Friday, September 28, 2012

Sikkim Univ Executive Council ‘breached rules of natural justice’, VC ‘string-puller’ of illegal actions



GANGTOK, 27 Sept: Two former Assistant Professors with the Sikkim University who were hounded for having protested what they saw as unfair practises, a stand which isolated them and then brought the stigma of getting terminated from service 15 days before their contract ran out, were served sweet justice by the Sikkim State Human Rights Commission today. In its order issued today, the Commission has not only recommended that the SU Executive Council’s decision to terminate their services be “forthwith cancelled”, but also identified Vice Chancellor Prof Mahendra P Lama as being the “string-puller” of the entire illegality and recommended that he “personally” pay out compensation awarded by the Commission to the affected teachers.
The case relates to the complaint filed with the State Human Rights Commission by Rajendra Prasad, Manoranjan Mishra, Shailendra Kumar Mishra and Tapas Bain challenging the decision of the Executive Council of Sikkim University to terminate the services of Mr. Prasad and Mr. Mishra and the continuing refusal of the University authorities to clear their salaries or issue them experience certificates. The terminated duo were removed from service on 16 March 2012 on the recommendation of the Executive Council [made the same day in Delhi] on the grounds of misconduct while the contracts of Mr. Mishra and Mr. Bain had already run on 27 February 2012.
In a strongly worded, 24-page order released today, Justice AN Ray, Chairperson, Sikkim State Human Rights Commission, has recommended that “Sikkim University, its Executive Council and all concerned office bearers, employees and staff do forthwith cancel the proceedings and decisions of Executive Council dated 16/3/2012, New Delhi as it is a product of illegal initiation of proceedings and was reached in breach of rules of natural justice”.
The Executive Council’s pusillanimity in allowing the VC to settle scores established, the set of recommendations goes on to direct that the SU forthwith release the “illegally withheld” salaries of the four petitioners. The University, citing various reasons, all of which have been dismissed by the Commission as untenable, had withheld the final salary dues of the four complainants.
These dues work out to Rs. 75,400 for Mr. Prasad [for Feb and March], Rs. 77,268 for Mr. Mishra [Feb and March], Rs. 36,252 for Mr. Shailendra Mishra [Feb 2012] and Rs. 35,552 for Mr. Bain [Feb 2012].
Earlier in the order, Justice Ray also observes: “There is absolutely nothing which prevents the University from paying the improperly withheld salaries. Any delay in this matter will be a downright matter of shame”.
The Commission has also recommended that the University immediately issue Experience Certificates to all four Assistant Professors.
The order then moves to the Commission’s recommendations on compensation. “Mahendra P Lama do personally pay out of his own funds compensation for illegal actions initiated and persisted in by him to the prejudice and loss of the petitioners to the extent of Rs. 2,44,000 in the following breakup: a) Rs. 1,20,000 forthwith to Rajendra Prasad; b) Rs. 1,20,000 forthwith to Manoranjan Mishra; c) Rs. 2,000 forthwith to Shailendra Mishra; d) Rs. 2,000 forthwith to Tapas Bain,” the order records.
While explaining the compensation angle, Justice Ray observes: “Withheld salary is not compensation but satisfaction of a debt that the University should discharge from its own resources immediately.”
Its decision to recommend that Prof Lama pay out the compensation from “his own funds” is drawn from the Commission’s “power to recommend payment of compensation by any person in authority at the material time”.
When it comes to the present case, the Commission underlines: “For example, it is found that the whole game was played by Lama and the rest of the University was led by him in this matter...”
The recommendation for compensation made, the Commission has further recommended that “as security for due payment by Mahendra P Lama, the Sikkim University its Executive Council and all it office bearers and employees do withhold from the current and future dues, if any, of Mahendra P Lama from the University a sum of Rs. 2,44,000/- and that they do make the payments as recommended in item IV above to the persons mentioned unless Lama makes full and complete payment by 15/11/2012”.
The order offers the complainants some sense of closure on the stigma attached to them because of the now established illegal manner in which the Executive Council terminated their services. Admittedly, the Human Rights Commission does not have “compulsive authority”, but as Justice Ray records, “...the strength of the recommendation is founded not upon compulsive authority, but upon the democratic pillars of reasonableness, correct setting out of facts and sufficiently persuasive quality of analysis in the recommending order”.
The case in question is the witch-hunt which hounded the four ever since they submitted a petition to the Executive Council of the University on 27 February 2012 challenging the recruitment process undertaken by the Vice Chancellor. Their decision to release copies of the complaint petition to the press was seen as an “anti University campaign” and the Executive Council in its meeting called by the VC in Delhi on 16 March 2012 decided the “punitive action shall have to be taken against those persons who try/ tried to defame the University on baseless grounds”. The EC then, allegedly after “prolonged deliberations”, decided that the services of Mr. Prasad and Mr. Mishra be discontinued with immediate effect.
Interestingly, at the same meeting, the EC also discussed the complaint submitted with it by the said faculty members.
The action against Mr. Prasad and Mr. Mishra began earlier on 06 March 2012 when they were served a show cause notice, “with the approval of the Vice Chancellor”, by the Registrar Jyoti P Tamang making an explanation call for breach of privilege because two newspapers [Samay Dainik and NOW!] had published details of their representation to the Executive Council.
The Registrar is not authorised to serve show cause notices to teaching faculty and as the Human Rights Commission has recorded, “there is no doubt that all these incidents took place at the behest of Lama”.
The served teachers responded by informing the Registrar that his show cause lacks authority, and the next they heard was of the termination of their services.
“Shocking indeed it is,” the Commission records of this sequence and conduct.
About the Executive Council’s eventual decision, the Commission records: “The Commission is not sitting in appeal over the decision of the Executive Council. But if findings are reached on no material at all, the decision is vitiated as perverse and discriminatory”.
The Commission observes that there is nothing, “absolutely nothing at all”, to show that the Executive Council when it met in New Delhi on 16 March 2012 had any material before it to “jump to the conclusion that the press releases were made by Rajendra”.
“The finding of releases to Press by the teachers was no more than a guess work by the Executive Council on 16/3/2012. It might have been a strong guess but it was nothing more than guess. The Executive Council was not betting on a horse at a racing track. They were terminating employments of serious teachers with stigma to whom the profession is bread and butter,” the Justice underlines.
This insensitivity and ignorance notwithstanding, the EC also bungled is not providing the terminated teachers a chance to defend themselves [a right enshrined in the Sikkim University Act] and thereby denying them natural justice. “It is today clear Indian Law that the employment of a public servant cannot be terminated with imputation of misconduct without observing the rules of natural justice,” the Human Right Commission order points out.
The Commission has also noticed that in the entire drama, “there is no opinion of Lama on record that immediate action is necessary. Though Lama now appears to have been the sole string puller behind everybody...”
It will be interesting to see how the University, as an institution, responds to the Human Rights Commission recommendations and what corrective measures, if any, it initiates. The University has been noticeable casual in attending to this case, with the final two-day hearing of the case – 21 and 22 February - having no representation of the University despite adequate notice. On 21 February, the SU counsel intimated the Commission that she was unwell and even her junior advocate was absent. As Justice Ray records, a University letter informed that the Junior Advocate had gone elsewhere and a letter seeking adjournment was left at the desk of his private secretary a day earlier and no one represented the University on the final two days. “It is unsatisfactory and inexcusable. But it is their business,” the Justice records.

Required offices to remain open through weekend to facilitate nomination filing by panchayat aspirants

GANGTOK, 27 Sept: A group of Panchayat aspirants and their supporters met with the Commissioner, State Election Commission, today in his office here at Amdo Golai demanding that the last date for filing of nomination papers be extended beyond 01 October [Monday] since one working day [26 October] of the already tight schedule [the dates were announced only on 24 Sept] was lost to the public holiday declared for the funeral of the Lachen Rinpoche and then Saturday is also a holiday [Indrajatra] and road connectivity problems prevalent throughout the State, leaving very little time for aspirants to collect all required documents for filing nomination papers in time. The crowd was strong, leading some to suggest that it was ‘gherao’, a contention dismissed by the SEC SK Gautam, who informs that some aspiring candidates and their supporters from different areas had approached his office asking that the date for filing of nominations be extended.
The Commissioner adds that he explained to them that SEC could not revoke its notifications, it could issue directives by which the aspirants will receive the time to complete the required procedures.
“Instead of extending the date, what I have suggested is that the panchayat candidates will be given Saturday and Sunday also when they will be able to get all relevant papers needed while filing of their nominations from the respective offices. I have already instructed the District Collectors from all the four districts to keep these holidays as working days and complete all pending paper works of the candidates before the date of the filing of the nominations,” Mr. Gautam informs.
In a press release issued today, the Commission has further detailed that the offices of all returning officers and assistant returning officers keep their offices open on Saturday and Sunday – on 29 Sept to give opportunity for filing of nominations and on 30 Sept for issue of caste/ community certificates “as would be necessary to the candidates for the purpose of filing nomination papers”.
It is informed that this ‘solution’ was explained to the gathering which returned satisfied with the decision of the SEC to direct officials to work through the weekend on panchayat election related work.

