officials as members of the Board of Directors.

Harvest time brings the Himalayan Black Bear out of forest cover

GANGTOK, 26 July: During the months of July-October, the Himalayan Black Bear leaves the cover of forest and ventures out in search of food. This is the time when they can come in contact with humans and also destroy standing crops.
To avoid all such conflicts between man and animal, the East Wildlife Division of the Forest, Environment and Wildlife Management Department [FE&WMD] conducted a meeting with the local people of Sumick, Thangsing and Khamdong [which falls under the Fambonglho Wildlife Sanctuary] recently to sensitize and bring awareness regarding the same.
Speaking to NOW! Assistant Conservator of Forest [Fambonglho Wildlife Sanctuary], ST Bhutia informed that it has been 04 to 05 years now that they have been receiving reports of man and animal conflicts including crop damage by bears from the above mentioned areas [Sumick, Thangsing and Khamdong] as these villages fall under the Fambonglho Wildlife Sanctuary. In the last five years there have been only two reports of bear attacks on villagers in these areas, he added.
The bears come out mainly during the harvesting season of maize, which falls usually around this time of the year, he said and added that it was not that there was no food in the jungles but because maize becomes easy food for the bears. To minimize such crop damages by bears, the department is using food and fruit plants, including maize in the forest areas so that the bears do not come out to agricultural lands to feed, he stated.
Since this is the time when the bears get easy food [maize], there are chances of human encounters with these animals and in order to prevent this, field staff have been posted at the villages and officers make visits on a regular basis, the ACF informed. The field staff and villagers have been provided with crackers, search lights, drums and a cage has also been kept along with a tranquilizer gun for use if needed, he added.
“We have also taken the help of the local villagers as volunteers [04 locals] which is a plus point because as locals of the area they know the locality and the area well and this will be a great help for the field staff, the watchers, the Range Officer and the Block Officer present”, the ACF stated and added that patrolling is done during the night as the bears move around especially at night and not during the day time.
The department has also conducted sensitization and awareness programmes for the people of the area and even school children, including the teachers were cautioned on the subject, he said and added that the department was trying its level best to control the situation. Some relief and compensation had also been provided to the locals for crop damages, he further informed.
Meanwhile, Divisional Forest Officer [Wildlife, East] Ravi Kumar informed that the department had also purchased torches which would soon be distributed to the villagers. “We are also carrying out census of the Himalayan Black Bear and assessing the population and the carrying capacity of the Fambonglho Wildlife Sanctuary”, he stated.
The DFO Wildlife informed that a complaint was recieved on 19 July from the Panchayat President of Sumick regarding crop damage by a bear in the area, so the department immediately deployed field staff at the reported area the very next day. A team of 5 Forest Officers and 4 local volunteers have begun patrolling the area from 20 July, he stated. The team is ready for tranquilizing the animal and for combing operations whenever an animal is reported in agricultural fields, he added.
A meeting regarding the same was also held which was attended by the Panchayat President [Sumick], the local public from Sumick, Thangsing and Khamdong, ACF [FWLS], Range Officer [FWLS, West] and the field staff, he informed.
The DFO [Wildlife, East] has appealed to the people of East Sikkim to restrict their movement into the sanctuary area as well as dense forested areas, especially during early mornings and late evenings as bears come out during that time. He has asked the school children to be accompanied by at least one adult and urged the locals to move around in groups of three or more.

Dikchu residents demand establishment of SBS branch at Dikchu Bazaar

MANGAN, 26 July:  The people of Dikchu including Lower Dzongu, Thingchim Mangshila and other villages have demanded the establishment of a State Bank of Sikkim branch at Dikchu. The public of these villages have to go to Gangtok or Mangan to make a Bank Receipt, spending a whole day for a single BR.
Dikchu’s location makes it accessible to the public of several villages including three constituencies and since it lies between the North and East districts of the state it will be convenient for the villagers living in the periphery of Dikchu.
The public of the area request the authorities to establish a State Bank of Sikkim branch here for the holistic development of the people.

SBJM, Lall Bazaar sacks Working Committee on grounds of being slack

GANGTOK, 26 July: The Sikkim Bihari Jagaran Manch, Lall Bazaar branch, passed three resolutions unanimously during a meeting convened here on 25 July. 
Lall Bazaar branch general secretary, Ashwini Jha informed that the meeting took a serious view of those not actively participating in the activities of the Association. Subsequently, Mahatam Thakur was removed from his post as Assistant General Secretary and Upender Prasad from his post as Advisor; they were removed for not having attended meetings of the Association and also not working actively for the Association.
The meeting also resolved to dissolve the working committee of the Association on grounds of being slack. Mr. Jha informed that a new committee will soon be formed.

House owner arrested for sexual assault on maid

GANGTOK, 26 July: A 16-year-old girl was produced at Ranipool Police Station by members of the Sikkim State Child Welfare Commission on 25 July. The minor girl had been reportedly sexually assaulted by Shyam Sundas of 5th Mile, Tadong in whose house she worked as a maid.
According to the complainant, the child had been sexually assaulted for many years as she had been living with this family since her childhood. The last sexual assault reportedly took place more than 2 months back. The victim has been medically examined and further tests were conducted and then handed back to the Commission's members. She is presently lodged at the women's shelter home at Sichey, Gangtok.
37-year-old, Shyam Sundas, who is employed as Assam Rifles jawan was also arrested by the Police.

Singtam police continues crackdown on drugs with 2 more arrests

GANGTOK, 26 July: Singtam Police has arrested another two drug peddlers on charges of possessing contraband substances; they were nabbed on the 31A National Highway at Singtam on 25 July.
Acting upon a tip off the Singtam Police intercepted a car bearing a West Bengal registration number at 31A NH below the Singtam District Hospital on 25 July at around 12 noon. During the search, 15 bottles of a cough syrup were recovered which were accordingly seized by the police. It is informed that the duo had bought this contraband substance from Rangpo in West Bengal and was on their way to sell the same to prospective buyers at Singtam.

Lha Tshring Kunchudyangmoo Memorial Literary Award 2012

GANGTOK, 26 July: Nima Rikzum Lepcha of North Sikkim Academy of Mangan, North Sikkim has been selected for the 14th Lha Tshring Kunchudyangmoo Memorial Literary Award. A press release informs that this annual award comprising of cash award of Rs 5000 and certificate of merit is conferred to students who score the highest marks in Lepcha language in the All India Secondary School Examination (Class X).   
The award was instituted in the year 1998 with the sole objective to contribute towards the development of Lepcha language and literature and also to encourage and inspire the younger generation, the release informs. The Chief Minister has consented to be the chief guest on the occasion of Tendong Lho Rum Faat Celebration,2012 being organized at Gangtok where the award will be conferred.
The celebration committee on behalf of the entire community congratulates the awardee and the school faculty for such marvellous achievement of the school, the release mentions. Nima Rikzum Lepcha originally hails from Shipgyer, Upper Dzongu, North Sikkim.

CM’s state-wide tour of schools a welcome initiative

It’s very heartening to read the report ‘CM begins state-wide tour of schools from Ravangla’. And it is even more heartening to see the Chief Minister act promptly on his announcement made on Bhanu Jayanti this year to embark on a tour to meet students and Panchayat office bearers.  
The need for the Chief Minister to interact with students had been felt for a very long time given the fact that students and youth make up a sizeable chunk of the population both at the State and national level.
The students rightly need to be motivated to work hard right from the beginning to make their presence felt at the Central Services level and to be competitive.
And the Chief Minister was right when he said in Ravangla on the first day of his tour that “The future of Sikkim lies in the hands of our students”. But we should also remember that the future of the students lie in the hands of the teachers.  That is why the Chief Minister was candid when he said that teachers in Sikkim lack passion. But teachers should not take this otherwise. They must do some contemplation and realise that they have a big responsibility towards students. C.S. Lewis, the Irish novelist summed up the role of a teacher beautifully when he said ‘The task of modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts.’  That is the kind of passion our teachers should possess.  And students in turn should be zealous to excel. They should have the proverbial ‘fire in their belly’ to reach for the stars.
The State wide tour of schools by the Chief Minister should not be dismissed as a publicity stunt or a political gimmick. We must as responsible citizens, parents and guardians refrain from making callous remarks and terming the initiative as being politically motivated. We must get rid of our tendency to condemn, criticise and attack. It is not healthy to always harbour anti establishment sentiments. Why always go with the flow when we are capable of making independent judgements?
We may belong to this camp and that camp. But our children go to the same school and sit in the same class. They are oblivious from politics and it should be kept that way.
Let the students benefit from this as much as possible. Let’s keep students away from politicking. Let the students see their leader in flesh and blood. Let them meet the Chief Minister with an open and inquisitive mind instead of forcing perverted ideas on them or confusing  them and making them sceptical. Otherwise the whole purpose of this exercise will be defeated. And nobody will gain anything positive.
Jashoda Chettri [recvd on email]

