Friday, August 10, 2012

Joint Task Force formed to recommend traffic management solutions for Gangtok

GANGTOK, 09 Aug: The capital town of Gangtok has been experiencing some serious issues concerning traffic management. With the Border Roads Organisation engaged in a painstakingly slow black-topping project on the national highway leading up to Gangtok, bottlenecks are being sprung leading to traffic snarls surprising for a hill town. This, coupled with the fact that the highway is the only road in and out of Gangtok with only a few arterial roads, traffic management has become a nightmare especially with whopping increase in the number of vehicles on the road of late.
With such a scenario facing the administration, a Joint Task Force headed by no less than the Chief Secretary himself has been constituted by the State government to take up issues pertaining to vehicular traffic in Gangtok and to recommend measures. The task force, it is informed, has been instituted for the speed redressal of traffic issues concerning Gangtok and surrounding areas.
As informed, the Joint Task Force will receive proposals for improvement of traffic in and around Gangtok from the various agencies involved following which it shall make recommendations, as felt appropriate, to the state government for issue of necessary directions.
In this regard a mechanism is to be evolved to improve inter-departmental coordination between various State and Central Government agencies for efficient traffic management. It will also monitor the progress of the concerned departments and agencies in the timely resolution of issues for the convenience of the general public as well as tourists.
The task force also comprises the DGP, Additional Chief Secretary and Secretaries of Forest, UD&HD, Roads and Bridges, Transport, PHE, and Power Departments. It also includes the DC and SP east district, Chief Engineer, Project Swastik and the Chief Municpal Officer, GMC.

Central Bank business facilitator at Rhenock taken into custody

GANGTOK, 09 Aug: Roshan Thapa, the Business Correspondent/ Facilitator with the Rhenock branch of Central Bank of India, accused of skimming Rs. 2.60 lakh from the bank account [in Central Bank] of an ex-servicemean, has been taken into custody and is currently on a 7-day police remand at the Rhenock Thana.He has been booked under Sections 420/ 379 covering cheating and theft of the Indian Penal Code.
Rhenock Thana OC, PI Bishal Rai, confirmed over the phone today that the accused was taken into custody on 07 August itself on the basis of a written complaint lodged by the victim, Sukbir Subba, a retired Naik from the Defence Security Corps.
“We had seized four withdrawal slips - two amounting to Rs. 80,000 each and two slips of Rs. 30,000 each, which the complainant claims were withdrawn without his knowledge from the bank,” the OC informed adding that a cheque amounting to Rs. 1 lakh [which the victim claimed to be withdrawn himself] is also in their possession to tally the signatures.
The OC further informed that he has also requisitioned the CCTV footage of days when the said amounts were withdrawn.
He said that it was one of the options to find out whether the above mentioned amounts were withdrawn by the accused person in the absence of the victim. It is to be mentioned here that the victim has alleged that the accused had asked him to sign in four blank withdrawal slips convincing him that a substantial amount had been mistakenly credited to his account and needed to be returned. It later transpired that the amount in question was part of the victim’s retirement settlement dues. [for details, refer NOW! issue dated 08 August 2012]
On chances of the case being “settled” between the victim and the accused, the PI informed that the police investigation into the case will not be effected by such developments and that a detailed report on the investigation will be submitted to the courts when completed.
It may be recalled that a 57-year-old retired Naik from DSC of the Indian Army had accused Roshan Thapa, a Business Correspondent/ Facilitator with Central Bank of India, Rhenock Branch, of having pilfered Rs. 2.60 lakh from his account by convincing him that it was part of an amount which had been deposited into his account by mistake.

Editorial: Banking on Ignorance

The Rhenock episode involving strong allegations levelled by an army ex-serviceman of having being stung by a hoax which preyed on his ignorance about banking procedures and pension details should not be dismissed as an isolated incident. [read NOW! issue dated 08 August 2012 for detailed report].
The former Indian Army Naik’s account of how he was confused with lies, and even threats of legal hassles, into believing that pension dues deposited into his account and reflected in his passbook were clerical mistakes and not his own money, amply illustrates that the pretence of authority can be easily deployed to cheat. The Branch Manager is dodging accountability on the grounds that the business correspondent was not an employee of the bank and that his deals with the affected party neither carried the bank’s sanction nor could be used to fix any accountability on the bank. This is another example of authorities getting away with weak excuses which end up working because the people at large are generally ignorant about such matters. The Reserve Bank of India’s guidelines on the hiring of Business Correspondents/ Facilitators is quite clear when it directs that “all agreements/ contracts with the customer shall clearly specify that the bank is responsible to the customer for acts of omission and commission of the BC [Business Correspondent].” The spirit of this directive suggests that instead of making the complainant run around in circles, the bank management, upon learning of how Rs. 2.6 lakh had been skimmed from the ex-serviceman’s bank account, should have been the agency which undertook an internal enquiry apart from lodging a police complaint. In the present case, the bank did not even think it necessary to inform the pensioner of the Rs. 4.5 lakh deposited into his account by the Indian Army. This information, had it been relayed to the victim [as must surely be the prescribed procedure], was shared by the bank two months late, that too after the victim had suspected foul play and was approaching the Rajya Sainik Board for information. Had the pensioner been informed in time of this transfer into his account, he would have never fallen for the scam.
The latest in this case is that the accused has agreed to reimburse the stolen money. While this must come as a relief for the pensioner, the case should not be closed just yet. The police have registered a case and taken the accused into custody, but there are other agencies which need to take up the matter as well; the higher authorities of the bank itself and the RBI, which now has an office in Sikkim, for example. The present case made it to the headlines, but there is every possibility that there are more bank accounts which have been similarly skimmed and the victims have either not realised it yet or have chosen not to complain. It is expected of the higher authorities of the bank and the RBI to investigate the banking practices at Central Bank of India’s Rhenock branch to check whether or not this was an isolated aberration and place better monitoring systems and issue fresh guidelines to ensure that people new to the banking system are not conned again.

