Friday, December 7, 2012

STCS to establish LPG distribution centre in Dzongu

MANGAN, 06 Dec: There is some good news for the people of Dzongu as it is all set to get an LPG distribution centre soon. Although there are no distribution centres in the entire North district, truck loads of LPG refills were reaching places like Mangan. Consumers in Dzongu however were getting their LPG refills all the way from Gangtok given the unsure timing and date of delivery in Mangan.
During an awareness function held in Upper Dzongu yesterday, General Manager STCS, Menla Ethenpa informed that a new distribution centre will be established in Dzongu for the people of Dzongu constituency.
Mr Ethenpa interacted with the panchayats of Dzongu during the awareness session held for the people of Dzongu regarding the new system of KYC form. The STCS GM further informed that, it is mandatory to fill up the KYC form and also informed the people about the required documents to be furnished while filling up the KYC form.
The GM further added that the people of Dzongu and other parts of North Sikkim including Lachen and Lachung need not go to Gangtok to fill the KYC form as the STCS will make arrangements for the same at the Mangan community hall. The date on which this is to take place will be informed later, he added.
As requested by the Zilla Adhyaksha and public, the GM has decided to open an LPG distribution centre at Sangkalang in Upper Dzongu. This distribution centre, when set up, will cater to around 1000 consumers of Dzongu.
The awareness programme was also attended by Minister for Power cum area MLA, Sonam Gyatso Lepcha along with Zilla Adhakshya North, Anguli Lepcha, SCTS Manager, Mansing Tamang and other panchayat members.
The Zilla Adhyaksha North stated that the people of Dzongu are facing problems due to this new KYC system and further added that the people have to shell out an extra amount to get the LPG cylinders from Gangtok. She also requested the STCS for a one time distribution of LPG refills for the people of Dzongu before the Lossoong Festival which is the main festival of the people of Dzongu.
The Power Minister appealed to all the panchayats to be aware of this KYC system and explain it to the people of their respective wards and GPUs.  He further urged all the people of Dzongu to fill up this KYC form as soon as possible.
The Minister also inspected the under construction REDRH houses at Chandey for the displaced families of Bey Village who were shifted to this area after the earthquake last year washed out their village.  The Minister directed the concerned contractors and masons to deliver quality work.

Cabbies provide free taxis for funeral services

GANGTOK, 06 Dec: Taking out time from their day jobs, members of the Titanic Local Taxi Drivers’ Welfare Association [TLTDWA] have been engaging in welfare activities in the Tadong area. Apart from helping members of the association during difficult times, the association has also been carrying out other social activities especially in Tadong.
One such initiative of the association is providing vehicles free of cost to bereaved homes for funeral service. The association has engaged 5 vehicles for this purpose.
TLTDWA members informed today that the association has already provided this service to 9 families so far and is doing the same for another bereaved family at Tadong tomorrow. This service is available to all households which fall between the Sikkim Government College jhora to 6th Mile.
“People of this area use our taxis daily, so in return we are trying to give back to the people,” said the cabbies. It is informed that the association plans to do a lot more for the welfare of the people in the future.
The association was registered earlier this year and has its office at Tadong Senior Secondary School Road. The association led by the president, Tara Thatal, has 107 members. The association has welcomed those in need to come to their office or contact them at 94745-30427.  
The association has carried out cleanliness and plantation drives in Tadong while members of the association also donate blood at the Central Referral Hospital.

EMRS wins first match in U-19 national c’ship

GANGTOK, 06 Dec: Defending champions, Eklavya Model Residential School, Gangyap, girls basketball team defeated Chirec Public School, Hyderabad in its first match today in the Under 19 CBSE basketball national championship at Jaipur. EMRS won the match by 49-24.
EMRS team captain, Nim doma scored 17 points to lead all scorers in the match.  Krishna Poonia the Olympian was the chief guest on the day.
CBSE Sports Director, Pushkar Vohra was delighted to meet the EMRS team and cheered for the team during the match, it is informed.
A total of 31 teams are taking part in the championship wherein EMRS has been placed in pool A with Hyderabad, Varanasi and Haryana.

Organisations condole demise of Pro-Sikkim editor

GANGTOK, 06 Dec: Several organisations here have condoled the passing away of Pro-Sikkim editor, Tenzing Bhutia, in a road accident near Adampool yesterday.
Press Club of Sikkim has conveyed, “The Club feels that his demise is a great loss to the press and media fraternity in Sikkim. The Club also expresses its condolence to the bereaved family. May his soul rest in peace”.
Meanwhile, condoling the sudden demise, National Sikkimese Bhutia Organization [NASBO] has stated that Sikkim “has lost one of its faithful sons leaving an irreparable vacuum”.
A NASBO release expresses that Late Mr Bhutia was “always concerned about the ever diluting distinct identity and right of Sikkim and the Sikkimese people. This was reflected in his earlier writings and work in the weekly ‘Sikkimese’ and was reaffirmed when he launched Pro Sikkim only a week ago.”
“His other engagements and associations like the Denjong Lho-men Chog-du lend much to preserve the distinct feature of the Sikkimese,” the release adds.
The All Sikkim Educated Self Employed and Unemployed Association [ASESEUA] has also condoled the demise of the editor.
An ASESEUA release states, “We had worked together many times and today we are feeling his absence” and adds that his demise is a great loss to the land of Sikkim and the Sikkimese people.
“We are with the bereaved family of Late Mr Bhutia in offering prayers for the departed soul”, the release further expresses.

Woman dies after consuming ‘unknown substances’

GANGTOK, 06 Dec: A woman from Khaniserbong under Nayabazaar police station succumbed after consuming ‘unknown substances’ as reported by the Nayabazaar police. The deceased, Dik Maya Manger, 33, was admitted to the Namchi hospital on 05 December at around 5 PM with the complaint of having consumed some unknown substance. She succumbed the same day. Medical staff have requisitioned for preservation of the viscera of the deceased for analysis.

7 arrested for alleged assault

GANGTOK, 06 Dec: The Jorethang police arrested 7 youth on 03 December following a complaint of assault lodged against them.
According to reports a group of around 10 people assaulted two workers namely, Deo Kumar Chettri and Vikram Dhural on the evening of 02 December. All arrested are residents of Manpur.
The victims are workers of Vicky Saha of Manpur and one of them, Vikram had to be admitted to the Namchi hospital. The accused have been booked for rioting and assault.

Woman murdered in Namli forest

GANGTOK, 06 Dec: A woman was reportedly murdered at Namli under Ranipool police jurisdiction on 05 December. The deceased, Meena Tamang, is suspected to have been killed with a large stone in the Namli forests and her body reportedly bore marks of injury especially to the head.
The deceased had gone missing from home at around 9 AM on 05 December and when she failed to return, a search was organized. The body was finally found later during the day in the Namli forests with deep injury marks on the head. There were two heavy stones found lying near the body.
The deceased, it is reported, was returning home after some shopping at 8th Mile. As of now there have been no arrests; the police have seized the suspected weapon of offence, the stones and the body sent for autopsy to the Central Referral Hospital, Tadong. A criminal case under section 302 IPC has been registered by the Ranipool police.

13 Dec declared a holiday

GANGTOK, 06 Dec: The State Government has declared 13 December (Thursday) as a Government Holiday. In order to compensate the above working day, 08 December (Second Saturday) has been declared a working day. With 13th being declared a holiday, government offices will now enjoy an uninterrupted break from 12 to 18 December. 12 December was a holiday for Kagyad Chaam, 13th was a working day and then the Losoong/ Namsoong holidays from 14 to 18 December.

Editorial: Free Speech in the Times of RTI

The freedom to speak, like any other freedoms, ends where someone else’s space begins. Quite like how the right to swing one’s arm ends the moment someone’s nose comes in the way. When it comes to speech, that Laxman Rekha would be where someone’s eardrums begin hurting. Since one cannot really go around telling people to shut up, a more civilized way to handle the situation would be to clarify to those with a weakness for public outpourings that free speech does not come bundled with the right to be believed. For that, one will have to work more on the supporting arguments and relevance. In Sikkim, the most public domain becomes the newspapers. A press release to publications starved for news, and reportage is guaranteed. No problems thus far, newspapers are after all mediums for sharing information, and opinions held by organizations, political parties and individuals have a right to be aired. The problem starts when the fourth estate starts presenting news culled from press releases as independent stories. Here the reader tends to get misled. Newspapers do not speak themselves in news-reports [that is done in the editorial space] and a report is, well, a report. When editorial comment starts encroaching on news reports, issues get muddled and compromised. In the end, we, as newspapers, end up defeating the very reason we are in business – to provide a clear picture of how events unfolded, opinions were expressed and, on the odd occasion, drama played out. The requirement for newspapers to work harder on their research and legwork is more amplified nowadays with the Right to Information coming into play. The Act might still be in a nascent stage [at least in Sikkim] at present, but it will eventually become more vigorous and then a weak ‘story’ will get exposed if people decide they want to know the real truth. The same, thankfully, applies to parties in power and those sitting out. Claims and allegations are now verifiable by the people. Everyone has to become more careful now about what is blurted out in public, because, should the people decide to do so, they can verify the facts for themselves. Once they start doing so they will also perhaps learn that nothing can be taken at face value – not claims, not allegations, not even news reports – and be able to decide who has been truthful with them. That’s empowerment.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Paperwork and procedures keep lines for LPG refills long

