Friday, September 21, 2012

Overnight rain flushes away North Sikkim Highway

District officials negotiate a stretch of what used to be a section of the North Sikkim Highway at Chiyandara near Singhik a few kms ahead of Mangan towards Chungthang.

MANGAN, 20 Sept: Heavy overnight rainfall has severely compromised the Mangan-Chungthang road connectivity with the stretch disrupted at several spots by landslides. As per data posted by the Meteorological Office Gangtok on its website, 196.6 mm rainfall was recorded in Mangan today. Interestingly, the Met Office’s forecast for Mangan had been 10 mm of rainfall.
The road is blocked at Singhik, a few kilometers out of Mangan towards Chungthang where the road formation has been washed out and a slide has also damaged a section at Chiyandara near Singhik.
The damage at Lanthey Khola further up is the most challenging with an 80 metre stretch of the road washed away by a massive slide. This will take at least 20 days to restore and repair for vehicular traffic and at present even transshipment is not possible for commuters.
The road is also blocked at Theng and the Toong-Shipgyer alternative is also blocked.
Mangan SDM, PW Lepcha, along with TO (Training Officer) and QRT (Quick respond Team) of Mangan EOC (Emergency Operation Center) Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority (SSDMA) under Land Revenue Department walked up to Lanthey Khola on an inspection today and to assess the condition.  The team could not proceed beyond Lanthey Khola due to the massive slide there.
The Border Roads Organisation managed to clear the Mangan-Pakshep road by afternoon today, only light vehicles can ply on it at present especially in light of the damage suffered by the North Sikkim Highway near Mangan Bazar at Rabong Khola.
Similarly, the Mangan-Dzongu road is also blocked near Sangakalang as is the Sangkalang-Ringdang road where two landslips are blocking the road.
The road to Upper Dzongu is also blocked at two places near Namprikdang.
While restoration works have begun, given the severity of some of the slides, no projections are being offered on by when the roads can be restored.

Landslides hit North Sikkim homes

MANGAN, 20 Sept: Numerous major and minor landslides triggered by last night’s heavy rainfall have damaged several houses in the villages of Pakshep and Kazor under Singhik Sentam GPU of Mangan Sub-Division in North Sikkim.
Houses belonging to Santey Chettri, Bhakta Bahadur Chettri (both wooden houses), Dawa Tamang (ekra house) and under construction bathroom and toilet of Arjun Limboo of Pakshep village have been damaged by the slides which occurred this morning.
Fortunately, no loss of life has been reported. Apart from these, landslides also damaged agricultural plots belonging of Pempa Lepcha, Lakpa Tamang, Kumar Tamang, Suk Bahadur Tamang, Passang Tamang, and Bir Bahadur Tamang of the same village.
Classes at Pakshep School also got disrupted as slush entered the school.
Likewise, a landslide has damaged houses belonging to Dil Kumar Subba and Chung Chung Lepcha at Kazor village of the same GPU.
Since early this morning, villagers were engaged in diverting water running wild on the road, their efforts helping save some of houses from damage, informed ward panchayat, Kazor ward, Gajem Lepcha.
One wooden house belonging to Mercy Tamang of Ambithang Mangan also suffered damages due to a landslide while another house belonging to Paul Singh Subba is at risk.
A landslide has also been reported at RangRang village today where the slide damaged the CC footpath and Log Bridge which connects the Chandey village and RangRang. Owing to this, students coming from Chandey village could not attend their classes today.
One of the local residents, MB Thapa while speaking to NOW! informed that the construction of the log bridge at this spot was an urgent need especially for the school children and immediate restoration work needs to be undertaken. Several other houses belonging to MB Limboo, PM Thapa, Dorjee Ongey Bhutia, PB Tamang of RangRang are also at risk.
SDM Mangan, PW Lepcha visited the affected area to take stock of damages.
The SDM, while speaking to NOW!, informed that one family at Pakshep has been shifted to a safer location. He further informed that the North District administration has directed the Nagar Panchayat and BAC to prepare the list of damages and added that the disbursement of ex-gratia as per the norms will be announced shortly.

Lack of cooperation from departments delays completion of state employee census

GANGTOK, 20 Sept: The state employee census, begun by the Directorate of Economics, Statistics, Monitoring and Evaluation, almost a year ago is nowhere near completion. In fact it is unlikely that the exercise will see a closure this year at all.
As per the directions of the government, the report on the employee census on the total number of government employees in the state, both regular and otherwise, was to have been submitted to the government by the end of August 2012.
It is informed that the one and only reason behind the DESME inability to finalize the census report is the disinterested attitude of the departments. Some of the departments, it is informed, keep dilly dallying and do not seem bothered despite several orders issued by the state government soliciting their cooperation in this regard.
Recently, the Finance Department is said to have issued an order that details be collated from the Pay and Accounts Division on the number of employees on Muster Roll, which is where the major challenge to this census operation lies. However even this order does not seem to have found due compliance.
The various departments, especially the line departments which have a large number of employees on MR and Work Charged, have reportedly not been extending the kind of cooperation necessary for the closure of this exercise. Government orders in this regard are not being adhered to, it is informed. The exercise, which was supposed to be completed in August is likely to extend over another few months, or even more.

63 year old arrested on charges of raping 5 year old minor

GANGTOK, 20 Sept: One person was arrested by Namchi police on 19 September on charged of raping a minor at Boomtar, Namchi.
According to a written complaint filed by the mother of the victim, her five year old daughter was sexually assaulted by 63 year old Deepan Gurung of the same locality on 18 September at around 5 p.m.
The accused allegedly took the victim to a nearby bamboo field while the mother was out of station.
The accused, it is informed, originally hails from Singbari, Somkaman in Darjeeling and was residing at Boomtar at present.
The accused has been examined and forwarded for medical examination and a case under section 376 [punishment for rape] has been registered against him at the Namchi Police Station. The case is under investigation.

On the passing away of Lachen Rinpoche

It is heart-wrenching to lose one of the finest souls from amongst us. Lachen Rinpoche was a real Guru not only for the Buddhists but also for many others who came in contact with him, and his passing away leaves a vacuum which will not be easy to fill.
In the early 1980’s, when I was Secretary Ecclesiastical Affairs, he was my Minister and used to give me many valuable tips on the religious aspects of Sikkim and it relevance to Buddhism. We used to have long discussions about the sacred places and old monasteries of Sikkim like Dubdi, Hongri and Sinon which I had already visited during my long sojourn in the Forest Department withnot actually realizing their significance. It was Rimpoche who put a soul in my memories of each of them which I treasured and kept uppermost in my mind as I glided along in the State administration. To me, he was more a friend than my boss.
I got to know him more once we – Him, Regent Gyaltsab Rinpoche and I - travelled together to Delhi to receive the mortal remains of HH the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa. The Air India flight from Chicago reached Delhi at midnight. Lachen Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche were the first to touch, with all humility and prayers, the large casket draped in white as it rolled down from the escalator of the aircraft. The lifting hands of all present, including the Bhutanese Ambassador to India, ML Kampani, Additional Secretary, MHA supported by many others present from Sikkim House and the Bhutanese Embassy, laid the casket in the waiting van and brought it to Sikkim House where it was kept in the large lounge. While Lachen Rinpoche was there uttering his prayers all through the night, Kampani and myself were busy organizing the next day’s flight to Bagdogra. The Government of India provided a special plane to bring the mortal remains to Bagdogra and I put the entire crowd that intended to return home in the aircraft. Then, Kampani coordinated with the Defense Ministry for an Mi8 Helicopter to bring the mortal remains from Bagdogra to the Libing Helipad in Gangtok.
Once the entourage reached the Rumtek Monastery, Lachen Rinpoche took charge of co-ordinating the religious aspects with the Regents, and I, ably supported by Passang Namgyal and Nangzey Dorjee, organized the other aspects and co-ordination. I was naïve about religious affairs, but somehow got deeply involved in the rituals, well guided by the Rinpoche and my friend Passang Namgyal, an authority on Buddhism in his own right. HH the XVIth Karmapa was always very kind to me, and I had to meet him almost on a monthly basis whether it was for cardamom fields or beautification or cleanliness of the Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre and its surroundings. I met HH before he left for the US for treatment and I requested for his photograph. His assistant brought one with HH in full ceremonial robes but HH asked him to bring the whole lot. He chose one in black & white looking rather young, signed over it and handed it over to me with a gust of laughter. That was my last encounter, but HH is in my prayers every-day. To me He is the ultimate.
Throughout the religious rituals, till the final cremation on the roof-top of the Rumtek monastery, Lachen Rinpoche was there representing the State Government. I admired his sagacity and the manner in which he handled even the difficult affairs with ease and grace. After his stint in the Government as Minister, he returned to his Faith for which he was destined and every time I encountered him either at a funeral or a marriage ceremony in the houses of Sikkimese nobility sitting high up near the altar, he used to give me his gracious smile and I invariably went to seek his blessing. We met very rarely but the inner bond we had between us was immense.
Looking back, it was a happy augury that I, a Hindu handling the Buddhist affairs in the State, could come into contact with such a respected religious personality of Buddhism who imparted on me the religious flavor and how important Sikkim was from that standpoint. Sikkim is really an ashram or abode of Mahatmas and Saints as Nicholas Roerich had said, and Lachen Rinpoche was one and previous to that the French hermit Alexandra David Neel took the Rinpoche’s predecessor as her Guru and through him the resolve that sustained her for a good 25 years in disguise in Tibet. Let Lachen Rinpoche continue to bless this sacred land and guide the masses with his successive re-incarnations. Sikkim is poorer in his passing away.
[The writer is a former  Chief Secretary, Sikkim]