Govt tweaks austerity measures for practicality, expects better abidance

GANGTOK, 08 Aug: A fresh circular has been issued by the State Government to all departments to curtail wasteful expenditure and urging them to undertake austerity measures. While the government had approved various austerity measures some years back itself, it seems that these were not taken very seriously by departments. Hence, a few weeks back, the Cabinet had again agreed on undertaking austerity measures in order to reduce ‘wasteful expenditure’ and following this, a circular was issued to all departments.
The new urge towards undertaking a more forceful as well as practical approach towards austerity is also due to the massive monetary loss that the state exchequer had to bear due to the earthquake of 18 September, 2011. The revenue of the government was badly impacted, inform officials, and this time the austerity measures also include constant monitoring of revenue realization. Even though there has been assistance from the central government, the revenue shortfall is for the state to make up. Officials remain tight lipped on the scale of revenue shortfall though.
As for the austerity measures, this time, the difference, as officials inform, is that the austerity measures highlighted in the circular are more ‘practical’ and rational as they do not impose a ‘blanket ban’ or direction to adhere to impractical stipulations, but provide for divergence in case of emergencies and urgent requirements.
As such, officials inform, earlier there had been a blanket ban on the purchase of new vehicles and also on the creation of new posts in the departments.  As it turned out, these directives did not prove effective despite a Committee set up on Austerity measures headed by the Chief Secretary.
It is expected that this time the government has put more teeth into its drive to undertake such measures and has emphasized the same as on a need basis. As such, all foreign tours on government expenditure have been banned, it is informed, unless sponsored by the Centre or a private agency. The government has also realized that there cannot be a complete ban on the purchase of new vehicles therefore this too has been made flexible as on a need basis.
The same with the creation of new posts in the various departments which cannot be prohibited totally, say officials. As such all such proposals will be first vetted by the committee on austerity measures which will examine the requirement put up by the particular department. This committee also includes the Additional Chief Secretary and the Finance Secretary.
Other stipulations aimed at curtailing wasteful expenditure include a standing order on the ban of holding government functions in luxury hotels. The purchase of new furniture for government offices has also been adjusted from a blanket ban to need basis.
The impact of the new approach towards the curtailing of wasteful expenditure will be known only towards the year end and more so in terms of disciplined functioning of the government rather than in monetary terms.

Forest officials from Sikkim and Nepal undertake joint monitoring of West Sikkim border

GANGTOK, 08 Aug: A joint monitoring team comprising of Forest Department officials of Sikkim and Nepal surveyed the border areas of West Sikkim from 02-05 August to assess the ground situation regarding forest status, biodiversity and communities residing in these areas.
The five member team from Nepal comprised of DFOs of Panchthar and Taplejung, the two adjoining districts in Nepal, Chairman of Kanchanjungha Conservation Area Management Council (KCAMC) the protected area having contiguity with the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve in Sikkim and the Warden of KCAMC.  The Sikkim team was represented by DFOs of Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary and Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve, members of EDCs and two Himal Rakshaks. The joint monitoring was facilitated by WWF-India and WWF-Nepal, working under the 10-point agreement of the last transboundary meeting between Nepal and Sikkim organized in Gangtok in June 2011, an official press release informs.
The team acknowledges the cooperation and support rendered by the Sashastra Seema Bal officials during the monitoring, the release adds.
Starting from Uttarey in West Sikkim, the team reached Chewabhanjyang on the first day and then trekked along the border between the two countries interacting with herders and inspecting cattle sheds along the way. The absence of cattle sheds following the ban on grazing policy was noted by the team on the Sikkim side, whereas cattle sheds were present on the Nepal side.  While there was pressure on natural resources from these cattle sheds on both sides of the border, the team observed that the overall status of forest was good.
The herders from Nepal also commented that herding as a tradition was on the decline, as people had other livelihood options which the younger generation preferred more.  On the Nepal side, construction of the road that had been brought right till Chewabhanjyang had caused noticeable damage to the forests along the area leading to landslides and erosion.
Interaction with local communities also yielded information that trade in wildlife items had reduced considerably from the past with the removal of cattle sheds that had once acted as stations for poachers and hunters. The presence of Sashastra Seema Bal along the border on the Sikkim side also seemed to act as deterrent for illegal crimes as there was close monitoring of people moving along the borders.
The joint monitoring also facilitated sharing of best practices between the two adjoining countries, and future strategies were also discussed by the two teams. The monitoring team would report their observations at the next transboundary meeting to be organized in Pokhara, Nepal in the month of September.