GANGTOK, 05 Dec: The LPG crisis continues in Sikkim compounded by the official persistence that all customers fill out the KYC forms, the running complaints of shortage of gas cylinders, requirement of Aadhaar numbers, multiple connections with customers still refusing to voluntarily surrender their extra connections etc.
While several hundreds of ‘multiple connections’ have been blocked by the Indian Oil Corporation in Sikkim, officials inform that only 78 ‘extra’ gas connections have been officially surrendered by consumers in the entire state till date since the process began in October.
On the seemingly perpetual problem of cylinder shortage, even as IOC officials deny any shortage, dealers here acknowledge that the’ apparent’ shortage is due to the new and rather time-consuming process recently adopted by the agency/ dealers on consumer verification. The process of acquiring a refill is taking longer, they point out, and this gives the impression of shortage.
Dealers, particularly STCS, have found a convenient way of circumventing the public outcry of gas shortage especially regarding those consumers whose connections have not yet been transferred to their area LPG dealer. People have been constantly aggrieved over the fact that their local dealers have not been supplying cylinders on time and this is due to what the IOC calls “…the tag bit long process of verification”.
For the interim, consumers are issued a coupon and sent down to Lumsey here where the IOC cylinder laden truck unloads. Consumers can pick up their refills here on producing the coupons. The consumers are made to pick their refills thereby being made to bear extra costs of transportation as well apart from this being a time consuming and circuitous process. When NOW! visited the spot today there were people from various places ranging from Ray to Tadong to Arithang.
When contacted, IOC officials denied knowledge of consumers also being asked to get their refills directly from Lumsey, Tadong.
While officials accept that consumers are facing harassment and that there are complaints, the so called new system, they claim, is the reason for the slow supply or refills of gas cylinders. Under this new regime, every refill is verified not only for what it is but also whether it is from the subsidized or non subsidized category and the number of such refills already taken and the number of subsidized refills left.
Then again this is crosschecked from any multiple connections that the consumer may or may not have. Only then is the next refill allotted. The people of Gangtok can make it down to Lumsey, Tadong but for areas like North Sikkim the people have no other option but to wait for the truck with the refills and as the Indane portal displays, STCS for example, which is the sole distributor for Jorethang circle had its last refill delivery date on 31 October. STCS which has the largest number of consumers in Gangtok as well had its last refill delivery date here on 05 November.
So the public has to take time out not just to fill out and submit their respective KYC forms but to get their LPG refills as well from way outside the Gangtok bazaar area as well as bear the extra cost. While this is getting to be a nightmare for the consumers, IOC officials say that this should not continue for long and matters should get back to normal once the new process has been absorbed and all KYC forms submitted.
As officials inform, KYC forms were actually introduced by the IOC in the month of July. The rush began only in October when the central government announced a cap on the number of subsidized cylinders, announced various categories of prices of cylinders, Aadhar numbers as basis of obtaining connections and the ban on multiple connections.

Govt service made possible till age 50 for more employees


GANGTOK, 05 Dec: The State Government has notified the policy decision to extend the upper age limit of 50 years for Group ‘C’ and ‘D’ employees for the purpose of recruitment in Government service to more organizations. This relaxation was thus far in practice for Muster Roll, Adhoc, Substitute, Contract and Work Charge employees of State Government Departments and undertakings and has now been extended to more organizations, with these organisations now clearly spelled out.
A Department of Personnel Notification issued on 23 November 2012 expands the upper age limit of 50 years “for the purpose of Government service” to now also extend to Group C and D employees working under “the State Government Departments and under NHPC, other Central Government Establishment or Undertakings in the State of Sikkim, local employees who are working in Banks, Sikkim Manipal, Sikkim University, Vinayak Mission and employees engaged by IT in Common Services Centres as Computer Operator on Muster Roll/ Adhoc/Substitute / Contract/ Work Charge basis”.
The Governor has given his consent to this policy initiative and the Notification has been issued in his name by the Department of Personnel, Administration Reforms, Training & Public Grievances.
The Notification records that it “supersedes earlier notification issued on this behalf”.
It may also be recalled that the State Government has established a one-man Commission headed by Justice (Retd.) Malay Sengupta formerly of Sikkim High Court on the regularization of Muster Roll, Adhoc, Substitute, Contract and Work Charged employees. The Commission had recommended regularization in a phased manner along with 50 percent reservation in regularization for such workers in regular government service.

No supply shortage, Kamala Indane states

GANGTOK, 05 Dec: As consumers in the state struggle to get through all the paper work and make sense of the newly introduced cap on supply of subsidized LPG cylinders, confusion on whether there is a possible shortage of supply is also doing the rounds. However, one agency in the capital has clarified that there is no such shortage.
“There is no shortage of domestic LPG cylinders [subsidized and non subsidized] at least for our customers in the areas demarcated to us by the Indian Oil Corporation [IOC],” informed Pema Namgyal [Proprietor, Kamala Indane Gas Agency], situated at Tibet Road here in Gangtok, while speaking to NOW! today.
“As only three [this year’s quota] refills can be taken now [at subsidized rates], consumers have to produce the bluebook which includes the membership code and after checking how refills have been taken, we issue them a coupon and the person can collect the cylinder”, he explains.
It is just that there is restriction because of the subsidy, otherwise people are receiving their gas cylinders as and when they want a refilled cylinder, he said and added that one truck load [sometimes two] of LPG cylinders under the agency’s name for distribution to its customers is/ are brought on a daily basis from the Rangpo IOC plant.
Speaking on the issue of the extra Rs. 19 charged by the agency, he informed that the agency had been authorized to collect the money as surcharge by the Food and Civil Supply Department.
There is a notification given by the department, which states that an agency can collect an amount of Rs. 19 from its customer as surcharge [loading, unloading, labour charges] but within a 10 kilometer radius, he stated and added that this amount increases by Rs. 5 for every additional 10 kilometers.
“We are the only agency that puts a stamp of having collected Rs. 19 from the customer in the cash memo”, said Mr Namgyal.
Meanwhile, the other gas agencies in the Capital were unavailable for comments.

KYC forms to verify addresses, explain officials

GANGTOK, 05 Dec: The KYC forms, which are actually meant only for those with multiple connections, are being propped up as a possible solution to the problem of verification of addresses. In this regard, officials state that all consumers here in Sikkim are being made to submit KYC forms since many residential addresses of consumers have not been accurately provided or recorded.
However it has to be mentioned that all addresses in the state are vague especially without the convenience of a house numbering system. So it is still an open question whether people can detail their addresses better than they already have.
The IOC has been blocking connections phase wise on the basis of the KYC details. This has been broken down to several phases. First to face blockages are those connections with same names and same addresses; then come those connections with different names but same address and finally comes those with incomplete addresses.
Given the non existent system of recording addresses in Sikkim, especially in rural areas, people as well as authorities are bound to face a nightmare and it is hard to comprehend how this can be sorted out. Even multiple connections can have an explanation, for example the Gangtok Commandant of a paramilitary unit here has 10 connections from STCS in his name and address and all are still active. These are obviously not  for his individual use, but a convenient and practical option worked out for the personnel. Exact figures were not available but it has been informed that a few hundred connections have been blocked by the IOC. This includes connections issued by various dealers including STCS.
It may be informed here that several dealers have either deactivated or suspended numerous multiple connections while some remain active apparently based on information submitted in the KYC forms.

Pro-Sikkim Editor killed in road mishap

GANGTOK, 05 Dec: Editor-publisher of the recently launched English weekly, “Pro- Sikkim”, Tenzing Bhutia, was killed in a road mishap here this afternoon when the Bolero vehicle being driven by him veered off the road at Rawtey on the Ranipool-Rumtek highway at around 4 p.m. He was the sole occupant of the vehicle.
Confirming the accident, personnel at the Ranipool Police Station further informed that the vehicle crashed around 500 to 600 feet down the cliff side. Eye witness accounts add that the vehicle came to rest further down from even the alternative highway excavation about 500 feet below the spot from where the vehicle flew off the road. The vehicle went off the road at a sharp turning at the spot.
Since the mishap occurred early enough in the day, the crash of the vehicle alerted several people and a rescue effort was mounted immediately. Personnel from the Ranipool Police Station assisted by residents of the area extracted Mr. Bhutia from the ill-fated vehicle. Sources inform that Mr. Bhutia was still conscious when the rescuers reached him, but succumbed to his injuries shortly after. His body was carried across the Rani Khola to the highway from where it was escorted to the STNM Hospital for autopsy, it is informed.
Clearer details on what could have caused the accident will be available once the police investigation is completed, officials add. Mr. Bhutia’s newspaper has its office in Rangpo and he used to live in Rumtek, it is learnt.
Mr. Bhutia was formerly with the State Bank of India and had launched “Pro- Sikkim” on 29 November here at the Press Club of Sikkim.

