Tuesday, December 11, 2012

‘Link Failure’ shuts down Gangtok’s railway booking counter for 5th day running!

GANGTOK, 10 Dec: The railway reservation counter at the SNT complex here has been shut since 06 December last week and despite the obvious inconvenience to railway commuters, no one seems unduly concerned because all that is available by way of explanation is a piece of paper, with “Link Fail” scrawled on it, pasted on the shutter. Officials, both at SNT and at BSNL, the agency which operates the railway booking counter and which provides the internet backbone respectively, refused to come on record explaining the situation.
The booking counter has been shut for five days running, and this situation becomes confounding not only because railway booking is considered an essential service, but also in light of the fact that only recently, the High Court, taking cognizance of a NOW! report on the ‘link’ problems at the booking counter, had taken up the issue as a suo moto Public Interest Litigation.
Ironically, shortly after the first report had come out in NOW!, SNT and BSNL officials had informed that the IT bottleneck which had compromised the efficacy of the booking counter had been resolved and that operations were now running smoothly.
While the SNT would like to lay the blame squarely on BSNL lethargy for the latest shut-down, information gathered from other sources suggests that bureaucratic paperwork is holding things up. There appears hesitation on the part of the authorities to release the required funds [of around Rs. 3.6 lakh] to upgrade the link at the Gangtok reservation counter. It needs to be mentioned here that the railway booking counters in other towns in the State are functioning properly. Gangtok was the first such counter and had reportedly not been upgraded since 1996. Similar counters in other towns came much later and were equipped with latest equipment.
It is informed that the Passenger Railway System in Gangtok was upgraded a couple of weeks back and the low speed line replaced by a high speed line by the Eastern Railways; however, this was reportedly done without prior notice to SNT here. The Gangtok PRS is fitted with a low speed modem of 32 kbps while the upgradation took the speed up to 64 kbps.
The problem, it seems, is that while the line has been enhanced, the modem is still the old one which is not compatible with the high speed line, hence the shutdown. However it is also informed that while the upgradation itself was done by Eastern Railways without informing SNT, as claimed, it is also informed that earlier the railway authorities had already informed the SNT authorities here that the Passenger Reservation System here needs to be upgraded.
This involves an expense of around Rs.3.6 lakh, it is informed and the same has also been informed to the State authorities.
Here a portion of the blame would also have to be borne by the BSNL as upgradation to a high speed modem requires fibre optic cables while SNT at present uses overhead cables. In this regard it has been claimed that the request for fibre optics by the SNT has been pending with BSNL for nearly 10 years now! On the other hand, SNT along with the Eastern Railways has been paying Rs.5 lakh annually to BSNL for the link as well.
Meanwhile, sources in the BSNL insist that they are not at blame as there is no link failure. The link is working fine, they contend, but it is a problem with the modem at the reservation counter which needs to be upgraded. The railway reservation counter is being operated under SNT supervision, and BSNL is reportedly waiting for SNT to write to Railway authorities to direct BSNL to upgrade infrastructure.
Attempts to get an explanation invariable run confusion circles with the concerned officials either not in office to explain the situation or unwilling to speak claiming the matter to be sub-judice. The general population planning a railway journey from Gangtok meanwhile remain denied.