CM announces exclusive reservation in higher education for Lepchas


GANGTOK, 08 Aug: Chief Minister Pawan Chamling today announced an exclusive quota for the Lepchas of Sikkim in higher education. This quota regime, earmarked for Lepchas as a primitive tribe group of the State, will be implemented from the next academic session onwards, the CM informed. He was speaking at the state-level Tendong Lho Rum Faat celebration hosted at the Mannan Kendra here today.
In a frank recounting of the Government’s pursuit of acquiring primitive tribe group status for the Lepcha community of Sikkim with the Centre, the CM admitted that this bid has not been successful thus far. Reassuring that all out efforts were made towards this end, the CM pointed out that in the interim, the State Government has gone ahead and declared the community as a Primitive Tribe group of Sikkim.
He stressed that even though nothing tangible had accrued to the Lepcha community by way of the PTG recognition, it had provided them with a clearer, more unique identity as the officially recognised ‘first citizens’ of Sikkim, the people indigenous to this land since antiquity. “You now carry this officially endorsed identity wherever you go,” he said.
With the institution of exclusive reservations in higher education for the Lepchas from the next academic session onwards, the first tangible benefits of their primitive tribe group status in Sikkim have begun, he announced.
“Given that the Lepchas are the first people to have populated Sikkim, we want to see them at the top. The facilities which have been extended to the community thus far, and the new initiatives being undertaken for them should be made good use of by the community. Everyone, the Lepchas included, should realise that in Sikkim, if the Lepchas lag behind, then the State will not develop in the true sense either,” he said.
He also declared that the Tower to Heaven project at Daramdin, which has been pending for too many years now, will now be expedited, he assured. On the delay, he shared that when he visited the project site to check on the progress after he had sanctioned it, he was shocked to notice that a project which was meant to celebrate the Lepcha tale of an attempt to make a ladder of pots to heaven, was being constructed like an ordinary building.
“There was no aesthetic sense, nor any sense about the significance of the story for Lepchas in the original design. Then began the long process of getting the right design and concept. I can announce today that the project is now finalised to everyone’s satisfaction and work will begin on it soon and this time, it will be completed,” he said.
He however refused to set a deadline to the project, explaining that rushing such important projects to meet deadlines was ill-advised. “What I can assure you is that the project, when completed, will celebrate the Lepcha story well and will make everyone proud,” he said.
The statue of Thenkong Mensalong, the CM informed, is another project for the Lepcha community which has been sanctioned in principle. What is required now is for the community to decide where the statue should be made. In this regard, he stated that although he had announced the project for North Sikkim, he had been told by subject experts that North Sikkim might not be a historically accurate location for the statue. “Now, I leave it for the community to decide where it should be constructed and advice the government accordingly,” he said.
On the status of scheduled tribes in Sikkim, the CM said that the government remains committed to their protection and welfare and pointed out that this commitment was also being reflected in economic and social indicators collated by national agencies.
According to records of the Government of India, tribes of Sikkim, in regards to per capita property, are the most well to do in the country. This was a unique status and affluence that history and the present government’s efforts have achieved for the scheduled tribes of Sikkim, the CM pointed out, inviting people to compare the travails of tribe groups across India and around the world with the affluence, identity and protection the tribals enjoy in Sikkim.
The CM reiterated that in the eighteen years that he has served as the Chief Minister, he has consistently worked towards delivering equitable governance and ensuring that every community enjoyed the freedom and support to nurture their respective cultures, tradition, beliefs and language. Individuality should not be suppressed and celebrating uniqueness makes people and communities more secure and confident. “Only the negatively inclined will see such expressions as being divisive, because secure identities make unity stronger and Sikkim is proof of this,” he said.
As for the Government’s efforts to secure better futures for the younger generation, the CM detailed the various schemes already underway towards this end and also announced today that from next year onwards, all graduates will be offered the chance to take an English-speaking course to upgrade their communication skills for the modern day job markets. An institute will also be opened in Sikkim to offer all interested courses to prepare for competitive exams, he also announced.
These were efforts of the government as a facilitator, he stressed, adding that the youth will have to use these facilities in earnest to secure better futures. “There is no dearth of opportunities in Sikkim and the service sector if booming at present with potential to grow even more lucrative in the near future. The Sikkimese should seize the opportunities or others will fill in the requirements,” he said.
Also today, the Chief Minister declared a Rs 2 lakh contribution towards the Tendong Lho Rum Festival Celebration Committee and Rs 15,000 each for all the cultural group which performed today.
Earlier, the programme began with a welcome address by OT Lepcha who detailed the observance of the festival in Sikkim and of how a 3-day prayer was organised at Mount Tendong in South Sikkim attended by Bongthings from all over Sikkim. Similarly, the Sikkim Lepcha Association president Sonam Dupden Rangkop thanked the Chief Minister for all his initiatives for the welfare of the Lepcha community including the declaration of Tendong Lho Rum Faat as a state holiday which made celebrations of Lepcha identity as observed today possible and the Primitive Tribe Group recognition of Lepchas that the present government has accorded.
The Forest and Tourism Minister, Bhim Dhungel, who was also the president of the organising committee, highlighted that there has been inclusive growth of the Lepcha tribe in Sikkim and credited the Chief Minister’s leadership for its success.
State topper in Lepcha language Nima Rizong and social worker CT Lepcha were also felicitated today and two books – “History of development of Lepcha language and literature”, and “Introduction of linguistic and phonetics of Lepcha language”, released by the Chief Minister.


With a view to clarify certain reports which appeared in the Sikkim Express and Now during the last week, the North District Administration would like to state that the earthquake of 18th September 2011 caused major damages in most parts of the District. The State Government has provided immediate assistance to all the effected people in terms of payment of ex-gratia, allotment of alternative land, restoration of road communication etc. Since, the damages were major the process of bringing life to normalcy is still underway.
9 families from Bey and 12 families from Mantam have been provided land for construction of their houses at Chadey near Mangan.10 families who were reluctant to move out of their villages have been provided land close to their village under the Land Bank Scheme.Construction of houses under Reconstruction of Earthquake Damaged Houses (REDRH) will start very soon. Infact construction materials have already reached the sites.
With regard to restoration of road connectivity, the SPWD (Road & Bridges) has been working in restoring damaged roads. Work has been temporarily suspended on account of incessant rains but will resume as the rains diminish. Similarly, adequate funds are available for restoration of footpaths but with incessant rainfall, it is felt advisable to start work after the rainy season. We understand that the people of Sakyong and Pentong are facing difficulties but would like to assure them and all readers that the State Government is on the job and will insure that the entire District is brought back to normalcy as early as possible.
T.W. Khangsarpa, District Collector/ North

SPSC to adopt IT-enabled services to expedite result declarations

GANGTOK, 9 Aug: The State government has directed the Department of Information Technology (DIT) to complete the Computerised Examination Data Processing System (CEDPS) to streamline the examination process under the Sikkim Public Service Commission.
This system will help the SPSC in evaluation of answer scripts and declare results for competitive exams conducted by it faster. The DIT has already made a presentation on automated correction of answer sheets and quicker declaration of results using Optical Mark Reader technology.
KK Pradhan, Secretary, Department of Information Technology, informed NOW! that the proposal for setting up an in-house  Optical Mark Reader technology is under active consideration of the SPSC in consultation with the Basic Computer Concept Certificate from DOEACC Society, under Ministry of Information Technology, which is providing end-to-end solutions for examinations conducted by SPSC.
He said that the Department of Information Technology has already installed the Optical Mark Reader machine at SPSC and a workshop cum mock drill was also organized on the use of Optical Mark Reader in April.
He added that the department has initiated such efforts to expedite results declaration by SPSC since competitive exams conducted by it are attracting a large number of candidates and evaluating the answer scripts manually was proving very lengthy.
The Central Government has recommended that all states move ahead with technology and has provided financial assistance to states to strengthening the IT sector. The Optical Mark Reader for Sikkim has been funded by the North East Council.
Besides this, the 13th Finance Commission has advised the State government to create a computerized database of the government employees and pensioners so that it can ascertain fiscal expenditure on the account of salary and pension. Mr. Pradhan said that the role of the DIT is to handle the hardware and software related aspect of the project.
He further shared that the Department has urged the Union Ministry of IT to provide microwave support or V-Sat for Sikkim to improve the online connectivity and link Sikkim with the rest of the country. He said that the Ministry has agreed in principle to provide a V-Sat or Satellite service to Sikkim soon and the mission-mode programmes of the department will benefit from it in the coming days.  
Technical infrastructure such as high speed optical fibres will be available to District Headquarters and Sub Division Headquarters, Mr. Pradhan said, adding that like electricity, internet bandwidth will be ubiquitous and all households will be connected on the Internet through Cordect, WiFi or normal telephone line. A State Wide Area Network (SWAN) will also be installed eventually, he shared.