Brief Biography of Lachen Gomchen

The lineage of Lachen Gomchen can be traced to Gnazor Pema Tsenzang a lama of Pemayangtse monastery who was born at Naku Chongpong and was known as Naku Gomchen. He received his teachings from Chumbi Rinpoche and Rapchi Gomchen. The second incarnation was born in Tikputam in a village called Yangtey in West Sikkim and was commonly known as Tikputam Gomchen. He travelled to Lachen and spent many years meditating there.
The third incarnation was born in Namok, North Sikkim and was a monk of Labrang monastery above Phodong. He was given the name of Kunzang Nawang Rinchen by his teacher. He received his early teachings from Phodong Kusho and later became a disciple of Lama Kesang of Tibet. He spent many years in solitary meditation in caves near Namok and Rang Rang. He used to make frequent trips to Tibet through Lachen to receive teachings from his teacher.
The people of Lachen were impressed by his religious scholarship and requested him to stay at Lachen Monastery for three years to guide the people. The Gomchen, during his stay in Lachen, renovated the monastery and also imparted many teachings to the monks. On the completion of three years, he was again requested to stay on in the monastery. He then stayed on in the monastery till his death.
The third Lachen Gomchen came to be well known world-wide through the writings of the French explorer Alexander David Neel who was his disciple. Alexander David Neel got introduced to Buddhism through Lachen Gomchen during her stay in Phodong monastery in North Sikkim [1914-1916]. She was so impressed with him that she tried to take him out of Sikkim but was prevented by the local people.
The fourth Lachen Gomchen was born in Sholepthang in Yangang, South Sikkim in 1949. He was a unique boy and one day when he was playing with some ritual object of a local lama who, sensing the extraordinary nature of the boy, told him that he owned more and better ritual objects in Lachen. When he was seven years old, monks came from Lachen to claim him as the reincarnation of the third Lachen Gomchen. He was then taken to the great Nyingma Rinpoche Jamyang Khyentse Choki Lodro who performed the hair cutting ceremony and gave him the name of Kunzang Dechen Wangyal.
He started his studies at a young age and at the age of ten received advanced teachings from a hidden Najorpa named Jokhang Rinpoche. Under the Rinpoche he completed the three years meditation course with specialization in sadhna of Lama Drakseng and Hayagriva. He then received more advanced teaching from Dujom Rinpoche Jigdal Hishey Dorjee on the Dujom lineage along with Rinchen Terzo and many other subjects for three years.
At the age of twenty, he was enrolled in the Nyingma Collage of Higher Studies in Gangtok, where, after six years, he received the Acharya degree. He became a member of Lhadey Chogpa in 1979 and was elected to the State Legislative Assembly the same year and served as a Minister for four and a half years.
[The writer is the Director General-cum-Secretary, DESME, Govt of Sikkim]

Editorial: Don’t Blame the Rain

The weather has been stereotypically unpredictable for these times of climate change worries. While this unpredictability might be inconvenient for individuals and their travel plans, concerned government agencies and professional organisations, the insistent ferocity of the end-monsoon showers notwithstanding, cannot be excused for the ease with which infrastructure – roads in the present case – have crumbled across the State. One night of around 197 mm of rain has littered the North Sikkim Highway with numerous landslides and carved away wide sections of the road, almost all such disruptions at the established troublespots. And this is why the excuse of rains, or even last year’s earthquake, cannot be accepted. It was obvious to all that the 18 September 2011 earthquake had weakened slopes across the State and heavy rains are a given for any monsoon in Sikkim. All agencies responsible for roads are aware of these realities and when they know, it is confounding that they are caught wrong-footed by showers every monsoon. It is North Sikkim Highway which has made the headlines in today’s edition of this paper, but take a look around, no other road in Sikkim is in any great health either. Wet scars on the road to Tsomgo can be spied from Gangtok and an excursion on that axis is ill-advised, but to undertake such an adventure, one has to reach Gangtok first and that requires running a gauntlet of slides peppering NH 31A from Siliguri to Gangtok. Traffic moves slow on this road, and even the slighted downpour unravels the BRO back-cutting experiments and then traffic grinds to a halt. Returning to the topic of unpreparedness, authorities, commuters and lay citizens have to start calling the bluff of road managers when they blame rains for the litter of blockages on Sikkim roads. Rains have been around in Sikkim for longer than these hills have had roads; rain-resilient roads should hence have been chiselled out here. The point being made here is that since NH31A has been the sole lifeline to Sikkim ever since it was cut into the hills and the North Sikkim Highway services not just the remote earthquake-ravaged district but also the Indian Army detachments posted there, shouldn’t those responsible for the care of these roads have developed the science and procedures to ensure that they did not collapse so facilely? One could understand when the road network broke down due to something unprecedented like last year’s earthquake, but how is it that the roads give up so frequently for something as common in Sikkim as rains? Enough is obviously not being done. When its road network cannot withstand something as routine as monsoon rains, how does Sikkim resolve its preparedness plans for disaster situations? Arguments like these return to this section every monsoon, and this repetition is probably because not enough pressure is being applied. The State Government has often complained of Delhi about BRO’s general tardiness and lethargy and now even the High Court has taken suo moto cognisance of the organisation’s obvious unpreparedness. These need to be supplemented with more noise and questions from the road users, the lay people and the civil society. The disorganised manner in which the weather resilience of Sikkim’s roads is being pursued needs to be shaken into some semblance of effective implementation.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mortal remains of Lachen Gomchen Rinpoche escorted to Sikkim

RANGPO, 19 Sept [IPR]: The mortal remains, kudung, of Lachen Gomchen Rinpoche was received at Bagdogra today by Minister DN Thakarpa, Sangha MLA Pheetok Tshering Bhutia and former Chief Secretary and Chairman of the State Power Regulatory Authority, TT Dorjee along with Secretary, Ecclesiastical Affairs Department, Tenzing Gelek and a host of devotees.
Yesterday, Governor Balmiki Prasad Singh and Chief Minister Pawan Chamling had paid their last respects at the bier of the late Rinpoche in New Delhi.
The late Lachen Gomchen Rinpoche was born in Yangang, South Sikkim and is known to be one of the few Sikkimese Rinpoches. His demise has been deeply condoled by Chief Minister Pawan Chamling, who remembers him as a friend and colleague hailing from the same village of Yangang.
It is well known that Mr Chamling had the highest regard for the late Rinpoche, who was renowned for his knowledge in Buddhism. The Chief Minister has expressed his deep respect for the departed soul as one of the most knowledgeable Buddhist practitioners of Sikkim.
Mr Chamling has reiterated that the passing away of the holy Rinpoche will leave a deep void not only amongst the Buddhist but also amongst the entire Sikkimese society.
It is informed that the body will remain in Gangtok for the benefit of the devotees before being taken to Lachen.

Rajya Sabha MP mourns passing away of Lachen Rinpoche

GANGTOK, 19 Sept: Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, Hishey Lachungpa has also offered his condolences on the demise of Lachen Gomchen Rinpoche.
In his condolence message issued from New Delhi, Mr Lachungpa has said that the sad demise of the Late Rinpoche is an irreparable loss not only to the Sangha and to the religion but to the entire Sikkimese society.
Apart from being a senior religious head and a scholar, he was deeply involved in the upliftment of the Sikkimese society and his guidance will be greatly missed, Mr Lachungpa said.
Mr Lachungpa has also offered his condolences to the members of the bereaved family during this sad period of grief and bereavement.

2.65 voters to elect new rural reps

GANGTOK, 19 Sept: The upcoming Panchayat polls scheduled for October have an electoral roll of 2,65,396 voters across the State. This marks a substantial hike from the 1,41,103 voters registered in the 2007 panchayat elections. This time, out of the total voters registered in rural Sikkim, 1,38,102 are males and 1,27,294 females. This information was shared by the State Election Commissioner, SK Gautam, here today.
The Commissioner informed that voting will take place in 987 wards, 176 GPUs and 108 territorial constituencies. The reservation pattern, except the enhanced reservation of 50% for women, will follow the 2007 format.
Speaking on the issue of delimitation of panchayat wards, he informed that the Composition of Gram Panchayat (Amended 1995) in the Sikkim Panchayat Manual 1993-2006 published by the RM&DD states, “The state government shall, by notification reserve seats for Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in every gram panchayat and the number of seats so reserved shall bear, as nearly as may be, the same proportions to the total number of seats so as to be filled by direct election in that panchayat as the population of the Scheduled Castes in that panchayat area or of the Scheduled Tribes in that panchayat area bears to the total population of that area and such seats shall be allotted by rotation to different wards in a gram panchayat in such manner as may be prescribed”.
The Commissioner also stated that the Code of Conduct regarding the elections will come into force with the notification of the dates for filing of nominations, scrutiny and withdrawals. This is expected within a week’s time.
“The notification will be issued in a week after which the code of conduct will come into force. The candidates will be given seven days to file their nominations after the notification is issued. The entire process of the panchayat elections will be completed by 05 November. We have completed all the required formalities including meeting with the opposition parties and have gone into election mode,” he stated.
It was also informed that the District Collectors of all the four districts will be nominated as Returning Officers during the elections who in turn will appoint Assistant Returning Officers. The observers for the elections will all belong to the state government administration who will handle voting in all wards where the polling booths will be set-up, the remotest being Karjey in West Sikkim.