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rs.25 lakh compensation sought from Chevrolet dealer and manufacturer

GANGTOK, 22 June: A resident of Mangan has filed a complaint with the Sikkim State Consumer Dispute’s Redressal Commission against the Chevrolet car dealer at Gangtok, 5th Mile Tadong as well as the car manufacturers, General Motors.  The complaint alleges that had been misled by the assurances on the high quality of safety measures of their product; the complaint was filed with the Consumer Forum after his Chevrolet Aveo met with an accident during which the air bag, which was supposed to burst open, failed. The compensation sought includes around Rs.1.65 lakh for medical treatment undergone and another Rs.25 lakh for lifelong treatment that he would have to undergo.
After hearing the complaint the Commission and president of the Commission, Justice S P Wangdi last week issued a notice to the respondents to respond within four weeks.
The complainant Rinchen Dorji Riponpa from North Sikkim had bought a Chevrolet Aveo U-VA LT 1.2 from the General Motors car dealer at 5th Mile Tadong in 2010. The accident occurred in the year 2011 at 32 Mile while he was on his way to Gangtok driving from Soreong, West Sikkim wherein he sustained severe injuries to his head and chest.
As per the safety measures supposedly inherent in the vehicle, the airbags on the driver’s side are to automatically open upon impact in order to save the driver from any serious injury.  However, as per the complainant’s allegation, the said vehicle Chevrolet Aveo U-VA LT 1.2 had no such facilities resulting in the complainant suffering grievous injuries. On the other hand the safety handbook provided by the company mentions that the vehicle is installed with this particular facility for safety.
Following the accident the complainant had approached the Chevrolet Aveo U-VA LT 1.2 car dealer at Tadong and sought clarification on why he was misled and cheated by the company but, as per the allegations, there was no response from the dealer or the company. The complainant has undergone medical treatment under a neurologist in Siliguri.
After recovering from his injuries Mr Riponpa then filed a complaint with the Sikkim State Consumer Disputes’ Redressal Commission alleging that the company and car dealer had cheated him by selling him a car which did not have the promised safety measure.
The complainant has sought compensation of more than of Rs.1.65 lakh spent in medical treatment and additional Rs 25 lakh for the lifelong treatment he will have to undertake along with the lawyer’s fee of Rs 50,000.
This is the first such case in the Sikkim State Consumer Disputes’ Redressal Commission against the car company.

CM begins state-wide tour of schools from Ravangla

NAMCHI, 25 July: “The future of Sikkim lies in the hands of our students” said the Chief Minister Pawan Chamling as he exhorted students to lead the state towards development at VC Ganju Lama Senior Secondary School, Ravangla in South district today.
With this, the Chief Minister has begun the state-wide tour of schools as announced on the occasion of Bhanu Jayanti on 13 July. Addressing the gathering of students from in-and-around Ravangla, the CM urged them to achieve their full potential stressing that “imagination is more important than knowledge”.
“Our government wants each and every son and daughter of Sikkim studying in government schools to compete with the students studying in the best public schools”, said the CM. He urged the students to change their mindset from seeking certificate based education to knowledge based education.
Mentioning that Sikkim’s literacy rate is 82.2% the CM said that the government aims at taking this up to 100%. The development brought about till now should continue said the CM and added that those seeking to destroy the peace and security of the state should not be allowed to do so.
“The government’s biggest challenge in Sikkim right now is that our people have lost the will to work and we have to destroy this mindset with the wisdom of education”, expressed the CM. He also said that teachers in the state lack passion and serve only as government employees. On this, the CM urged the teachers to draw inspiration from Lord Brahma, a creator and a teacher, to immerse themselves in helping their students explore their full potential.
The Chief Minister also assured to fulfil all the demands placed by the schools and the general public of Ravangla.
The programme was also addressed by Minister HRDD, NK Pradhan and Secretary HRDD, CS Rao while it was also attended by the Ministers, MLAs, Zilla Panchayats and Officers.
A colorful cultural programme was also organised by the students where the Chief Minister awarded Rs 15,000 each to the schools for their beautiful performances. Earlier the CM was also felicitated by the VC Ganju Lama Senior Secondary School.

Rakshay slides along Samdong-Gangtok road pose threat to commuters; in need of immediate upgradation

MANGAN, 25 JULY:   The Samdong – Gangtok road has being experiencing disruptions in the form of treacherous slides ever since the earthquake of 18 September, 2012. Owing to the incessant rains this season the road has been deteriorating each day causing hardships to the commuters and vehicles especially at Rakshay. The people of the area have been complaining for the past so many days that the road needed repairs at the “Rakshay slides” where there are several overhanging boulders ready to give way if disturbed slightly onto vehicles and public. This route is the lifeline of the people living in the area especially those who have to ply to north Sikkim daily.
The road which falls under state PWD needs to be upgraded. When contacted, the BDO Tintek, Tenzing Dorjee Denzongpa confirmed that this area has been one of the worst affected by the earthquake.  The PWD is doing is doing their work but the department, he felt, should give more priority and seriousness to the upgradation of this road, he added. Most of the staffs of BAC Tintek and also the school teachers coming from Gangtok use this road.

Ramthang-Tanek GPU public express displeasure over proposed shifting of upcoming food go-down

MANGAN, 25 July: The panchayats and public of Ramthang-Tanek GPU under Kabi-Lungtsok constituency in North Sikkim have opposed the recent proposal to change the location of the upcoming food go-down from Dikchu New Market, North district to Jang Village in East District.
The Department of Food & Civil Supplies had proposed to construct the new food go-down at Dikchu New Market in North Sikkim which falls under Tanek ward of Ramthang-Tanek GPU where the food go-down was already operating out of a rented house.
Panchayat president, Ramthang-Tanek GPU, Kado Lepcha informed that the Department had already acquired land for the construction of food go-down in Dikchu New Market. Further adding that since the go-down had already been operating in the market for the past many years, he requested the department to construct the food go-down at the same place.
He also added that constructing the go-down elsewhere would cause inconvenience to the people of North Sikkim including Dzongu, Thingchim-Mangshilla.

Winners of IPR Department’s photography competition declared

GANGTOK, 25 July [IPR]: The six-day photography exhibition cum competition organized by the IPR Department concluded here at Gangtok, today.
The valedictory function had Secretary IPR Department, KS Tobgay as chief guest. The judges of the competition Kiran Rasaily and Raman Shrestha were also present during the function.
The chief guest gave away the certificate and cash prizes to the winners of the competition. The first prize was awarded to the photograph titled ‘Make a wish, take a chance’ by Satyam Rai of Gangtok, and the second prize went to the photograph titled ‘Pug marks’ by Karchoong Diyali of Gangtok. The winners were presented a certificate and cash award of Rs. 25,000 and Rs.20,000 respectively. Three consolation awards with a certificate and cash prize of Rs. 10,000 each were also presented to Gyaltsen Lama, Chewang Bonpo and Kunga Tashi Lepcha of Gangtok.
Addressing from the chair Mr Tobgay congratulated the winners and thanked the participants and expressed his hope for future participation as well. He urged the participants and artists to come forward with their ideas and interact with the Department to promote the field of photography.
The department will always try to facilitate and provide a platform to the talents of the state, he said. He said that the objective behind the competition was to project local talents and encourage them to expose their art.
In his address, Mr. Rasaily said that the judges had a tough time in judging the competition as all the photographs were unique and beautiful in their own way. He also appreciated the works done by the photographers and the department in promoting this field. One of the judges, Raman Shrestha also shared his views on the occasion. The function concluded with the vote of thanks delivered by Deeki Euthenpa.
The department had received 532 photographs from more than 80 participants out of which 54 photographs were shortlisted for the final round of competition and displayed for exhibition.

Slides block Lachen roads

MANGAN, 25 July: Several landslides brought about by heavy rainfall last night have blocked roads near Lachen in North Sikkim. About half a km ahead of Lachen at Suphu Chu a landslide at 1 AM in the morning cut the road off. 
Local NGO, Lachung Tourism Development Committee with the help of locals built a temporary log bridge to restore road connectivity here today. Another slide at Menchekyong which is 1 km from Lachen on the way to Thangu has blocked the road here. It is learnt that a bridge here is in a precarious condition and might give way anytime soon.
A third slide at Zema I, which is 2 km from Lachen has also been reported. It is informed that it might take another 2-3 days for army personnel to clear the roads.
A landslide had also blocked the road between Chungthang and Lachung at Khedung however, traffic on this road is likely to resume by tomorrow.