The observance at Tendong

NAMCHI, 08 Aug: Tendong Lho Rum Faat marks the worship of Mount Tendong in South Sikkim, the hill, which as per Lepcha beliefs, saved the tribe from a devastating deluge by offering them refuge and then growing in height while everything around them was swept away. While Gangtok hosts the state-level observance of the festival, the hill itself is the venue for the traditional worship and hosts members of the Lepcha community and their priests who gather here for the timeless rituals. It may be added here that these rituals had shriveled in observance and patronage in the past, but the declaration of the festival as a state holiday in Sikkim and a resurgence of interest among the community has now made this festival a high point of the Lepcha calendar of events now.
This year, Bongthings gathered at the Tendong summit to lead a 3-day prayer session which concluded today. Hundreds more trekked the 6 kms to the summit to attend the prayers which have been underway since 05 August.
The Tourism and Forest Minister Bhim Dhungel accompanied by all the Lepcha MLAs was also at the summit yesterday to offer prayers.

Central Bank ‘business facilitator’ accused of pilfering Rs. 2.6 lakh from pension account of retired soldier

RHENOCK, 07 Aug: A retired soldier has been stung by what can only be called a vulgar scam in which his ignorance about banking procedures and his retirement dues has been exploited to rob him of his money, allegedly by a Business Facilitator engaged by the Rhenock branch of the Central Bank of India. Confusion regarding the role and scope of activities of “Business Correspondents/ facilitators” at banks is not new, and from the elaborate details the accused in this case managed to secure about the savings account of the retired soldier, it is obvious that he had access to more information than he is authorized to.
Sukbir Subba, 57, retired as a Naik from the Defence Security Corps of the Indian Army last year after serving there for 19 years. Before this, he was in the regular army for 15 years. Now settled at Kingston-Rhenock in East Sikkim, he has accused one Roshan Thapa, a Business Correspondent/ Facilitator with Central Bank of India, Rhenock Branch, of having pilfered Rs. 2.60 lakh from his account by convincing him that it was part of an amount which had been deposited into his account by mistake.
When a distraught, and obviously confused Naik Subba narrated the elaborate process by which he had been parted from his money, it became apparent that his ignorance about banking procedures and his own pension dues could be easily exploited. It was only a chance discovery by a well-meaning fellow retired armyman that alerted the family to the con played on them and led them to the realization the amount told to them as having been “mistakenly” entered into their account was always meant for them.

As per a Reserve Bank of India circular issued on 25 January 2006 to Chairmen and CEOs of all scheduled commercial banks including RBBs on "Financial Inclusion by Extension of Banking Services - Use of Business Facilitators and Correspondents":
2. Business Facilitator Model: Eligible Entities and Scope of Activities
Under the 'Business Facilitator' model, banks may use intermediaries, such as, NGOs/ Farmers' Clubs, cooperatives, community based organisations, IT enabled rural outlets of corporate entities, Post Offices, insurance agents, well functioning Panchayats, Village Knowledge Centres, Agri Clinics/ Agri Business Centers, Krishi Vigyan Kendras and KVIC/ KVIB units, depending on the comfort level of the bank, for providing facilitation services. Such services may include (i) identification of borrowers and fitment of activities; (ii) collection and preliminary processing of loan applications including verification of primary information/data;  (iii) creating awareness about savings and other products and education and advice on managing money and debt counselling;  (iv) processing and submission of applications to banks;  (v) promotion and nurturing Self Help Groups/ Joint Liability Groups; (vi) post-sanction monitoring;  (vii) monitoring and handholding of Self Help Groups/ Joint Liability Groups/ Credit Groups/ others; and (viii) follow-up for recovery.
2.2    As these services are not intended to involve the conduct of banking business by Business Facilitators, no approval is required from RBI for using the above intermediaries for facilitation of the services indicated above.

According to Naik Subba, before the scam began, he had Rs. 11,67,398 in his account on 31 May 2012, including the retirement dues which the army deposited into his account on 11 May 2012.
Around a month later, Roshan Thapa, a Business Correspondent with the bank arrived at his home on a Sunday, claiming to have been deputed by the bank to inform him that some extra amount had been transferred into his account by mistake and that they had to report to the bank and resolve the issue. Naik Subba informs that even the Bank Manager, B Das, had accompanied the Business Correspondent at the time. The Bank Manager, when asked to confirm the news, said that he was there on the day [on some other business nearby] and did not enter Naik Subba’s home and hence is not aware of what conversation transpired there.
“On reporting at the Bank the next day, we found that a sum of Rs. 4,53,344 had been deposited into our account [on 30 May 2012],” informs Meena Kumari Subba, wife of the Naik Subba who had accompanied her husband along with Sukbir Tamang, also an ex-army man from the same village.
Mrs. Subba alleges that Mr. Thapa, the Business Correspondent, informed them that this amount of Rs. 4,53,344 was not theirs and had been entered by mistake and told her husband to sign four blank withdrawal slips so that this amount could be withdrawn and returned to its original owner. They were also warned of legal complications if they refused to oblige, Mrs. Subba adds.
“I signed four blank withdrawal slips and handed them over to Roshan Thapa,” Naik Subba concurs.
They did not suspect anything amiss.
Interestingly, on 20 July 2012, the husband and wife, along with Sukbir Tamang, were at the bank again on some work. While there, the Business Correspondent approached them again and said that another Rs. 40,000 needed to be withdrawn from their account because the pension dues of another retired soldier from Kopchey nearby had been mistaken credited to them. The couple made the withdrawal and handed it over to Mr. Thapa to deliver to said ex-army jawan since the Business Correspondent also hails from Kopchey.
They still did not suspect any thing wrong.
It was only on 27 July 2012, when Naik Subba, who was ill at the time and in need of some money, requested his friend Sukbir Tamang to withdraw Rs. One lakh from his account and issued his a cheque. A few days later, when Mr. Tamang updated his friend’s pass-book, he noticed that on the day he withdrew Rs. One lakh for his friend, another Rs. 80,000 had been withdrawn the same day with a self withdrawal slip. He knew his friend was too unwell to have withdrawn the money himself on that day and alerted the couple.
When the couple checked the pass-book, they noticed that Rs. 2.20 lakh had been withdrawn without their knowledge.
The pass book and the victim’s statements shows that the four blank withdrawal slips signed by the Naik Subba were utilized on 13 June [Rs. 80,000], 06 July [Rs. 30,000], 18 July [30,000] and 27 July 2012 [Rs. 80,000]. And then there was the Rs. 40,000 they had withdrawn themselves and given to the Business Correspondent on being told that it was not theirs.
Convinced that something foul was afoot, the couple arrived at the Rajya Sainik Board in Gangtok yesterday to enquire on their pension details. Interestingly, while they were on their way, they received a call from the Business Correspondent informing them that some mistakes had happened in their account and that it will be rectified after this month.
It was only then that he told them that the Rs. 4,53,344 that he had told them had been deposited into their account by mistake was actually their own money and that the letter regarding the same will be handed over to them within a couple of days.
Sure enough, enquiries at the Rajya Sainik Board confirmed that the amount was part of Naik Subba’s pension dues and had been released into his account. One may be reminded here that the amount is reflected in Naik Subba’s account on 30 May 2012. It was only after the couple raised a noise and even approached the police that a photocopy of the letter intimating the release was handed over to the couple by the bank late last evening.
Interestingly, when all the parties were at the thana in connection with the issue that the Business Correspondent sprung another surprise and stated that the Rs. 40,000 [claimed from them on 20 July] was a loan he had taken from Sukbir Tamang. The moment he said so, Mr. Tamang, who was also present at the thana, lost his temper and challenged the assertion. The Business Correspondent also claimed that the blank withdrawal slips signed by Naik Subba had been torn up and disposed by him in front of them. This too has been challenged by the couple as untrue.
Interestingly, despite the unauthorized access the Business Correspondent obviously had to bank account details at the branch, the Branch Manager sought to distance himself from the issue today.
“Whatever happened was between third parties and the Bank is not responsible for it. Roshan Thapa is not an employee of the bank,” he said.
But later when challenged his statements in front of the senior officials of Rhenock Thana as to how a person who was not a staff of the bank was handling banking procedures, Mr. Das maintained that Business Correspondent had certain rights to handle in the bank operations.
“I’ll fully co-operate in the investigation,” he however assured.
As things stand, the Bank Manager have been directed by the police to produce all documents pertaining to the case and resolve the issue immediately.
“If the Bank fails to satisfy the complainant, we will take over the case and start our investigation immediately,” assured G Pradhan, Second OC at the Rhenock Thana.
There is obviously a lot here that needs deeper investigation along with the possibility that Naik Subba might not be the only person stung.