Ganesh Chathurthi at Thakurbari

GANGTOK, 19 Sept: On the occasion of Ganesh Chathurthi, Sri Sri Sri Ganesh Puja Mahotsav 2012 was organized by Sikkim Puja Organizing Committee in a grand manner here at Thakurbari complex.
The puja started at around 10:30 AM this morning and hawan was carried out at 1:15 PM, which was followed by Maha Aarti at 7 PM and then by cultural and religious programmes.
The statue of Ganesh is scheduled to be taken out at around 10:30 AM tomorrow for immersion in Rani Khola at Ranipool.  

West remembers 18/09 temblor

GYALSHING, 19 Sept [IPR]: On the first anniversary of last year’s earthquake, the District Administration organized various programmes throughout West district. The programme commenced with offering of prayers by the officials of the district at Pemayangtse monastery for those who lost their lives in the disaster and for strengthening the resilience of the people of Sikkim.
A Rally, Essay and Painting competition on Disaster Management & Preparedness was organized at different schools. Street play was also performed at Gyalshing Bazaar, Pelling and Kyongsa by the National School of Drama, Gangtok.
A candle light rally was also held at Gyalshing bazaar where businessmen, NGOs, Panchayats and locals participated to pay their respect to the people who lost their lives in the devastation.

Chungthang remembers 2011 earthquake victims

CHUNGTHANG, 19 Sept: The public of Chungthang paid homage to lives lost in last year’s earthquake in a programme held at the Gurudwara complex on Tuesday to mark the first anniversary of the 18 September earthquake which had claimed 17 lives in Chungthang and a total of 69 lives in North Sikkim. Chungthang was the worst hit of all Sikkim towns by the earthquake last year.
The programme, organised by the SDM Office, was attended by Joint Secretary, SREDA, Tashi Chopel as the chief guest [he was the Chungthang SDM when the earthquake struck last year], SDM Chungthang, RK Yadav, Panchayat president Lendup Lepcha, Army officers, ITBP and Sikkim Police officers, Guru Nanak Lama Sahib committee members from Delhi, Punjab, Siliguri and Chungthang, representatives from state and national level NGOs and different departmental officials.
The programme started with prayers by Mani Aamas followed by presentation of certificates of appreciation to all the helping hands and rescue teams for their support in the aftermath of the earthquake last year.
After that, the ITBP jawans gave a demonstration on disaster risk reduction at Tasa Tengay Sec. School complex.
The chief guest in his address, thanked all the organizations for their help and coordination during the hour of crisis last year. The programme concluded with a candle light rally and two minutes silence for all those who lost their lives in the earthquake and also for Lachen Gomchen Rinpoche who passed away at Delhi on Tuesday morning.

Editorial: Any Wiser?

As the State completes a year since the 18 September 2011 earthquake, it becomes necessary for Sikkim and its people to make some honest appraisals of their preparedness. It should not be so, because, given that the Sikkimese have lived with earthquakes ever since they have inhabited Sikkim, they, along with other communities living along the Himalaya, should instead have been much-sought after resource persons to prepare others on how to mitigate natural disasters. That is obviously not the case, hence, the trigger of a 6.8 on the Richter Scale earthquake, the severest that the Sikkim Himalaya has pushed in recorded history, is required to fire awareness and involvement.
But even that does not seem to be working.
The minor temblor which began the final countdown for the first anniversary candlelight vigils across the State on Tuesday spread easy panic... at least in Gangtok. The 18 September 2011 experience was harrowing and nerves were expected to be on edge on its first anniversary, hence the panic which followed the anniversary rattle. And in how most of the capital reacted, one finds areas which unfortunately still need work. Earthquake do’s and don’ts were forgotten even before the earthquake shudder had subsided, and Gangtok ended up doing everything that experts advise against in the event of an earthquake. A majority of the people rushed out, a potentially dangerous undertaking in areas which had suffered a power blackout and downright reckless in the rush with which people trooped out. Expect those around MG Marg, other Gangtokians did not have convenient open spaces to take the footfalls safely and soon people were spilling over from footpaths on to the highway, which, like always had an abundance of reckless and inconsiderate drivers; their screeching brakes and persistent honking adding to the confusion. The earthquake was very slight, so there were obviously no worries of any damage having been caused, but given its timing, concerned authorities should have tried harder to inform and reassure people. Sikkim is not serviced by 24x7 news channels, but still needs to be updated in real-time in times of emergency and yesterday’s episode, although not an emergency or disaster, provided a good opportunity to try out alternate communication models. And mobile phones are not an option, because lines clogged after the flutter. Some other options need to considered.
So, what Sikkim is essentially looking at is a population still at risk of causing itself harm [through panic responses] in the event of a natural disaster and an administration still slow on the uptake. It is also obvious that the State still awaits a customised and practical disaster preparedness plan. Much noise can be expected in the coming months about how the government has rebuilt and rehabilitated, and most of the fulmination will be politically leveraged. One must bear in mind that rebuilding and rehabilitation is a process which will progress and slow down depending on the status of funds and motivation of concerned officials. It will however eventually be completed, its quality decided by how involved the stakeholders are in the process. What will really decide how Sikkim pulls through the next major natural disaster will not be how well it repairs, but the preparedness levels of its people in general and its officials and social organisations in particular. The tremor which registered at 5:56 p.m. on 18 Sept 2012 should be received as a reminder of the pending tasks and not as a tectonic ploy which ensured that the candlelight vigil planned for MG Marg a few minutes later received a packed participation instead of what was panning out to be an embarrassing low turnout...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Many more than expected people poured into MG Marg, Gangtok, on Tuesday evening as the appointed time arrived for the candlelight remembrance of the 2011 Earthquake drew close today. Apart from individuals and organisation who turned up for the vigil, also at the venue were residents scared out of their homes by the 4.1 temblor which coursed through the State at 5:56 pm, minutes before 6:10 p.m. when the 6.9 strong earthquake had hit Sikkim with devastating effect this day last year.

GANGTOK REMEMBERS 2011: Helping Hands Sikkim organised a candlelight memorial and prayers here at MG Marg today in remembrance of the lives lost in the 18 September 2011 earthquake. A large number of people turned up in front of the Tourism office for the candlelight vigil and prayers which began at 6:10 PM, the exact time when the quake had struck last year. Prayers were offered by leaders of all religions while Speaker KT Gyalsten, HRDD Minister NK Pradhan, Gangtok Mayor Dorjee Namgyal and Deputy Mayor Shakti Singh also joined the service. An audio CD titled ‘Lets pray campaign’ by artists from Sikkim, Darjeeling and Kalimpong was also launched on the day.

High Court upholds Garai’s acquittal in Indira Sharma murder case

GANGTOK, 18 Sept: The division bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice P Kohli and Justice SP Wangdi has upheld the acquittal of RN Garai, accused in the murder of Indira Sharma at Burtuk, Gangtok in January 2005. While the state government’s appeal against the acquittal granted by the lower court was found to be riddled with contradictions and also the possibility of planted witnesses, the submissions of the counsel for the accused suggests that the accused himself may have been framed.
The court, in its order dated 17 September, noted that on examination of the evidence as regards the circumstances, on the face of it there appear to be corroborations among the witnesses. However, on closer examination, the court noted that there are irreconcilable contradictions which render the proof of the circumstance as doubtful.
The court observed, on examination of the evidence submitted, that “We, therefore, find that the evidence produced by the prosecution is riddled with contradictions thereby rendering the case of the prosecution extremely doubtful”.
Significantly the court also commented that it got the impression that the witness, Meena Sharma, sister-in-law of the deceased, to be a planted witness.
After hearing the two sides at length, the court came to the conclusion that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the most vital circumstances appearing against the accused having visited the shop of the deceased on 01, 02 and 04 January 2005 offering sale of sugar and kerosene, the deceased having been seen last with the accused, and the accused having rendered the disclosure statement, leading to the recovery of the incriminating articles, and having proceeded on leave the very next day of the murder, i.e. 05 January 2005.
“Under such circumstances, the benefit of doubt would certainly lie in favour of the Respondent-Accused”, noted the high court in its order.
An important point raised was the failure of one of the witnesses to identify the accused in the trial court. The High Court observed that the witness was unable to identify the Accused in Court and in his cross-examination he has categorically stated that - the said Army personnel was not like or resembled (sic) the accused standing in the dock.
The court noted, “The fact of the Respondent-Accused having made the disclosure statement, Exhibit 71, also do not appear to be free of infirmity. P.W.23, Dawa Tshering Lepcha, and P.W.24, Sonam Choejee Lachungpa said to be witnesses to the disclosure statement, Exhibit 71 of the Respondent-Accused and recovery of incriminating articles as a consequence thereto and, therefore, vital to the prosecution, ought to have deposed on those in their first examination, i.e., P.W.23 on 19-08-2009 and P.W.24 on 24-08-2009, but they were completely silent about it.
Curiously, it was brought on record only on their recall when P.W.24 was examined on 23-11-2010 and P.W.23 on 09-02-2011, i.e., much beyond the period of one year after their first examination. The recall of the witnesses per se may not displace the fact of the Respondent-Accused having made the disclosure statement, Exhibit 71, but it certainly gives rise to a lurking suspicion in our minds and, may have remained so but, for the suspicion being justified on account of serious discrepancies and gross contradictions arising in their evidence when compared with their statements recorded earlier on 19-08-2009 and 25-08-2009…. The very second sentence that the police had requested him to be a witness to the seizure memos prepared by them in connection with the case and that he accordingly did, indicates that he was only a signatory to the seizure memos and not the recovery in terms of the disclosure statement”.
“Such being the nature of the evidence pertaining to the disclosure statement and the recoveries riddled with contradiction and confusion as they are, we are of the considered view that they are completely unreliable and fraught with risk to give any credence thereto,” the  High Court has noted in its judgment.
This along with other discrepancies in the evidence as produced by the prosecution led the court to dismiss the appeal of the state government against the order of acquittal of the lower court.
Lance Naik Rajendra Nath Garai, the accused in the murder of Indira Sharma after having allegedly sexually assaulted her in the year 2005 has gone scot free after the court acquitted him of all charges. In a quirky combination of legal requirements and technicalities and lack of sufficient evidence, RN Garai, was pronounced not guilty by the District and Sessions Judge, Special Division II, a few months ago and was ordered to be immediately set free from prison where he had been held since his arrest in 2005.