Two suicides

GANGTOK, 05 Dec: Two suicides have been reported from Gangtok area in the past 24 hours. In one case a 14-year-old school girl is reported to have committed suicide by hanging at Lingding Tadong.
The girl’s mother had passed away and she was staying with guardians. On 04 December at around 6 AM she had been sent to collect milk but never returned.
In another incident, a 21-year-old youth reportedly committed suicide in Pangthang.

Panchayats issue wild bear alert at Shipgyer

MANGAN, 05 Dec: The villagers of Lower Gyer of Shipgyer GPU in Upper Dzongu have been advised by the panchayat secretary and other panchayat members to refrain from entering the jungle there owing to the risk of wild bear attacks. One was killed there in a bear attack last week, it may be recalled.
It is learnt that the bear is still in the jungles around the village with more sightings reported in the area and the panchayat secretary has also advised the people to even avoid the approach footpath which connects with the PWD road after daylight hours.
The panchayat and public here have requested the concerned Wild Life Division to take necessary action for the safety of the public.


I, Thinlay Yezer Bhutia, former Panchayat Secretary unit no 02 Phensong, North Sikkim and the present panchayat member of Upper Paney Phensong would like to state that one Mrs Norzella Lepcha former panchayat president and present president of Phensong GPU has levelled a false allegation against me in a news report published in an English newspaper dated 02 December.
It is stated in the report that the three state and national awards which I had received were not granted in my individual name but were granted to the GPU for the achievements of the GPU. I am compelled to tell all the citizens of Sikkim that the said awards were solely granted to me.
Under the circumstances it is clear that if I am supporting the opposition party and am a member of an opposition party then the area MLA cum Minister is also from the opposition party. Moreover, all the local citizens are well aware of the facts that I am performing all the assignments of the SDF with utmost dedication and loyalty. So far I have discharged my service as a Panchayat Secretary with full sincerity and satisfied the local public and concerned departments of the government of Sikkim and the public of Kabi Lungstok.
Portfolio is not as important as actual work by the panchayats. I will prove my worth with my work now.
Ex-Panchayat Secretary, Thinlay Yezer Bhutia, Phensong


This is in relation to a news item reported under the headlines ‘Sikkim RTI Forum accuses IPR department of unfair recruitment practices’ published in Sikkim NOW dated 01 December 2012.
It is hereby clarified that the Sikkim Service Public Service Commission as of date has not made any appointment of eleven persons in the IPR Department on Ad-hoc basis nor their services regularized as alleged. The Sikkim Public Service Commission is a constitutional body and only makes recommendations to the State Government for any appointment after conducting selection tests/interviews as per rules. The Commission therefore is not mandated to make any appointment as such. While the Commission is open to any clarification/information sought by the candidates, it is reiterated that newspaper carrying such misleading news items may be directed to verify the authenticity of such information with the Commission, at the first instance before going to print.
Secretary, Sikkim Public Service Commission

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Extra LPG connections can be surrendered online

GANGTOK, 04 Dec: For all the hullaballoo being raised over the extent of multiple gas connections that people in Sikkim have and the efforts of the concerned authorities to get the people to surrender their extra connections, it has now come to light that there is a much simpler method to go about this should the people wish to choose - Online surrendering of the extra LPG connection.
It is surprising that given the confused state of affairs regarding LPG in Sikkim, this simpler method has not been advertised or publicized for the consumers here.
Oil companies are providing the facility of surrendering multiple LPG domestic connections online. For this the consumers have to login to the website of Oil Company and fill the details of the connection they want to surrender. While there is a standing direction to all consumers to surrender their extra gas connections the dealers have come up with the idea of KYC (Know Your Customer), something which has created an amount of confusion and complication as well.
However, the primary motive is still to establish the number of gas connections a family has. In fact, and if reports are to be believed, only families with more than one gas connection are required to fill the KYC form. In fact the Indane portal states: “Customers whose names do not appear in this transparency portal as Multiple Connection Holder or in the list available with the distributor need not, repeat need not, submit the KYC details.”
But in Sikkim, everyone is being asked to submit the KYC details!
After the consumer fills the details of the LPG connection they want to surrender, it is the responsibility of the dealer to complete the other formalities. Complaints have been pouring in from consumers ever since the system of cap on subsidized gas cylinders was introduced and there may even be apprehensions among the public over surrendering of the ‘illegal’ extra connections. In fact this system of online surrendering of extra gas connections was introduced by the Ministry of Petroleum and Gases in light of the large number of complaints.
However this particular method has not been publicized much in Sikkim where too consumers are facing problems apart from the fact that the IOC has found as many as 60,000 surplus connections.
STCS officials here in Gangtok, while agreeing that the extra connections could be surrendered online as well, stated that the first priority for the authorities at present was to get all the consumers to fill out the KYC forms. Once this process is completed, the authorities will be focusing on getting the people to surrender their extra connections.
“However those who wish to can voluntarily take up the method of online surrendering of extra gas connections,” confirmed Menla Ethenpa, GM, STCS.

Speaker inaugurates MRI machine at CRH Tadong

GANGTOK, 04 Dec [IPR]: Central Referral Hospital is in the process of introducing state-of-the-art medical facilities that are affordable, accessible and acceptable to the people. Considering the need of the people of Sikkim and as a part of its commitment to the Government of Sikkim, the CRH installed a 1.5 Tesla MRI [Magnetic Resonance Imaging] machine which was inaugurated by the Speaker SLA, KT Gyaltsen today.
In his address, the Speaker deliberated on scientific knowledge and said that the ultimate aim of knowledge is to improve the quality of human life. Stating that the Central Referral Hospital is considered a multi-speciality hospital, he appealed to the doctors and other supporting staff to perform their duties and responsibilities with utmost care and dedication.
With the existence of a wonderful infrastructure, CRH must create an ambience to provide quality medical treatment and other facilities with a focus on development of health tourism as well, he added. The Speaker stressed on the priority to be given to the needy and for those who come under BPL category and also emphasized on special treatment to senior citizens.
The Speaker further stated that with the inauguration of this MRI facility, it will not only fulfill the need of the people of Sikkim but will also cater to the North East region.
Dr. Samsher Singh [MS, CRH] in his welcome address highlighted the plans and proposals for up-gradation of the CRH. He mentioned that the Governing Council of CRH had approved a proposal for up-gradation of CRH into a Super speciality hospital and an investment of Rs 37.65 crore has been planned for procurement of equipment and up-gradation of the infrastructure.
The aim is to establish CRH as a regional medical hub of national repute, he added. He also informed about the medical facilities and infrastructure which have been purchased and are in the pipeline.
The Speaker along with VC, SMU Brig. S.N. Mishra, HoDs and other dignitaries also visited the level 8 private room where a Presidential suite has been established for VIPs.

CET to be conducted by CBSE from next year onwards

GANGTOK, 04 Dec: The Common Entrance Test [CET] for the state quota Medical and Engineering seats will now be conducted by the Central Board for Secondary Education [from the 2013-14 session onwards]. This exam used to earlier be conducted by the HRD Department,
This was announced by the HRD Minister NK Pradhan while speaking to media-persons here at the HRDD conference hall today. “There were a series of meetings held in New Delhi where it was discussed that there were too many CETs being held in the country and so the Government of India, in order to make it unified, decided to hold one national CET, which will be conducted by the CBSE,” he explained.
To avail the medical seats [33 MBBS/ 12 BDS] candidates will have to undergo National Eligibility and Entrance Test [NEET-UG] which will be conducted by the CBSE. Similarly, to avail engineering seats candidates will have to undergo Joint Entrance Examination [JEE-UG] which will be conducted by CBSE/ JEE Apex Board.
This new system will not affect the State’s quota or the special seats allotted to Sikkim with both remaining intact and continuing under the new system of conducting the exam. Allocation of seats will continue to be done by the HRD Department, the Minister informed and added that the extra state-wide merit list for these examinations will be made by the state.
Speaking further on the issue of the under graduate courses, Secretary HRDD, CS Rao informed that the NEET-UG examination will be held on 05 May, 2013 and candidates can register online [open from 01 to 30 December]. This will be a three-hour exam.
For the JEE-main exam online registration will be open from 08 November to 15 December and the hardcopy has to be submitted by 26 December, while the exams will be held on 08 and 25 April, 2013 [for online candidates] and on 07 April, 2013 [for offline candidates], he added.
The department will be setting up ten computers along with departmental officers at the HRDD complex to assist students in filling up the forms online, while the help of the Information Technology [IT] department has also been sought for this issue.
The office of CiBiN situated at Indira Bye Pass Road has also agreed to assist students in filling up the online form, he said and added that State Wide Area Network [SWAN] will be working in the respective BACs to help students. The Chairman, CBSE, after talks has also agreed to extend the time limit if necessary for Sikkim students.
There will be no loss to the seats allotted to Sikkim with this new system and reservation on merit will be done for allotment of seats. There is also a 15 per cent quota reservation for Sikkim students in reputed colleges and other Government of India colleges all over the country, he informed.