D’zongri Club protests walkover, says it was not event invited to play

GANGTOK, 07 Aug: D’zongri Club and United Sikkim Football Club have registered strong objections against the Sikkim Football Association including them in the Independence Day Football Tournament for the Chogyal Sir Tashi Namgyal Memorial Cup without any official invitation letter or any form of communication. SFA, it may be recalled, had awarded Sikkim Police a victory by walkover yesterday when D’zongri Club did not turn up for the scheduled match. D’zongri is now claiming that it did not even know it was scheduled to play yesterday since it had not received any communication in this regard from SFA.
The D’zongri Club general secretary, in a letter to the SFA general secretary, copies of which were also released to the media today, writes that the club was “surprised again by going through the news article printed in various Newspapers dated 7th August 2012 regarding the Walk Over by D’zongri Club and Strong Action to be taken by the Technical Committee against D’zongri Club in the ongoing Independence Day Football Tournament.”
The club has clarified that it had already submitted a letter on 05 August to the Sikkim Football Association and various clubs and newspapers here explaining [in partial detail] about non-participation of the club in the said tournament.
“We would also clarify and recall that in the meeting held between the representatives of the clubs and Sikkim Football Association before the Senior Division S-League 2012 it was decided by all that only the top 4 teams of the said League will be given a place in the Independence Day Football Tournament for Chogyal Sir Tashi Namgyal Memorial Cup,” the letter highlights.
On the same, the letter mentioned that D’zongri Club stood in the last position in the said League and thus did not qualify for the tournament and is now questioning how it was included in the fixture for the Independence Day Football Tournament “that too without any correspondence and information to join the said tournament”.
“Hence, with due regard we would like to know that as our team had not participated in Independence Day Football Tournament for Chogyal Sir Tashi Namgyal Memorial Cup 2012. So how can your esteemed Association declare Walk Over against our team and state to take strong action against our Club,” the letter questions.
Meanwhile, the Uro USFC senior manager has also written to the SFA president informing him that the club has not received any official letter of invitation or any other form of communication from the organizers [Sikkim Football Association] to participate in the tournament and that it is only through media reports that it is learning that it has been announced as one of the participants.
“Since we have received no information regarding our participation in the tournament, we are ignorant of the rules of regulation and the criteria for participation,” the letter states.
The letter further says the club has already been penalized in the league owing to violation of rules and regulation laid down in the constitution of SFA and to add to it no explanation was sought before the press release was made regarding the violation of rules and regulation and the Club was deeply affected and hence did not want a repeat of the same scenario.
“Uro USFC would request SFA to kindly send an official communication for participation in the tournament along with the rules and regulation by 7 PM today otherwise we will not be able to field a team for the tournament,” the letter conveys.
The letter also points out that Uro USFC had, in its earlier letters, requested for some documents [related to S-League], however the club have not received anything from the parent board.
“We have also received a copy of Boys Club’s official protest requesting for the voter’s ID of the two players from Siniolchu FC [Namchi], and since we have been penalized earlier in the S-League, we would want to know what action has been initiated regarding this matter. We would be grateful if you could address our issue at the earliest,” the letter seeks.

Taps run murky as main filter at Selep undergoes repairs

Construction of an additional reservoir underway at Selep water reservoir complex above Gangtok.