18 Sept declared Disaster Risk Reduction Day

GANGTOK, 18 Sept: The two-day National Conference on Disaster Management with the theme ‘Towards a safe and disaster resilient Sikkim’ being held at Chintan Bhawan, Gangtok was inaugurated by the Speaker, SLA, KT Gyaltsen at Chintan Bhawan, Gangtok on Monday.
The Speaker during his inaugural address conveyed his sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims of the earthquake and expressed his gratitude to the members of the civil society, the Central Government, various state governments, NGOs who came to help during the hour of crisis. While underlining the need to systematize the disaster mitigation plan to cope up with such type of catastrophe, the Speaker urged the delegates and experts from other parts of the country to help, assist and guide the state which is in the process of preparation of future programmes in this regard.
The Speaker also acknowledged the proactiveness shown by the society during the post earthquake situation which he said was exemplary and showed the strength of the society during that time. He also highlighted on the activities undertaken by the government to provide relief and comfort to the people during the hour of crisis.
Member, National Disaster Management Authority, KM Singh during his address complimented the Government of Sikkim for the enormous work and large number of measures adopted in disaster management. He also appreciated the publication of a booklet on the training of masons which he said would be very effective in the construction of earthquake resistant houses and should be circulated around the country.
Mr Singh also highlighted on the importance of fire services and civil defence during the hour of crisis and said that it has a major role and responsibility to play during disaster.
Vice Chairman, Bihar State Disaster Management Authority, Anil Sinha during his deliberation highlighted the importance of mock drill and rehearsal in disaster management.
Executive Vice Chairman, Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority, Prof. VK Sharma, in his address, said that the subject of disaster management can be learned from each other through interaction and sharing of experience. This is because everyone has their own experience and knowledge in this field. In order to cope with the disastrous situation plans should be formulated from the panchayat and block level, he said.
The Chief Secretary of Sikkim, Karma Gyatso during his key note address briefed about the post earthquake activities and placed on record the service rendered by every individual, civil society, NGOs, Para Military forces, state and central government organisations immediately after the disaster and acknowledged their role during the hour of crisis.
“It is only due to the collective effort of everyone that normalcy was restored in very short span of time”, he added. The Chief Secretary informed the delegates that the state government is in the process of preparing the best disaster management plan in the country.
Giving an overview of the activities undertaken by the state government after the earthquake, the Chief Secretary said that given the climate here, the state has only about seven working months during which work can be implemented on the field.
The second day today had Minister HRDD, NK Pradhan as the chief guest who was accompanied by Minister Health and Vice Chairman, SSDMA, DN Thakarpa.
The conference was organised by the Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority, Land Revenue & Disaster Management Department on the first anniversary of the 18 September earthquake which hit the state last year.
Speaking during the conference, Minister HRDD, NK Pradhan stated, “We should learn from what has happened and correct the mistakes. Disasters can strike at any time, but preparedness can reduce the amount of loss”.
The State government has put in a lot of effort in the relief and rehabilitation works after the aftermath of the 18 September earthquake and has also been provided the necessary help by the Central Government. There is still a lot to be done and the recovery process will not be completed in a year it will take sometime and people will have to have patience, said Mr Pradhan.
On incorporating topics regarding earthquake and disaster management in the school syllabus, he advised his department’s officials to see it done as soon as possible as this was the need of the hour. School buildings all over the state [the old ones as well as the new ones] will be retrofitted to avoid extensive damages in future, he added.
Awareness and training about disasters needs to be created right from the grassroot level. We need to educate each and everyone about such disasters and make sure children especially school children get education regarding such disasters and learn how to be safe, he added.
Earlier in his keynote address, the Chief Secretary, Karma Gyatso made a powerpoint presentation on what has been done and what is to be carried out further. He also congratulated the Secretary, Land Revenue & Disaster Management Department for organising such a conference as the feedbacks coming were very good.
He also requested the Land Revenue & Disaster Management Department to conduct such workshops and conferences annually.
Joint Secretary, National Disaster Management Authority [NDMA], Sujata Saumik talked about the School and Hospital Safety Programme which has been initiated by the NDMA and said that it should be incorporated in the state plan for disaster management. She also assured all support to the state from NDMA for the establishment of institute of disaster management in the state.
The conference was also addressed by SBS Bhadauria [Secretary, Land Revenue & Disaster Management Department] and Professor Vinod K Sharma [Executive Vice Chairman, Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority.
Earlier, certificates of appreciation were distributed to individuals, non-governmental organisations, para-military forces and government agencies who had helped in the relief and rescue work during the 18 September earthquake, last year.
Books, posters and public awareness materials were also released. The chief guest also declared 18 September as Disaster Risk Reduction Day and 2012-13 as Disaster Risk Reduction Year. A film on the 18 September earthquake by the Information & Public Relations Department, Reconstruction of Earthquake Damaged Rural Houses [REDRH] website and handbook were also released on the day.

Panchayat Polls 2012 sets into motion

GANGTOK, 18 Sept: The Model Code of Conduct for the upcoming Panchayat elections is expected to come into force on Wednesday with the State Election Commission expected to announce the dates for filing of nominations, scrutiny, withdrawal and polling.
The State Government had issued a separate notification yesterday declaring the tenure of present Panchayats are completed and authorizing the State Election Commission to hold fresh elections before the scheduled time. The new panchayats need to be in office by 05 November 2012.
The State Government has also notified the delimitation of Gram Panchayats and Zilla Panchayats (Territorial) and reservations of seats.
The Rural Management and Development Department last Saturday published a Gazette Notification detailing the reservation details for the Panchayat polls at the district level and gram level.
The nodal Department – RMDD - has notified the reservation roster for upcoming election the ward and Zilla (Territorial) wise reservation details for the upcoming panchayat polls. This notification also includes the enhancement of reserved seats for women from 40% to 50% across all categories. With this, the process has begun to conduct the panchayat elections in October as originally projected before the Dasain break.
The panchyat polls will be held in the 2007 reservation format, except the enhancement in seats reserved for women. As per the 2007 format, 28 percent of the seats are reserved for Scheduled Tribes [Bhutia, Lepcha, Limboo and Tamang], 6 percent for Scheduled Castes, 22 percent of Most Back Ward Classes [Gurung, Rai, Bhujel, Sunuwar, Jogi, Thami], and 16 percent for Other backward Classes [Newar, Bahun and Chettri].

Banks refuse to issue coins to public, RBI seeks explanation

GANGTOK, 18 Sept: The secretary general of Sikkim Chamber of Commerce filed a written complaint with the Reserve Bank of India on 14 September against some banks allegedly refusing to issue coins over the counter to the public on demand.
A press release issued by the secretary general, SCC, Kailash Agarwal informs that the Central Bank of India and State Bank of India have been asked to serve an explanation regarding the same by the RBI. The banks have also been asked to provide the position of coin stock at the close of business on 13 September 2012.
As per circular no. DCM (CC) No. G-5/03.39.01/2010-11 dated July 01, 2010 of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) all banks having currency chest are duty bound to issue of coins over the counter to any member of public on demand, the release adds.