HC fines Sikkim Univ and former VC for delay in responding to PIL

GANGTOK, 10 Dec: The High Court of Sikkim has levied costs on the Sikkim University and other respondents to the tune of Rs.10,000 for delay in filing counter affidavits in a Public Interest Litigation brought against them by Bisnu Maya of Ravangla-based Ashta organization.
The PIL was filed in May this year and till date, the respondents, including Sikkim University and its former Vice Chancellor, Prof Mahendra P Lama, have not filed their respective counter affidavits. The single bench of Justice SP Wangdi noted that the attitude of the respondents was casual and disinterested which was not acceptable.
On the other hand, appearing for the petitioner, counsel S Sengupta submitted that he would pursue the PIL in spite of the fact that respondent number 2, the former VC, was no longer associated with the university.  His argument is that the scope of the PIL was larger and that Sikkim University as an institution was still in existence.
The counsel for the respondents has been given 4 weeks to file the affidavits failing which their affidavits will not be accepted. Moreover this can only be submitted along with a cost of Rs. 10,000.
In another PIL matter which came up today before the Single Bench, the Court noted with seriousness the tendency of the State respondents to file their affidavits and compliance reports at the last moment of the given time period within which they are required to submit the required documents. This left hardly any time for the court or the opposing party to examine the affidavit or reports.
The court noted that this ‘modus operandi’ had become a regular feature of the state respondents and in this regard issued a strict caution to the state. This observation was made in the PIL raising issues and concerns over the state of health services in the state filed by Rinzing Chewang Kazi of Chungthang.
The Health Department had earlier filed an affidavit regarding the health infrastructure in the state and had sought additional time of a week to file the affidavit on stocks of life-saving drugs. However there was delay in filing this latter affidavit and condonation of delay had been sought.
While allowing the affidavit, the Court noted that the list of medicines as listed with the affidavit were mostly in their medical or scientific names which required time to examine. Senior Government Advocate, K Thinlay acknowledged the court’s dismay over the late filing of affidavits. Appearing for the petitioner was Dr. Doma T Bhutia. The PIL largely concerns the state of health services in rural areas especially the implementation of the NRHM and JSY programmes.

8-year-old killed in fire at Kokaley

DIKCHU, 10 Dec: An eight-year-old boy was killed in an unfortunate mishap here at Lower Kokaley village under Pathuk-Singbel GPU of Tumin Lingee constituency of East Sikkim this afternoon. The child, Prakash Chettri, was caught in a ferocious blaze when the storeroom in which hay had been stacked caught fire at around 1:30 p.m. today.
The store, part of the wooden house belonging to the victim’s father, Dhalanath Chettri, has also been reduced to ashes.
Sources inform that the child was alone at home at the time of the mishap, the rest of the family away in the fields at the time. Initial police investigation into the incident suggests that the victim could have been playing with matchsticks in the store room stacked with hay and accidentally started the fire. The case remains under investigation.
The hay stack blazes fast and hot and the victim was caught in it. Children playing nearby noticed the fire first it is informed and heard the screams of the child, but by the time help arrived, the blaze was already an inferno beyond control. The villagers who rushed to the spot could only access the lower floor where cattle was tied and managed to release them. It was however already too late for eight year old Prakash who perished in the fire.
BDO Tintek, Tenzing Dorjee Denjongpa, rushed to the spot along with zilla member Hem Raj Adhikari, ward panchayat Krishna Regmi and Panchayat secretary Prem Adhikari on hearing of the incident. Police personnel from Makha Check Post also arrived at the spot after which the dead body was sent for autopsy to the District Hospital at Singtam.
The BDO Tintek in conversation with NOW! informed that he has submitted a report on the incident to the SDM Gangtok and that ex-gratia will be released soon to the bereaved family.
The child was studying in Mangan.

Bear still feared at large at Swastik

GANGTOK, 10 Dec: The bear, which mauled a BRO employee here last week, is feared to still be at large up in the BRO campus at Swastik, stretching from the Burtuk area to the Selep Tank area above, and this has got the people living up there all rattled. On 07 December, a BRO supervisor was mauled by a Himalayan Black Bear in the compound near Selep water reservoir and is still recovering from his injuries at the STNM hospital. The bear meanwhile has neither been captured nor does it appear inclined to return to the jungles above.
BRO officials contend that there have been regular sightings of the bear especially in the evenings in the campus. As informed, the bear has been lurking around the family quarters of the GREF and BRO officials at Swastik and this has terrified the families staying there. The people there are now required to be on alert and extra cautious while venturing out, especially in the evenings. The bear attack had however occurred at around 9 in the morning.
While officials of the Forest and Wildlife Department had claimed that there would be efforts to capture the animal or ensure that it retreated to the forest area, the residents of the area claim that while Forest officials were in the area on the day of the attack, none have been seen since.
In this regard BRO has requested the concerned agency to look into their problem, it is informed.
Soon after the bear had attacked the BRO labour supervisor a team of Forest department had rushed to the spot with a cage, tranquilizers and other required equipment. The people residing in the area had also been sensitized and alerted against allowing children out late in the evening. That said, there are several people residing up at the Swastik and Selep Tanki area who return home from work late at night and are vulnerable to attacks if the animal is still there.