Sikkim Akademi organizes Inter-college debate competition in Bhutia

GANGTOK, 25 July: An inter-college debate competition in Bhutia language on the topic “Impact of Western Culture on Our Society and Culture” was held today here at the auditorium of Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Deorali which was organized by Sikkim Akademi.
The competition was held between Sikkim Government College, Tadong and Government College Kamrang [Namchi]. The programme started with a welcome address by the president Sikkim Akademi PM Tamang, which was followed by poetry recitation by the students of Sikkim Government College Tadong and Namchi.
Lepcha dance was performed by the students of Modern Secondary School, likewise Deorali Senior Secondary School presented a Nepali dance, which was followed by a Bhutia dance by Ujwal Kala Kendra Deorali.
The team from Sikkim Government College, Tadong led by Dechen Bhutia also comprised of Tshering Namgyal Bhutia, Chewang Dorjee Bhutia, Sonam Hishey Bhutia and Palden Lachungpa. The Namchi College team had Palchen Doma Bhutia, Pema Lhamu Bhutia, Norjeela Bhutia, Sonam Palmu Bhutia and Passang Lhamu Bhutia.
Sikkim Government College Tadong spoke against the topic, whereas Government College Kamrang[Namchi] spoke for the topic.
Assistant Director Bhutia language, HRDD Department, Bhaichung Tsichudarpa, who was present as the judge said that such a competition is being organized for the first time in the state. He also thanked the Chief Minister for giving priority to all languages.
“We all should feel lucky that Sikkim Akademi has given us a chance to showcase such talents”, said Mr Tsichudarpa.
Chief guest Norden Tshering Bhutia congratulated Sikkim Akademi for organizing the debate competition and add that such a platform for students to showcase their talent should be applied to other languages as well.
It has been 12 years since the establishment of Sikkim Akademi but this kind of debate competition is happening for the first time, said Mr Bhutia further adding that this kind of competition should be continued as it improves the vocabulary of the students, and they also come up with new ideas.
He added that every individual should master their own language first as language is one’s identity and stressed on speaking any language in its pure form. Apart from preserving the culture, heritage, literature of a community, to keep the language intact is very important, opined Mr Bhutia.
Certificates were given to the dancers of all the 3 schools and also to the students who recited poems on the day. Sikkim Government College Tadong won the competition scoring 142 points while the runner’s up Government College Kamrang [ Namchi] scored 138 points. A memento, certificates and cash prizes were given to all the participants.
The best speaker award at the individual level was given to Passang Lhamu Bhutia with the highest score of 109 points.
The vote of thanks was delivered by secretary Sikkim Akademi, Praveen Rai Jumeli.

Road accident claims driver

GANGTOK, 25 July: An accident claimed the life of a person when a vehicle went down the road here at Swastik, Burtuk last night. The taxi vehicle was on its way from Gangtok to Bhojoghari. The driver, Kishor Sherpa of the Maxx taxi bearing registration number SK-01 J 1217 died on the spot when the vehicle fell down the road at around 9.00 p.m. It is informed that the vehicle went down around 1000 feet from the highway and stuck just above 100 feet from the Helipad Road.
After getting the information from the Sadar thana Patrolling team, a team of Gangtok Fire Station led by FSO, Phuchung Lepcha also reached the spot and helped to take out the body of the driver with the help of Police team and locals. The reason for the accident is not yet known.

One arrested under SADA

GANGTOK, 25 July: One person was arrested by the Singtam police on 24 July when he was found to be in possession of contraband substances.
On 24 July at around 12 .55 Roshan Chettri, alias,  Jamuney was found roaming around suspiciously at Singtam Bazaar. A search was conducted by the police and they recovered 128 loose capsules of Spasmo Proxyvon and 27 tablets of Nitrosun-10 from him.
Roshan Chettri [27], son of Bhim Bahadur Chettri, resident of Dhamala Colony, Singtam was arrested by the Singtam police and has been booked under section 9 (B) 11 of 14 of SAD Act.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

High powered committee constituted to look into hydel projects anew

GANGTOK, 24 July: It is likely that more hydro electric projects under various phases of construction could be terminated by the State government. Such a possibility arises out of the constitution of a new High Powered Committee by the State government under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary Karma Gyatso, to look into issues concerning the implementation of the hydro electric projects in the State. 
This high powered committee was constituted about a week ago and the gravity with which the government is approaching the issue as well as the earnestness to resolve them can be gauged from the fact that the committee has been directed to submit its first report by the 10th of August, 2012.
Apart from looking into the various issues of the under construction hydro electric power projects, the committee will also to seek to resolve such issues with a view to expedite their implementation.
While the committee is yet to set about its task, it may be recalled that in November last year the government had constituted a high powered committee to look into issues concerning the three hydel projects proposed on the Rathong Chu in West Sikkim. Following the examination of the issues, the committee had recommended the termination of two of the projects, namely, Lethang and Tashiding; subsequently, the government, accepting the committee’s recommendations, had issued a notification for their termination.
It is informed that there are various issues concerning the implementation of the power projects in the state which, after the termination of the 2 projects in West Sikkim and another 4 in north Sikkim recently by the government, number about 23. The issues range from erosion of traditional lifestyles of the people to influx [mainly of labourers] required by the project developers.
One major issue of concern and as testified by the NHPC Teesta Stage V, is the environmental impact of such projects upon a small state such as Sikkim. Particularly in the aftermath of the major earthquake of September last year the government has been cautious of continuing with its unwritten policy of being seen to be overtly friendly to such projects.
It is also a major concern that there is hardly any quality monitoring, as required according to central rules, of the project implementation and in this context it is being opined that this committee might yet recommend some more terminations.
The issue of land compensation and project developers’ corporate social responsibilities are also to be addressed. Some of the issues related to the implementation of the hydel projects have also been taken to the courts.
The high powered committee may yet function in the likes of an inquiry commission as it has also been enabled by the government to interact and call any power developer in the state and direct them to bring the concerned documents. The Committee may recall any document for its understanding and sorting out the issues arising during the course of implementation of power projects and recommend to the government for consequent remedial measures.
The high powered committee also includes the Principal Secretary, Forest, Arvind Kumar; Development Commissioner, AK Yadav; Finance Secretary, KN Bhutia and has the Power Secretary, AK Giri as Member Secretary.

State Govt given 4 weeks to file counter affidavit on petition challenging Tashiding HEP

GANGTOK, 24 July: The petition filed by Sonam Lama and Chewang Tenzing challenging the Tashiding Hydro Electric Power Project on the  Rathong Chu came up for hearing today in the High Court of Sikkim. While the State government sought six weeks time to file its counter affidavit, the division bench of the High Court allowed it four weeks instead and directed that any rejoinder thereof by the petitioners be filed in another three weeks.
Advocate for the petitioners, Sunil J. Mathews, also prayed for an ad-interim stay on construction and implementation of the Tashiding HEP during the pendency of the writ petition.
The Division Bench headed by Chief Justice Permod Kohli turned down the request. The court observed that an ad-interim order cannot be passed at this stage and pointed out that the construction of the Tashiding Hydro Electricity Project will be subject to the outcome of the writ petitions.
The Tashiding Hydro Electricity Project is being developed by Shiga Energy Private Limited, which filed its counter affidavit through its Senior Counsel, A Moulick today.
Also today, the court allowed Power Trading Corporation of India’s plea to be removed from the list of respondents.

IPR photo-exhibition scores well with visitors

GANGTOK, 24 July: The five-day Photography Competition cum Exhibition at the Star Cinema Hall complex here at MG Marg will be concluding tomorrow with the declaration of the names of winners. The exhibition, which had opened on 20 July, is being organized by the Department of Information & Public Relations.
The exhibition has been receiving a good number of visitors including students from different schools of in-and-around Gangtok. The organizers have also been receiving encouraging comments and feedbacks from visitors.
Some of the visitors mentioned that this exhibition was a good platform to see and learn about landscapes, flora and fauna of the state. They further stated that the photographs have also made them feel proud of the natural beauty of the state.
It is an initiative of the department to encourage talented photographers from all around the state so that they can nurture their hobby into a profession.