UID number required for Ration Cards

GANGTOK, 18 Sept [IPR]: The Food and Civil supplies department has started the preparation of Ration Cards. Through an official release, the department has requested all residents to quote their Aadhaar or UID Number in the ration card application form.
Those persons who have enrolled in the UID programme but have failed to get their UID number are requested to fill their enrolment Identification number which is mentioned in the enrolment acknowledgment slip given to them during the enrolment. Persons who have not enrolled for UID number can contact the respective district offices of DESM&E for enrolment.
The release mentions that the department is expediting the enrolment process and the second phase of UID enrolment is likely to start in the first week of October 2012.  For the benefit of the residents, the department will be establishing UID enrolment centers in Mangan, Gangtok, Namchi and Gyalshing.
The residents who have enrolled for UID number can also check their respective numbers by logging into UID portal-

Relief provided to landslide affected families in Melli Paiyong GPU

NAMCHI, 18 Sept: Landslides have reportedly damaged around 5 houses in various places of Melli Paiyong GPU under Melli constituency of South Sikkim. The severely affected sites have already been visited by SDM (HQ), DPO South, RI, along with the concerned Panchayat and relief has been provided to the affected families.
Another relief camp was set up at Ambotey, Tinik Chisopani GPU for 4 affected families consisting of 24 persons. Panchayat President of Ambotey, LK Jogi has been designated as Relief Camp In-charge. SDM Namchi along with QRT visited Rangbul and Assangthang area on 17 September and evacuated 3 families in both the places.
Similarly SDM (HQ), DPO, RI, along with concerned Panchayat visited Melli Paiyong GPU and shifted the affected families to safer locations. Immediate relief was provided to all affected families.  Damages of power supply lines and water source were also found in various locations under South District.

North observes first anniv of the 2011 earthquake

MANGAN, 18 Sept: The first anniversary of last year’s 18 September earthquake was observed here in Mangan, North Sikkim today with the participation of people from all walks of life.  In the morning session, a rally was conducted from the old Bus stand to the community hall at Mangan which saw the participation of Sr. SP North, BK Tamang, ADC North, Prabhakar Verma, SDM Mangan, PW Lepcha, CMO North, KT Lepcha, departmental officials, members of Mangan Nagar Panchayat, students from Mangan Sr. Secondary School, North Sikkim Academy and the local populace.
A short function was also held at the community hall which started with two minutes silence to pray for the departed souls the earthquake victims followed by prayers. The ADC North, Prabhakar Verma deliberated on disaster management and preparedness and also made the announcement of 18 September being declared as the Disaster Risk Reduction Day and 2012-13 as the Disaster Risk Reduction Year.
The Sr. SP North while addressing the gathering informed that awareness on disaster management is very important and further highlighted that natural calamities cannot be stopped but can be mitigated. He also appreciated and extended his gratitude to all the organizations, officials and individuals for their support in relief and rehabilitation post the earthquake.
Also in the function, the National Service Scheme volunteers of Mangan SSS, NYK Mangan, EPCS Church and Mangan Nagar Panchayat were felicitated for their support in relief and rehabilitation in the aftermath of the earthquake.
After the function a short mock drill demonstration was also conducted by Sikkim Fire Services headed by DSP, BK Gurung. The function concluded with the vote of thanks delivered by SDM Mangan, PW Lepcha.
In the evening, the people of North District joined in a candle light rally carried out from the old Bus stand to Lower Mangan Bazaar.

Sikkim Newar Guthi prepares for Indrajatra

GANGTOK, 18 Sept: The Indrajatra festival of the Newar community will be celebrated with pomp and gaiety at Gangtok on 29 September, 2012 under the auspices of Sikkim Newar Guthi. A press release from the Guthi informs that the day’s programme will include customary puja of deities, Jatra (procession), Bhoj and a cultural programme.
Indrajatra is traditionally celebrated for eight days commencing on Sukla Dwadashi of the month of Bhadra and continuing up to Chaturthi. On the third day, that is the Chaturdashi (29th of September this year), Kumari, the Living Goddess considered to be an incarnation of Goddess “Taleju”, is worshipped and the chariot of the Kumari, Ganesh and Vairab are drawn around after the prayers. Kumari is very deeply venerated and worshiped by Newars.
The release mentions that the preparatory work for the function is in the final stage. Classical Newar dances by artists from the Sakha Guthi of Dentam in West Sikkim and Mellidara in South Sikkim and musical performances by guest artists will be the highlight of the cultural programme.
The release also mentions that all members of the Newar community of the state are “eagerly waiting for this day to express their sincere gratitude in the most befitting manner to the State Government, especially the Chief Minister Pawan Chamling for the historic decision taken to declare Indrajatra as a gazetted holiday from this year onwards.”
“The present Government, under the dynamic leadership of Pawan Chamling, has once again proved that it is committed to the preservation and development of the cultural heritage of all the communities of the state”, the release states.
Sikkim Newar Guthi has invited all to join the community in this function and make it successful in the true sense, the release adds.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lachen Gomchen Rinpoche passes away

Mangan mourns the passing away of Lachen Gomchen Rinpoche as the entire town shut down and went silent on Tuesday as news arrived of the Rinpoche’s passing away in New Delhi.

GANGTOK, 18 Sept: Lachen Gomchen Rinpoche passed away early this morning at AIIMS, New Delhi. His body will be brought to Gangtok on Wednesday, it is informed. The date and details the funeral have not been finalised as yet.
In a press communiqué issued today, Chief Minister Pawan Chamling has conveyed his personal deep felt condolence to the bereaved family and devotees on the sad demise of Lachen Gomchen Rimpoche.
The Chief Minister has remembered the late Rimpoche as a learned Buddhist scholar of high repute and as someone who has contributed to the welfare of the State as a legislator and Cabinet Minister.
An IPR press release conveys that Mr. Chamling has said that the Rimpoche’s passing away is a great loss to one and all in Sikkim. As a mark of respect to the departed soul the Secretary Ecclesiastical Affairs Department, Tenzing Gelek, will be receiving the mortal remains of the departed soul at Bagdogra on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Dre-Goen Jingkyong Tsogchen (Assembly of Sikkimese Monasteries) has mourned the passing away of Kyabje Lachen Gomchen Trulku Rinpoche who breathed his last early this morning in New Delhi. “The Rinpoche immediately passed into ‘thuen’ state of meditational trance till the writing of this release”, informs an ASMAN press release.
“A vivid practitioner, Kyabje Rinpoche dedicated his life for world peace and benevolence and for the preservation of Bayul Dremo Djong. Though physically ailing for some time, he was still instrumental in reviving some of the ever fading traditions and dharma heritage of Sikkim,” the release states.
As the Chog-tso Kujen (vice president) of this dharma body, he dedicated his everything for the cause of preserving Sikkim’s unique spiritual heritage. His brief presence in the government in the early 1980s witnessed the inauguration of monastic schools across Sikkim, and which now has become the nucleus to later advancement of students and practitioners in spiritual pursuits.
The release goes on to recall that on the passing away of the Najoir emey Shenchen, a reincarnate of one of the four Rechen Jis (four foremost disciples) of Lhatsun Namkha Jigme, Chogyal  Sir Thutob Namgyal’s government had declared a week long National Mourning with a complete holiday on the day of his funeral.  His reincarnation was born in Yangtey, West Sikkim, who as a perfect Denjong Ngako, wandered across Sikkim and attained Parinirvana in a remarkable manner, the association of monasteries highlights.
His reincarnation was later born as the famous Lachen Gomchen, a great practitioner whose stories, attainment and spiritual accomplishments are well known. In fact, one of his disciples was the legendary French lady, Alexander David Neel. A National Mourning was also observed on his death with a national holiday by the then Chogyal, the release reminds.
This legacy, tradition and spiritual attainment were continued by the present Lachen Gomchen Rinpoche, being the fourth in succession. The Chog-Tso (president) of this dharma body, Kyabje Lhatrul Terchen Rinpoche has accordingly requested all the monks and monasteries of Sikkim to pray for the smooth arrival of the reincarnation of Kyabje Lachen Gomchen Rinpoche, without any disturbance for the benefit of all sentient beings, the release further states.
Meanwhile, National Sikkimese Bhutia Organization [NASBO] has also condoled the demise of Kyabje Lachen Gomchen Rinpoche. “The passing away of Kyabje Lachen Gomchen Rinpoche has landed this organization and all the Sikkimese devotees in a state of profound sorrow”, expresses a NASBO release.
Late Kyabje Rinpoche was a source of solace during difficult times which was the true reflection of his attainment of highest Buddhist spiritual realization, the release adds.
“His ready and prepared solution to all our bewilderments and straight-forward guidelines shall always remain helpful even till posterity”, the release mentions and further prays for the early arrival of his reincarnation.

4.1 magnitude tremor scares Sikkim on first anniv of 18 Sept 2011

GANGTOK, 18 Sept: Call it a coincidence, a cruel prank by nature, or even a reminder, but on 18 September today, Sikkim once again relived an experience it would rather have not. At 5:56 PM this evening, people emptied out into the streets again as a quick but strong enough to scare 4.1 magnitude tremor hit the state.

Last year, on the same day an earthquake measuring 6.9 in magnitude had hit the state at 6:10 PM causing major damages across Sikkim especially North Sikkim. Nervous apprehension preyed on many minds as the State marked the first anniversary of the strongest ever [in recorded history] earthquake with its epicenter in Sikkim.
As the countdown began, the 4.1 temblor rocked the State and panic was instantaneous.
Even as people gathered at Titanic Park for a candlelight vigil to pay homage to lives lost in last year’s quake, the fresh tremor reignited fear amongst people.
The MET department has reported that the epicenter of today’s earthquake was located in North Sikkim [30 km north of Tadong, Gangtok] at Latitude 27.4°N Longitude 88.5°E with a depth of 10 kilometers. No damage to life or property is reported.
Stronger tremors have visited the State in the past year, but one on the anniversary obviously carried the strongest scare-potential. This significance was not lost on the authorities either with the police and the administration responding quickly and appealing for calm.
Chief Secretary Karma Gyatso, when contacted, appealed to the people not to panic, pointing out that the earthquake was slight in nature. SP East, Dr. MS Tuli, also confirmed that they have received reports of people rushing out in fear and appealed that such panic reactions be avoided.