Your aforesaid report seems to be misleading. Allow me to explain why. “The High Court designates two as Senior Advocates”. Congratulations to them. So far - no problem. But your report goes on to state that “the full bench of the High Court took the decision following drastic action against two senior district judges in July earlier this year to clear and streamline the functioning of the lower courts in Sikkim”. This portion of your report is misleading.
Firstly, if you peruse your July papers you will see that then your news reports had stated that the concerned senior judges had taken voluntary retirement. There was no mention in your reports that the retirements were drastic action (implying punishment) by the High Court. Both can’t be true. So what is the official version?
Secondly, your report implies that the two persons were designated as Senior Advocates to clear and streamline the functioning of the lower courts in Sikkim. How so? Advocates, senior, junior, or someone in between, have no authority to clear and streamline the functioning of the courts. In other words, designating someone as Senior Advocate does not benefit the Court in any manner.
Recvd on email

We stand corrected. The reference was not required and unrelated to the development being reported on.

Editorial: In Solidarity With Tibet

The Central Tibetan Administration, referred to by those on the outside as the Tibetan Government in Exile, observed 10 December, the Human Rights Day, as “Global Solidarity Day”. The community in exile is the only Tibetan section with a voice, and this section is reaching out, seeking solidarity from the world to notice and engage with the situation inside Tibet where a pushed-to-the-wall community has taken resort to a disturbing wave of self-immolations. When the Tibetan community across the world and their support groups observe a Global Solidarity Day, they seek to amplify the desperation of Tibetan inside Tibet and hope that the global community will listen and pay more heed. Solidarity is what is required in these desperate time; a solidarity of the people which will bring moral pressure to bear on the Chinese authorities to pay heed to the aspirations of the Tibetans, a consideration which has remained denied for more than six decades now. The wave of self-immolations has been explained by the Tibetan Prime Minister, Dr. Lobsang Sangay, as “a continuation of a sustained non-violent Tibetan resistance against the occupation of Tibet and the repression of Tibetans”. He sees this new and disturbing mode of protest as representing “a new threshold of Tibetan despair and resentment, and a worsening of the vicious cycle of unrest-repression-more unrest”. The self-immolations are undoubtedly a response to the political and religious repression, economic marginalization, social discrimination, cultural assimilation and environmental destruction in Tibet. A total of 95 Tibetans have attempted self-immolation in Tibet since 2009; 12 in all of 2011 and 82 so far in 2012! What was earlier limited to monks and monasteries is now being attempted on a much wider scale – from nomads, students and lay Tibetans across Tibetan Autonomous Region. Tibetans refuse to see the self-immolations as a desperate move of a people left with no other options left, and anyone who has known the community will accept that pessimism is not a trait one associates with the resilient Tibetans. Much larger populations in exiled have lost their moorings and identity within fewer years in exile, but the Tibetan way of life and sense of identity remains strong despite the more than half a century that the Tibetans have lived either in exile or under occupation. Given this reality, the self-immolations need to be seen as an expression demanding attention, and not of submitting to fatalism. If seen in that light, it becomes the moral responsibility of everyone who knows of the Tibetan issue or has been among Tibetans to extend support to the call for global solidarity. This should be especially expected of Indians who have hosted the community in exile and who apart from sharing a border with Tibet, also have strong historical and cultural links to the Roof of the World.
The global community, apart from a moral responsibility towards occupied Tibet, also has an obligation towards the community and their leader, the Dalai Lama, to support their call seeking attention. The obligation is for the hope that Tibet and Tibetans, both in exile and inside Tibet, radiate to the world. On first look, Tibet appears to be a lost cause. The country continues to be under Chinese occupation, its people denied and marginalised, the conditions there perhaps the worst since the Chinese takeover, the Dalai Lama is ageing, the young are getting restless and the world community kow-towing to an emerging super-power that is China. This does appear a very desultory scenario, especially since this is the picture that greets us after more than 50 years of an issue being alive. Scratch deeper though and these very realities become the reason to sustain hope, celebrate the success of the Tibetan people. Their country might still be under occupation, but the idea of Tibet still holds strong. Despite everything that the occupying State has thrown on them, the Tibetan way of life, the culture and the ideals, have survived. People, lifestyles and cultures have been obliterated even in free countries in the decades that the Tibetan people have sustained and nurtured who they are and what they stand for, even in exile. Even though a community in exile, they survive with self-respect and command public esteem. Despite being an issue that is more than 50 years old, it has not died out. Ideologies that changed the world, powers that consumed other cultures have had shorter shelf lives, but Tibet survives, both, under China as well as in exile. By surviving, the Tibetans have thwarted everything that has been thrown at them. Theirs is not a lost cause, theirs is a model of resilience. By surviving, they have given the world hope that human tenacity can outlive State mechanizations, and for that, they command our collective gratitude. And hence, a commitment to stand with them in solidarity. Monday, incidentally, also marked the 23rd anniversary of the conferment of the Nobel Prize on the Dalai Lama.