Special football match for special children

GANGTOK, 27 Sept: A special football match was organized today here at Paljor Stadium by the Special Olympics Bharat, Sikkim Chapter, to commemorate the birth anniversary of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of Special Olympics. The match was played between mixed teams of children from the Spastics Society of Sikkim centre here and students of Sir Tashi Namgyal Senior Secondary School.
The event was the part of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Week, celebrated from 22 to 29 September, and had IGP Akshay Sachdeva as the chief guest.
SOB, Sikkim Area Director, Dr BP Dhakal, mentioned that through such sporting events, the Special Olympics was trying to facilitate the creation of a unified and integrated society. He added that such events were also an attempt to spread a message among students that special children were also a part of the society and should be treated as equals and without any discrimination.
Dr Dhakal mentioned that the SOB has been facilitating these students in honing their respective skills and talents by providing them access to coaching camps and taking them to different competitions within and outside the state.
In his address, Mr Sachdeva stressed the need for everyone to ensure that special children enjoyed all their rights and received love and support from the people instead of pity and discrimination. He stressed that a compassionate society would ensure equal opportunities to bring them into the mainstream.
The IGP further stated that everyone should support these children in getting their rights and facilities and support them in honing their skills and talent. He stressed that everyone should take inspiration from the life and efforts of Eunice Kennedy Shriver to work efficiently for these children.

Report on Cases of Slope Failure/ Landslide and Flash Flood in parts of North Sikkim [As updated on 27/09/2012 at 2:00 pm]

1. R.K Singh, Union Home Secretary had a telephonic conversation with the  Chief Secretary today and inquired about the current situation in disaster affected areas and assured all support from Government of India.
2. The weather is under improved condition.
3. The road connectivity from Chungthang to Lachen will open tomorrow [Friday].
4. BRO is putting all man and machine to open Chungthang-Lachung road and is expected to be opened at the earliest.
5. Water supply is restored.
6. Food material is being transported in the interior areas of North Sikkim. 80 bags of rice transported yesterday to Lachung. Today Dal, Atta, M.oil, Poly Pipes, Raincoat , Torch Light, candles are being dispatched.
Chief Secretary is convening a special emergency meeting on 28/09/2012 with all the Heads of the line Departments, DGP, GOC, Indian Air Force, BRO and BSNL etc. to discuss about the latest situation. The meeting will discuss about the assessment of damages in North Sikkim and other districts as well, Progress of immediate restoration of Power & Water Supply, Communication and Roads as well. All the interlinked departments and organization has to assess the damage for preparation of memorandum to be submitted to Government of India.
(S.B.S Bhadauria)
Secretary cum State Relief Commissioner

Most of Sikkim still open and accessible for tourism, Deptt reminds

GANGTOK, 27 Sept: The State Government and the Tourism & Civil Aviation Department are coordinating with all the agencies concerned to ensure the safety and comfort of the tourists during their visit to Sikkim, an official press release conveys while stressing that despite the landslide disruptions caused in the North district, tourist destinations elsewhere in the State were still open and accessible.
Sikkim is a leading tourist destination and offers a wide variety of products for tourists, the Tourism Department has reminded, adding that “barring some areas of North Sikkim the rest of the State including the other three districts are open for visitors”.
“Even in North Sikkim, Kabi Lungtsok, Phodong Monastery, Phensang Monastery, Labrang Monstery, Mangan and Dzongu are accessible for tourists. Gangtok, Aritar, Tsomgo, Baba Mandir and Nathula which are very popular destinations in East Sikkim are open for traffic. Siddeshwara Dhaam at Solophok, Samdruptse at Namchi and Buddha Park at Rabong are must visit places for tourists in South Sikkim. West Sikkim also offers places of historical and religious importance like Yuksom, Tashiding, Pemayangtse Monastery, Kecheopalri Lake which are very popular among tourists. In addition to these Village Tourism and homestays in rural areas are gaining in popularity and tourists can enjoy these facilities. Adventure sports like trekking, river rafting, paragliding, rock climbing, traversing and mountain biking are available for tourists in all the districts,” the Tourism Department details, while adding that the Department is organizing the Sikkim Paragliding Festival from 31 October to 03 November in which around 60 paragliding pilots from India and abroad are expected to participate.

Dowry death suspected in Singtam

GANGTOK, 27 Sept: The Singtam police has charged one person on grounds of dowry related death. Pradeep Kumar Gupta of Gangtok has been booked under section 304 ‘B’ of the IPC which accuses him of having led his deceased wife to commit suicide. The wife had been found at the Rani Khola below Mangthang and a case of unnatural death had been registered at that time. A magisterial inquiry was conducted as the death had occurred within 7 years of marriage, an incident, which given the high number of dowry deaths in our country, automatically attracts a magisterial inquiry.
Following investigation into the case, the police uncovered that there had been numerous demands for money by the husband made to his in-laws. The deceased was originally from Biratnagar, Nepal and had married the accused in 2008. However, differences appeared in the marriage with the husband reportedly demanding dowry. Some of his demands had also been met, it is informed. However the frequent demands from the husband and the subsequent mental harassment had led to the death of the wife, the police investigation concluded.
Section 304 B states “Where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, such death shall be called "dowry death", and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death.” The punishment, for the guilty, is imprisonment for not less than 7 years.


GANGTOK, 27 Sept: A suicide has been reported from West district where a 35 year old resident of Ogang Singling in West Sikkim reportedly committed suicide on 26 September by hanging herself with the help of a chunni at home.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Auspicious signs and thousands of devout attend Lachen Rinpoche’s funeral

GANGTOK, 26 Sep: The IVth Kyabji Lachen Gomchen Rinpoche was cremated here at Enchey Monastery with full State honours today. The kudung of the Lachen Rinpoche, who had passed away on 18 September at AIIMS hospital in New Delhi, was taken out of his residence at Development Area at 8 a.m. sharp and the funeral procession then walked up to the Enchey Monastery where the funeral was conducted between 10 and 11 a.m.
Over 10,000 people from all walks of life joined the funeral procession which was also attended by Chief Minister Pawan Chamling who paid his last respects to the Rinpoche at Development Area itself. Also present were Speaker KT Gyaltsen, Rajya Sabha MP Hissey Lachungpa, Cabinet Ministers, MLAs, senior and retired government officials and former legislators and monk representatives from monasteries across the State.
The funeral procession walked it from Development Area through Zero Point, via TNA School and VIP Colony to reach Enchey Monastery where Lachung Rinpoche, Chorten Lachung Tulku, Tsulakhang Tulku and Jigmee Tulku from Ralang Monastery had prepared a magnificent mandala and an appropriate canopy for the cremation. Elaborate prayers were offered after which the Lachen Rinpoche was cremated.
People who had gathered in the thousands witnessed a series of auspicious signs, as are expected and hoped for when a religious leader of Lachen Rinpoche’s stature is cremated, as the funeral progressed. The was clear and sunny and a rainbow appeared as a halo around the Sun and held fast through the duration of the funeral and a collective sigh went up when an eagle, already a rare sight in Gangtok, started circling over the Enchey Monastery compound, directly over the funeral pyre the moment the fire was lit.
Both sign are considered highly auspicious by the devout who believe that these announce that the “passing-over has been clear”.
Monks from Ringhem, Phensang, Ralang, Tsuklakhang, Phodong, Pemayangtse Enchey, Lachen and Chorten Monasteries presided over the prayers.
Meanwhile, the ashes of Lachen Rinpoche will be taken to Lachen Monastery after three days for the people there to receive a darshan following which a Chorten will be constructed over some of the relics, the rest of the ashes then being taken for immersion in the Ganga, it is informed. It may be recalled that earlier it was planned to hold the funeral in Lachen, but owing to the series of landslides which have blocked the North Sikkim Highway which would have made transportation difficult and made it impossible for all his followers to attend the funeral, the cremation was held in Gangtok itself.
It may be mentioned here that the State government had declared a state holiday for today as a mark of respect for one of Sikkim’s most prominent Rinpoche’s and also to facilitate the general public to pay their last respects to the Rinpoche at his funeral.