MLA inaugurates CMRHM house at Upper Tintek

MANGAN, 24 July:  The area MLA Tumin-Lingee cum Chief Whip Ugen T Gyatso Bhutia today inaugurated the newly constructed CMRHM house of beneficiary Bikash Giri at Upper Tintek in East Sikkim. Mr Bhutia was present as the chief guest on the day accompanied by BDO Tintek, Tenzing Dorjee Denzongpa, Zilla member, Saraswati Regmi, vice convener East District, Tika Devi Nepal, panchayat members officials from line department and the general public.
Also on the day, a short function on Reconstruction of Earthquake Damaged Reconstruction Houses [REDRH] was held where 20 beneficiaries under BAC Tintek were awarded with allotment order in the first phase.
While delivering his welcome speech, the BDO Tintek, Tenzing Dorjee Denzongpa highlighted that Rs. 2 crore 86 lakh have been disbursed as earthquake damage compensation and informed that now the government has started the construction of damaged houses under REDRH schemes.  The BDO further informed that out of 7972 houses to be constructed in Sikkim under REDRH, 363 houses have been enlisted from BAC Tintek which will be constructed departmentally.
He further added that out of 268 CMRHM houses constructed under BAC Tintek 110 are under construction and 60 houses have already been completed.
Likewise, AE BAC, Phurba Bhutia highlighted about the technical aspects of REDRH where he informed that 605 square feet with two rooms, one kitchen and attached toilet/bathroom will be constructed under this scheme.
In his speech, the chief guest highlighted that the government is doing everything for the people where 516 houses are coming up in Tumin-Lingee constituency along with 419 houses are under REDRH and further appealed that the beneficiaries themselves should monitor and be involved in order to make it a good dwelling house.
He further urged the beneficiaries to cooperate with the department for proper implementation of the scheme and added that people should be thankful to the government.
The MLA reiterated that some miscreants are trying to tarnish the image of Tumin-Lingee and further appealed to all not to get involved with such people who have vested interests.  While highlighting the development being under taken in the constituency, the MLA said that the roads are being regularly upgraded and further added that there will be no electricity problem in the area as the government has proposed to install switch yard in the area.
Also in the function, the four GPUs were provided with a sound system from the Zilla funds. The function concluded with the vote of thanks being delivered by Field Felicitator, Prem Kaushik.

Suspected peddler nabbed in Ranipool

GANGTOK, 24 July: The Ranipool police arrested a person and confiscated 1,200 tablets of Spasmo Proxyvon, a contraband substance, from his yesterday
Acting on a tip-off, the Ranipool police personnel apprehended one Barun Subba at Ranipool bazaar on 23 July and upon search found the contraband in his possession. The 24-year-old accused is informed to be a resident of Dara Gaon, Tadong.

Teenaged girl commits suicide

GANGTOK, 24 July: An 18-year-old girl reportedly committed suicide at home on 23 July at Upper Gangchung Basti under Pakyong sub-division of East Sikkim yesterday. The victim is reported to have been alone at home at the time. 

Road mishap claims one

GANGTOK, 24 July: A road mishap at Deythang, Soreong in West Sikkim, has claimed one life. According to reports, a taxi vehicle being driven by Chewang Bhutia with five passenger on board met with an on 23 July at around 11 AM at Deythang near Reshi Khola. All occupants were taken to the Namchi hospital. One of the occupants, Moni Rani Subba sustained grievous injuries and succumbed to her injuries at the hospital at around 1:30 PM yesterday. The police have requisitioned the Motor Vehicles to examine the vehicle to ascertain the cause of the accident.

Editorial: Politics of Endless Reruns

The political space is hosting a rerun, again; playing out the same contest of allegations, counter-allegations, mud-slinging, proclamations and condemnations. The nature of the allegations, and the quality of repartees have remained unchanged ever since Sikkim made space for political wrangling. Allegations of corruption, dilution of Sikkim’s special status and denial of local protection make up the grist of all attacks from the Opposition camp, and reminders of the people’s mandate and calls to go over its own track-record form the basis of all retorts from the ruling front. This time around, a unique aberration has been added to the mix in the nature of the odd alignment in which the opposition is coming from expelled ruling party members promoting the case of a legislator still wearing the ruling party colours. This befuddlement, if those currently on a vicious anti-government drift are serious about consolidating the anti-incumbency sentiments, will have to be cleared soon. We leave that projection for some time later, for now let’s return to the quality of political debate. 
While reiterations of the same allegations and counters might draw applause and sniggers from supporters of the respective sections, for an unattached receiver of these exchanges, the content and approach arrive as examples of lazy politics, albeit vigorously played. The same issues have been endlessly regurgitated, repackaged and redeployed, and while political game-plans are for the respective players to chart out, having appropriated a public life for themselves, politicians owe more to the people by way of the quality of debate they bring to the public space. Corruption, protection of local laws and local people are not non-issues, and because they are important, they deserve stronger homework and more convincing arguments. The ongoing exchange on these issues, it is obvious, is playing out to a bored audience since neither side has been able to excite passionate support among the lay people even if their constituent supporters are on hyperactive mode. The endorsement of supporters is automatic for each side, but as far as the general masses are concerned, they read, some even follow developments, many get confused, and none are really “informed” well enough to take a public stand on these issues. That is the failure of both, the ruling as well as the Opposition camps, because the lack of public engagement on these matters is not a manifestation of an informed choice, but a disinterest imposed by muddled polemics. To these generalities are being added conspiracy theories and personal explanations and attacks. The ruling party trying to explain why an MLA was sidelined and the MLA seeking to pre-date his disaffection to before the elections are of little real interest to the people at large. Had it mattered to them, their inquisitiveness would not have had to wait three years for an explanation. But since these are being offered up in with no punches being pulled, the people receive it as an amusing diversion from the otherwise boring political space in the interregnum between elections. Rhetoric is entertaining and rehashing demands fewer risks than deploying creativity and commitment to introduce something new to public political discourse which in turn demands complete immersion in ideology and a clear idea on how to promote it. But then, such clear delineation is not possible in the present bout because of the complications created by the fact that the opposition mood is currently led by a ruling party legislator.
Be that as it may, how the dissident MLA and the rest already in the opposition camp engage in the upcoming panchayat elections will present a sampling of how successfully they can lobby among the already disaffected and whether they can expand their existing constituencies. In that sense, the panchayat elections should be welcomed by the people at large because not only will it force the opposition camp to engage more clearly at the people-to-people level, but will also see the ruling front get down to the brass-tacks of grassroots empowerment more earnestly by exacting greater accountability.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Missing covers over drains

GANGTOK, 23 July: Carpeting work on the National Highway leading out of Gangtok by the BRO has been going on for quite some time now. During the carpeting, covers of the storm water drains along the road are often removed and put back in place later. However, at various places in the capital the drains remain uncovered despite work having been completed a while back. These uncovered spots along the road can lead to a major mishap any day.
Right in front of the new Secretariat situated at Development Area, four covers are missing from over the roadside drain. Many people have complained about this as people, especially those walking at night could just fall into the drain through one of these uncovered spots.

Central Pendam FA product, Prashant Tamang, conferred the first Grameen Football Gaurav

GANGTOK, 23 July: An upcoming and promising young footballer, Prashant Tamang has been conferred with the first Grameen Football Gaurav, in a presentation ceremony held today at Press Club of Sikkim. 
The award was instituted by Sikkim Express and Videocon d2h to encourage local upcoming and promising young footballers from rural areas. Former Indian football skipper and co-owner of the United Sikkim Football Club, Bhaichung Bhutia, who was present as the chief guest, presented the award to the young footballer.
15-year-old Prashant is a promising footballer from Gram Vikash Sangathan Football Academy [GVSFA], Central Pendam in East Sikkim. He originally hails from Legship in West Sikkim and joined GVSFA in 2009. He is currently studying in Class X at Central Pendam SSS. Prashant plays as a stopper in the team and during the past 3 years in the academy he has been growing as a dependable stopper. He impressed everyone with his performances and game in the recently concluded SFA second division Sikkim-League.
While congratulating Prashant for this award, Bhaichung encouraged him to work hard and play the game with dedication. Adding that obstacles came along his way as well, he said that hardwork and dedication helped him further his football career.
Bhaichung appreciated the concept of the award to encourage and recognize rural talents. He also congratulated the GVSFA for their initiative in producing gifted footballers from their academy and also assured to visit the academy soon.
Pointing out that in the last couple of years the state has been recording many cases of drug abuse, Bhaichung stressed that sports was only the way to divert the young generation to the right path. He also shared his dream of producing more footballers from Sikkim and plans to have a whole set of local players in the USFC in the near future.
In his short address, Prashant expressed his gratitude to members of his academy and everyone who has supported him till date.
Sikkim Express editor, Amit Patro mentioned that rural Sikkim has always been working as a factory of footballers and contributing in the development and promotion of football in the state. He mentioned that this award is an initiative to encourage fresh football talents from rural areas, who will be torch bearers of the game in the coming days.
Mr Patro mentioned that Grameen Football Gaurav is a monthly initiative wherein a young, promising and budding footballer from rural Sikkim will be conferred with this award every month.
The function was also addressed by NIPL Director, Shirish Khare and Videocon d2h Area Head, P John and GVSFA president, Ambika Pokhrel.
The function concluded with the vote of thanks by Associate Editor Himali Bela, Rupesh Sharma.