Monday, December 10, 2012

18 Sept rattle expedites earthquake preparedness funds and policies

Wider awareness and better building practices could save Sikkim from crumbles like this in the event of another Big One. A NOW! file foto of the 18 Sept 2011 damage in Chungthang.

GANGTOK, 09 Dec: The Sikkim Earthquake Management & Rehabilitation Fund and Sikkim Land Policy for Private Sector Development have been mooted keeping in mind a number of objectives for the state; these have been framed, as informed, after the state incurred huge losses and damages to public infrastructure in the 18 September earthquake, the day when plate tectonics reinforced the fact that the State lies in a highly vulnerable seismic zone. The earthquake also adversely affected the state economy leading to reduction in employment activities, loss in revenue and a slowdown in investment.
The new policy is an acceptance of the fact that retrofitting for houses is required, and more importantly, massive IEC activities need to be undertaken to make stakeholders more aware and thus more involved in earthquake preparedness. The primary objective is to make construction of earthquake resistant/ proof houses a standard practice.
As stated in the policy document, earthquakes cannot be predicted and loss of lives is largely due to damage and collapse of structures. This makes it pertinent that structures are constructed “…as per the guidelines laid down by the Bureau of Indian Standards…”
Recognising last year’s earthquake as a wake up call, the State Government has resolved that post quake strategy is to construct earthquake proof houses with training of rural masons. The policy states a need of a programme to train and certify rural masons with an expert agency. The training module should include multi-hazard resistant construction and this to be included in the vocational training programme. Next is the inclusion of Earthquake engineering in the undergraduate engineering and architecture curricula.
The government has also recognized that while mitigation measures would take care of new constructions, there remains the problem and threats posed by existing unsafe buildings. It has been decided that these buildings will be assessed and retrofitted where necessary. The policy further envisages that each hospital have an emergency preparedness plan to deal with mass casualty incidents; it proposes capacity building through in-service training.
There is also the proposal of an Acceleration Urban Earthquake Vulnerability Reduction Programme comprising of orientation programmes for officials, engineers etc. This includes the reviewing and amendment of building byelaws in all urban areas to include multi hazard safety provisions.  Finally the policy envisages mainstreaming mitigation in rural development as well. For this technology support is to be provided free to rural areas for earthquake resistant constructions.