GANGTOK, 07 Aug: Gantgtokians would have been wondering why the water was running murky in the taps, sometimes full of silt and by the looks of it, unsuitable for consumption. The reason is that one of the two water purification filters at Selep Tanki has ‘choked’. Although the filter is under repairs, it will still take a few more weeks before it is fully functionally again. Fortunately, this is not the only filter at the Selep Tank, there is another, though smaller, which is fully functional and is being employed for treatment of water before it is forwarded to Gangtok homes.
The filter which is under repairs is the larger one with capacity to filter 20 million litres per day while the other one has a capacity of only 4 million litres per day (mld).
It is also informed that Gangtok and the Selep tank will be incremented with another water filter of capacity 21 mld which is under construction. Besides, a new reservoir is also under construction at the Selep tank for water storage to meet the enhanced needs of water requirements in the capital town.
It may be informed that there are two slow-sand filters that purify the raw water coming directly from the source at Ratey Chu to drinking water which is then supplied to the estimated sixty thousand households in Gangtok. The two purifiers have a capacity to treat 32 million liters per day (MLD) which is then stored in the reservoir at Selep Tank which has a capacity of 36 MLD.
Everyday, 15 lakh litres of drinking water is supplied at a rate of 135 litres per head to Gangtok alone. Now, with the major filter that has a capacity to treat 21 MLD per day not functioning, the entire supply is now being channeled through the only functional filter that only has a capacity to treat 4 MLD per day.
With only one purifying filter, the PHE has no option but to treat the raw water for harmful bacteria (that comes in at 100 cubic meters per hour) at the main supply tank through chlorination, use of alumen and other temporary means that reduces the siltation before the water is supplied to households.
With the lower capacity filter the only one functioning at present it would be expected that there would be shortage of water in Gangtok but the department has managed to maintain consistent supply with the discharge of water stored in the reservoirs.
“There can be health implications if raw water is consumed directly, but we are doing the best to treat the water before it is sent to the reservoir from where the supply lines carry it to the households. There might be some instances when the water could be murky and contain silt; however that does not mean that it has been sent directly from the source. We know that the only functioning filter does not have the capacity to treat the entire supply but we have devised a plan and an alternative in place,” states an official here.
It is also intimated that the general public have nothing to be seriously worried; however some precautions before the water is consumed should be maintained since the water is mostly being treated only for turbulence. Further, the officials inform that work on the restoration of the filter was started around two months back under the total renovation of Selep project estimated at around Rs. 31 crore.
“The work on the filter is in full progress and will be completed within a month since even the back-wash system required to be dismantled first before repairs. We have also started work on another water purification filter that has a capacity of 21 MLD which will also be completed within a year. The delay in the works was because there was no separate funding for the purification system and the same was included in the total renovation package,” stated the official.
In addition, it is also informed that the department has started work on the two main water supply pipe lines from Ratey Chu which were laid in 1973. This as per the officials will be a ‘permanent solution’ for the water supply crisis the capital has to face because of heavy rainfall, landslides and heavy soil erosion up source.
It was also informed that even with PHE manpower working at these trouble spots where pipelines are laid at extremely steep slopes the option of creating a tunnel for the pipelines has also been discussed with the Mines and Geology Department.

Deptt has completed distribution of educational aids to students, HRDD Secy informs

GANGTOK, 06 Aug: Pulled up by the High Court of Sikkim for the delay in distribution of educational aids [like uniforms, raincoats, shoes, books and copies issued free] to students despite the academic session being nearly half over, the Human Resource Development Department today announced that the distribution process has now been completed.
Addressing a press briefing here today, the HRDD Secretary, CS Rao, informed that all the government facilities like school uniforms, shoes, socks, raincoats and bags have reached to the beneficiaries [government school students up to class V in urban areas and class VIII in rural schools].
What is more, the Department also plans to penalize the suppliers for the delay in reaching the ordered consignments to the Department.
Mr. Rao admitted that the High Court directions had helped the Department meet the target and complete the distribution for students, especially those from remote areas.
He explained today that the Department had issued the procurement orders in the last week of February and early March and had given two months to the suppliers to make the delivery. The delivery however was received only in end June and the Department completed onwards distributions to the students by the last week of July, he said.
He further informs that the delay in supply will cost to the suppliers a penalty at the rate of 0.01 per cent per day which will be deducted from the final settlement of dues of the suppliers.
The State Government distributes free uniforms, text books, text copies, shoes and other related aids to students upto class V in urban areas and upto class VIII in rural areas.
At present, 54,500 students upto Class V and another 35,000 students studying in rural areas of Sikkim at the Elementary level are availing the benefits of government scheme.
Besides this, the department is also focusing on quality education and leaving no stone unturned to improve the level of education in Sikkim, the Secretary states, adding that the standard of Sikkim students has been found to be better than students elsewhere in the country.
He further informed that the dropout rate has been significantly reduced to below 30 percent and this shows that the state government efforts in the education sector are showing positive results.
He also informed that all the text books are made available to all the schools before the academic session begins in February.
He admitted that part of the delay this time was due to the segregation of shoes and uniforms in the Department’s stores based on requisitions made by inividul schools. This was a time-consuming task for store keepers, he said.
He also expressed sincere gratitude towards the parents, office staff, Sikkim High Court and media for their cooperation which helped motivate the Department towards prompt action.

Mangan cops round up attempt to murder accused from Islampur

GANGTOK, 07 Aug: 22-year-old Md. Ajmal, an accused in an attempt to murder and robbery case in Mangan, was arrested from his hideout in Islampur, West Bengal, early yesterday by a team from Mangan Police Station working in coordination with the Islampur Police Station.
The accused, a resident of Islampur, North Dinajpur, West Bengal, was wanted in connection with a violent robbery committed at Sipi village of Singhik-Sentam GPU near Mangan on the night of 02 August. The Sr. SP [North], BK Tamang, informs that the accused, reflected in police records as a scrap collector, had grievously injured one Man Maya Subba while committing a robbery after which he had decamped from Mangan.
As per reports, the accused had attacked the victim at her home with a bamphok in a bid to snatch her gold earrings. The victim suffered cut wounds on both hands and the accused escaped from the window.
While the victim was immediately evacuated to Mangan District Hospital for treatment, North District Police made all out efforts to search and nab the accused by way of forming search teams under SDPO [Mangan], DSP Paru Ruchal, PI Palden Bhutia, SHO/Mangan PS and SI KE Kaleon, the SP informs. The SP closely supervised the entire operation and now the accused is under custody within three days of the casing having been registered.
He has been booked under Sections 457/ 452/ 392/ 394/ 307 of the Indian Penal Code.
Armed with a non-bailable warrant, a Mangan PS team comprising of SI KE Kaleon, ASI Uday Chettri, W/C Tshering Doma Sherpa and L/NK Deo Narayan Pradhan was despatched to Islampur to effect the arrest.
The Sikkim Police team, in coordination with Islampur Police Station, raided the hide-out of the absconding accused at Islampur and succeeded in apprehending him in the early hours of 06 August, the SP informs. The accused on transit remand was produced before the Judicial Magistrate/ North at Gangtok today and remanded to police custody.