HRDD-sponsored winter coaching for Board exams to begin 20 Dec

GANGTOK, 04 Dec: The Winter Coaching Camp started by the Human Resource Development Department [HRDD] for students taking the Board exams in March 2013 will commence 20 December and continue till 31 January, 2013, an HRDD official informed a press conference here today. This is the third installment of the coaching camp and every territorial constituency will have a coaching centre.
The school heads will be made the Centre Superintendents of the coaching centres. As per the requirement of the centres, a maximum of 10 teachers [GTs and PGTs] will impart coaching to the students while the centre will also have two support staff [peon or safai karmchari].
All of them will be paid a fixed honorarium. While the centre superintendents will receive Rs. 10,000, the teachers will be paid Rs. 15,000 and the support staff will get Rs. 3,000 each respectively. An amount of Rs. 5,000 will be released for contingency and stationary.
On 15 February, the respective centre superintendents will submit a report to their concerned Joint Directors, who will submit their reports to the Director [School Education] by 28 February. After the results of the examination are declared in May and June and based on the performance of the students who took the coaching classes, the department officials will then observe the impact of the coaching imparted and based on these reports further action will be taken for the next year’s coaching camp, he informed.
Meanwhile, it was further informed that the examinations for the Chief Minister’s Meritorious Scholarship Scheme [CMMSS] for the students of Class V at the district level will be held on 11 January, 2013.

Building capacity to manage climate risk and disaster preparedness

GANGTOK, 04 Dec: Institutional understanding of the hazards that affect local populace, the importance of sound infrastructure for safety and to build capacity and strength for effective disaster management and mitigation were some of the aspects discussed here at the Orientation-cum-Workshop on GoI-UNDP US-AID Project on Implementation of UNAID supported, ‘Climate Risk Management Project in Urban Areas Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation’ organized by the Land Revenue and Disaster management Department today.
Gangtok is among six cities in the country where this project is being implemented under the aegis of Disaster Risk Reduction Programme. This 1210000 US Dollar Project would be implemented from October this year till September, 2015. UNDP is carrying out various projects in 26 states across the country and is constantly assisting the governments in enhancing financial and human resources.
The representative of UNDP stated today that disasters could be mitigated to a certain extent through preparedness but it was essential to change collective behaviour for better results. Disaster management is only a partial solution towards disaster mitigation but it is more important to change the mindset of the masses, she said.
She stressed on disaster risk assessment as one of the most important steps in designing suitable measures for reducing the risk of disaster in urban areas and added that ensuring good governance and capacity building of various stakeholders is equally important.
Similarly, SPO, Sikkim, Bhupendra Sharma speaking on the overview of UNDP’s engagement in the state especially Gangtok stated that Sikkim was indeed one of the first states to sign an MoU with UNDP on community risk management and also stated that UNDP had initiated this project since it was felt that urban areas were being neglected with regard to disaster risk preparedness issues.
He also talked about the policies of UNDP that have been adopted by the state departments for efficient preparedness related to disasters.
The Deputy Director, Civil Defense, India, Sanjay Sehgal while stating that Civil Defense was an integral part in disaster management stressed on strengthening the civil defense force in the state. Building capacity of community members for an effective response would go a long way in reducing risk of disaster, he said and added that special efforts should be made to mobilize volunteers from NSS, Civil Defense, Welfare Society, sanitary workers and health workers, NGOs etc.
Training should be provided to these volunteers on basic search and rescue, first aid, fire fighting, relief distribution etc, while efforts should also be made to compile a data base of these volunteers and institutions so that these volunteers could be trained periodically and mobilized in a systematic manner, said Mr Sehgal.
Strengthening early warning systems and developing guidelines and practicals were some other issues he highlighted.
The Gangtok, Mayor, KN Topgay in his address stated that it is important to reduce disaster risk in urban areas by enhancing institutional capacity besides enhancing community capacity to manage climate risk in urban areas by improving the preparedness. He also added that Gangtok because of its efficient governance and administration would be one of the exemplary cities in terms of preparedness.
The earthquake last year opened the eyes of many after which the state government is laying a lot of stress on preparedness related to disasters, the Mayor added.  
The workshop was attended by Deputy Mayor, Shakti Singh, Secretary cum Relief Commissioner, GoS, SBS Bhaduria, representatives of different line departments, officials of GMC, UD&HD, PHE, Police, Public Works, Tourism Departments and representatives of NGOs and CBOs. Others to address the gathering were Joint Secretary, LR&DMD, Shova Lepcha, Vice Chairman, Sikkim SDMA, Professor Vinod Sharma and DS, LR&DMD, Prabhakar Rai.

Ecclesiastical Affairs Deptt and Sanskrit Karmakanda discuss school syllabus

GANGTOK, 04 Dec: Ecclesiastical Affairs Department convened a meeting of the Sanskrit Karmakanda teachers to deliberate on the syllabus meant for the schools being run under the administrative control of the department yesterday in the chamber of the Joint Secretary.
The meeting was attended by Deputy Director, K Sherpa, Office Superintendent, Laxmi Shilal and teachers’ representatives from different Sanskrit schools. A Research Scholar Acharya Kamal Dahal from Lingmoo was especially invited as faculty member to give his inputs in this ‘historic meeting’.
A press release from the Ecclesiastical Affairs Department informs that a draft syllabus meant for the primary level that was submitted earlier by some of the teachers was placed in the meeting and discussed at length in terms of the standard of the subjects prescribed. It is further informed that a final draft was prepared after taking into account the valuable suggestions given by the faculty member, which was unanimously agreed by all the teachers present in the meeting.
The meeting also resolved to print books which are unavailable in the market. Following this, the responsibility of writing 2 books i.e. Sanskrit Strotamala and Anubadh 2nd path was entrusted to Kamal Dahal the faculty member while Sanskrit Varnamala meant for class I and II standard was entrusted to the teacher’s committee. It was agreed that the draft manuscript of these books should be submitted by the end of the January 2013.
The department aims to provide the newly prepared text books from the new academic session, it is added.


The role played by the Chief Minister Pawan Chamling during the last Gram and Zilla Panchayat Election 2012, has always been encouraging and worth appreciating as well, while in its turn, has made us overjoyed and proud while looking back in the political scenario. Today, every Sikkimese heart is filled with joy and satisfaction as every caste and every religious community settled in proper unity and peace have availed the opportunity of equal treatment, proper justice and democratic rights. And, in the event of appointment of CL Gurung as Zilla Adhyaksha, South District, we, on behalf of Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Sikkim, do hereby express our heartfelt gratitude and offer thanks for his goodwill gesture towards the Christian community.
Elder TB Rai, Tadong

Editorial: Disaster Management in Times of Climate Change

A workshop-cum-orientation programme on the GoI-UNDP US AID Project on “Climate Risk Management through Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation” was held in Gangtok on Tuesday. Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management are new responsibilities charged to two different departments in Sikkim – Climate Change to Department of Science & Technology and Disaster Management to Land Revenue Department. The recognition of the two challenges as issues requiring round the year and official attention is welcome and maybe it is time that the two developments were placed under the charge of a single authority. This would be worthwhile because it is now clear that a majority of the natural disasters in the future will be Climate Change triggered, it would thus make sense to make Climate Risk Management a part of disaster management. This, more so in the case of hill states like Sikkim which already flirt too often with natural disasters, the intensity of which will grow as climate begins to change more dramatically. The impact of climate change is becoming increasingly evident in the polar caps and in the Himalayas. High mountain communities have noted that glaciers are retreating at unprecedented rates. The planet’s extremities are canaries in the coal mines - alerting the rest of the world to the extent of the changes that are coming and we, because Sikkim, because it holds that canary, should start getting more involved in the initiatives being undertaken to save the environment because that really is the only cushion to minimise climate change risk.
At the policy level, Sikkim has launched several measures aimed at preserving its environment and understanding where it stands on the climate change risk graph. These, however, remain typically [for Sikkim] top-down affairs and have come as government initiatives thus far. One doesn’t see any private participation in drawing focus to the larger picture. Most NGOs and social organisations are involved in specifically local issues like garbage disposal and plantation works. While these are also necessary, Sikkim needs more who communicate and undertake studies on climate change impact in the State. There is concerted effort in Sikkim on this front thus far. Most people are familiar with climate change, very few unfortunately are aware of how it is manifesting in Sikkim. The closest that the State has come to studying this is aspect is in the committee (or was it as commission?) set up to study the glaciers of Sikkim. It is not clear what came of this study. Events like the workshop-cum-orientation mentioned earlier still do not get into the specifics of climate change impact in Sikkim, and without making this change directly relevant to the people, efforts like one being mooted will remain fund-driven undertakings which, even if they are earnest, remain superficial. Climate Change manifests in subtle and overt ways, its slower encroachment not being noticed until it is too late and its more dramatic displays [like GLOFs] coming so suddenly and destructively that rescue and repairs distracting from the causative factors. The dots are not connected because of which lessons are never learnt and preparation compromised. The workshop-cum-orientation programme on the GoI-UNDP US AID Project on “Climate Risk Management through Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation” could mark a change in attitudes if it acquaints stakeholders and line department officials of how climate change has already impacted Sikkim; then, perhaps management and mitigation plans will be more than copy-paste speculative drafts. The main problem in Sikkim’s handling of climate change and even disaster management plans is that most people engaged for it work on generalised blueprints prepared elsewhere. Such blueprints should be seen as suggested frameworks to be filled out with Sikkim-specific data, traditional knowledge base and local know-how to deliver management and mitigation plans which actually deliver.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


With power generation of 510 MW Teesta Stage V suspended for three days and the reservoir at Dikchu emptied, the Teesta is getting a brief free run through its natural course on the Dikchu-Singtam stretch. Not voluminous like it would be during monsoons, the river still cuts a handsome sight...