Pawan Hans to the rescue, like always

An employee of the General Mechanical Workers Company injured in the Friday landslide at the Teesta Stage III damsite at Chungthang being rushed to the waiting Pawan Hans helicopter at the Chungthang ground on Saturday. Two injured persons were air-lifted to Gangtok on Saturday. Unfortunately, one of them succumbed to his injuries later.



GANGTOK, 26 Sept: The Pawan Hans heliservice operated by the Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation has proved an indispensible asset for Sikkim in times of emergencies. Its limited carrying capacity notwithstanding, when the roads snap and areas get cut off, the Pawan Hans Bell 407 helicopter invariably becomes the carrier to ferry rescue, relief and consolation. In the latest instance as well, the helicopter has been pressed into extensive service over the North Sikkim skies. Captains TS Kang and Pawan Siwach clocked in a staggering 4:50 hours of airtime on 25 September flying a total of 16 sorties between Gangtok, Mangan, Chungthang and Lachen.
The heliservice has been on relief and rescue detail in North Sikkim since 22 September, taking off from the Burtuk helicopter at 9 a.m. on Saturday and flying eight sorties up to Chungthang that day. The flurry of landslides which crashed at several places across North district began on Friday evening, it may be recalled. Between officials and injured persons ferried to and out of Chungthang that day, the helicopter also accommodated some 193 kilos of relief materials.
The chopper and the heliservice personnel have been keeping busy since then, even managing the scheduled flights to Bagdogra and back between its relief and rescue flights in the opposite direction. The pilots are managing sorties to North Sikkim before the scheduled flights to Bagdogra and then returning to carry on the North Sikkim mission.
The helicopter has been carrying locals, Army and GREF personnel and disaster management personnel of the State government apart from transporting medicines, ration, pipes, tarpaulin and other relief materials to the affected areas. It has also been lifting ration from Mangan to the affected areas.
It is informed that the Pawan Hans helicopter on 23 September flew 8 sorties and transported 29 people and air-lifted 254 kilos of relief materials. On 24 September, it flew 8 sorties of rescue operations again and transported 33 people, and reached 386 kgs of relief materials. Its busiest day was 25 September, when a total of 16 sorties were clocked, 59 people transported and 736 kgs of relief materials shipped.
Meanwhile, given the devastation suffered by the North Sikkim Highway, STDC has also announced subsidized flights from Gangtok to Chungthang, Lachung and Lachen from Thursday onwards for the convenience of the people in these cut off areas of North Sikkim.

Gangtok-Mangan traffic opened via Dzongu

The stunning block at Thingchim Zero in Lower Mangshila on the Dikchu-Mangan road. This will take several days to clear and traffic is thus moving from Dikchu to Mangan via Dzongu. Although transhipment is possible here, most commuters are not too keen on taking the risk and are opting for the longer diversion through Dzongu instead.

MANGAN, 26 Sept: The North district headquarter town which has been cut off from the past few days owing to a litter of slides, was opened for road travel to Gangtok via a rather circuitous route through Dzongu via Sangkalang and Hee Gyathang on to Dikchu and beyond.
The regular Gangtok-Mangan traffic which was plying on the Pangthang-Dikchu-Mangan route was hit by around 5 slides between Dikchu-Mangan.
Even the road through Dzongu was blocked near Tareng and Sangdong in Lower Dzongu. These were cleared today after restoration works carried out by BRO and connecting Mangan to the rest of the State.
However, traffic via RangRang will take a few days more as huge boulders and debris still hold fast at Lower Mangshila near Thingchim Zero [see fotos of the spot and the transhipment in progress there.

Talk and Collaborate, Don’t Peck and Bicker


Where Sikkim’s small size should have made it extremely close-knit, it is unfortunate that frequent communication lapses continue to pull sections away, making them complain and accuse in isolation and often out of context. Too many arguments rage unbridled in Sikkim because the participants refuse to engage or listen and prefer instead to steer discussions on a tangent, the real issue at hand invariably lost to digressions and chances of a resolution defeated because too many issues have been flagged and too much been said. The incongruity of a ban on import of poultry products continuing two years on since the causative factor – fear of bird flu – has subsided, presents a stereotype example. Consumer grumblings have been obvious ever since the ban was imposed, triggering a supply shortfall induced inflation. But the consumers lack an organised forum to carry their woes and the occasional surfacing in newspaper reports can be conveniently ignored. Local produce has rarely been significantly surplus in Sikkim and markets here have primarily been serviced by traders working between suppliers in Siliguri and retailers in the State. This is a complicated arrangement where the economy of scales and benefit of contacts are frequently deployed to keep new players out and rocking of the arrangement near impossible. Sikkim has experienced this not only in the bouquet of goods that arrive here for sale but also in the marketing of cash crops that it grows. The contesting voices in the poultry sector exchange of allegations as reported in today’s edition of this newspaper need to be considered against this backdrop. Where poultry traders are rightly upset over what is obviously an unjustified ban on poultry imports directly affecting their livelihoods, the complaint of local poultry farmers that traders are not lifting stocks from them cannot be casually dismissed either. And even as fulminations of the two sides are only surfacing now, Sikkim’s kitchens continue to suffer and an obviously thriving poultry industry hawks its wares metres outside the Sikkim border at Rangpo. And even as the two sides speak up, they sidestep the moot questions and fudge over their respective responsibilities. If Sikkim had leveraged its potential for close-knit collaborations, the Poultry Mission would have included established poultry traders here not only as the driving force of the mission but also as resource persons to develop the poultry sector here on more practical lines. But government officials preferred yet again to talk down instead of walking with the stakeholders and Sikkim is left with an incongruous ban which, it is obvious, is serving no one too well.

Poultry ban conditions confound even more

GANGTOK, 26 Sept: Even as the ban on entry of poultry products into the State continues without any substantial reason, the nature of this ban imposed by the Animal Husbandry Department attracts attention as being prejudiced and discriminatory. This for the simple reason that, as per the notification of the department issued way back on 22 April, 2010, the ban is for everybody except two organizations.
As per this notification, no individual, cooperative society or business enterprise is allowed to bring in poultry or poultry products, including day old chicks, into Sikkim except two organizations. The two organizations exempted from the ban are Denzong Agriculture Cooperative Society and Sikkim Hatcheries. The illogicality is obvious and the discriminatory nature being alleged clear. In fact several small traders and those affected by this ‘ban’ also call it unconstitutional.
Small businessmen question how poultry products brought in by the two agencies are immune from bird flu, the reason why the ban was imposed, while those brought in by others infected. It is not simply a matter of designated poultry farms in Siliguri from where one can purchase the eggs or chicks as others too can be directed to get the products from these places.
The crux of the matter is that there is no bird flu at all!
This leaves the two agencies with a monopoly in the trade of poultry products in the state at the cost of other small and big traders. In this context it may also be asked of the authorities as to how this ban is beneficial or in the interest of the lay people of Sikkim?
As some of the traders ask: “It is not understood to our simple mind how the bird flu will enter the state if the poultry products are imported by traders and how it will not enter the state when it is imported by public sector undertakings such as Denzong cooperatives and the Sikkim Hatcheries?”
In another interesting and perplexing aspect of the ban, even dressed chicken is banned from being imported into the state. This ban is apparently on the very ill informed belief prevailing among the authorities that dressed chicken could be an agent to bring in bird flu. Firstly the country is bird flu free. Secondly dressed chicken cannot be a carrier of the virus simply because the virus is easily inactivated by heat, as experts on the subject inform, and by the same logic one also does not get the virus from thoroughly cooked chicken meat. In fact there are absolutely no reported cases of bird flu in humans after handling dressed chicken.
It will be in the interest of Sikkim, especially the poorer sections who have decided to take up poultry as a business option, that the authorities lift this ill informed ban and stopped playing into the hands of vested interests.