PN Tamang takes over as Sikkim Akademi president

GANGTOK, 06 Aug: PN Tamang has taken charge as the new president of the Sikkim Akademi.
A Sikkim Akademi press release informs that the process of the formation the new set of office bearers, following the completion of the tenure of the last committee in July 2012, has begun as well. Regarding the same, a meeting was convened at the Akademi Hall on 03 August attended by representatives from different communities.
The meeting has appointed conveners of Bhasha Paramarsh Samiti of different languages from the present representatives of different communities in the meeting. The meeting appointed SB Subba for Limboo language, Abimaya Thapa for Mangar, Kalpana Pradhan for Newar, ND Tamang for Tamang, Tom Tshering Lepcha for Lepcha, Bhaichung Bhutia for Bhutia, KN Sharma for Nepali, Bijay Khawas for Bhujel, Pradeep Gurung for Gurung and PM Chamling for Rai language.
The release further informed that due to absence of representatives of Sunuwar, Sherpa and Sanskrit, the meeting would not able to appoint conveners for these languages.
During the meeting representatives from different communities, except Lepcha, Bhutia, Limboo and Nepali, highlighted that due to absence of text book writers in their respective languages in the HRDD many problems have been raising. On the same, PM Khanal from HRDD placed the technical difficulties on the matter before the meeting. Likewise, Sikkim Akademi president assured to organize an interaction programme in the near future for the development of all languages.
The release further informs that Sikkim Akademi has started the “Late Padam Singh Subba Apatan Vyakhyan Shrinkhala’ since last year [on the birth anniversary of late Subba itself on 11 September]. This year this series will be on Sikkim’s history and Dr Kumar Pradhan has been invited of the lecture series.
The meeting was attended by the Sikkim Akademi president, Mr Tamang along with former president GS Lama, Nepali Sahitya Parishad president, BK Roka among others.

Editorial: Nathula Beyond Tokenism

Little over a week ago, the Institute of Peace & Conflict Studies, a New Delhi think-tank, released a set of recommendations aimed for various Ministries of the Central Government on how the reopening of Nathula for trade in 2006 could be taken forward to “expand economic interactions along the India-China border”. Kicking off from Nathula, the IPCS report was looking at Trans Himalayan Trade and Development by 2020. While recommendations by think-tanks even when commissioned by government agencies have a way of joining the stacks of well intentioned advice gathering dust in the corridors of power, this latest initiative should not be allowed to sink without trace and this can be achieved if the State Government leverages it effectively to support its submissions to the Centre to take Nathula to the next level. The recommendation already enjoys some currency where it matters in that it was released jointly by the Union Minister for Tribal Affairs and Panchayati Raj, V Kishore Chandra Deo, and Union Minister of State for Urban Development, Prof Saugata Roy, both of whom were frank enough to admit that affairs of the border regions when it comes to issues like border trade have been poorly informed in the past. The set of recommendations reads like a wish-list that Sikkim has prepared on how Nathula should be developed and includes all demands that Sikkim has frequently made with Delhi in this regard. That an agency from outside Sikkim is in sync with the State on how the nation can look beyond Nathula should reinforce the State’s demands pending with Delhi and should be underlined to justify the potential Sikkim is offering the nation. Nathula continues to be limited to border trade and all its attendant limitations at present, and the IPCS task force recommends that the Centre look beyond such confines and engage in a three tier Trans Himalayan approach at domestic, sub-regional and bilateral levels. It recommends for infrastructure to be developed beyond the Gangtok-Nathula corridor and expand to creating linkages between Sikkim and Nepal and Bhutan. It ironic that although Sikkim has three international borders, the only border connectivity it has by way of roads is to a country with which it has fought a war; there are still no roads connecting Sikkim to Nepal or Bhutan, both of which are friendly countries. The set of recommendations also includes the lifting of travel regulations to the border and the opening of Nathula for more than trade and for tourism as well.
These, and the other recommendations, are demands that the State Government has been raising with Delhi for a while now, in fact since before Nathula was reopened in 2006. The demands remain in consideration and will remain so for perpetuity unless there is an attitudinal change in how the Centre engages the border regions. The idea of border regions as buffer states needs to change. Not only is this branding outdated, it is has also been proven defective. The sooner New Delhi recognises the Himalayan borderlands as the links of liaison between [geographically] different lands, the better it will be for everyone - the mainland and the borderlands. Unfortunately, this attitude of segregating the border areas as buffers continues to manifest and Sikkim has suffered from it often. Infrastructure development becomes priority only when it is for defence use or to service hydel projects [to power an increasing energy deficit rest of the country], and Nathula, it appears was reopened only to earn de facto recognition by China of Sikkim’s merger with India. How else does one read the disinterest with which Delhi handles border trade issues? Take the recent expansion of the trade list for example. Border Trade by general understanding is duty-free trade, and yet, when new items were added in the seventh season of trading earlier this year, the Customs office insisted on demanding Customs Duty because the new items had not been explicitly exempted. The Customs office for Nathula Border Trade is in place to police against smuggling, not raise Customs duty and even if its officers preferred to over-interpret the concerned notification expanding the list of items allowed for trade, all it would have taken was a phone call or a fax to clear the confusion. But no, the uncertainty was allowed to prevail for more than a month for a trade which had already been delayed due to bad roads. This would not have been the case if Delhi saw Border Trade over Nathula as an opportunity not only for the Sikkimese but also the country and played the role of facilitator instead of a controller. At the end of the day, improved infrastructure and larger trade baskets will only achieve limited success unless there is a paradigm change in attitude in Delhi. It is in this regard that the IPCS recommendations become significant, not so much in how seriously Delhi takes it, but in the sense that a non-Sikkim agency is flagging the same issues that Sikkim has been arguing for many years and now has a non-partisan endorsement.