Govt clears medical insurance benefit rules for employees

GANGTOK, 03 Dec: Finally, after a lapse of almost 12 years, the State government has decided to go ahead with the Sikkim Employees State Insurance (Medical Benefit) Rules 2012. The initial draft rules had been issued in the year 1996. This will definitely bring some cheer for the government employees who are largely dependent on the government for medical benefits.
Now that the government has decided to go ahead with this insurance cover for its employees, State Insurance dispensaries will be established for medical treatment of insured persons. However people living in remote areas may not see much benefit in this as such dispensaries will be set up where the population concentration is not less than 1,000 insured persons.
However as per the rules, arrangement has also to be made for insured persons where there are no such dispensaries but within reasonable distance. This can be by a mobile dispensary or by delegating an Insurance Medical Officer to visit any specified dispensary in the areas or arranging for treatment of insured persons by the medical officer. The state may also make arrangement for provision of treatment in government or private hospitals.
Other options available with the government are either to establish a separate hospital for insured persons or reserve separate beds for exclusive use of insured persons in hospitals under it or a private hospital.
Insured persons have the right to indicate which hospital or dispensary where arrangement for provision of medical benefit has been made. A person is required to bring along his identity card to claim medical benefit.
In case of an emergency an insured person may claim medical benefit under these rules from any Insurance medical Officer whether he is allotted to him or not. Medical benefit will be refused in case the person fails to produce the identity card.
As for the range of treatment that an insured person can receive, it has been stated that these will include out patient treatment which shall consist of all treatment other than those involving special skill or experience. The range of treatment includes vaccination, inoculation, antenatal and postnatal treatment, free drugs and dressing and also provision of certificates in respect to sickness, maternity, employment injury and death.
The Insurance Medical Officer will also visit the insured person at his residence and also visit women suffering miscarriages. More serious persons requiring hospitalization shall be admitted at the nearest hospital by ambulance.
It has been further directed by the state that full time Insurance Medical Officers are not to undertake private practice. Such officers will be subject to other conditions of service as fixed by the government.
All State Insurance dispensaries, hospitals, clinics, mobile dispensaries and other medical institutions specified for the purpose of providing medical benefits to insured persons shall be subject to administrative control and superintendence of the Director of Health Services.

Even as number of new infections goes down, HIV remains a concern

GANGTOK, 03 Dec: Forty-five new cases of HIV infections were recorded in the state in the year 2012. Since the first HIV +ve case was confirmed in Sikkim in 1995 and the first AIDS case reported in 2007, the number of reported HIV infections in the state has gone up from 157 cases  in 2009,  230 cases in October last year to 275 cases this year. The data reflects the detections made at different Integrated Counseling & Testing Centers (ICTC).
These figures could just be the tip of the ice-berg since sentinel surveys [a detailed data collection effort] have not been conducted in the state since the surveys of 2008-09. The 45 new cases registered are those reported at the ICTCs.
AIDS, meanwhile, has claimed 46 lives till date and in 2012 alone, 6 people died of the disease. At present, there are 67 people living with AIDS in Sikkim.
The SSACS Project Director, Dr. Uttam Pradhan informs that majority of the HIV+ve cases that have been registered in the state come under the 20-29 year old group.  Out of 243 cases in the 20-49 age group registered with SSACS, 112 cases come under the 20-29 age bracket which is now considered a high risk group.
HIV has also reached the second generation in children born with the virus [pre-natal] with 9 children below 10 year of age having been born with HIV with a possible six more similar cases in the next age-group of 11 to 19.
“Free medication, regular counseling, love and support is what SSACS has been providing to these victims as per the guidelines of NACO. Fighting this disease needs an open society and creating an open society requires awareness and knowledge related to this disease. Overcoming stigma and getting these people to live complete lives after the disease is also what SSACS has been working upon with dedication,” stated the Project Director.
While stating that SSACS will be carrying out a new sentinel survey starting January next year, Dr. Pradhan informs that this sentinel survey will cover all the targeted areas and collect data from different areas of intervention carried out by the society.
“It is necessary that awareness goes hand-in-hand with the post treatment phase of the patients since the society has a major part to play if we want an HIV/AIDS free state. With aware citizens we will be able to fight this disease even better,” explained the Project Director.
In this regard, he also informed that SSACS will be launching a Multi Media Campaign from 07 December with the registration of the Red Ribbon Drama and Red Ribbon Unplugged contests. The competition phase of the campaign will begin from January next year.
The winners of the drama contest will be awarded Rs. 50,000 while the winner of the unplugged musical competition will have a cash prize of Rs.1 lakh.
“We have been concentrating on generating awareness at the village level now with the Red Ribbon Campaign being very enthusiastically participated by people from the districts. This year we are going to organize the finals of the drama competition at all the district headquarters, a final for each district. Auditions for the unplugged competition will also be held in all districts with an aim to bring out the best talents from the rural areas and also to generate awareness related to the disease during the same,” stated the Project Director.  

Badhtey Kadam 2012 concludes at MG Marg

GANGTOK, 03 Dec: The flagging-in ceremony of Badhtey Kadam 2012 campaign on this year’s theme “Cultural and Social Integration of Persons with Disabilities” was held today here infront of Tourism Department at MG Marg.
The programme, coinciding with the World Disability Day which also falls today, was organized by Social Justice, Empowerment & Welfare Department and District Collectorates in collaboration with Spastics Society of Sikkim [SSS]. Mayor, KN Topgay was present as the chief guest on the occasion.
The campaign was earlier flagged off by the Mayor on 27 November from MG Marg. An SSS team led by Ram Prasad toured all four districts to create awareness on disabilities in urban and rural areas in the districts.
In his address, the Mayor stressed upon the importance of awareness in empowering the disabled and to ensure their rights and happiness. He further stressed that it is the duty of every individual to look after them by ensuring their rights and by providing them equal opportunity.
“Everyone should work for them not just on paper but from the heart,” said Mr Topgay. He also assured to provide all possible help and support from his side for the welfare of the differently abled.
In his welcome address, SSS general secretary, Dr BP Dhakal briefly spoke on the theme of the Badhte Kadam 2012 campaign. He informed that during the campaigning, the team created awareness on rights, acts and programmes related to the differently abled among other issues.
SSS In-charge, Ram Prasad also gave the report of the campaign in all four districts. Likewise, SSS students presented the Badhte Kadam anthem and students of the Hearing Impaired School, Sichey presented songs on the occasion.
The programme ended with the vote of thanks by SSS treasurer, CP Dhakal.