Poultry growers challenge insufficient supply claim, blame traders of ignoring local farmers

GANGTOK, 26 Sept: “It is very shocking to read the news about the shortage of poultry meat in Sikkim because of the unavailability of the poultry products in the local farms,” the All Sikkim Poultry Growers Association conveys in a press statement issued today in response to the demand of some traders the import ban on poultry products be lifted [read “Poultry ban, on for too long” NOW! issue dated 22 Sept 2012]. The group has also challenged the argument of a section of the traders that local entrepreneurs and farmers are not being able to meet the State’s demands.
In a counter, the association has contended that they are in fact facing “lot of problems in selling their products because of which they have to bear huge loss sometimes”.
They have claimed that the real problem “arises because of a handful of traders from Gangtok importing [smuggling] poultry products from Siliguri despite the ban” and ignoring the local suppliers.
The association has further questioned the Lall Bazar Traders Association (LBTA) on its contention that local farmers have failed to meet the demand of the local markets and hotels of Sikkim, contending instead that poultry is in surplus in the villages of Sikkim.
“Ideally, a chicken is ready to be sold within 40-45 days, but due to the unavailability of the market for their products they have to wait for 60-65 days which is not a good prospect for business. The local farmers are dealing with this problem for the past few months,” the All Sikkim Poultry Growers Association claims.
In Sikkim, a large number of people are into the poultry farming today. Some have started it with the help of State Government initiative “Poultry Mission” and some have started it own their own, the association informs, reiterating its “disapproval” of claims of insufficient local supply and urged the poultry traders to contact local farmers & entrepreneurs to meet the demand.

Save Sikkim to join ASESE&UA rally in Gangtok

GANGTOK, 26 Sept: ‘Save Sikkim’ has announced full support for the ‘Maha Julus’ called by the All Sikkim Educated Self Employed and Unemployed Association [ASESE&UA] for 09 October in Gangtok to protest what the association sees as illegal appointments in government jobs and demanding the protection of the fundamental rights of the people of the state.
Save Sikkim is an organization formed by a group of residents of Yangthang, Tashiding and Yuksam in West Sikkim earlier this year to protest the 97 Mega Watt Tashiding Hydro-Electric Project being undertaken by Shiga Energy Pvt Ltd below Tashiding under Yangthang constituency in West Sikkim.
Speaking to media persons today, Save Sikkim members informed that every member of their organization will participate in the ASESE&UA rally since they all believed that the issues raised by the ASESE&UA were genuine and required universal endorsement.
They stressed that the time has come for the educated unemployed to step out in the open instead to venting their anger and frustration only on social networks.
ASESE&UA president, Nawin Kiran, in turn informed today that the organization has been keeping busy preparing for the rally and claimed that many people have been contacting the association to express their support and confirming participation in the association’s movement. He further informed that the association is also preparing a pamphlet which will be circulated publicly soon.

Save Sikkim to join ASESE&UA rally in Gangtok

GANGTOK, 26 Sept: ‘Save Sikkim’ has announced full support for the ‘Maha Julus’ called by the All Sikkim Educated Self Employed and Unemployed Association [ASESE&UA] for 09 October in Gangtok to protest what the association sees as illegal appointments in government jobs and demanding the protection of the fundamental rights of the people of the state.
Save Sikkim is an organization formed by a group of residents of Yangthang, Tashiding and Yuksam in West Sikkim earlier this year to protest the 97 Mega Watt Tashiding Hydro-Electric Project being undertaken by Shiga Energy Pvt Ltd below Tashiding under Yangthang constituency in West Sikkim.
Speaking to media persons today, Save Sikkim members informed that every member of their organization will participate in the ASESE&UA rally since they all believed that the issues raised by the ASESE&UA were genuine and required universal endorsement.
They stressed that the time has come for the educated unemployed to step out in the open instead to venting their anger and frustration only on social networks.
ASESE&UA president, Nawin Kiran, in turn informed today that the organization has been keeping busy preparing for the rally and claimed that many people have been contacting the association to express their support and confirming participation in the association’s movement. He further informed that the association is also preparing a pamphlet which will be circulated publicly soon.

Lower Mangan Bazaar sink raises worries, residents highlight need for immediate protective works

DIKCHU, 26 Sept: The rains were persistent in North Sikkim over the weekend and even as a fury of landslides tore through the slopes in the district, the damage potential of the saturated slopes and poor drainage continues to hang heavy, with fear now coursing through the minds of Lower Mangan Bazar residents as visible sinks have developed here. Several families have already evacuated to safer locations even as some houses are in obvious danger with slides having started tugging at their foundations.
In slides reported today, the cultivated field of Karma Chopel Dadul along with a cow shed there was damaged and even his houses stands in danger. The sinking slide here is also pulling at the foundation of buildings belonging to Pintso Tamang, Pangrey Tamang, Ambi Kesar Pradhan, Sonam Tamang, Sugen Saring, Sonam Bhutia, Garden Cafe Building and the cardamom field of Chumki Saring.
The family residing in the Garden Cafe building moved out after visible damage was noticed in the foundation due to the slide zone.
Meanwhile, the Lower Mangan Bazar has been cut off from both ends and even the alternate route from the petrol pump is blocked at Rimit Khola. Resident inform that the old petrol pump and SNT complex right above this spot are also in precarious condition.
The slide, residents insist, was triggered by overflowing water at the road and not the entire area is unstable, they believe. The road overflow has also caused a slide from the base of Rabong Khola nearby, they add.
It is obvious that the entire belt requires urgent protective works.
The Mangan Nagar Panchayat is reportedly preparing a detailed report on the damage suffered here and the need for protective works and repairs.

Distraught 15 yr old son of missing GMWC worker makes desperate attempts to reach Chungthang

MANGAN, 25 Sept: A desperate 15 year old Adesh Kumar [pic alongside] trekked for the third day in a row today from Jang basti in Lower Tintek to Mangan in hopes of making it through to Chungthang. The litter of landslides beyond Mangan thwarted his efforts today as well. He needs to get to Chungthang because his father, Bishvanath Ram, is one of the people listed as missing and feared killed in the landslide which claimed three lives at the Teesta Stage III hydel project site at Chungthang on 21 Sept.
Adesh is the second son of Bishvanath Ram, an operator employed with the General Mechanical Workers Company at the hydel project site. While Bishvanath worked at Chungthang, his family – wife and four children – lived at Jang.
With his eldest brother bed-ridden with a fractured led at present, it fell on Adesh to accompany his mother to Mangan in hopes of making it to Chungthang, a journey they have been undertaking every day since Saturday. They have not made it beyond Mangan thus far. The family is in panic, distraught over their inability to get to Chungthang and traumatised by the news that has reached them of their father being among those missing and feared dead at Chungthang.
The weight of the sorrow and uncertainty is obviously too harsh for Adesh’s young age, but the situation is such that he has no option but to shoulder the responsibility of looking for his father and ascertaining his fate. His only hope of achieving closure is to get a lift on one of the helicopter sorties to make it to Chungthang and meet the concerned authorities there and find out about his father.

North Sikkim flashflood, landslide update [as of 3 p.m. 26 Sept 2012]

1. Weather has improved.
2. The road connectivity between Mangan and Rangrang which was blocked at Ambithang  is now cleared and opened for light vehicles and for normal traffic it will be opened by tomorrow.
3. Rescue & Relief operations going on and 7 bodies are yet to be recovered. The efforts are on.
4. Helicopter service still in operation for Search and Rescue.
5. One Air Force Helicopter has been deployed for supply of food and essential commodities at Lachung. About 36 rice bags already transported to Lachung and more trips will be arranged.
6. Army has been requested to supply 2000 liters of diesel at Lachung.
7. Assessment of food situation carried out and is comfortable.
8. Water supply has been restored in Chungthang, Power supply is being done through generator.
9. Normal power supply is expected to be restored within 2 days.