GANGTOK, 09 Dec: With the State government having recognized and accepted the fact that Sikkim lies in a highly vulnerable and active seismic zone, certain policy measures have been adopted by the state which includes, importantly, a new model of acquisition of land for industries and other ventures in the private sector.
The state had issued the ‘Sikkim Earthquake Management and Rehabilitation Fund & Sikkim Land Policy for Private Sector Development, earlier this year by which various private sectors including hydel projects and pharmaceutical companies, hotels and other private industries are required to deposit a fixed amount in the Fund before allotment of land and other licenses from the state. This fixed amount has again recently been revised and starts with a minimum of Rs.2.50 crore with local exemption as well. The earlier minimum was at Rs. 5 crore. As stated, the state has felt the need of financial resources for its decision to implement a comprehensive programme for risk mitigation and follow the Bureau of Indian Standards for construction.
As per the new policy, all investors, developers and industries are now required to approach the state through the Land Revenue department or the concerned District Magistrate and they will be allotted land from a Pool of industrial Land Bank which the state will create. The land allotment under the Pool is based on certain conditions which includes that the land will be charged the same rate at which acquired, additional 12.5% supervision /establishment charges per annum and development charges to be incurred by the investor. Interestingly another condition imposed by the state is that the private investor will have to adopt one village for development under Corporate Social Responsibility; this village will be decided by the state.
The depositing of a fixed amount will also be mandatory where the land is acquired directly by the private investor. The amount so collected by the state will go to the Revenue Head and be ploughed back to the state budget head. There may be project specific decisions by the state including exemptions for local applicants.
All individuals, groups, farmers and others wanting to sell their lands will have to submit the details to the Land Revenue Department which will then verify and then initiate the process of acquisition.
The state has also, as part of the new policy, recognized that land acquisition for industrial and infrastructure development also touches on issues intrinsic to development and that additional support and technologies needs to be provided beyond monetary compensation. In this regard the state has resolved for holistic efforts at improving standards of infrastructure all over Sikkim.

Capacity/Earthquake Fund
Hydel/Power Projects
>=25MW & <= 50 MW
>50 MW &    <= 100 MW
>100 MW & <= 200 MW
>200 MW &   < =300 MW
> 300 MW
2.50 Crores
7.50  Crores
12.50 Crores
17.50 Crores
25.00 Crores

Pharmaceutical Units
Investment 25 to 50 Crores
Investment >50 to 100 Crores
Investment >100 to 200 Crores
Investment >200 to 300 Crores
Investment more than 300 Crores
2.50 Crores
 5.00 Crores
10.00 crores

Three stars & less
Four Stars
Five Stars
Five Stars Deluxe
 With Casino
2.50 Crores
7.50 Crores
10.00 Crores
+2.50 Crores

Local exemption
Local 50% exemption
Local 50% exemption

Other Industries
Investment 25 to 50 Crores
Investment >50 to 100 Crores
Investment >100 to 200 Crores
Investment >200 to 300 Crores
Investment more than 300 Crores
2.50 Crores
5.00 crores
10.00 crores
15.00 Crores
20.00 Crores

Local exemption
Local exemption
Local 50% exemption
Local 50% exemption
Local 50% exemption

Deepraj feted, Gangtok serenaded

GANGTOK, 09 Dec: A felicitation, thanksgiving cum cultural programme to celebrate Gangtok-lad Deepraj Rai’s performance in the recently concluded “India’s Got Talent” programme on national TV was organized by the Deepraj Rai Fan Club here at MG Marg today. The programme had the HRDD Minister NK Pradhan as chief guest accompanied by Gangtok MLA Dorjee Namgyal, Mayor KN Topgay, Deputy Mayor Shakti Singh, AKRS president Dr SK Rai and T Lachungpa.
In his short address, the Minister thanked the people of the State for voting for Deepraj Rai and ensuring that this talented singer figured in the top-3 of the talent hunt. Recognising that fans had come in to watch and fete Deepraj, the Minister said, “I will not take much time as people have not come to listen to speeches but to see their favourite star perform and to see the programme. So once again, I thank the people and the Deepraj Fan Club for all they have done”.
Deepraj was also felicitated by the chief guest and the Principal of his alma mater Sai Gurukool Academy, Tadong. The children of the school also performed a play and cultural programme.
The programme attracted a huge audience and was telecast live on Nayuma Television.