Tumin-Lingee Teachers’ Forum felicitates outstanding and dedicated teachers

MANGAN, 03 Dec: 24 teachers which include 13 senior, 09 outstanding and two retired teachers of Tumin-Lingee constituency were felicitated here today by the Tumin-Lingee Teacher’s forum at Samdong Senior Secondary School in East Sikkim.
Minister, HRDD, NK Pradhan was present as the chief guest while Area MLA, Tumin-Lingee, Ugen T Gyatso Bhutia, Member of State Planning Commission, Lhakila Tongden, HRDD Secretary, CS Rao, Former secretary, LB Chettri, General secretary (ASDLF), Norzang Lepcha, BDO Tintek, TD Denzongpa, Joint director’s HRDD, OP Sapkota, headmasters and teachers of different schools, Zilla members, Panchayat and public were also present.
Earlier, the function was welcomed by advisor Tumin-Lingee Teacher’s forum, Dhiren Pradhan.
While highlighting the brief report of the Forum, president ML Koirala underlined that since from the past five years the forum has been felicitating the outstanding and dedicated teachers from Tumin-Lingee constituency.
He also highlighted about the provision of drinking water facility in some schools which needs to be repaired, appointment of Adhoc teachers before the beginning of the session, timely disbursement of mid-day meal fund, electrification in schools, timely disbursement of salary for PRT teachers under BACs and appointment of language teachers in some schools.  He further requested the HRDD Deptt. for the publication of an annual journal on every information related to education in Sikkim.
The HRDD Secretary, CS Rao in his address highlighted that the literacy rate in Sikkim was only 16.8% during 1975 but at present it is 82.2% as per the 2011 census.  He further added that there are 779 schools in Sikkim with 1, 18, 000 students.  The Secretary further appealed to all the teachers to be positive about the teacher evaluation system.
The area MLA in his addres appreciated the initiative undertaken by the teacher’s forum and urged every teacher and parent to work for the future of the children.
Addressing the function, the chief guest said that the SDF government has brought about changes in employment for the benefit of the employees. He also added that Sikkim pays the highest salary to its teachers as compared to the rest of the country.
While highlighting about the future of the students, he stressed that the responsibility lay on both teachers and students.  He also appealed to all the panchayats, parents and SMC to ensure proper implementation of education policies in schools.
The function ended with the vote of thanks delivered by general secretary Teacher’s forum, SK Pradhan.
The felicitated teachers were Rudra Mani Khatiwara, PRT, Marchak Pri. school, Hari Kumari Gurung, PRT, Tumin-Barang Pri. school, Chung Chung Lepcha, PRT, Darakharka Pri. school, Agam Bista, Headmaster, Tintek Chuba Pri. school, Nanda Lall Pokhrel, Headmaster, Tintek Saraswati Pri. school, Rinchen Ongmu Lepcha, Pathuk Chandey JHS, Bhim Lall Adhikari, PRT, Tintek Chuba Pri. school, Madav Prasad Lamichaney, Headmaster, Badamtam Pri. school, Prem Prasad Kafley, PRT, Raley JHS, Naradmani Niroula, PRT, Phalaichendara JHS, Hissey Lhamu Bhutia, PRT, Tintek Chuba Pri. school, Phurba Tshering Lepcha, Headmaster, Centre Pathuk Pri. school, Narad Prasad Luital, Dhabani Pri. school among the 13 senior teachers.
Similarly JD Khatiwara, PRT, Karjee JHS, Arjun Kr Chettri, Headmaster, U-Lingmoo JHS, Gadem Bhutia, PRT, Kokalay Pri. school, Lendup Kazi, GT Biology, Tumin SS, Rohit Kr Goutam, PRT, Dhanbari Pri. school, TS Lepcha, PGT, Samdong SSS,  Jagdish Sharma, Headmaster, L-Kambal Pri. school, Narendra Kr Rai, PRT, Samthar  Pri. school, Gopal Bista, PRT, Tintek Chuba Pri. school were among the 09 outstanding teachers felicitated.
Apart from this, two retired teachers, 81-year-old Shiva Kumari Rai of Makha who was the first woman teacher of Sikkim and LN Koirala, Payong JHS who is also a National Teacher Awardee 2012 were felicitated.

New HoDs for 3 Departments

GANGTOK, 03 Dec: GP Upadhyaya [IAS, Principal Secretary, Mines, Minerals and Geology department] has been transferred and posted as Principal Secretary, Social Justice, Empowerment & Welfare department in place of Alok Kumar Shrivastava [IAS, Principal Secretary], who has been released by the State Government on Central Deputation for a period of one year.
Meanwhile, Secretary, Information and Public Relation department & Printing &Stationeries department, K S Topgay has been given additional charge of Secretary, Tourism &Civil Aviation Department. Earlier, Secretary Tourism and Civil Aviation, Ravindra Telang was transferred to Raj Bhawan as the Governor’s Secretary and had handed over additional charge of Tourism to Nalini G. Pradhan, IAS, Commissioner-cum-Secretary, Culture and Heritage Affairs department.
Meanwhile, Principal Chief Engineer (Mechanical), SNT Division, Transport Department, LM Pradhan has been transferred and posted as Secretary, Mines, Minerals and Geology Department in place of GP Upadhyaya.

Arrubotey-Lingtam Panchayat Ghar burgled

GANGTOK, 03 Dec: A burglary has been reported from Rongli where the Panchayat Ghar of Arrubotey Lingtam was burgled. A complaint was lodged with the police by the Block Panchayat President of the area. The incident reportedly took place on the night of 29 November when the miscreants broke open the door lock of the panchayat ghar and decamped with several items including computer parts, a DVD player, an amplifier and a cordless microphone. No one has been arrested so far.

Road mishap claims one, injures 3

GANGTOK, 03 Dec: A driver was killed and another 3 persons injured when a Mahindra Commander vehicle fell about 250 feet off the road at Pareng Gaon, Mangalbaria under Nayabazaar police station. The incident took place on 30 November.
The driver, Lako Tse Bhutia, 48, a resident of Jhunsingthang, Mangalbaria, is informed to have died on the spot. Among the injured are K Gurung, 36, Pema Bhutia, 28 and 7-year-old Kalden Bhutia. All were referred to the STNM hospital and DK Gurung is informed to have sustained fractures on both his legs.

Monday, December 3, 2012

High Court takes up 5 PILs in One Day


GANGTOK, 02 Dec: The High Court of Sikkim admitted five Public Interest Litigations, one of which it took up suo moto based on a NOW! report, on 29 November. North Sikkim’s connectivity woes dominate this set of 5 PILs, four of which relate to the district’s continuing problems with road, telecom and banking services. The fifth PIL is with regard to the Tatkal railway booking counter at SNT bus-stand here and the poor internet service there which is compromising the requirements of railway travelers.
Chief Justice Permod Kohli, it is informed, was on a North Sikkim visit up to Gurudongmar lake in the third week November. While he was in the district, the people of North Sikkim had submitted four different representations to him, seeking the High Court’s intervention on issues highlighted by them and seekiung directions to the concerned agencies to get their acts together and deliver better services to the people. The High Court has also taken up all these representations as Public Interest Litigations and has now sought replies from the concerned authorities.
The Pipons and public of Lachung, in their representation, have accused GREF and BSNL of neglecting the road and telecom requirements of the people. Highlighting that roads under the jurisdiction of GREF were the only links to the outside world for them, the people of Lachung complain that these roads remain neglected, under-developed and in disrepair. This, they add, does not only inconvenience them but also compromises national security since they are the lifelines for the army personnel stationed in the border regions as well.
BSNL, the telecom service provider for these remote areas, is also similarly charged of neglect.
On examination of grievances about the miserable road conditions and BSNL service in the remote area in their complaint, the High Court in its order observed that the same has been treated as a PIL in larger public interest of the area and directed the two agencies to file detailed responses within eight weeks.
In their second complaint, the people of Lachung as represented by the “Committee, Army Occupied Land Dispute Lachung, North Sikkim”, have sought immediate intervention of the High Court to resolve the Army occupied land issue which has remained in limbo since 1976.
The affected people, their petition endorsed by the Pipon, have sought the High Court’s intervention for an immediate resolution, contending that the district Administration, Land Revenue Department and the Defence State Officer [Siliguri] have not shown any earnestness thus far to expedite the matter. The people are seeking a onetime compensation and if that was not possible, have sought the Court’s directions to the Army to vacate the occupied land in Lachung.
The third complaint of the people of Lachung is against the Energy & Power Department, which, they inform has remained unable to provide regular and dependable power supply to the people under Lachung Dzumsa ever since the 18 September 2011 earthquake. Power supply remains erratic, they complain, going off every evening and through most of the day and available only after 9-10 PM in the night. This complaint also reiterates that electricity, roads, medical facilities and telecom network remain poorly delivered to them.
Similarly, the people of Chungthang also petitioned the Chief Justice seeking his intervention seeking directions to improve banking services of State Bank of India branch there. The complaint letter adds that the bank has remained unable to provide service due to extremely poor BSNL telecom services in the area.
“The bank is unable to make alternative arrangements and BSNL is very careless in the remote border area to provide Link and network to the bank for proper functioning. Even the network is very poor and no internet continuously at all since past 14 months. The people of Chungthang area are facing difficulty to send money to their children studying other parts of State and outside state and even the petty contractors are having difficulty in cashing their cheques,” the complaint letter details.
They further petition that the Rim Treatment to be done by Teesta Urja Limited for Teesta hydel project Stage V has been on a standstill for the past three years and that the company is taking no action in this matter. The residents highlight that stoppage of Rim Treatment poses further danger of landslides in and around Chungthang and consequent threat of life and property of people living there.
The public of Chungthang have also petitioned against Airtel, stating that Airtel installed a mobile tower in Chungthang one and half year back but has not been able to provide mobile connectivity and services in the area thus far. Since the huge non-functional tower is in the heart of the Chungthang Bazaar and also posing a hazard to the life and property of the surrounding villagers, the people have sought the High Court’s intervention to either provide immediate connectivity or dismantling of the said tower.
The PIL on the Tatkal railway booking counter in Gangtok has been taken up by the High Court based on a news-report headlined, “BSNL lethargy delinks Gangtok from Tatkal bookings too often”, published in NOW! on 26 November 2012.
The High Court, in its order on 29 November while issuing notices to the State Government, the General Manager, BSNL, Gangtok, General Manager, Northern Frontier Railway, Katihar Division and Secretary, Sikkim National Transport Department, observed, “While going through a news item published in local newspaper ‘Now’ in its issue of 26 November, 2012, regarding the non-availability of BSNL signal during the period of Tatkal bookings offer made by the railways, we find that there seems to be deliberate mischief on behalf of BSNL functionaries to keep the signal off during the period of Tatkal bookings are to be made by the people. The matter is of serious nature and explanation is required from the authorities including the Railways as well as BSNL.”
The High Court has directed respondents in all five PILs to file their replies within eight weeks.