The State Government led by Chief Minister, Chief Secretary and Director General of Police is monitoring and reviewing the search, rescue and relief operation on daily basis. Essential food and supply is taken care of. The Civil Administration along with the Central forces and pubic is working day and night to restore the situation to normalcy. For further clarification may contact State Control Room 03592-201145, 03592-201075, 9647872307, 9343184375.
(S.B.S Bhadauria)
Secretary cum State Relief Commissioner

Road disruptions add to Lachung’s cut off woes


MANGAN, 25 Sept: The monsoons have not been kind to North Sikkim and have been especially harsh on the road infrastructure. While most of the district is cut off at present, the woes for Lachung have been more persistent. Its road disrupted since the earthquake last year, in the latest instance, the road to Lachung has been closed more often than open since a massive slide tore away a 150 metre section at Khedum, a few kilometres short of Lachung, on 06 August 2012. While BRO had managed to repair the road a month later, it did not hold for long and transhipment was the only option available here for most times.
Now, with the road to Chungthang beset with more than 36 major and minor slides, the people of Lachung are a worried lot because even transhipment is no longer an option.
The biggest worry of the people is with regard to medical emergencies. Several residents, while speaking to NOW! today, pointed out that Lachung has many senior citizens in residence and as is a challenge of their advanced years, most are in frail health. Given the condition of the roads, taking them out of Lachung in the event of a medical emergency is now impossible.
The residents accept that the roads throughout the district have been devastated and highlight that what they urgently require at present are better medical facilities at Lachung itself. The village has a Primary Health Sub Centre which has a prescribed strength of one nurse. Given the inaccessibility of Lachung to better healthcare facilities, the villagers have appealed for the deployment of at least one doctor for the village.
Apart from this worry, the residents also share that while adequate stocks of essential items have been maintained, they have begun facing shortage of vegetables, LPG and Kerosene. It may be mentioned here that officials state that the road to Lachung will take at least another 20 days to restore.

SHRPP boycotts panchayat poll process alleging flaws in voters list

GANGTOK, 25 Sept: Sikkim Himali Rajya Parishad Party [SHRPP] has announced its decision to boycott the upcoming Panchayat elections. SHRPP had boycott the last panchayat election as well and the latest decision was taken at a party meeting convened today and chaired by treasurer, SB Gurung.
A press release issued by SHRPP general secretary, Tara Shrestha, informs that the decision to boycott was taken in light of the party’s belief that the voter list published for the Panchayat Election was flawed. The release alleges that voter list for almost all wards carry names of even those persons who passed away from 6 months to a year back and that names of some voters have been published in voter lists for two gram panchayats.
The release contends that that the party had already expressed its dissatisfaction over these matters and sought rectification but no action was taken. The release states that by keeping these and other reasons in mind, the party decided to boycott the panchayat election process.
The party has also alleged a conspiracy of the State government and the administration to bind down its workers from participating in political activities.

Model Code of Conduct does not disrupt routine govt works

GANGTOK, 25 Sept: “Ongoing projects and programmes of the State government departments will continue and all bills and payments for works already initiated before the Model Code of Conduct came into effect [yesterday] can be processed and paid out. What the Model Code of Conduct forbids is the announcement of new projects and programmes,” explained State Election Commissioner SK Gautam, when contacted to seek clarifications on the scope and extent of the code which came into effect in Sikkim yesterday with the announcement of the Panchayat election dates.
It may be recalled that even as dissident MLA, PS Tamang, contended recently that the panchayat poll announcement was timed to allow the government the excuse of model code of conduct when it came to clearing bills of smaller contractors and cooperative societies ahead of Dasain, there are also many who fear that payments will be stopped until the polls are over. That is obviously not the case and as is obvious from the SEC’s comment, routine government works like bill payments and the like will not be disrupted because of the code of conduct.
What the code disallows are announcement of financial grants or promises or ad hoc appointments in government service etc “which may have the effect of influencing the voters in favour of the party in power”. Ministers and other authorities are also forbidden from sanctioning grants/payments out of their discretionary funds while the model code of conduct is in force.      
The Commissioner, when asked to explain why the code was extended to all of Sikkim when only the rural areas were going to polls, explained that urban zones [which will not be having panchayat elections] are miniscule in Sikkim and very close to the panchayat areas. The urban pockets are surrounded by rural segments and so close that announcements or meetings in the urban zones could have a direct impact on the rural areas, hence the extension of the model code of conduct to all of Sikkim, Mr. Gautam explained.
Political parties could take undue advantage of the urban areas if they were kept out of the Model Code of Conduct jurisdiction. This, they could do by conducting general meetings and announcing political agendas which would directly affect the rural areas and its action and impact would be directed at the villages where the Panchayat elections are being conducted. Hence, the extension of Model Code of Conduct all over Sikkim.
“This was decided after much thought and extensive deliberations,” he added.

Model Code of Conduct does not disrupt routine govt works

GANGTOK, 25 Sept: “Ongoing projects and programmes of the State government departments will continue and all bills and payments for works already initiated before the Model Code of Conduct came into effect [yesterday] can be processed and paid out. What the Model Code of Conduct forbids is the announcement of new projects and programmes,” explained State Election Commissioner SK Gautam, when contacted to seek clarifications on the scope and extent of the code which came into effect in Sikkim yesterday with the announcement of the Panchayat election dates.
It may be recalled that even as dissident MLA, PS Tamang, contended recently that the panchayat poll announcement was timed to allow the government the excuse of model code of conduct when it came to clearing bills of smaller contractors and cooperative societies ahead of Dasain, there are also many who fear that payments will be stopped until the polls are over. That is obviously not the case and as is obvious from the SEC’s comment, routine government works like bill payments and the like will not be disrupted because of the code of conduct.
What the code disallows are announcement of financial grants or promises or ad hoc appointments in government service etc “which may have the effect of influencing the voters in favour of the party in power”. Ministers and other authorities are also forbidden from sanctioning grants/payments out of their discretionary funds while the model code of conduct is in force.      
The Commissioner, when asked to explain why the code was extended to all of Sikkim when only the rural areas were going to polls, explained that urban zones [which will not be having panchayat elections] are miniscule in Sikkim and very close to the panchayat areas. The urban pockets are surrounded by rural segments and so close that announcements or meetings in the urban zones could have a direct impact on the rural areas, hence the extension of the model code of conduct to all of Sikkim, Mr. Gautam explained.
Political parties could take undue advantage of the urban areas if they were kept out of the Model Code of Conduct jurisdiction. This, they could do by conducting general meetings and announcing political agendas which would directly affect the rural areas and its action and impact would be directed at the villages where the Panchayat elections are being conducted. Hence, the extension of Model Code of Conduct all over Sikkim.
“This was decided after much thought and extensive deliberations,” he added.

Nakul launches ‘Concerned Society of Sikkim’

GANGTOK, 25 Sept: “Concerned Society of Sikkim”, an organization with former MP Nakul Das Rai as convener and a ten-point charter was officially launched here at Press Club of Sikkim Tuesday. CSS has former MLA, Pradeep Yonzon as vice-convener.
Launching the organisation today, Mr. Rai insisted that it would be a “purely non-political” organization and will not take part in any electoral process.
Stating that there were many more issues of significance facing Sikkim, Mr. Rai said that to begin with, CSS would be focusing on 10 specific issues related to the rights of the Sikkimese people.
He informed that the organization was trying to bring former MPs, MLAs, bureaucrats and other concerned people of the society onto a common platform to speak about the rights of the people. “Good people should come forward to speak on social issues and lead the society on a productive and good path otherwise vested interests lead the society on the wrong path,” he said.
CSS vice-convener, Mr Yonzon in turn said that many people had suggested that they open a political party, but they decided on a non-political organization to create awareness among the people on their rights and other issues. He mentioned that the organization would work as a pressure group to address the state’s issues.
The 10-point charter begins with the organisation’s condemnation of the “color, flavor and taste of democracy as practiced by the ruling government” and goes on to claim that the law & order situation has deteriorated, Old Laws ignored and diluted and environment and ecology devastated.
The organization is also worried by influx and believes that situations like being encountered in Assam and other Northeastern States could be encountered in Sikkim in the near future and plans to build consensus on “creation of a similar mechanism of introducing Inner Line Permit [ILP] systems as in practiced in majority of North-Eastern Region”.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Still staggering from Friday fury of slides, BRO begins recovery mission

Recovery efforts continued into the third day on Monday at the Rangma Range on the Chungthang-Lachen axis where the 86 RCC HQ was destroyed by a flash-flood induced landslide on Friday evening. The task is difficult, given that the debris is 8 metres deep, 200 metres long and 60 metres wide.