End of monsoon brings heavy rains and landslides

GANGTOK, 16 Sept: With the monsoon rains in the state now into their last month the rains have begun to get heavier and ominous. The heavy downpour the last couple of days left a string of landslides including in Pakyong, East Sikkim and in various parts of South Sikkim where a number of roads have also been affected and cut off.
In Pakyong, East Sikkim, the heavy downpour completely damaged one house located below Pakyong Bazaar and left several other houses, located above the landslide area, endangered. The slide occurred in the wee hours of Saturday, at around 2 AM and completely engulfed the house of Nar Bahadur Khati with slush, rocks and debris completely damaging his house.
Fortunately, Mr. Khati had been alerted by some stray rock falls before the main body of the slide collapsed and had managed to evacuate the house along with his family members. However all his belongings were buried in the slide.
The Pakyong police was the first to reach the spot and help the family to evacuate and to take necessary action. The family was visited by the local panchayat and the SDM Pakyong the following morning.
The landslide, which occurred just below the bazaar area, has also left several houses located above where the landslide originated, endangered as the slope below these houses has given way.
South district too has seen a string of landslides in the past couple of days due to the heavy rains. Around 13 families in various parts of the district have had to leave their homes. In fact, as DC South, AK Singh informed, the district administration has also opened a relief camp at Ambotey where 3 families are lodged.
In Ambotey three families have been affected with one house completely damaged and 2 others on the verge of collapse. These families have been relocated to the relief camp. Another 4 to 5 families have been affected by slides at Melli dara; 2 families at Rongbul on the way to Melli and 3 to 4 houses damaged in Assangthang area. These affected families have preferred to stay with relatives informed the DC South.
It is also informed by the DC that the administration has deployed quick response teams to various parts of the district including revenue and assistant revenue supervisors to survey affected areas and file a detailed report on damages. The DC South AK Singh stated that the priority is on saving lives. All affected families have been provided with immediate relief as per the norms.
Apart from house damages almost all roads in the district have also been affected barring the Namchi – Gangtok and Namchi – Siliguri road.

CM calls on teachers to inspire and motivate students towards excellence

GANGTOK, 16 Sept [IPR]: Continuing with the series of meeting with government employees, Chief Minister Pawan Chamling yesterday met Principals and Lecturers of government schools and colleges, and Headmasters and officials of the Human Resource Development Department, Government of Sikkim here at Manan Kendra.
While addressing the gathering, the Chief Minister expressed that the role of a teacher is not only in the school but also in the society, as they should possess the spirit of compassion, honesty, patience, humanity and above all be a role model for the students. The duty of a teacher is not only to make teaching-learning a continuous process but also provide opportunity to foster the student’s potential to explore, investigate, innovate and inculcate civic values, he added.
Thus, he called upon the teachers to shoulder great responsibilities to motivate and put in every effort to ensure that the children can get the best of education coupled with human values.
The Chief Minister also dwelt at length on the education sector to which the State Government has accorded top most priority and reiterated that in spite of Government initiatives the target has not been achieved as yet.
Therefore, he also urged the gathering to be accountable, responsible, pro-active and contribute collectively so that the schools of the state could emerge as the best learning institute in the country. In the same manner, he also appealed to them to ensure qualitative service to be rendered by each and every one to make Sikkim the best educational hub. Further, he also asked the teachers to preserve the sanctity of schools and colleges as a temple of learning.
Speaking to teachers about the facilities being provided by the State Government, he stated that the teachers have been given status at par with the central cadre service together with the introduction of State Awards like Sikkim Shiksha Ratna Purashkar and Shiksha Samman Puraskar.
Informing about the ten percent increase in budget of the education sector from the next academic session, the Chief Minister mentioned that the State Government will be using this budget for funding professional courses in diverse varieties of skills to the younger generations that will directly enhance their skill levels.
The Chief Minister also called upon everyone to develop a feeling of ownership and responsibility coupled with human touch to reach newer heights. He also asked everyone to look back, introspect, assess and analyze the progress being made so far in all spheres of development.
Pertaining to the future course of action, he also mentioned about the State Government’s proposal to establish a Quality School Board in the future. The Chief Minister also apprised about the committee to be set up to examine the demands and grievances placed by the teachers.
Minister for HRDD, NK Pradhan in his address talked about the state’s potential to be a real education hub and asked the teachers to exercise their duties responsibly which are vested upon them.
The Chief Secretary Karma Gyatso commented on Sikkim’s literacy rate which is 82.2% as per the 2011 census which shows the dedicated effort put by everyone. The programme began with a welcome address presented by Secretary HRDD, CS Rao while the vote of thanks was proposed by Director School Education, Yasodha Bhandari.

Looking back, a year after the devastation in North district

Lest Sikkim forgets, WANGCHUK BHUTIA recaps the events of 18 Sept 2011 in North Sikkim, replaying the trauma and confusion of the following weeks…

The North district of Sikkim, the area closest to the epicenter of the quake that shook the state on 18 September last year, took the brunt of the temblor and even though it is the most thinly populated of all districts, posted the highest casualty figure of 42 dead. The earthquake claimed a total of 63 lives in Sikkim. Most of the damage and casualties were centered around the Chungthang, Saffo, Mangan, Dzongu, Lachen and Lachung corridor of the district. Official figures reveal that 80% of the houses in the district suffered damages of varying degrees and many families were displaced.
The Worst Hit
After the earthquake and the aftershocks had subsided, relief and rescue operations began in the earnest.
The worst affected of all habitations was the Bey village in Upper Dzongu where seven people were killed in a landslide which collapsed on their homes. This village, which had a cluster of 18 houses divided into two by Tholung Chu running through it, saw one part of the village consisting of five houses swept away when the earthquake shook loose the entire hill above it. The rest of the village was evacuated and around 120 people comprising of women, senior citizens and children shifted to a relief camps at Lingzya and in the home of ward Panchayat Nima Lepcha at 4th Mile Mantam.
The road to Bey village has still not been cleared owing to the many difficult and dangerous slides which have ambushed it.
The affected people of Bey and Mantam village were recently provided home construction sites at Chandey near Mangan Bazaar where 21 families have been awarded the allotment order along with the home construction allotment under Reconstruction of Earthquake Damaged Rural Houses (REDRH).
Chungthang was the worst affected town which suffered a trail of devastation and destruction left by the earthquake. A series of landslides triggered by the 6.9 strong tremor of 18 September brought down a pall of gloom with as many as 13 deaths registered in Chungthang alone, many claimed still missing and almost all houses and structures here having taken damage to some extent.
With most structures now unsafe and residents were insecure about returning to even houses which have suffered only minor damage, most slept in the camps and open spaces with a few beginning to return to their houses.
As per the preliminary report prepared by the North District administration at the time, the earthquake, which claimed 42 lives in the district, had completely damaged 432 RCC buildings and 643 kutcha houses in the district. Meanwhile, 2,965 RCC buildings registered major damage along with 5,398 kutcha houses. The earthquake also delivered a strong blow to the livestock in the district, killing 2,209 animals [Cows-307, Goats-210, Bulls-232, Pigs-250, Yaks-410, Sheep-800].
With North Sikkim being the worst affected district, 231 vehicles [bus, trucks, taxis and government vehicles] were utilized for transportation by the district administration.
As of now, the UDHD is in the process of preparing the post earthquake town plan of Chungthang. Meanwhile, orders have been issued for the dismantling of 13 buildings at Chungthang Bazaar which have been declared as unsafe. Rs. 50 lakh has been sanctioned for the construction of SDM quarter.
Officials of the Border Roads Organization responsible for the North Sikkim Highway had to battle difficult odds to open road access to Chungthang beyond Mangan. The BRO deployed more than 600 laborers and personnel and heavy machinery on this alignment and worked under very risky conditions to clear the roads.
Traffic to North Sikkim was severely compromised with all routes disrupted. Even telecom connectivity and electricity supply was completely disrupted with extensive damage caused to drinking water supply. Roads to Mangan [from Gangtok], Chungthang, Saffo-Shipgyer, Mangan-Singtam, Dikchu-Gangtok, Rakdong etc were blocked by several landslides.
The road to Chungthang was badly damaged at several spots at Theng and Toong which took almost one month to restore.
The road to Lachen was also badly damaged at several spots. Similarly, the road to Lachung from Chungthang was disrupted with several slides which took more than a month to restore where around 600 feet stretch of the road formation had been washed away at Khedum a few kilometres short of Lachung along with several other slides.
A few days after the earthquake, Sonam Lepcha of Shipgyer had trekked the treacherous Shipgyer-Mayong route to reach Mangan and travelled onwards to Gangtok to bring news of the earthquake devastated regions of Dzongu and worried by the rumors they heard of the situation in Gangtok. Relieved that Gangtok escaped the scale of devastation which visited North Sikkim, he carried word that his village and Rammam nearby had suffered severe damage and remained precariously placed. With no telecom network and disrupted transport, the village was completely cut off.
The list of damages included monasteries, churches and school building along with several other private and government properties. The Bop Primary School located between Chungthang and Lachung had collapsed and the school was temporarily shifted to Chungthang till the end of the 2011 session. Likewise, the Pentong Primary School in Upper Dzongu also suffered multiple damages. The Tholung Monastery in Upper Dzongu suffered multiple damages while Ringhem Monastery above Mangan suffered 70% damages. The Ship Kunzang Choling Monastery at Shipgyer-Ramom GPU and Chungthang Monastery also sustained major damages due to the earthquake.
Chief Secretary Karma Gyatso laid the foundation stone of Ringhem monastery on 24 August last month. In the first phase Rs. 1 crore has been sanctioned for the reconstruction of the monastery.
Tholung Monastery in Upper Dzongu, meanwhile, still awaits reconstruction and renovation work. The posts and pillars of the monastery are almost tilting and appear structurally compromised even as most of the partition walls have collapsed and severe cracks have developed in the remaining partitions. All the belongings of the monastery have been shifted to the Sheda building attached to the monastery. The public and the Gumpa Committee have requested the concerned authorities for the early construction of the monastery [ NOW! issue of 05 Sept 2012].
Also damaged was the Ship Kunzang Choling Monastery wherein a total of 15 surrounding houses - “Thasyap” - of the monastery had developed major cracks running clear through the walls. Some of the walls had collapsed and a house had visibly tilted in the monastery complex.
Among the damages suffered by the monastery were also two chortens in the complex which had collapsed.
The residents of Shipgyer had been preparing for the inauguration of the two-storey Sheda building, with only the power and water supply left to be installed. This building too had been severely affected and had tilted.
One floor of the additional RCC structure of the monastery collapsed during the earthquake, damaging the community centre where the Sheda was housed.
Setting aside their personal losses, the villagers began temporary protection work at the monastery to protect it from further damage. Speaking to NOW!, Panchayat President Yeshey Lepcha had informed that the monastery was last renovated in the year 1982.
It is informed that Rs 3 crore has been sanctioned for the reconstruction of the Ship Kunzang Choling Monastery. Also at Ship, 14 houses which had been damaged have been provided space for reconstruction at a nearby agricultural land.
For the Chungthang Monastery, Rs 2 crore has been sanctioned by the state government for its reconstruction and Rs 5 lakh has already been allotted to the members of the monastery as reconstruction token.
With regard to the schools, for the Bop Primary School, which had collapsed in the earthquake and is currently being run at the community centre, construction of a new building at the same location has been sanctioned but work is yet to begin. At the same time, although reconstruction work at Pentong Primary school is going on, work has been hindered due to bad road conditions.
It may be mentioned here that the Sakyong Pentong area is still cut off and even reaching Bey is not possible at the moment.