Ernest & Young to prepare DPR on use of UID in various govt programs

GANGTOK, 23 July: DESM&E which is the project implementer for the UID project in Sikkim held a workshop on 20 July to discuss the use of Aadhaar numbers in various government programs and projects. The department has appointed a multinational consultant, Ernest & Young, to prepare a detailed project report for using Aadhaar numbers in various schemes of the government, informs a DESM&E release. 
The government has already notified the use of Aadhaar numbers in all people-oriented services and projects. The workshop was held to get the feedback of various departments on using Aadhaar numbers in their schemes, the release mentions. Twenty eight departments participated in the workshop where the consultant informed them about the study they had conducted on all departments and their findings of their study.
Various opinions were given by the participants and matters were discussed in detail.  DESM&E has already finished the first phase of enrollment where more than 80% of the citizens were enrolled while the second phase of enrollment is expected to begin next month.
The department is now preparing to implement the report being prepared by the consultant which is aimed to improve the delivery and authentication of people based schemes in the state. Use of Aadhaar numbers in programs will dramatically improve the delivery and authentication which will lead to better services and prevent leakages, the release expresses.
The UID Authority of India as already sanctioned some funds to DESM&E to implement Aadhaar based services in the state and DESM&E will implement several Aadhaar based schemes within this financial year itself.

Nom-Panang villagers receive compensation for crop damages

MANGAN, 23 July: The Department of Forest, Environment and Wildlife Management provided compensation for crop damages to 28 houses of Nom-Panang village of Saffo Passingdang GPU in Upper Dzongu, North Sikkim today. Wild bears entering from Lingdem and Leek Reserve Forest had earlier caused damages to the standing crops such as maize and other vegetables of the Nom-Panang villagers.
The compensation was handed over to the villagers in the presence of ST Lachungpa (ACF KNP) along with TW Lachungpa (Range Officer KNP), ward panchayat, Tshering Lepcha and other forest officials. On the day, forest officials urged the villagers not to kill the wild animal as the department is providing compensation for damages caused by such animals.
Also on the day, eight villagers of the Lingthem-Lingdem were provided compensation for cattle lost to wild bear attacks. It may be mentioned here that the village of Nom-Panang is often at risk of such attacks by wild animals which have damaged crops and killed livestock in the past.
It was informed that a team from the Forest department headed by the DFO North, Sugen Saring visited the spot where attacks were reported from. The villagers were also provided with fire crackers in order to keep wild animals off their fields.

Editorial: Water Issues

Aamir Khan, the celebrity who has played the nation’s conscience-keeper for 12 weeks now with his show “Satyamev Jayate” airing on multiple channels, introduced the country to the water crisis developing in the country. One of the experts in the panel blamed the situation on the British rule of India and the administration it spawned. Unfortunately, the same administrative mindset prevails pushing the nation on the brink.
Some years ago, a specialist on water issues commented that when the British first landed on Indian soil, they couldn’t understand how a country that received barely 100 hours of rain on an average per year could sustain such vibrant civilisations. For someone coming from a country which literally “pisses” [her words] rain all year round, this was definitely a culture shock. Also, the British spread across India from South up and noticed the water reserves of Himalayan glaciers which feed most of India’s rivers much later. In the nearly three hundred years that the British spent in India [some as traders, more than a century as the kingdom-grabbing East India Company and 90 as the Crown], the British tried to set things “right”. Unwilling to accept that the ‘natives’ had a better model for water conservation and sharing, the British administrators dismantled the traditional arrangements and started administering water supply [tourists, for example, would know of the many water tanks, called “kunds”, which remain dry now and receive tourists across the dry belt of India]. The state-people collaboration which managed water in India was dismantled and the State took control of supply. The first casualty was the sense of ownership among the people on their water sources and then was lost the traditional knowledge base on water harvesting and conservation. Climate change and environmental degradation have contributed, but it has essentially been the cultural distancing of people from water sources which has created the water crisis. Images of rural folk walking hours to collect potable water brings to question the intelligence of the people in settling so far away from such a necessity as water. It is obvious that the people were not foolish, it is only that in the last century or so, the water has dried away from them. A water source they nurtured through generations, took less than a century of state control to trickle away from them. What is worrying is that the traditional knowledge base and traditional practices continue to recede further away from public memory.
Take Sikkim’s example. Isn’t it ironic that this land of plenty should have drought prone regions? Well, maybe having drought prone regions is not ironic, but what is ironic is that such regions are also among the more heavily populated. It is obvious that when people settled there, water not as scarce as it has now become. The moment RMDD or PHE pipe water to homes, the need to conserve the local source is no longer directly felt because the responsibility has shifted. Add to this the control Forest Department insists over forests and the traditional practices of forestry, which always ensure balance and conservation [not only of the forest, but also the catchment area of water sources], is lost as well. Before one realises, even Sikkimese, blessed with getting to live so close to nature end up believing in the myth of perennial water sources. There might not be water riots in Sikkim yet, although the rush at tanker supplies when the taps run dry can get quite aggressive, but if the connection between people and water is not returned to its traditional intimacy soon, the crisis will arrive here as well. The Dhara Vikas programme is a positive move towards this end, but for it to succeed, the bureaucracy will have to limit its role to facilitator and allow whatever can be salvaged from the traditional knowledge base to play the initiator.

Child Labour: Are we really doing enough?

With the ever increasing demand and supply of consumer goods and the economy of India escalating to new heights, it is proving extremely difficult to end Child Labour in our country. Although, the Constitution has policies safeguarding the rights of children the question is – are these bearing any fruit?
Every now and then we get to hear fortuitous news about apprehending illegal child traffickers only but what about the fate of those children who slog from dusk till dawn in tea stalls, some shrouded in factories, or concealed in brothels. One can examine the meretricious role of the character ‘Millimetre’ from the film Three Idiots and assume the depth of incision of child labour in the Indian society.
While many are willing to accept that the problem of child labour exists, very few people are willing to accept responsibility for the problem. Indian children are most exploited in volume as per the data released by CRY [Child Relief and you] and are often forced to work out of necessity, most employed children come from poverty stricken families generally from rural communities. The family’s poverty forces children into the work place. A father at a construction site in Sikkim whose children went to school remarked "What is the point of my children going to school when they won't get any suitable job that would be enough to provide the daily bread."
Although poverty is the main catalyst of the child labour problem, it is not, however, the only cause. Family debt is also a contributing factor. Often family debts will be passed on to the next generation forcing young children into bonded labour. As the CRY organization states, a case study in Sivakashi match factories found that even the child in the womb is pledged to the factory, and consumption and maternity loans are obtained on the undertaking that when the child is born, girl or boy, would work for the factory. Bonded children have no way of ending the cycle of debt created by their parents; their labour seems only to incur more debts as the master controls their fate. This cycle perpetuates with the children being bonded to their masters to repay even eight-generation old debts.
Nestle and Hershey's are both multinational giants synonymous for making chocolate bars and hot drinks products. It is learned that they were found flouting child labour norms, the raw material: like the cocoa beans which is imported from African countries such as Ghana and Ivory Coast which account for75% of cocoa production in the world, which is used to make chocolate products were actually prepared for export to manufacturing countries through hard labour by young kids. Most of the children were between12 to 16, children as young as seven have also been caught on camera working for these multinational companies.
To protect the pods from insects children aged as young as 12 have to spray the pods without protective equipment exposing themselves to hazardous chemicals.
Moreover, the question is how much are we informed and adhering to the fact of problems faced by children working as labour in Sikkim? There are hundreds of examples prevalent, just about every other chai shop employs early teenagers working as waiters, helpers, cooks etc under hazardous conditions. Young Adivasi girls and boys from the neighbouring state of West-Bengal are illegally trafficked every year across the state’s border. They are found serving alcohol in restaurants by the crack of dawn and plodding at work till late night. Apart from the drudgery the amoral insult the owner unleashes leaves a lot to ponder about on our social behavior and structure. Alien to our climate their hands swell like inflated balloons during winter because of the exposure to the cold water while doing the dishes. Yet we are never thankful and just remunerate them with meagre amounts enough for just a hand-to- mouth existence. The surplus value and the comfort they provide us with their hard labour must be paid to them to bring things at par.
There were reports that said that young school going kids in rural Sikkim are engaged as labourers at road construction sites during their winter vacations where they are susceptible to hazardous gases such nitrous and nitrogen oxide emitted due to burning of bitumen for carpeting.
RK Mishra, who studied child labour in the sari industry of Varanasi, once said that the child labourers were like caged-birds - condemned from their very birth to be captive workers. For now, the world must wait anxiously for these caged birds to be set free.
[recvd on email]