Bongthing Kami Lepcha passes away

GANGTOK, 08 Aug: Respected Bongthing, Kami Lepcha of Summar Thasha, Sumik Lingzey – Khamdong, passed on Saturday morning. He was 77 years old.
Conveying the message received from Rabin Pradhan of Khamdong, Suresh K. Lama, adds that well-wishers and friends have deeply condoled the Bongthing’s passing away. Among the senior-most surviving Bongthings of Sikkim, the late Kami Lepcha, was a familiar face at all important Lepcha rituals in the State and had also featured on the cover of the Jan-March 2011 edition of “Thoughts & Pen”, a socio-cultural literary magazine published from Sikkim. [accompanying pic]

Japanese knowhow to help Sikkim monitor and mitigate slide zones

GANGTOK, 06 Aug: Sikkim will soon see the application of some hi-tech equipment and analysis in the development of mitigation measures for chronic landslides zones throughout the state. While still in the initial stages of implementation, the Land Revenue department is getting ready, with the help of experts from Japan, to study and monitor one landslide zone with such applications as a pilot project.
The department has set up a committee for this ‘pilot project’ to study the selected slide zone of Chisopani along the national highway near Singtam. This is a multi-disciplinary committee headed by Joint Director, Land Revenue, instituted to analyse the cause of this landslide and come up with and recommend preventive measures. This 13-member multidisciplinary committee will be familiarized with the concept as well as with the instruments to monitor landslides; subsequently, the committee members will become ‘Trainers to other Trainees’ to guide the study and monitoring of landslides across Sikkim if the pilot project succeeds.
Officials inform that this is per an agreement with representatives from Japan. An Indo-Japan training cum workshop was held in 2011-12 regarding landslide and disaster management during which it was agreed by the visiting officials to provide technology, expertise as well as required instruments to study and monitor landslides in the state. This workshop was held in the aftermath of the earthquake of 18 September 2011 which had triggered numerous landslides throughout the state of Sikkim leaving many homeless apart from claiming many lives.
Officials inform that the Japanese had introduced to them certain applications and instruments by which landslides could be monitored following which preventive measures could be developed.  
The Chisopani slide zone was selected for the pilot study as it is easily accessible for officials as well as visiting Japanese experts without having to travel too much into the interiors of the state. Study of the slide has not yet commenced as the department is awaiting the instruments to arrive from Japan. The committee members also need to be first trained on the use and application of the instruments so that they can later train others on the use of the such instruments. Later, it is envisaged that the chronic landslide zones in the state will each be studied after which mitigation measures suited to that particular area can be taken up.  
Among others, the committee also has a central government representative from Disaster Management, engineers from Irrigation and Roads & Bridges departments; representatives from BRO, Mines & Geology and IT specialists as well.

Preparations begin for Pang Lhabsol festivities at MG Marg

GANGTOK, 05 August: “This year, the Pang Lhabsol celebrations at MG Marg will be grand like always and with more emphasis on prayers and rituals,” announced Thukchuk Lachungpa at a press briefing today. The prayers, he informed, will begin on the eve, 30 August, itself while the auditions for the cultural programme will be held on 26 August for student groups and other clubs at BL House. The theme, like every year, will be unity.
District troupes from all over the State will be present on the day which also feature the inauguration of  new stage at the venue. This time, the emphasis will be on local talent, Mr. Lachungpa informed.
The HRDD Minister, NK Prdhan, who chairs the organising committee, further informed that the festival’s observance her will be modelled as a complete Sikkimese festival worked around the theme of unity that the festival of Pang Lhabsol signifies for the State and its people.

Editorial: Preventive Healthcare

Preventive healthcare is not among our country’s strong points. The counter that there are just too many of us to be adequately screened to catch health complications before they become, well, complicated, is lame because it has not even been attempted in earnest to be discarded as impractical. But the worries of the country are perhaps too many for any of the challenges to get adequately addressed before they explode. That is not the case with Sikkim which enjoys the benefits of a State for a population smaller than a large locality in the metros. In welcome developments of late, this advantage has been leveraged well with the launch of a series of programmes and Missions which stand the best chance of succeeding well in India in Sikkim. Starting with the skill development initiative, on to the CM’s Merit Scholarship Scheme to the CM’s Rural Housing Mission, these are undertakings which, now that the policy has been dictated, carry the potential of elevating Sikkim to a new level of well-being if the executive can deliver effectively when it comes to implementation. But we began with the healthcare scenario, and hence return to it now. The Chief Minister's Comprehensive Annual and Total Check up for Healthy Sikkim Programme [CATCH] programme has been underway for close to two years now, and its results should be leading to further course corrections in the healthcare sector in Sikkim soon. This effort, even though little understood beyond those who are implementing it, and unfortunately not as effectively publicised and explained as it should be, is among the more important initiatives underway in the State. There are several illnesses plaguing Sikkim, which, if diagnosed in time, could not only save many lives, but also improve general well-being because the two health-related challenges which are the most glaring in Sikkim – Cancer and Depression – are not only little understood, but also extremely expensive, as much in monetary terms as the suffering they impose on the entire family. Both can be detected before they reach the advanced stage when the suffering increases along with the chances of fatality. The CATCH programme would do well by working in proper screenings to detect these health issues in the earlier stages so that the healing can begin in time as well.
While one is on issues of preventive healthcare, attention needs to also be drawn on the challenges posed labour-intensive projects like hydel. One needs to however first realise that increasing influx is invariably a direct indication of a region’s developmental graph. Since just about everyone in Sikkim subscribes to the belief that “influx” is swamping Sikkim, then, by the same count, one could also safely assume that Sikkim is developing rather well. The increased influx has also caused an increased paranoia among the locals who want more stringent measures to keep “outsiders” out. How this can be achieved without upsetting the development cart is something for the policy-makers to figure out, for now, let’s limit this to health concerns. Because the influx till some years ago, used to come in a trickle, it never really expressed itself as a health issue which needs to be addressed. But now that some major labour-intensive projects have gotten underway, Sikkim needs to work out how it will protect its health better. One does not attempt to claim here that the migrant population which follows large projects are “unhealthy” or that they are vectors of possible epidemics, it is just that precaution is always the more advisable option. Take for example the cholera outbreak at the Teesta Stage V dam-site in 2001, the disease obviously came out of the labour colony there. A proper screening of people joining the ranks in large projects will not only protect the locals, but would also be a safeguard that the employees at a project site will appreciate. Even if some protest the idea, the screening methodology should be adopted. And this should be followed up with periodic and honest inspections of project sites to ensure that workers are housed in healthy environs. This is as important for health issues as for the basic human rights of the employees engaged there. An honest appraisal of the labour colonies at project sites at present will present a rather desultory projection and what one overlooks when one ignores the destitution of labour colonies is that the ‘local’ population around project sites interact extensively with the residents especially in matters of trade and business. These are not major undertakings and clear directions to the district authorities and patronage for earnest NGOs should get the job done. After all, people brought in to labour on projects from which Sikkim will eventually earn deserve to be treated better and ensured better health as well...