GANGTOK, 24 Sept: The Border Roads Organisation has begun engaging its resources in the restoration of communication, especially, road communication, in the North district from today onwards. This engagement notwithstanding, priority also remains with the recovery of the mortal remains of the BRO personnel feared killed in the massive landslide which collapsed on the headquarters of the 86 Road Construction Company (RCC) of the BRO at Rangma Range about 4 kms beyond Chungthang towards Lachen last Friday. Twelve people, all of the BRO including family members, are feared killed in this incident. Two more bodies were recovered from the debris today leaving four bodies yet to be recovered.
The North Sikkim Highway meanwhile is a jumble of slips and slides of a scale so staggering that the BRO officials are not even hazarding a guess on by when the roads can be reliably opened for traffic. The Mangan to Chungthang axis has 36 slides, while the two roads out of Chungthang towards Lachen and Lachung have as many as 70 slides. With the 86 RCC headquarters completely destroyed by massive boulders, “as big as buildings”, brought down by Barey Khola which broke its banks on Friday evening, even this unit will have to be relocated first.
The series of flashfloods and landslides which have caused havoc in North district is also being said to be due to the earthquakes that the state experienced both last year and this year which destabilized the terrain. BRO officials state that while last year’s earthquake had weakened and destabilized the terrain and geographical morphology of the area, the tremor which coursed through Sikkim on the first anniversary of the earthquake further deteriorated the situation. Cloud-bursts shortly after led to saturation of the slopes and triggered a series of landslides and rains which led to water bodies in the higher reaches bursting as well, it is being speculated.
With the prospect of more rains the BRO has now put up sentries and early warning systems along the potential trouble zones and is also relocating its personnel.
Rescue and restoration works are going to present a major challenge with continuing rainfall and active landslides.
In fact, it is informed that last night too there was a landslide in North Sikkim. The slide at Rangma Range is said to be 200 metres long, 60 m wide and about 8 m in height.
While the BRO has suffered a major blow through his natural calamity there are many who believe that this was in the making. In fact this disaster is being said to be of the same proportion [in what it wreaked on the road network], if not more, to the Earthquake of 18 September, 2011.
It would take a minimum of 4 weeks to restore the roads up to Chungthang. Lanthey Khola and Singhik are informed to be major bottlenecks and the BRO is not venturing a guess yet as to when this section could be restored. However all available resources have been mobilized and the BRO is also getting help from the state government and the army. Following the restoration of communications the agency would begin assessing the extent of damages including in monetary terms.

Chungthang loses water and power supply lines to slides

DIKCHU, 24 Sept: Spared a direct impact of the flashfloods and landslides which have scarred the hills around it with ferocity, Chungthang in North Sikkim, cut off from the rest of the State expect by helicopter sorties, has immediate worries over water and electricity supply. The series of slides have disrupted the supply lines of both, water and electricity to the region, and although stop-gap arrangements are in place at present, the residents aspire for more permanent and resilient solution.
As things stand, the town and its surrounding areas have been without power and water supply since Friday. Impressively, for anyone who has seen the scale of damage, the Power Department managed to restore electricity supply to Toong today and are confident of completing the repairs up to Chungthang by Thursday at the latest.
In the meanwhile, the SDM office has arranged power for streetlights by pressing three generators into service. Further, the Chungthang household will be provided with kerosene on Tuesday to meet lighting requirements at home.
As for the water supply, the PHE Department is engaged in repairing the lines even as drinking water is being supplied across town in tankers provided by Teesta Urja. A problem however persists in that the water at the source is also murky and muddy at present. The water supply line is expected to be restored in the next few days. [from WANGCHUK BHUTIA]

The Rangma Range Horror

CHUNGTHANG, 24 Sept:  “It was a horrific night as around 50 of us [86 RCC staff] spent the entire night huddled inside vehicles, too fearful to proceed anywhere since we did not know which areas were safe and unable to venture out since it was pitch dark and dangerous,” recollects Bhupendra Kumar, of the BRO personnel caught in the landslide which tore through the 86 Road Construction Company headquarter at Rangma late on Friday evening. Twelve lives, including wives and two children of BRO officials, were lost to the incident that night. Eight bodies have been recovered so far.
As for the camp, it is lost. The damage too extensive, and the location too dangerous to be resettled.
The camp, around 4 km ahead of Chungthang towards Lachen, is the worst hit by the 21 September series of landslides. The inundation here was brought down by the Darek Khola which flows through the camp and which broke its banks at 7 p.m. on Friday. Apart from the lives lost, standing infrastructure has sustained extensive damage – two tipper trucks, one Ashok Leyland truck, one 407 carrier, two ambulances and an air compressor lie buried under the debris.
A cluster of houses along with the GREF office and other staff quarters have been washed away. Offcials inform that office documents have also been lost.
Meanwhile, the BRO personnel have been shifted to the ITBP camp nearby for present.
OC 86 RCC, Maj. Mukesh Kumar, while speaking to NOW! said, “We have not ascertained the extent of damage to the road and have been engaged in relief and rescue for the past couple of days. That said, we have already begun restoration works at some of the places.”

Slide near Tatopani holds up Legship-Jorethang axis

LEGSHIP, 24 Sep: The main highway connecting Jorethang and Legship in West Sikkim (enroute to Gyalshing) was blocked for over five hours this morning when an active mud slip turned into a major landslide bringing down debris and slush covering a 50 meter stretch just above Tatopani around 18 kilometers from Jorethang.
The slide was cleared in fits and starts for a few vehicles at a time since the slide remained active through the day and frequently sent down fresh slush and debris.
Roads & Bridges Department engineers at the spot when contacted later in the evening, informed that heavy vehicles had still not made it across from this spot and added that the weather had also turned for the worse in the evening.
The slide has been active for over a week now and has grown into a major headache for the Roads and Bridges department personnel who are being assisted by Costal Pvt Ltd, the company that is carrying out the tunneling works along with Jal Power Corporation along the entire stretch between Rothak and Legship.
The slide is informed to have turned worse late last night when heavy rains hit the area causing the slope above to collapse. The source of the landslide, as per workers at the site, is around 500 meters above the road.
Commuters unwilling to wait for the road to clear opted for alternate routes from either side. Vehicles coming from Jorethang went back and took the Karfectar, Namchi, Damthang, Ravangla, Kewzing road to drop down to Legship from the other side and then proceed to Gyalshing. This route too has around three trouble spots which are being regularly cleared by the Roads & Bridges Department.
The road from Ravangla to Legship has also developed two small slides which are challenging enough not to allow any heavy vehicles through and are open only for light vehicles at present.

Uttam fights hard as India U-19 goes down to Uzbekistan

GANGTOK, 24 Sept: Despite of a brace by Sikkim’s Uttam Rai, India lost to Uzbekistan 2-3 at the ongoing Asian Football Confederation [AFC] Under-16 Championship at the Rah Ayan Stadium, Tehran on Sunday.
Uttam Rai scored both goals for India, both through flawless headers in the 47th and 71st minutes.
Uttam’s brace brought India back into the game on Sunday as both were equalizers, drawing India U-16 level on both occasions against the formidable Uzbeks. Where the first was off a feint from the corner of the inner box, for the other he jumped in between the two rival stoppers to meet substitute Raja Rawat’s cross.
But Uzbekistan, coming into the championship with an experience of more than 34 international matches in the last eight months, managed to hold on in the final twenty minutes as they prevailed 3-2.
For Uzbekistan, Odilov Mukhiddin, Abdullaev Ibrokhim and substitute Abdiganiyev Ilhomjon scored one apiece.
India will take on Syria in its next match on Tuesday.

Golay convenes meeting at Makha, questions panchayat poll timing

GANGTOK, 24 Sept: Dissident SDF MLA, PS Tamang [Golay], addressed a public meeting at 10 Mile, Makha Bazaar, near Singtam today. The meeting, convened at LR Bhutia’s residence, saw Mr. Tamang contend that the youth who powered SDF in its initial years in 1992-93 have been ignored by the party and have not benefitted. The youthful years sacrificed by this section needs to be compensated by the party or else the party president, Chief Minister Pawan Chamling, should quit his chair.

Gangtok Metal Band releases debut single online

GANGTOK, 24 Sept: They play metal, are all 16 years old and are even managed by a fellow teen. What is more, as Kushan Kaybee the manager of Twisted Carol, a metal band from Gangtok, conveys, “Fans and peers have called the song a complete package of raw emotions and recommend this versatile track to all types of music listeners and not only metal heads.”
He is referring to the debut single of the band, “This war is mine (The Beginning)”, which was release over the weekend. The song, Kushan informs, is about “being forsaken, having faith and coming back with vengeance.”
But enough of the marketing spiel, check out the credentials for yourself- the song is up for download and listening at You can find the lyrics video on Youtube or our facebook page:
Twisted Carol consists of Thinlay aka Crow Valentine as the vocalist/ lead guitarist, Keshav Retribution on rhythm guitar and Pratik Rai who is the bass guitarist, all from Tashi Namgyal Academy. The manager if from Taktse International School.
The band is open to live performance gigs within and outside Sikkim and can be contacted at or 9609878462.