Border Trade records first imports in 6 years at Rs. 1.8 lakh

GANGTOK, 22 July: There is a raging price war among Sikkim traders engaged in the Nathula Border Trade which is bringing down the price of goods being sold across to traders from Tibet. Involved in this price war are the Sikkim traders who, it seems, are a divided lot. A tussle has begun between old traders [who have been trading over the past seasons] and the new lot who have received trade passes this season.
This resulted in a meeting being called by the Traders’ Association in Gangtok on 20 July to come to some sort of understanding. Despite such hindrances this is the first season in 6 years which saw imports of Chinese goods into Sikkim and serves as an encouragement to traders of both sides.
With a view to carve a niche for themselves the new traders have reportedly been selling goods across the border at prices lower than the rates established by the traders thus far. This has led to the lowering of prices of main items of trade thus affecting the margin of profit and forcing the older traders also to bring down their ‘higher’ pricing.
Thus the price of a sack of sugar – about 50 kg – has come down from the “normal” [for Nathula thus far] of Rs. 2,600 to Rs. 2,200 and it is informed that new traders are also willing to sell it for Rs. 2,000. The actual price [in Sikkim] of 50 kg of sugar is just Rs. 1,700. Similarly, the other major item of trade, rice, a 50 kg sack of which was initially being sold across the border at Rs. 2,000 has seen a “fall” in rates as well. Sources inform that the new set of traders are even willing to sell it at below Rs. 1,500 with some even willing to sell it at its actual price of Rs. 1,110.
Not to be left out, the Chinese traders have also added their own dimension to this jamboree over prices. Seeing the price war among the traders here, it is informed that they are now declining from buying in bulk and refraining from buying some items altogether with the motive of inducing a further fall in prices.
The traders’ association meeting of 20 July among traders proved inconclusive as new traders could not be convinced to increase their rates. There was talk of refraining from engaging in trade for a week in order to get prices up again but this also was not finally decided upon. In fact the old traders were at a loss to understand how items could be sold at such low rates. Adding another twist some items are being returned by the Chinese traders as these are not accompanied by their dates of manufacture and expiry.
While the dilemma of the old traders continues, what comes as tremendous news for the government is the fact that for the first time in 5 seasons of trade the border trade has recorded imports. The month of June 2012 witnessed the first official imports since 2007 when Chinese traders stopped bringing in listed items as they had no market. This season, with a shallow increase in the items of trade, import figures have been recorded just over Rs. 1.8 lakh for the month of June. On the other hand, exports were a whopping Rs. 1.91 crore.
The main items of import are blankets, quilts, carpets and china clay the largest item of import for June being blankets which saw 200 pieces worth over Rs. 1,00,000 being imported.

Kamala Anshu Award conferred on five women litterateurs

GANGTOK, 22 July: ‘Sahityakar Kamala Anshu Smriti Trust’ conferred five women litterateurs of Sikkim and Darjeeling with the Kamala Anshu award on Saturday.
The award was conferred to honour the “sincere dedication” of these women towards the promotion of Nepali literature in India. The awardees are: Dr. Kavita Lama from Darjeeling, Draupadi Ghimiray, social activist turned litterateur, Kavita subba, Linu Khaling and Binashree Kharel.
The award consists of cash award of Rs. 5,555, a shawl and citation.
Bijay Bantawa, trustee of Sahityakar Kamala Anshu Smriti Trust informed that he had decided to form the trust on the advice of literary personalities from across the nation in memory of the contributions and dedication of Late Kamala Anshu.
He said that the trust has decided to publish a ‘Smriti Grantha’ dedicated to the late Anshu. Late Anshu was born on 23 May, 1955 and had died on 11 March 2006 at the age of 50.
Bal Vikash students also performed Mangala charan and Ved Mantra and Inspector General of Police, Akshay Sachdeva, performed a Bhajan.
Kamala Anshu has been an inspiration for many aspiring writers and social worker said Bijay Bantawa, adding that although is no more, she has more than 1000 literary works to her name. Senior journalist CD Rai and renowned litterateur of Darjeeling, Bindhya Subba also addressed the gathering while Dr. Kavita Lama highlighted on various aspects of late Kamala Anshu.

Cabinet clears slew of proposals

GANGTOK, 22 July [IPR]: The Cabinet Meeting was held at Samman Bhawan, Gangtok on 20 July, 2012 under the Chairmanship of the Chief Minister. The meeting passed various proposals pertaining to various departments of the state government.
The proposal seeking approval to utilize the fund approved by the Ministry as per the SSSP/MOU and transfer of fund amounting to Rs. 411.72 lakh to implement the strategic Statistical Plan.
The proposal seeking confirmation of the approval for disbursement of Rs. 319.23 lakh for settlement of payments during 2012-13 for land and houses acquired by the Department for construction of various roads.
The proposal seeking approval to release Rs. 307.50 lakh as grant-in-aid to SRDA/ MGNREGA/ SIRD/ Zilla Panchayats/ GPUs/ SREDA for meeting the administrative expense during current financial year.
The proposal seeking the fund sanction of Rs. 116.63 lakh as Central share (90%) and 12.96 lakh as State share (10%) for fund transfer under Swarna Yajanti Rozgar Yojana for the financial year 2012-13.
The proposal for according approval and sanction of  Rs. 25.00 lakh for implementation of Chief Minister’s Comprehensive  Annual and Total Check up for healthy Sikkim (CATCH). The proposal includes procurement of computer items to facilitate the health card printing, to impart training on software implementation and salary for the junior programmer and data entry operator engaged by the NIC, Gangtok.
The proposal for according administrative approval and financial sanction of Rs 736.55 lakh for development of Tourist infrastructure at Naitam, lower Syari and Way side Amenity at Bhusuk (Naitam) in East Sikkim.
The proposal for according approval and sanction of Rs 7,13,82,757 for free distribution of readymade school uniforms to  the students for the academic session 2012.
The proposal seeking approval of Rs 364 lakh to be released to Temi Tea Estate for the financial year 2012-13 and the Proposal seeking approval of Rs 77.21 lakh to Sikkim Khadi &Village Industry Board as grant-in-aid for the financial year 2012-13.
The proposal seeking administrative approval and financial sanction to the tune of Rs. 51.67 lakh for the implementation of Integrated Child Protection Scheme.
The proposal seeking administrative approval and financial sanction of Rs 467 lakh for restoration of eleven flood management schemes damaged due to successive natural calamities/post earthquake at various places in Sikkim under Flood Management Programme (FMP).
The proposal seeking approval for rollback of user charges for various investigations/ tests/ procedures including registration fee and abolition of Rs. 150 per day per bed charges for all bed charges for all general public irrespective of possession of Sikkim Subject, COI, Voter ID Card.
The proposal for according approval to submit project proposal for development of Sky Walk Project for promotion of Wildlife Tourism at Maenam Wildlife  Sanctuary at Bhaleydhunga and construction of Eco- Ropeway (cable car) from Dhapper to Bhaleydhunga for final clearance to the National Board for wildlife, Government of India.
The proposal seeking approval to create 12 posts of Supervisors under Engineering cell of the department