Power Minister treks to remote villages in Dzongu, meets and interacts

MANGAN, 09 Dec: In an expressed move to inspect whether government schemes were being provided to stakeholders in the villagers effectively or not, Power Minister Sonam Gyatso Lepcha trekked through remote villages of Lower Dzongu on 08 and 09 December. Mr. Lepcha is also the Dzongu area MLA and was accompanied on his tour by the panchayats and zilla members of Dzongu constituency. The march started from Ramphak Khola near Lingee right on the border of North and South Sikkim. The inspection tour began with prayers by a Bongthing.
The Minister visited Rumdon, Podom and Lingtyang villages of Lum ward on the first day and met and interacted with the villagers enquiring after their problems.
Here he was accompanied by the ward panchayat, Tshering Gyatso Lepcha, and the public placed a demand petition seeking the construction of an RCC Bridge at Rumchit and Rangkun Khola, construction of a road to Lingtyang, construction of community water tank at Lum village and provision of drinking water supply from Rangkun Khola to Lingtyang village.
While addressing the villagers at Lingtyang, the Minister informed that this visit was essentially to remind the newly elected panchayats of the hard work expected from them. He further informed that the under construction road till Lum village will be cleared soon. He stressed that it is not easy to bring a road to the Rumdon and Podom villages due to the sheer cliff and inaccessible locations. He urged the people to work hard to bring the road at these villages. A Lepcha traditional cultural programme was presented in his honor.
On the second day of the tour, the Minister trekked via Lingtyang to Sangtok and Sagyong villages where he interacted with the people at Sagyong. Here, the Minister also inaugurated the newly constructed hostel of Repbum English School accompanied by ward panchayat Topgay Lepcha.
The Zilla member Chedup Lepcha welcomed the gathering and also presented a demand petition on behalf of the people relating to the reconstruction of Sagyong monastery and repair of damages caused by last year’s earthquake and flash-flood of earlier this year. The people here also complained over the delay in the road cutting from Gor to Sagyong village which are hampering commuters during monsoons.
During his visit, the Minister also inspected the under construction CMRHM and REDRH pucca houses in the area.
Similarly, the people of Sangtok ward along with their ward panchayat, Lhamzay Lepcha also placed a demand letter seeking construction of a jeepable road from Pheedang to Middle Sangtok and re-construction of the Sangtok monastery.
The people of Gor ward, led by their panchayat Chung Chung Lepcha also complained about the delay in blacktopping of the Pheedang to Gor School road.  The minister also inspected the under construction road between Gor and Sagyong.
Later, while speaking to NOW!, the Minister said that the main purpose of his visit was to know whether the govt schemes were being reaching these villages properly or not and also to meet the newly elected panchayats and zillas of Dzongu in the areas of their work and to visit these most inaccessible areas where there is no road connectivity. The effort is to inspire the panchayats to work hard, he said, adding, “I am very impressed that schemes under horticulture and KVK are being implemented properly in these villages with the involvement of the officials”.

EMRS girls outplay much fancied Sachdeva School

GANGTOK, 09 Dec: Keeping up their winning ways at the Under 19 CBSE basketball national championship underway at Jaipur, defending champions, Eklavya Model Residential School, Gangyap [West Sikkim], outplayed much-fancied Sachdeva School, Delhi, on Saturday.
The EMRS girls defeated Sachdeva School, which is packed with international and national players, 60-42.
The team from Gangyap took an early lead with Eden scoring the first two baskets and Nim Doma turned up the heat by spinning across the international center and swinging an excellent pass from half court to Diki for an awesome back layup. Meanwhile, Rinchen and Binu defended and made some really good baskets as well.
EMRS officials add that as expected, the game was marred by bad officiating as Rinchen, Kinchumit and Nimlam were foul out with 5 fouls each. But as EMRS girls fought hard, a number of quick steals saw lay ups being converted and with time closing in, EMRS sealed the game.
The EMRS girls will face Jaipur in the quarter-final round and a win will take them to the semis against Sarjah [UAE] or Madhya Pradesh. However, two players have sustained minor injuries but hopefully should be able to play.