Prof Lama recaps SU’s achievements of first 5 years

GANGTOK, 24 Sept: Prof Tanka Bahadur Subba has been appointed the new Vice Chancellor of Sikkim University. A respected anthropologist, Prof Subba is the head of the Department of Anthropology at North-Eastern Hill University [NEHU], Shillong, at present and was also a member of the first Academic Council of Sikkim University. He is expected to join SU in a few days.
Announcing the appointment of the second Vice-Chancellor of the university, the present incumbent, Prof Mahendra P Lama, also today declared the ISO 9001 certification bagged by Sikkim University recently.
Prof Lama mentioned that being a young university, it was a proud moment for Sikkim University to have received the ISO certification, highlighting that this was a recognition of the team work that the university has enjoyed in the five years it has been around.

SHRA wants poultry ban lifted, Health License Fee scaled down

GANGTOK, 24 Sept: Sikkim Hotels & Restaurant Association [SHRA] has complained that the even though the hospitality and tourism sector provide the second largest scale of employment [after the State Government], the government “has not done enough to help the sector to greater heights and reduce dependence in seeking government jobs”. To underline this contention, the SHRA president, Bhanu Pratap Rasaily, in a press statement issued today, has highlighted the continuing ban on the entry of poultry and poultry products into Sikkim and the substantial hike, which SHRA sees as “unjustified”, in the Health License fee as instances which were hurting the hospitality sector in Sikkim.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Damage enormous, but situation under control

The day is clear, making the scars even starker. An IPR aerial photograph of Chungthang on a flight into the North District subdivisional town of Chungthang on Monday. Pegong can be seen in the foreground and Chungthang and the hills further north fill the background. 

The CS and DGP at Chungthang
GANGTOK, 24 Sept: Chief Secretary Karma Gyatso and Director General of Police Jasbir Singh accompanied by the Secretary cum State Relief Commissioner S.B.S Bhadauria visited Mangan and Chungthang today and also made an aerial survey of the landslide and flashflood affected areas of North district. The officials toured the affected area on the Pawan Hans helicopter of the Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation.
The damage is enormous in locations directly hit by slides and flashfloods, the Relief Commissioner informs in press communiqué issued this evening, highlighting that the access route from Gangtok to Mangan and onwards to Chungthang and towards Lachen and Lachung are littered with around 80 landslides of various dimensions.
The Chief Secretary also held a meeting with the officers & staff of Chungthang Sub Divisional Office, Army, BRO, members of panchayat and other concerned and reviewed the current situation in the area.
Several issues and immediate concern were discussed at this meeting and directions issued to resolve them.
Upon being informed about the limited diesel and petrol stocks at Chungthang, the CS requested the Army and BRO to meet the civilian requirement till further arrangements are made, the Relief Commissioner informs.
Like was the case after the earthquake last year, water supply lines have been disrupted at Chungthang this time as well and at present, the water supply is being done through tankers. The concerned engineers are working on restoration and informed the meeting that regular supply will be restored within 4 days.
The telecommunication network has also been hit and at present only the mobile phone network is working but some areas don’t even have this coverage, and accordingly the Chief Secretary directed the concerned agencies to reach network coverage to all the areas, the RC informs. Meanwhile, Satellite Phones have been provided.
Chunthang’s power supply requirements are currently being met through generators and regular supply is expected to be restored within 7-10 days.
As for the damaged road connectivity, the CS directed BRO to put all resources into opening of the roads for vehicular traffic at the earliest and suggested that temporary diversions be made for smaller vehicles. This is being taken up immediately, the Relief commissioner informs.
On the stocks available in the cut-off areas, there is no shortage of essential items at present and buffer stock of foodgrains is available for at least a month, officials inform.
At the meeting, the Chief Secretary also directed the Chungthang SDM to carry out all relief & rescue operations efficiently and to distribute Relief & Ex-Gratia to affected families.
Meanwhile, the State Govt. plans to approach the Ministry of Home Affairs and National Disaster Management Authority to send a central team immediately to assess the damage and to provide financial support for rescue & relief.
The CS also convened a meeting at Mangan with the District Officials to assess the situation.
When informed of the need to air-drop ration at Toong, Naga, the meeting decided that the service be made available on Tuesday itself.
The North District Administration has also sought the services of a suggested team from the Mines, Mineral & Geology Department to assess the stability in Mangan and Chungthang area. The Chief Secretary assured that the team will be immediately deployed.
The CS also directed the DC, North to take all measures for relief & rehabilitation of affected families. Although the damage is extensive, the situation is well under control, the Relief Commissioner assures.

Sahitya Akademi organises seminar on Tea Garden Literature

NEW DELHI, 24 Sept: Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, organized a seminar on Tea Garden Literature here at the Rabindra Bhawan Hall yesterday.
A total of eight papers were presented at the seminar by Nepali language litterateurs. The speakers shed light on the uniqueness of Tea Garden Literature and its significance in the struggle for identity among the Indian Gorkhas. The speakers emphasized the need to continue this effort with deeper research and study on Tea Garden Literature.
In the inaugural session, Sahitya Akademi Secretary KS Rao informed that the Sahitya Akademi had organized the seminar in consultation with the Nepali Advisory Board and called this seminar, a first on the said theme, an important milestone.
82 years old Sahitya Akademi awardee, KS Moktan, delivered the keynote address and spoke extensively about Darjeeling tea and the well known writers and litterateurs from the tea gardens there. Mr. Moktan expressed that since the Dooars and Darjeeling tea gardens constitute an integral part where the identity of the people living there is concerned, the need for deliberation and discussion on this topic is equally important and relevant.
The Sahitya Akademi Nepali Advisory Board Convener Dr. Jiwan Namdung, speaking on the decision to conduct a seminar on Tea Garden Literature, said that Tea Garden Literature was the base of Indian Gorkhas and informed that this was the very first initiative towards its documentation and study.
The second session was chaired by Professor NB Rai from Shillong and had Dr. Rinji Eden Wangdi make a power-point presentation on the social life of the tea gardens. Representing Darjeeling, Prem Pradhan gave an overview to the historical aspect of tea gardens in relation to the social and literary developments.
Similarly, Yogbir Shakya, representing Kalimpong, spoke about the corpus of poetry which makes up Tea Garden Literature and also presented a reading of select poems.
The next session was chaired by Durga Prasad Shrestha and had eminent playwright and writer Laxman Shrimal speak works written on the tea gardens.
Similarly, in her deeply researched paper, research scholar Garima Rai spoke on the reflections of tea garden lifestyles in Nepali fiction that showed the role of Gorkhas in Darjeeling and Dooars and their contribution in the economic and cultural fronts of the country. Indra Sundas through her talk showed the important role played by women in the making of tea gardens.
The last session was chaired by the poet and writer Shanker Deo Dhakal. Emerging writer Terence Mukhia made a presentation on the present condition and mindset in the tea gardens, the opinion of youth in the modern times and highlighted the shortcomings of the managements.
Seventy year old folklore enthusiast, Dhanahang Subba, in turn, presented a paper on he historical basis of the story ‘Naya Sainli’ where he presented the relation between white Manager and the native labor woman. With reference to the journals published in the 60s, poet, writer and journalist Bijay Banatawa spoke about the exploitation and oppression of workers in the tea gardens and traced the rise of many poets like Agamsingh Giri after the Maragret’s Hope firing incident in the post independence phase and expressed the fact the problems and identity of the tea gardens have become the marker of national identity of Gorkhas.
In his observations as the chairperson of the session, Shanker Deo Dhakal said that the problems of the tea garden were problems of the nation and now the workers themselves should look for a solution with the formation of co-operatives and self management groups.
The Deputy Secretary of Sahitya Akademi J. Ponnudurai declared the publication of these papers in an edited volume with relevant additions in English within a period of six months. The sub-editor of Sahitya Akademi, Dr. Devendra Kumar Deves said that we should recognize the historical importance of this seminar since he had not come across any references to Tea Garden Literature in the world.