Rescued in time, injured python survives in South Sikkim

NAMCHI, 22 July [IPR]: It was just a regular, routine afternoon on 12 July for Range Officer Wildlife (South) Hari Maya Thapa, who was on a scheduled visit to inspect the construction work of Nature Information Centre and the Eco Sensitive Zone on the Jorethang-Melli highway when she was informed about an injured Rock Python in the area by a group of locals. The python had fallen off the cliff on the highway possibly after been run over by a passing vehicle.
Along with the locals she quickly visited the site and found the badly injured python dangling on a branch of a tree on the cliff. With the help of the locals she recovered the injured python. Here the RO makes special mention of the locals who took up this dangerous feat risking their lives to save the python.
The RO then brought the injured serpent to Namchi Veterinary Centre, where the python was attended by the Veterinary Doctor, Dr. Z Bhutia.
The python which comes under Schedule 1 of (Wildlife Protection Act, 1991) is an endangered species. It was gasping and struggling for life and had some grievous injuries around the jaw line and was bleeding. After examining it, the doctor injected a few antibiotics and other medicines to try and save this beautiful animal.
By then it was almost 7 PM and both the doctors as well as the Forest Department Officials were not sure if the injured animal would survive, but there was some hope as the serpent had responded fairly well to whatever treatment it had received.
Now the problem was where to keep this injured serpent as the Veterinary Centre was not equipped to keep such animals and taking it to the zoo was not advisable. Range Officer Ms Thapa, who had recovered the injured animal volunteered to take it with her and keep it till morning, this is the compassion of a woman who is very sincere towards to her work and for her saving that animal was the most important thing then.
The next morning to her and everyone’s surprise the python was responding well to the treatment and alive, she brought the animal to the centre and Dr. Z Bhutia started few other treatments.
Today, 8 days after the animal was rescued and had been kept in the Rescue Centre of Kitam Bird Sanctuary it is still receiving treatment to bring it back to full heath.
Dr. Z Bhutia and her staff at the Namchi Veterinary Centre, PB Gurung who needs a special mention here, visits the Rescue Centre (almost 38 kms to and fro distance) everyday to give medicine and do some required dressings on the animal.
The python has now started feeding on its own, informed the Range Officer and is recovering very well from the injuries sustained.
Rock pythons are widely found in South Asia. The subspecies is limited to the Indo-Chinese sub-region. In Sikkim Himalaya, it has been reported from tropical regions such as Sukna forest, Sevoke, Tarkhola, Melli, Jorethang, Manpur, Rangpo, Sirwani, Singtam, Makha and Rigu.
The said animal is called Panu bu by the Lepchas, an approximate translation of the Lepcha name Panu bu is King snake as they consider it to be the king of snakes. Even a Lepcha leader is implored to be like a python - strong, powerful and impersonal but not poisonous or malicious.

Recently elected ASTBA Joint Secretary resigns

GANGTOK, 22 July: The All Sikkim Tamang Buddhist Association has received a setback with its recently-elected Joint Secretary, tendering his resignation. Loday Tshering Tamang, who had been elected Joint Secretary [1] of the STBA in the elections held on 08 July, 2012, resigned from his post on 21 July, 2012. 
This resignation within days of having been elected as an office bearer of the STBA raises doubts that the STBA could be grappling with some internal discontentment. The resignation has not been explained by the erstwhile Joint Secretary who has issued a press statement saying that he has resigned on personal grounds.
Today the new office bearers of the STBA were to be accorded their briefs by the old office bearers in an official handing over function; this could not take place in light of the new turn of events.
The resignation letter was handed to the present President , STBA and the Election Commission of STBA, Mr. Tamang informs in his press statement. It is expected that the STBA would have to conduct a bye election for the vacated post of Joint Secretary.

Don’t let complacency ruin opportunities


Summer vacations have just got over all over the country. It’s a delight to see children come home after working hard in the residential schools through the year. But what was even more delightful to see was a bunch of students from the state come home from some of the best schools in the country. These children come from very humble backgrounds. They are the ones who have held their ambitions in deep recesses of their hearts but no means to fulfil them until they were selected for the Special Merit Scholarship Scheme of the Chief Minister on the basis of state-level tests conducted to shortlist meritorious children at the Class V level.
It was the vision of the Chief Minister, Pawan Chamling that led to the inception of the Special Merit Scholarship Scheme of the Chief Minister to help such students to walk alongside their friends from better financial backgrounds. The Scheme was launched in 2010 and it may be noted that Sikkim is the first State in India to launch such an innovative Scheme.
This unique Scheme has come as a boon to those deserving students of Sikkim who cannot afford quality education. The Scheme was launched with the prime objective to make education accessible to the deserving but underprivileged students. As a result, more than 350 students are studying in coveted schools like Scindia School, Gwalior and Pinegrove School, Himachal Pradesh to name a few.
All of us who have come up the hard way know the pangs of not being able to afford good education despite the desire to excel. Our parents at the most could afford to send us to the humble and ubiquitous government schools. It was up to us whether we wanted to study or while away our time and grow up to be a liability.
Education’s always been taken for granted. We have a myopic view towards education. Education for us has always meant the infallible means to earn bread and butter. But things changed with the advent of the Sikkim Democratic Front. Education became a priority sector and great emphasis was laid on quality education. The Chief Minister, Pawan Chamling as an individual has always been a crusader for quality education.
I am truly happy that now students in Sikkim will not be deprived of quality education just because it is beyond their reach. In this regard, it would be wonderful to see 20% of the budget being allocated to education.
If we are to compare the statistics in the education sector in a typical before and after format, we clearly see the rapid progress that has been made in education. For instance, the number of students enrolled in schools in 1975-76 was 20,959 which increased to a whopping 1,61,737 in 2009-2010. Number of educational institutes has increased from 261 in 1980-1988 to 777 in 2009-2010. Literacy rate in 1994 was 56% while it reached 82.2% in 2011.
Some of the other milestones achieved by the State Government in the education sector have helped promote holistic development both in the context of socio-cultural advancement and also in the expansion of educational facilities. For example, through introduction of Sherpa, Gurung, Newar, Tamang, Mangar, Rai and Mukhia languages as part of school curriculum, we have promoted the cultural heritage of Sikkim. Limboo, Bhutia and Lepcha languages are being taught till graduate level to facilitate larger access to our indigenous languages. One of the most important decisions has been the establishment of a Sanskrit Vidyalaya and Sanskrit Mahavidyalaya in Sikkim to promote classical language and popularize usages in the everyday use.
The Government has reached out to the students like never before for the holistic development. The facilities that have been provided for students and teachers by the State Government are phenomenal! Teachers in Sikkim are the highest paid in the country! There was an increase of over 89% in the salary of teachers in 2011.  No wonder when I recently asked a teacher friend of mine if she intends to sit for any competitive exam, she replied “I am very happy being a teacher. I find teaching very fulfilling.” Such is the zeal for teaching.  But in the same breath, the quality of teaching needs some serious improvement. We must remember that quality is more important than quantity. If you go to see, a fly lays more eggs than a hen!
Teachers have to constantly update and upgrade themselves. They have to remember that teaching is a profession that creates all others. They cannot afford to be complacent.  Nothing should be more rewarding for a teacher to see his/ her student grow up into a successful citizen! I dreaded Maths while in school! I could not even understand the basics! But I somehow managed to scrape through in Maths in my Class X Board exam. After that I have never touched anything (to do with numbers)   except a calculator.  But in retrospect, I feel that had my Maths teachers given me some individual attention and assured me that Maths was not that difficult, maybe I would never have developed this ‘I hate you’ relationship with Maths. This is what constitutes breaking the glass ceiling, the imaginary high point which also restricts our potential to excel beyond the mundane!
Today luckily things have changed for better. The passion to excel is palpable among the students thanks to the advent of so many fun and interesting mediums of learning even if the teachers are not very cooperative. Students today excel both in their academics and extracurricular activities. They have brought laurels to the State in competitive events.
The Special Merit Scholarship Scheme of the Chief Minister has helped to foster a sense of healthy competition among the students. It has also provided exposure for the students who would otherwise stay within the confines of Sikkim. The idea that lies in popularising such Schemes is to underpin and underscore the message of competitiveness in children.
Buoyed by its success, for the year 2012, the State Government has doubled the number of beneficiaries to 200 from 100 in 2011. Out of the 200, 40 students are to be admitted to schools outside the State and the remaining 16 are to be admitted in public schools within the State.
Till date the graph of students has touched the figure of 350 across the State under this Scheme. The target is to provide the Scheme to 1000 students in the future. But this target will be difficult to achieve unless our attitude undergoes some change.  Our teachers should stop taking their jobs for granted. They should constantly grow and adopt new techniques of teaching to keep up with the fast changing world. Teachers have to be sincere towards their job and they should remember that teaching is a job that calls for the highest degree of responsibility as teachers can make or break the future of students.
Our children should learn from the youth of Bihar. Our students must think in broad terms and not limit themselves to Sikkim. In today’s competitive world students have to broaden their horizon and go out there and take the world in their stride. They cannot afford to be complacent and wait for an appointment letter (for a Government job) to fall in their lap!
And we must also do away with our self imposed ideas of protective shelter for our children. We have to accept the fact that it is perfectly ok for children to go out for work or higher studies. Exposure is the need of the hour. We cannot afford to stifle our children on the pretext of being protective parents. Manipur is a case in point. Delhi has a lot of youth from Manipur. A large chunk of Manipuri youth are either studying or working in cities like Delhi and they are doing well in both!
We must take a cue from states like Manipur. 17 candidates from Manipur cleared the IAS and other allied examinations this year. And it isn’t a mean feat! I doubt if this would have been possible if these aspirants had stayed back in Manipur debating day in and day out on the scrapping of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Manipur or why North East still remains neglected by the mainstream. But these aspirants dared to rise above petty issues. They turned their weaknesses into strengths and dared to venture out. And for all we know our children might end up as round pegs in square holes when they grow up unless we make them venture beyond safe havens.
We are very fortunate that we truly live in a paradise. The State Government has given us everything that we could possibly need and want. We get subsidies on and for almost every possible thing. But that does not mean that we become freeloaders. We have to get out of this smug contentment zone. Independence sounds better as a verb than an adjective. Common people get your acts together. Enough of this lackadaisical attitude!
National Rural Employment Guarantee Act has done this, done that... It has provided employment and made people self-reliant. So far, so good...  But seems NREGA has brought mixed blessings. Whether it has made us more active or more indolent is a debatable issue. We have simply lost the art of toiling. How many of us actually ‘sweat it out’ whether in the fields or on the treadmill? We have become too lazy too fast! But we forget that the whole game is about the survival of the fittest!
Parents must take genuine interest in the education of their children. Reading habits among students need to be inculcated. Parents also have the duty of instilling moral and ethical values in their children. Inner qualities of the children have to be developed. We must shift our focus from superficiality to profundity.
The other day a friend of mine told me about a friend of his who bought an expensive mobile phone for his school going son. My friend apparently told his friend that he could have bought a laptop for his son with the kind of money he spent on the mobile phone. What do you think?
Education is derived from the Latin word educatus which means to ‘bring up’ or ‘rear.’ Nelson Mandela has rightly said that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Today’s students are tomorrow’s agents of change. And Schemes like the Special Merit Scholarship Scheme of the Chief Minister act as facilitator for the change. Close to 50 percent of our population comprises of citizens between the ages of 1-19 years. With huge potential for human development, we have to work alternately to train our people and also create enough avenues for gainful employment.
Many of our children coming out of schools and colleges lack skills and knowledge and thus unemployable. This we have successfully addressed through establishment of Livelihood Schools and Capacity Building Institutes to train our youths in alternative professions. The youth are being trained for hospitality/ IT and a whole array of vocations that are in vogue with a very good placement record both in India and abroad.
With all these initiatives, I would not be surprised to see these kids making it to one of the world’s top 20 colleges under the Chief Minister’s Free Scholarship Scheme (which is another unique Scheme of the State Government). And I will not be surprised either if this evokes a feeling of regret in some of us. With so many opportunities all around, I only wish I was born a little later. Don’t you?
[The writer is a resident of Borong, East Sikkim. Article received on email]