Get serious BRO!


GANGTOK, 02 Dec: The State government has sought more time to file an affidavit in the High Court regarding various aspects of road construction in North Sikkim, including timeframe for clearances. This is in regard to the PIL in the court by the Public and Panchayat of North Sikkim when the matter came up on 20 November.
Earlier, when the matter had come up for hearing in October, the division bench noted that it was not impressed by the compliance report filed by the army road agency. The Court noted that timeframe indicated in the report for obtaining approval/ permissions from various authorities including forest clearance and also the time frame for construction of road/ bridges between Dikchu and Sangkalang “…is unrealistic”.
In fact it had been submitted that Forest clearance would require 210 days while the time requirement mentioned for construction of a small stretch of road and bridges was 4 to 5 years. There were no details as to how this much time is required for the works, the court noted.
The court had then directed that a fresh affidavit be filed as the present one was unsatisfactory. Furthermore, it noted from the compliance report that some local contractors were not responding to the NIT issued by BRO. As such it then gave BRO the liberty to “…engage contractors from outside the state notwithstanding any circular or direction of the state government in this regard”.
The division bench noted that this direction was being issued in the interest of the public of North Sikkim “…who are suffering because of the non-availability of local labourers / contractors.”
At the same time the court observed that security aspect of the area must be taken care of while engaging outside agencies.
The court had also directed that local inhabitants were not to prevent the BRO from widening the Dikchu-Sangkalang road up to 54 feet width. This was issued as it had been submitted that the BRO was attempting to widen the road by taking private land without paying compensation. On this aspect, the court noted that the matter of compensation would be taken up at the appropriate time. The BRO was also directed to increase its manpower for maintenance of the 26 km stretch of Dikchu-Sangkalang road.
The road is a primary link for the people of the area and they have been suffering hardships due to the incomplete and pending road construction. Even land acquisition process had been initiated under court directions for improvement and widening of the road and construction of bridges.
Earlier the court had taken strong exception to the apparent lackadaisical attitude of the administration and other agencies towards their duties and had come down heavily on both the state and army agencies. It had also earlier observed that of the stretch of 21 km of the Dikchu-Sangkalang road only 1 km stretch of black topping was done in one year.
Appearing for the state respondents was the Additional AG while for the central government it was Advocate Karma Thinlay. Also appearing as Amicus was Advocate DR Thapa.

Committee set up to revise compensation dues for lands under army occupation in North Sikkim

GANGTOK, 02 Dec: The State government through the Land Revenue Department has set up a committee comprising of concerned officials of North district including the DC to revise the rates of compensation as per the prevailing market rate with respect to standing crops, trees, vegetables, fruits etc to be paid to locals whose lands have been forcefully occupied by the army.
This is in response to the directive of the High Court of Sikkim and the same was submitted to the court. Earlier the court had noted its dismay over the response of the North district administration on this matter especially when it was submitted that compensation computed by the officials for the 7 families in Thombu whose lands have been under army occupation for a number of years was just over Rs. 30,000, total for the years; further more the compensation had been assessed at the rates of 2006.
On 20 November the matter came up for hearing when Additional AG, JB Pradhan submitted a copy of the minutes of the meeting held in the chamber of Secretary, Land Revenue where it was decided to constitute such a committee. It was further submitted that the committee would require 6 weeks time to complete its process of compensation assessment and prepare its report.
However the court, on perusal of the report of the committee noted that “…the emphasis seems to prepare the reply to be filed before the court.” This, the court, noted, gave the impression that the entire exercise of constituting such a committee “…is intended to camouflage the real purpose and hoodwinking the court”.
At this the Additional AG submitted that the said paragraph would be rectified. The court, however, noted that it did not appreciate the manner in which the Minutes of the meeting had been drawn. With the next date set for February, 2013 the court directed that a detailed affidavit be filed including consideration of the report of the committee regarding the revision of compensation.
Earlier when the matter had come up in October it had been submitted by the Defense Estate Officer that with regard to hiring charges of land of 14 cases to be paid by the army, Rs.3.51 lakh had been paid by cheque to the Secretary, Land Revenue. The court had then directed that immediate disbursement of the amount to the concerned families.
On 20 November it was submitted that hiring charges of private land owners in Chungthang block had been paid and that land owners of other blocks were being approached for payment. The court hoped that the process of payment would be complete by the next date of hearing. The court had also directed earlier that interest component whether payable under any local or central law be considered.
The High Court, in October, had also directed that the Union of India be made a party to the petition through the Cabinet Secretary by which all departments of the union government would become parties to the proceedings. It also observed that since the state of Sikkim was a party through the Chief Secretary all departments of the state were deemed as parties to the petition.
Also appearing for the central government was government advocate Karma Thinlay and Amicus, DR Thapa.

Citizens’ Urban Co-op Bank opens branch at Ravangla

GANGTOK, 02 Dec: The proposed Branch of Citizens' Urban Co-operative Bank at Ravangla (South Sikkim) opened for business on 01 December.
A press release informs that the formal inauguration of the Branch, however, will be held at a later date and adds that the Branch has been in the forefront of mobilizing Daily Deposit and extending Advance against the accumulated balance at all its five branches in the state.
Chairman of the Bank, PK Pradhan was present at the Branch and held a series of interactions with the prospective customers, the release mentions.

Annual Chaam and prayers at Pabyuik Gumpa

GANGTOK, 02 Dec: Annual chaam and prayers were performed on 01 and 02 December here at the Pabyuik Monastery situated in East Sikkim falling under Syari constituency. The programme was attended by area MLA and Speaker, SLA, KT Gyaltsen as the chief guest today.
The Chaam [“five gods dance”] was performed by monks of the monastery. The chaam and prayers were held to propitiate the Gods and Deities for peace and prosperity for the people of Sikkim and also to ward off evil omens. The programme was organized by Bara Kagui, Pabyuik Tashi Chiling Gumpa, which has 12 members in the committee.
The prayer was led by Kagyu Tulku Rinpoche Nowang Tempa Gyaltsen. A mela was also held at the venue today.

Weeklong State Mourning on Gujral’s passing away

GANGTOK, 02 Dec: The State Government has declared a weeklong State mourning on the passing away of former Prime Minister of India, IK Gujral.
A notification issued by the Home Department on Saturday, apart from declaring that all State Government offices and PSUs will remain closed on 01 Dec, the day of the funeral, also announced that State Mourning will be observed for seven days w.e.f. 30 November to 06 December 2012 (both days inclusive).
The National Flag will be flown at half-mast at all buildings where it is flown regularly and no official entertainment will take place throughout the state of Sikkim during the said period of mourning, the notification informs.

Goalie Monotosh stars in USFC-Churchill Brothers draw

GANGTOK, 02 Dec: Some crucial saves by goalkeeper, Monotosh Ghosh helped United Sikkim Football Club [USFC] hold Goan giants, Churchill Brothers Sports Club [CBSC] to a goalless draw in the USFC home match of the I-League 2012 played here today at Paljor Stadium.
The Goan team put pressure in the first half with constant attacks but with some good saves by the home team’s goalkeeper and defenders the first half ended goalless. In the second half, the home team sprang back into the game launching some good attacks but to no avail as the scoreline reveals.
USFC goalkeeper, Monotosh Ghosh gave an impressive performance, thwarting some very good attempts by CBSC strikers in the second half.
With today’s one point, CBSC still stands on the third position with 19 points, while the USFC now has 7 points. USFC goalkeeper, Monotosh Ghosh was aptly awarded the Man of the Match title.
Addressing a press conference after the match, USFC interim coach-cum-player, Bhaichung Bhutia appreciated the job done by the goalkeeper and stoppers of his team today. He also gave credit to the goalkeeper for some ‘crucial saves’ which fetched the team one point for the draw.
“The team has played a good game despite playing outside for three weeks for its away matches and with some players injured. The team has performed as expected in the home match”, said Bhaichung.
On the next home match against Shillong Lazong on 08 November, Bhaichung expressed that the team was excited and looking forward to play against another team from the North East region in the I-League.
Churchill Brothers SC coach, Mariano Dias expressed satisfaction with the team’s performance in today’s match. Mentioning that his team made some good attacks, he gave credit to the USFC goalkeeper for making some good saves in the match.
 “We tried our level best in the match and 1 point is still better than nothing,” said the Coach and added that the team will be playing with the same confidence in its upcoming matches.