Minister inspects Health facilities in East district

GANGTOK, 09 Dec [IPR]: Minister for Health Care, Human Services and FW Department, DN Takarpa, accompanied by Dr. T. Yethenpa, Director Health Services, and other officers of the department visited the District Hospital Singtam on 05 December.
The Minister and the team were shown around the hospital by the CMO (East) Dr Tshering Lhaden and DMO (E) Dr. Reeta Gautam who also appraised the Minister regarding the problems faced by them in their daily functioning.
The team then visited the Melli PHC where CMO (South) Dr. Bimal Rai took the team around the PHC. The Minister was satisfied with the general cleanliness and the infrastructure development under NRHM. The Minister during his interaction with the officials of the district assured them that the government will give positive response towards the problems faced by them and their requirements which are in the interest of the general public will be fulfilled by the government.
The team also visited Rangpo PHC where Dr. Upasana Gurung appraised to the Minister about the health centre and the pressing matters faced by them. She also appraised about the repairs conducted in the PHC on the damages caused by the 18th September earthquake.
Finally, the Minister and his team also visited the PHSC at Majhitar.
During the visit the Minister felt satisfied with the stock of medicines available at the PHCs and at the District Hospital, Singtam.

Leek forest-fire under control

MANGAN, 09 Dec: The forest fire in the jungle above Leek village in Dzongu where a fighter jet had crashed last week is now under control, informed TW Lachungpa, Range Officer Forest, Territorial Division. The village, he informed is in no danger any more.

CM conveys condolences to Bhaichung

GANGTOK, 09 Dec [IPR]: Chief Minister Pawan Chamling has deeply mourned the death of Shri Sonam Topden, 73, father of footballer Bhaichung Bhutia. The Late Mr. Topden breathed his last at his residence in Tinkitam, South Sikkim on 06 December 2012. In his condolence message to Bhaichung Bhutia and his family, the Chief Minister has wished that “God give the family members the strength and courage to bear this irreparable loss at this hour of sorrow and grief”.

Editorial: No Cut & Paste Preparedness Plans, Please

A policy is finally in the making to make earthquake resistant buildings a reality for the State. Sikkim always knew that its narrow valleys sit on a seismically active zone, but it was when a Big One rattled through the State last September that people and policy-makers realized just how vulnerable everything here was. The little over a year that has passed since the 18 September Earthquake has passed in taking stock, prepare repair and reconstruction proposals, sourcing funds and getting over the shock. Gangtok and the other urban centres of Sikkim no long sport any scars of the earthquake, but a visit to the interiors continues to throw up reminders of the harrowing episode from last year. Classrooms still continue in uncomfortable GCI-sheet contraptions, roads remain fragile and the worse hit areas of North Sikkim, communication remains challenged. The priorities in Gangtok, where all major decisions continue to be made, have unfortunately moved on from earnest disaster mitigation and settled back to the disconcerting disinterested tokenism which catches the State on the wrong foot every time a natural disaster strikes. The recent workshop cum orientation on climate change and disaster preparedness was not half as effective as it should have been and awareness campaigns continue to remain embarrassingly superficial. Cut and paste presentations on climate change and disaster preparedness will not make Sikkim any safer. In fact, as more time and attention is diverted to these exercises, the eroding of traditional safety mechanisms will make Sikkim even more vulnerable. The first step towards effective disaster preparedness will need to source resource persons from rural Sikkim. Ditto for any preparatory efforts to cushion climate change impact here. Funding from UNDP and GoI are welcome, but these have to be invested in customizing Sikkim’s response to the challenge of climate change and natural disasters. The traditional knowledge base, which has already been severely compromised by the impracticality of centralized planning has to be salvaged and distilled to inform Sikkim’s response to its perennial challenges posed by the land and the climate. Natural disasters are not new to Sikkim, so a good place to begin will be the compilation of a proper data base and then linking it to how local societies have managed such challenges. This knowledge should then be crunched with scientific data now at hand and a collection of region and village specific disaster plans put together to bind the State’s preparedness. The proposal to ensure earthquake-resistant construction practices needs to evaluated with this in mind. There is no arguing the fact that earthquake resistant buildings should be made the norm for Sikkim, but the rules and laws for it need to be customized for Sikkimese realities and situation. They have to be practical and enforceable and then they should be made watertight for implementation. A cut and paste job borrowed from somewhere else will defeat a welcome policy intervention.