Editorial: Wasting the Potential of Nathula

Border Trade over Nathula is in its seventh season at present, and where one would have expected the processes and infrastructure to have improved with every year of trading, ground reality is much different. The direct road to Nathula [from Gangtok] is in temperamentally collapse and the lack of understanding among central agencies on border trade niceties remains awaited. Both these issues remain beyond Sikkim’s control, but what has been a major dampener has been the fact that border trade has injected no excitement beyond those directly involved in the trading when something as historic and pregnant with possibilities as the reopening of Nathula should have spread cheer to a larger swathe. Cheer, not of the kind acquired by reflected glory, but the one in which an opportunity is seized to spark prosperity among more people. Unfortunately, Sikkim has approached Nathula with the same consumer and immediate profit-driven mentality which has wasted many other opportunities here. Traders, as recent developments bear out, are more focused on cartel-driven pricing and moving unlisted goods than recognising and exploiting the potential of the listed and fair. Nathula has more potential just stocking curio shops in the region or moving goods at usurious rates. 
Sikkim should consider itself very lucky that the Centre’s paranoia has seen to it that despite Trinamool Congress being such an important cog of the UPA wheel [and in urgent need of being provided some celebratory announcement], West Bengal has been denied a share in Indo-Tibet trade. The limiting of Nathula for border trade exclusively by Sikkim-based traders works in Sikkim’s favour because even as the items of trade remain consistent with the traditional trade and the demand in TAR, it also allows local traders a monopoly over the exchange. The prosperity enjoyed by Kalimpong in the past, when it had earned near monopoly over the trade through sheer business acumen and the hectic trading hub that Siliguri is now, by becoming the conduit of supplies to the region should have been replicated in Sikkim. The present configuration in Delhi is traditionally suspicious of China and cannot be expected to go out of its way to make Nathula more than just a token gesture which explains the lack of urgency in repairing the infrastructure and the lack of clarity on policy directives. The trade, however, has been opened through a bilateral agreement between the two countries and given this status, no obstacle will be impossible to surmount because New Delhi’s whims alone are not enough to limit this trade. The optimism has to outlast the stonewalling, and a minor victory was earned this season with the addition to the list of items allowed for trade. These are minor adjustments, and the real challenge – of seeing to it that Sikkim benefits in more ways than would accrue to it by virtue of just sitting on the pass – is yet to be addressed. In the initial years of trade, the Chief Minister had made frequent appeals that Sikkim entrepreneurs should invest in value addition to goods imported from TAR so that the trade has more spin-offs. This was and remains very doable; but no one is doing it. What limits Sikkim’s hand? Nothing. In fact, everything encourages such an evolution. Sikkim has exclusive access to raw materials [like wool, borax and china clay] and even livestock [like ponies and sheep] which are required as much to take existing cottage industries to new levels of quality and demand as to replenish the gene-pool of such animals in the region. But these are items which are not even traded in. Admittedly, the required infrastructure [for warehousing and quarantine] have not been adequately established and the paperwork promises to be a nightmare, but seven seasons is enough time for these to have been resolved if earnest enough attempts had been made. The traders, unfortunately, appear satisfied to engage as retailers and focus on immediate profits, not long-term investments.
Sikkim is marching on the Middle East path by ignoring the potential of value-adding and marketing the possible products by itself. But remember here, too many conspiracies and huge money see to it that Middle East countries don’t exploit their oil reserves on their own and sell-out to first world countries; there are no such excuses for Sikkim. The only thing letting it down is its own lethargy. Sample this, countries that produce 90% of the world’s cocoa bean, produce only 5% of the world’s chocolate. Why? Remember the Bournville advt of a westerner selecting cocoa beans in Ghana? Even in their case, production is curtailed because their chocolate is usuriously taxed by chocolate-consuming countries which have their own chocolate manufacturing MNCs. The growers there have the excuse of being victimized. And why look only at Nathula, Large Cardamom replays the same lethargy. The officially recorded largest producer of large cardamom in the country is not interested in value addition and despite growing the spice for more than century, limits its business to middle-men. This attitude should have changed for Nathula and it will only be such a paradigm shift which will have Nathula deliver on its promises.

CM inaugurates DIET building and second Govt College campus at Lower Burtuk

GANGTOK, 20 July [IPR]: The Chief Minister of Sikkim Pawan Chamling inaugurated the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) building and the second campus of the Degree College, Tadong at Lower Burtuk, East Sikkim, today.
Addressing students and teachers in a programme organized at the inaugural function the Chief Minister said that starting of the second campus of the Degree College, Tadong at Lower Burtuk was borne out of the need felt by those students who cannot afford to spend huge amounts of money on education and is driven by a philosophy to work for the those people. “It is our policy of equal opportunity to the students to pursue higher education”, he added.
Referring to the teachers and the students as think tanks of the society he urged them to think about their responsibility towards the society and guide the society in the right direction. “You should be able to give your views on the plans and programmes of the government and criticize whenever there is a mistake from our part”, said the CM.
Talking about the present system of education the he said that the present education system is not life oriented but driven by a cause only to become a professional. In this regard he asked the teachers to prepare the students for the challenges of life which they have to face. The students should get an opportunity to learn more than what is taught in the text books from the teachers, he said. Further adding, the Chief Minister said that children have to be taught moral ethics and values of life.
Talking about the programmes and policies of the government in the field of education and human resource development the Chief Minister said that one of the main causes of unemployment is the defective education system. The government is working in the direction of creating skilled man power who would be employed in various fields as soon as they finish their education, he said.
In this regard the Chief Minister talked about the establishment of livelihood schools all round the state and the establishment of State Institute of Capacity Building at Karfectar in South Sikkim. Skilled man power demand around the world is so huge and there are many opportunities available around the state, he said.
The Chief Minister declared to provide a bus for the second campus of the Degree College, Tadong and provide complete salary to the teachers who are undergoing in-service training at the DIET.
Teacher Training Institute was first established at Temi during the year 1957 which was shifted to Pelling during the year 1969. It was subsequently shifted to Gangtok in 1978 and was running in rented premises till it got its own building today.