The Missing
While all of North Sikkim, its district officials, army and other personnel were occupied with the death toll and damages, the one thing that went unnoticed was the number of missing people. The moment the roads were cleared, the district headquarter town of Mangan was clogged with families from villages in-and-around Mangan and Dikchu anxiously awaiting news of their loved ones and relatives employed in the Teesta Stage III hydel project.
Missing, it may be mentioned here, did not necessarily mean feared dead and had their families worried because there had been no communication with them since the earthquake. Communication networks in most parts north of Mangan had been disrupted and remained so for quite while.
The district officials had only a list of the dead and the injured brought to the hospitals; there was absolutely no information as to how many were missing. The district officials were pacifying people with the hope that these ‘missing’ persons could be safe in Chungthang.

The Forgotten: Labourers
With many missing and several dead, large sections of the remaining labour force of the hydel project companies up in North Sikkim started fleeing home. Ever since the day of the earthquake, the laborers, mostly from West Bengal, Bihar and Nepal, had been trickling into Mangan on foot from Chungthang and other places. They were, to a large extent, the forgotten lot; neither the administration nor their respective companies seemed to have organized anything to return them home.
It is ironic that in a situation as the one that they found themselves in, they had not been paid for the past 4 to 5 months and did not have a penny in their pockets. They also discovered that there was no arrangement made by the administration or anybody else for their journey back home.
With no money, most were seen just sitting at the Mangan taxi stand, hoping for a lift out. It was the Mangan Nagar Panchayat and the bazaar community which organized hot meals and tea for them which saved them from starving…

District Consultative Committee meeting discusss poor lending record in agri and allied sectors in South Sikkim

GANGTOK, 16 Sept: The District Consultative Committee (DCC) meeting of South district was held at Namchi on 13 September. The meeting was chaired by ADC, South Sikkim, ST Tamang and was attended by Assistant General Manager-cum-Lead District Officer (LDO), Reserve Bank of India, Gangtok, Anil Kumar Yadav, Lead District Manager (LDM), State Bank of India, Gangtok, AK Das along with branch managers of various banks in the district and officers from some of the Line Departments of South district.
As per a press release, during the meeting all the banking and developmental activities of the district were reviewed for the quarter ended 30 June, 2012. The ADC informed the house that in view of a meeting of the Government officials called by the Chief Minister of Sikkim at Gangtok, a large number of representatives from the Line Departments including DC, South Sikkim were unable to attend the DCC meeting .
The Committee reviewed the Annual Credit Plan (ACP) targets of South Sikkim for June 2012 quarter. Interacting in the discussion AGM, RBI, Mr Yadav expressed displeasure at the low level of achievemnt of the ACP targets which was just 10.9 percent in the first quarter of the year. He urged the banks to provide timely advances to the prority sector including agriculture, horticulture etc to enable the farmers to carry out their economic activities, the release mentions.
He also expressed unhappiness at the performance of the Private Sector banks viz Axis Bank and HDFC Bank of Namchi for showing zero level achievement  of their ACP targets. He reiterated that as per the extant RBI instructions even the Private Sector banks are supposed to achieve the Priority Sector targets in their service areas.
The release informs that the Credit Deposit (CD) Ratio of South Sikkim was 58.4 percent as on 30 June, 2012, which was highest among all the districts in the state. Mr Yadav informed the house that all the bank branches have to achieve atleast 40 percent CD Ratio, as below this percentage of CD Ratio is strictly monitored by the RBI and the Government of India and hence urged those branches whose CD Ratio was below 40 percent to work hard towards achieving the same.
Another area of concern which was deliberated upon at the DCC meeting was of very poor lending in the Agriculture and Allied Activities in the district by the banks. Under this Sector the overall achievent is dismally low at 6.7 percent.
Reacting to this agenda Mr Yadav suggested the banks to organise Credit Camps at the Block and Panchayat level with the assistance of the Agriculture Department and the District administration to improve the advances to this sector, as this segment had tremendous amount of potential in the district.
He also informed the house of the RBI’s new Kisan Credit Card (KCC) Scheme , which would help the farmers to a great extent and urged the banks to issue more KCCs to the eligible farmers. The LDM added that in a recent meeting with NABARD the scale of finance under the KCC Scheme has also been decided.
The progress under SGSY, PMEGP, SJSRY and Weavers Credit Card Scheme in South Sikkim were also discussed during the meeting.
Mr Yadav also apprised the house about the features of the new “Basic Savings Bank Deposit Account (BSBDA)” of the RBI , which is going to replace the existing “No Frills” accounts towards Financial Inclusion of customers. Under the recent circular of the RBI all the banks have been advised to offer a “ Basic Savings Bank Deposit Account” by offering minimum common facilities to to all their customers. The new account should be considered a normal banking service available to all and it will not have the requirement of any minimum balance.
Further there will be a facility of ATM card or ATM-cum-Debit Card and these facilities will be without any charges. While there will be no limit on the number of deposits that can be  made in a month, account holders will be allowed a maximum of four withdrawals in a month , including ATM withdrawals.
It was also informed in the meeting that a new branch of Dena Bank is going to be inaugurated at Namchi shortly.
The DCC meetings, under the Chairmanship of the DC, are held on a quarterly basis in each district of the state to review the achievement of the Annual Credit Plan (ACP) targets by different banks located in each distict, the release adds.