Lachen Rinpoche to be cremated at Enchey on Wednesday

GANGTOK, 24 Sept [IPR]: As per communication received from Pipon and Duchi (monks’ body) of Lachen monastery, the funeral of the late Lachen Gomchen Rinpoche will be held at Enchey Monastery on 26 September, 2012. The funeral procession will begin at 8 a.m. from the late Rinpoche’s residence at Development Area towards the Enchey monastery (as per press communiqué received from Ecclesiastical Affairs Department).

Panchayat polls called for 03 Nov

GANGTOK, 24 Sept: Speculations over the Panchayat poll dates finally ended today with the Information & Public Relations Department informing that the State Election Commission today notified the dates for the panchayat polls. The fourth general election for the constitution of Gram Panchayats and Zilla Panchayats in Sikkim has been called for 03 November 2012. This puts the rural body elections between Dasain and Teohar, against earlier speculations that the poll will be held ahead of Dasain.
With the announcement of the dates, the Model Code of Conduct has also officially come into force from today onwards. A Circular issued by the State Election Commission Secretary, Gita Bhutia, details: “For conduct of free and fair election, the Model Code of Conduct is enforced w.e.f. 24th September, 2012. It is applicable throughout the State of Sikkim and it will remain in force till the election process is over.”
The last date for filing nomination papers is 01 October 2012, a Monday, followed by 03 Oct set as the date for scrutiny and the 05 Oct as the last date for withdrawal of candidatures. The polling, wherever necessary, will be held on 03 November [a Saturday] with 09 Nov set as the date “before which the election shall be completed”.
The State Election Commission has appealed to all political parties, contesting candidates and voters to “participate in the election process peacefully in keeping with the democratic tradition and in spirit of tolerance and non-violence”.

Landslide Mayhem up North

Jhoras break banks around Chungthang, pour landslides claiming 20 lives
The devastation at the GREF camp at Rangma Range above Chungthang. The Barey Khola broke its banks here on Friday evening and poured tonnes of debris on the camp, claiming 12 lives and burying two tipper trucks, two ambulances, one ‘407’ carrier, one Ashok Leyland Truck and one compressor of the BRO apart from tearing through built up property here. Photographs from two angles are displayed here to reinforce the scale of devastation.
Pegong near Chungthang where the khola, the flood scars of which are visible in pic, tore through the ITBP camp here claiming four lives on Friday evening.

Kalapathar above Chungthang where on life was lost of the Friday flurry of slides. In the background is the Teesta Stage II dam site where three lives were lost.

CHUNGTHANG, 23 Sept: A litter of landslides peeled off the hills in and around this North Sikkim sub-divisional town of Friday evening as a series of jhoras broke their banks and unloaded tonnes of debris on ill-fated habitations below. While the entire district has been severely hit by landslides, the four major slides around Chungthang have collectively claimed 20 lives, with the flash flood on the Barey Khola flowing through the 86 RCC camp of the Border Roads Organisation at Rangma Range 4 kms beyond Chungthang towards Lachen alone claiming 12 lives.
While the landslide at Rangma Range is reported to have occurred at around 7 PM on Friday, the one at the ITBP camp at Pegong, 3 km short of Chungthang, was reported between 5-6 PM, Kalapathar near Chungthang at 5 PM and the right bank of the Teesta Stage III project site at around the same time.
Among the casualties are 4 ITBP personnel at Pegong, 12 BRO personnel at Rangma Range, one at Kalapathar and three employees of the General Mechanical Workers Company at the Teesta Stage III dam site.
Two injured persons from General Mechanical Workers Company, Rajveer Singh and Rajdeep Singh were rescued on Saturday morning but unfortunately, one succumbed to his injuries while being flown to Gangtok yesterday. 
Of the dead bodies recovered so far, five have been identified: Bid Bahadur at Kalapathar, three bodies from Rangma Range identified as Sanjay Gurung [resident of Nepal], Montu [resident of Uttar Pradesh], Rohit [resident of Darjeeling] and a JCO of GREF.
Meanwhile at Rangma Range, six bodies have been recovered thus far. Those feared killed at this location are: SK Sikhiya with family, Asstt. Somu Kernal, JE Administrative, JE Civil, NT2 Raj Narayan, Manger Ram, Siddhiram and family.
Two persons Bishvanath Ram [resident of Bihar] and Amarjeet Singh [resident of Punjab] are still missing from General Mechanical Workers Company.
Four ITBP personnel have also been reported missing at Pegong where one RCC building and two Kutcha houses have also been damaged.
There has been substantial damage to the infrastructure and property as well with six houses and one ICDS centre washed out at Kalapathar. These houses belong to Nedup Bhutia, Pratima, Ram Kumar, Payching, Raju Tamang, Rojer Rai. 
As the slide destroyed their houses, the victims could not save any of their belongings.
“We have not been able to save our belongings inside the house. All our earnings, our hard work has been wiped out by the slide”, said Kipa Bhutia of Kalapathar whose house has also been washed away.
At Rangma range, kutcha houses belonging to Serkay Baidar, Bishnu Chettri, Gyaltsen Lepcha, Yangtse Bhutia, Damber Bahadur, Passang Diki, Suman Rai and Posi Sherpa have been damaged.
Similarly, the SSA kitchen shed at Bop Primary school which is 4 kms away from Chungthang towards Lachung has also been damaged and all the utensils and other belongings inside the kitchen have been washed away. 
The landslide also swept away three steel bridges across the Lachung Chu where around 60 workers of SEW company were stranded and evacuated on Saturday. Some of the workers were evacuated by a team of locals and administration headed by SDM Chungthang, Raj Yadav. 
The relief and rescue work is being continuously carried out by teams headed by SDM Chungthang with Zilla Adhyakshya North Khamsoong Lepcha, BDO Chungthang Jigmee Wangchuk Bhutia, SDPO Chungthang, GREF personnel, ITBP and Army personnel, Panchayat members headed by Lendup Lepcha and the local people.
MLA Lachen-Mangan TW Lepcha, DC North TW Khangsarpa and Sr SP North BK Tamang also visited the affected areas.
Water supply and electricity supply lines have also been badly damaged. At Chungthang, drinking water is being provided through tankers by Teesta Urja. Meanwhile, the affected families were provided with Rs. 10,000 each from the SDM Office today as ex-gratia payment for damaged houses under NC fund. The SDM office has also set up a relief camp at the Gurudwara in Chungthang for the affected families.
Apart from these, vehicles and machineries of GREF and SEW company have also been damaged. The Charten ward of Chungthang GPU has been cut off due to a steel bridge being damaged.
The SDM Chungthang, Raj Yadav while speaking to NOW! informed that the administration is focusing on relief and rescue at present and added that the buffer stock of rice is in place for Chungthang sub-division which will last for at least 15 days. He further informed that kerosene will be provided to every household Sunday. 
The Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority team headed by Kesang Nima Bhutia is also engaged in relief work and has provided tent, rain coat, gumboot, torch light etc. to the affected people.
Four of the recovered dead bodies were cremated here at Chungthang after post mortem at Chungthang hospital. The cremation was undertaken with the help of panchayat and local people.

Litter of slides shut down North Sikkim Highway

Negotiating the slide at Theng on North Sikkim Highway
Chiyan Dara near Singhik

Crossing Lanthey Khola on North Sikkim Highway

The Manul slip zone

GANGTOK, 23 Sept: The road from Mangan to Chungthang has been ambushed by 13 major slides at Singhik, Lanthey, Theng and Meyong while there are 36 slides on the road from Chungthang to Lachung. The road from Chungthang to Lachen has also been affected by multiple slides. The road from Chungthang to Lachung and Lachen will take 15 days to restore, inform BRO officials.
The road from Chungthang to Mangan is blocked at 6-7 spots which will take more than 20 days to open while the one from Mangan-Passingdong is also blocked and will take 3-4 days to open.
The Dikchu-Mangan route via Sangkalang is closed at several locations and will take considerable time to restore.
The highway towards Gangtok and Singtam is also blocked at Namok khola and 4th mile where the GREF will begin work by tomorrow.
“We were focusing on and engaged primarily in rescue and relief work at Chungthang but have now started working on restoring the roads from today”, said OC 86 RCC, Major Mukesh Kumar while speaking to NOW!
The BRO has also stated that it may take a month or more to restore road connectivity in North Sikkim.
Meanwhile, Zilla Adhyakshya Khamsoong Lepcha has advised those with relatives at Mangan and Chungthang to travel to these places only in case of emergencies as the condition of roads is very poor.