EMRS girls leave for to defend title

GANGTOK, 02 Dec: Defending champions Eklavya Model Residential School [EMRS], Gangyap, West Sikkim, girls basketball team has left for Jaipur for the CBSE Under-19 National Championship today. The tournament is scheduled to be played from 06 to 11 December.
The 12-member team is led by captain Nim Doma Bhutia along with Tini Tshechu as team manager and Sidharth Yonzone as team coach.
A press release from the school mentions that EMRS will try its best to defend the championship and to make the school and state proud. It is further informed that the Sikkim Basketball Association general secretary has extended his best wishes to the team for the tournament.


This is with reference to the Health Department’s rejoinder, ‘Crosscheck Facts to Avoid Planted Stories’ published in Sikkim NOW! dated 01 December 2012.
It needs to be highlighted that the news-report was a follow-up to previous complaints regarding the quality of meals provided at District Hospital, Singtam, and has reflected the present status of food at the hospital. The report reflects the present situation as verified in conversations with in-patients and officials of the Hospital [who are quoted extensively in the report]. In fact, even the CMO is quoted in the report as stating that “initially there were some problems but now the situation is under strict supervision.”
Further, as for the supposed oversight that the increase from 70 gms to 150gms diet was at all hospitals, this was an inference gathered from the visit to the hospital and would have been reflected more accurately had officials at the concerned officials at Department’s head office been more forthcoming with information when contacted by this reporter. This reporter tried to contact the HoD on two separate occasions after which the concerned official at the head office was contacted, however, the official despite being the spokesperson for the food supply unit at the department, did not come on record and offered to get back in touch later.
The report was filed after conversation with inpatients and hospital officials who are present at the hospital and was cross checked before going to print. The department would do well to consider the fact that Singtam hospital too, is a government hospital and that doctors and other officials at the hospital are part of the departmental staff as well.

Editorial: Information Inspires Involvement

Officialdom in Sikkim continues to cling to anachronistic notions about sharing information. And it is not even sensitive documents that one is talking about here; it is as simple a matter as coming on record when approached. Officials take the easiest way out by ignoring reporters with excuses of being on tour or engaged in a meeting or not being authorised. What most of them don’t realise is that every time a scribe arrives in their office for information, they are not expected to spill the beans on the latest red-tape goof-up in the corridors of power. Most of the times, they are being sought either to confirm or deny information or present their side of the picture to an allegation. While journalistic ethics demand that views of all sides be reported, it is only for so long that a story can be kept waiting for want of views from the other side. What these officials don’t realise is that news reports cannot warm the “in” tray endlessly. There is a Right to Information Act now, and is often invoked by officials as the route to take for information. RTI is essentially for the masses to seek information on individual issues, and it would best if it was not crowded by ‘vested’ interests and journalists pursuing stories. When it comes to news reporting, the procedures and processes involved under RTI are too long and cumbersome and hence should be used sparingly and for stories requiring deeper details and more extensive data. Day to day reporting remains old school but it is time that those who sit on information realised that the times have changed and that it makes more sense to share information when contacted because news has a way of leaking. Leaked news is however invariably incomplete and hence more damaging especially in these days of advanced information technology tools even in the most basic of mobile handsets. Frankly, there were always laws and rules making information accessible to the people, just that the people with the information were not confident enough to share it. RTI forced their hand. Sharing information automatically makes one accountable and accountability could lead most officials on to sticky wickets. Information, after all, is not just about knowing but also about reacting to what is learnt. Information also means power and empowering the people might be a pet project of the politicians, but still does not appear high enough on the agenda of the bureaucracy which draws its strength from the control it wields over the people. Now that the panchayats return for a third term under the ruling SDF Government, the powers-that-be should perhaps look at access to information before they proceed with further delegation of power to the panchayats. Share all the developmental information of each ward with the people there and see how they respond to it. Empower the people with this information in time and then see the maturity with which they keep an eye on all the funds that have come their way and that it is wisely spent. Compulsory disclosure of project and contract details, as is being practiced now, comes too late for any effective control. Announce these proposals enough in advance and see how the people get more involved. Some time back, the State Government had announced a policy decision for every developmental project to be preceded by a proper public discussion [on a public hearing format]. This is already being implemented and as the initiative gets improved with regular tweaking, the involvement and sense of ownership so far lacking in Sikkim, will definitely manifest. And this paradigm shift also depends finally on how willingly information is shared and offered.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

IAF jet crashes in Dzongu

Singhik in the foreground and smoke from the Jaguar jet crash site across the Teesta in the Leek forest range in the background. The pilot was the sole occupant of the single-seater fighter jet and ejected from the ill-fated jet in time. He has reportedly sustained grievous injuries, but has been rescued from the area and was being rushed to medical assistance at the time of going to print. [foto courtesy: DEEPAK SHARMA]

GANGTOK, 30 Nov: With rumours of UFO sightings in North Sikkim getting uncannily frequent, reports of parachute floating in the high skies may not have convinced many; however, in a first of its kind incident in Sikkim, an Indian Air Force jet crashed into the forests of Dzongu this afternoon creating quite a spectacle and a small fire as well.
At around 1:15 PM the Jaguar jet, as later confirmed by Army officials, crashed into the Leek forest range off Singhik across the Teesta in Dzongu.
As per villager accounts, they heard a loud crash and even saw the pilot coming down in the chute. The pilot, Lieutenant Yogendra Kumar, sensing something wrong with the jet and that it was going down, ejected just in time. The aircraft was identified by army officials as a single-seater Jaguar. There were apprehensions earlier that there could have been more pilots in the jet.
The villagers were the first to reach the spot even though the 27 Mountain Division based in North Sikkim, along with the police and the district administration put together a relief and rescue mission to rescue the pilot and salvage the aircraft remains. The terrain created some problems as there is no direct route to the Leek forest range.
Meanwhile, two hours after the crash, at around 3 PM, the pilot was located though in a serious condition.
An Air Force base is located at Bagdogra and the IAF dispatched two helicopters to the rescue mission. The jet is believed to have been on an exercise maneuver here and had taken off from Bagdogra.
There were efforts to land a chopper at the playground of Leek school but this proved impossible and till late evening the rescue personnel were attempting to get the pilot across by road to some medical assistance. Rescue personnel from Chungthang, Rangrang and Mangan are informed to have reached the spot for assistance along with district officials.
Air Force officials at the Bagdogra base were in no position to provide any information at all about the crash and share it with the press.

Rescuing a downed fighter pilot


MANGAN, 30 Nov: The day began sunny and bright in Dzongu today, but the afternoon brought the shock and confusion of an Indian Air Force jet crashing into the sheer cliffs above Leek village in Upper Dzongu. The crash was seen and the explosion heard by the villagers of Passingdang and Leek at around 1:15 p.m. today. No one was sure of what had happened, but before the confusion set in, they noticed a parachute unfurl and the pilot sail down. The pilot was however heading into difficult terrain of thick trees and deep ditches. Leek village rushed to the rescue.
The smoke plumes were visible from across the Teesta at Mangan and Singhik, but what people there did not see was the immediate rescue and evacuation mission mounted by the youth of Leek in Upper Dzongu.
Eleven local youth led by ex-panchayat Nimtso Lepcha, all of whom were familiar with the forest above, marched off to find the pilot and any other people in need of assistance. The crashed jet is an IAJ Jaguar, a single-seater, and Flight Lieutenant Yogendra Kumar of 16 Squadron was the only occupant.  The youth from Leek did not know this at the time and were worried that there might be more casualties.
The Flight Lieutenant had managed to eject in time, and as per eye witnesses, the jet crashed into the cliff face, appeared to bounce and then crash into the ridge behind. The pilot meanwhile, having to eject as close to land as he did, had only limited chances to manoeuvre to safety and crashed into a tree and then fell into a ditch. He made it out of the mishap alive, but could move no further having suffered fractures on both legs, nursing a fractured arm and bleeding from the head.
The dozen rescuers from Leek were however on their way and managed to keep their bearings despite the thickets they were breaking through and reached the Flight Lieutenant within an hour since the crash. They then carried him down to their village.
The return journey was much slower since they were carrying a severely injured person and the team reached Leek village at around 5:30 p.m. with the light already failing. An NDRF team had meanwhile reached the village and the pilot was administered first aid by the team headed by Deputy Commandant DS Kanchan and including SDM Mangan PW Lepcha, a Land Revenue & Disaster Management team headed by Training Officer Kessang Nima, police personnel from Sangakalang Chek-post and local youth.
With the heli-rescue option not available, it had to be another strenuous march down to the road-head at Passingdang, a two hour march away. It was already dark and although understandably fatigued, the Leek youth insisted on helping the pilot down as well. Now equipped with a better stretcher and the relief and elation of having saved a life, the team carried the pilot down upto Passingdang CWC Bridge where an ambulance was waiting. They reached Passingdang CWC Bridge at 8:30 p.m. The motorcade reached the district hospital at Mangan at 9:40 in the night.
The pilot was conscious throughout, and although obviously in pain, agreed to answer some questions. Speaking to NOW!, he informed that he was on a recce and had taken off from Bhuj in Gujarat. He said he was not sure of what caused the mishap.