Sessions Court rejects anticipatory bail plea of EIILM Univ officials

NAMCHI, 16 Sept: The District and Sessions Court here rejected the anticipatory bail plea of EIILM University officials yesterday following the expiry of the initial interim order. When contacted today, SP South Manoj Tiwari stated that the Registrar, Director, Vice Chancellor, officials and owner of EIILM University are absconding and efforts are being made to locate them. Sources inform that the EIILM University officials are now planning to approach the High Court for bail.
During the hearing on 13 September, the prosecution had stated that the EIILM officials who are the prime accused in the case are not cooperating with the police investigation and despite notices issued under Section 91 CrPC and 160 CrPC they are neither furnishing relevant documents nor appearing before the police to give their statements and examination.
The prosecution, it is informed, had produced a mark sheet of LLM (Master of Law) issued and verified by the university as genuine. It is interesting to note that neither does EIILM University have any provision for the said course nor has the Bar Council of India given any approval to run the course. In addition, the University neither has a Law Department or Law College in Sikkim nor any faculty appointed for this purpose.
The EIILM University has never advertised Law Course in Sikkim and on practical verification there is no Law Course offered all over Sikkim by this university, the prosecution has contended.
Further, the prosecution produced evidence of a bank account opened in the name of a Law Department of EIILM University in a nationalized bank with huge deposits collected from students from outside the state; it also submitted before the court that only B. Tech, BBA, MBA and BCA courses are being run in its two existing colleges in Sikkim i.e. Jorethang and Budang.
Adding to this, the prosecution also submitted huge number of unchecked examination copies for various courses which has been seized and which clearly suggests that the university is making mark sheets for non existing courses being run in vacuum and thus making forged documents, and by issuing and verifying such mark sheets as genuine the officials are committing a crime under section 467 [forgery of valuable security, will, etc] and 471 [using as genuine a forged document or electronic record] of the IPC besides Section 420 and 406 IPC.
The defense in its argument had submitted that the university is approved by UGC and that the police has no right to check the activities, and that the officials of the university have high reputation in society which was countered by the prosecution by citing examples of A. Raja and Suresh Kalmadi. The defense said that the university does not require any approval from Bar Council of India (BCI) as permission has been granted by UGC which was objected by prosecution who said that without the approval of BCI no one can run law courses in the country.
Further, the prosecution stated that the setting up of off-shore campus and more than 55 centers in various places of the country by EIILM is in violation with the judgment of the Supreme Court in Professor Yashpal versus Government of Chhatisgarh also known as the Rai University case. The prosecution also provided the copy of the judgment of Supreme Court.
The defense said that they have filed a civil writ petition before the Delhi High Court for which the hearing is scheduled on 18 September to which the prosecution said that the defense has not produced any document for any relief provided by any competent court of the country, and that EIILM University falls under jurisdiction of High Court of Sikkim.
It is further learnt that B. Tech courses run by EIILM are not approved by AICTE which is why Bangladeshi students residing in Malbasey campus are sponsored by EIILM university on scholarship and enrolled with IGNOU.
Notices under 160 CrPC have been issued for the above mentioned people to turn up including the Controller of Examination of EIILM by 10 AM on 17 September.

SDF govt has failed to curb price rise in Sikkim, alleges Golay

GANGTOK, 16 Sept: Dissident SDF MLA of Upper Burtuk, PS Tamang, has accused the Sikkim Democratic Front government of failing to curb price rise in Sikkim. The rise in prices of diesel and LPG has put additional financial burden on the common man and the Chief Minister has failed to initiate any steps to contain this, Mr Tamang alleged.
The dissident MLA was addressing a public meeting at Nimtar, near 32 Mile, Sang Khola on Saturday.
On the hike in salaries and allowances of MLAs and Ministers tabled during the recent Assembly session which was justified to the rise in prices, Mr Tamang said that  if the government is serious about price rise then it should instead increase the salaries and allowances of MR, Work-charge, third and fourth grade employees who are most affected by inflation.
“Chamling has forgotten the reasons for which the people had revolted against the former Chief Minister Nar Bahadur Bhandari’s government”, said Mr Tamang.
He reiterated that he had no personal agenda but had come to the people to oppose the present government which he alleged has not done anything in the interest of Sikkim and the Sikkimese. Speaking on the vigilance case against him, Mr Tamang challenged the CM to allow CBI to investigate the cases pending against him to see “who will be in trouble”.
The political, social and other agendas of the new political outfit to be launched by him soon will “surprise the so-called leaders”, said Mr Tamang.
“I have not come here to become a leader but to make you aware of how Chamling and his associates have betrayed the Sikkimese people”, he added.
The meeting was also addressed by M N Dahal, Jacob Khaling, Bhojraj Rai and others.

Chorten Deorali Local Taxi Drivers’ Assoc to celebrate Vishwakarma puja on somber note

GANGTOK, 16 Sept: Chorten Deorali Local Taxi Drivers’ Association [CDLTDA] has decided to organize this year’s Vishwakarma Puja on a low scale at its stand below Deorali Ropeway on 17 September in order to pay homage to the people who lost their lives in the earthquake last year. Instead, the association has announced a Sarva Dharma Puja at the same venue on 18 September for peace, tranquility and prosperity in the state and also to pay homage to the departed souls.
Addressing a press conference on Saturday, CDLTDA president, Chung Chung Bhutia said that the puja this year is being organized on a somber note in view of the devastation caused by last year’s earthquake so there will not be any cultural programme.
He added that this time the association is organizing a Sarva Dharma puja in which prayers will be offered by religious leaders of Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim and Sikh communities.
Mr Bhutia informed that 1000 butter lamps will be lit at the venue during the puja for the earthquake victims and people can also pay their respects by lighting these lamps.
This year’s pandal has been created based on the Sai Mandir of Namchi. The organizers have invited all the local people to be part of the puja.
Members of the association also carried out a cleanliness drive in Deorali on Saturday. Mr Bhutia mentioned that the association conducts such cleanliness drives from time-to-time, especially during Vishwakarma Puja.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

CM announces wage-hike for MR employees

GANGTOK, 14 Sept [IPR]: Chief Minister Pawan Chamling, on the second day of the series of meeting with government officers and employees of the state, addressed the Muster Roll, Adhoc and regular employees from LDC to Office Superintendent level, today at Manan Kendra, Gangtok.
While reading the demands placed by the representatives of various service associations the Chief Minister assured the employees that the government will constitute a committee to look into the demands and grievances of the employees.
“We will frame policies which will cover short term and long term benefits for the employees”, said the CM.
The Chief Minister also announced to raise the wages of Muster Roll employees to come into effect from April 2013. The employees of various service associations had submitted their representation to the Chief Minister at the beginning of the meeting.
The CM while talking about the various initiatives undertaken by the government for the betterment of the government employees said that the policy of appointment on compassionate ground was started by this government as a welfare measure. Further, this government has also initiated promotions for fourth grade employees of the state.
In order to give equal justice to all the government employees this government has also created various cadre services for employees in various sectors, he added. Besides increasing the duration of maternity leave for women employees the government has also initiated paternity leave for the fathers of the new born for fifteen days.
The government during its eighteen years of governance established two pay commissions which enhanced the salary of government employees to more than what the central government employees are drawing, the Chief Minister said.
Further assuring to fulfill the needs and aspirations of the government employees, the CM said that though it is impossible to fulfill the wants of every individual, the government will try its level best.
The Chief Minister also urged the government employees to work for the fellow citizens of the state with utmost dedication, sincerity and honesty. While talking about the official decorum and discipline to be maintained in government establishments, he urged the employees to set an example of disciplined administrative machinery by maintaining official decorum in the official establishment with dignity and self respect.

Panchayat polls on track for October

GANGTOK, 14 Sept: The Rural Management & Development Department is expected to notify on Saturday, 15 September, the ward and zilla wise reservation details for the upcoming panchayat polls. This notification will also include the enhancement of reserved seats for women from 40% to 50% across all categories, inform official sources. With this, the process to conduct the panchayat elections in October as originally projected before the Dasain break.
Official sources inform that subsequently, another notification announcing the end of the tenure of the present Panchayats will be published on Monday, clearing the way for Panchayat elections.
The State Election Commissioner, SK Gautam, when contacted, said that once the two notifications are issued, the State Election Commission will notify the dates for the Panchayat elections. The day the election dates are announced, the code of conduct for rural areas will come into effect. As for the elections, although the specific dates will be known only with the Notification, it is clear that the polls will be within a month.
The State Government, it may be recalled, has directed the Commission to conduct the elections on the 2007 reservation pattern in as much as the seats reserved for the Scheduled Tribes are concerned; the earlier plan of having community-specific reservations within the ST having been shelved for the present election.
As per existing norms, within 10 days of the notification of the poll dates, the process of filing nominations, withdrawals and scrutiny will need to be completed. This leaves the candidates around 3 weeks of campaigning.

Overnight rain brings down NH 31A in a heap of slides

SILIGURI, 14 Sept: Last night’s heavy rains lashed through the reckless back-cutting works along National Highway 31A littering landslides which threw up serpentine traffic snarls throughout the Gangtok-Siliguri stretch. It took most commuters up to 10 hours to make the Gangtok to Siliguri journey today as the negotiated the slides in one-way files as GREF personnel worked to clear the debris.
The first slide, while moving from Sikkim to Siliguri was near Kirney between Rangpo and Melli where nearly 50 meters of the road where back cutting works have been carried out came down in a heap of debris and trees that had blocked the road completely last night.
A little further, and another section of road about 6 kms ahead, near Chitrey, had also given way just short of Lepcha Jhora Bridge. After negotiating the uneven and dangerous active slides here, the traffic jammed again near Teesta and then a few more slides along the Luku Bhir stretch.
Agitated commuters were obviously frustrated, many pointing out that this state of the road so close to the Durga Puja tourist season did not bode well for the tourism sector in the entire region.
Minor slides littered the highway from Teesta to Sevoke with substantial blocks at 29 Mile, another back cutting spot just before Lohapool, and then at two spots near Kalijhora.
With a slight drizzle throughout today, crossing and negotiating the roads posed a risk as all the slides were unstable and rocks and debris kept on falling even as vehicles passed.
Even ambulances were stuck, as were people who had trains or flights to catch because someone who left Gangtok at 10 a.m. reached Siliguri only by 6p.m. today.