Bear attack near Selep Tanki

GANGTOK, 07 Dec: A bear attack has been reported from the GREF Camp here below Selep Tank, the reservoir for Gangtok’s water supply.
A person working with the BRO was attacked by a Himalayan Black Bear this morning at around 9:30 AM at the boundary of the Reserve Forest near the BRO camp in the Swastik area. The victim fortunately escaped with his life. A bear attack had ended in a fatality in North Sikkim recently, it may be recalled.
Only sketchy information is at hand, but from what is available, it appears that the bear attacked the victim from the back and fled after taking a swipe. The victim has suffered injuries to his head and arm, it is learnt and is currently under treatment at the STNM Hospital here.
The victim, reportedly a labour supervisor with BRO/ GREF, was in the area to check on a compound fencing work underway there, it is learnt.
Soon after the incident was reported, a team from the Forest Department, led by the DFO Wildlife [East], Ravi Kumar reached the spot at around 10 AM with a cage, tranquilizers and other equipment required to catch the bear. The team, however, could not locate the animal.
The DFO informed that the team tried its best to find the animal and undertook an extensive combing operation but could not locate it. Meanwhile, the Forest Department team has alerted and sensitized people in the area about the animal through loud speakers.
“Continuous patrolling by Forest personnel is underway and the people have also been asked to immediately inform the department if they spot the animal in the area. We are fully prepared to handle the situation,” he assured.
According to the DFO, bears move around in search of food at this time of the year as they prepare to go into hibernation.
He further said that people living on the fringes of forest area should be especially alert and added that the Department had organized an awareness programme on the same subject some months ago as well.

Forest fire sparked by jet crash continues, keeps Leek villagers worried

A NOW! file-foto of 01 December of the smoke billowing from the Jaguar Jet crash above Leek in North Sikkim. The crash has sparked a forest fire which continues to simmer on the slopes above Leek and has also damaged some cardamom plantations in the area.

MANGAN, 07 Dec: Residents of Leek village in Upper Dzongu are a worried lot - the fire that erupted in the forest above their village after an Indian Air Force Jet crashed there last week is still active and spreading. The fire has already damaged cardamom fields of some villagers, it is learnt.
Cardamom fields in the Chobum area belonging to Kolukchung Lepcha and Bahadur Lepcha have been damaged by the fire. Partial damage is also reported from the cardamom fields of Dichen Lepcha, Lha Tshering Lepcha and Sonam Gyatso Lepcha.
The villagers are worried that the fire could pose a threat to their village if it is allowed to continue unabated.  It is not possible to douse the fire as there are no water sources in the affected forest area and it is not possible to carry water from this village which is almost 6 kms away, informed ex-panchayat of Leek village, Nimtso Lepcha while speaking to NOW!.
From Passingdang village, it takes a two-hour trek to reach Leek, which comprises of around 20 houses under Safo-Passingdang GPU in Upper Dzongu.

Bhaichung’s boys take on Lajong at Paljor Stadium today

Despite some setbacks, USFC still confident, says Manager
GANGTOK, 07 Dec: United Sikkim Football Club [USFC] is all set to take on Shillong Lajong Football Club [SLFC] in the North Eastern derby match in the I-League at Paljor Stadium on Saturday. This will also be the last home match for the home club in the first round of the I-League.
Addressing a press conference today, USFC manager, Arnab Bhattacharjee said that in the absence of Bhaichung Bhutia and a coach, the club is going through some tough times but the players are all set to give their best to win the match tomorrow. He informed that the team is in constant touch with Bhaichung and the new Australian coach, Nathan Hall is expected to reach this evening. Bhaichung, it may recalled is in mourning, his father having passed away at Tinkitam yesterday.
Mr Bhattacharjee mentioned that the weather conditions and altitude being similar in Sikkim and Shillong, it would not really be away match condition for the SLFC but still it was the home ground for USFC so the team will do its best to score the 3 points from this match. “This is the North Eastern derby so tomorrow you will see some derby spirit”, he said.
USFC striker, Nurudeen Salau mentioned that the team has been looking forward to tomorrow’s match. “We will play with the same confidence and high spirits to win points from this match,” he added.
Likewise, USFC midfielder Thupden Bhutia stated that the team has decided to give its best to win tomorrow’s match and dedicate tomorrow’s win to ‘Agya Bhaichung’.
“The team’s morale is high and we urge the local crowd to support the home team with the same spirit”, said Thupden further adding that Shillong Lajong was a good team so tomorrow’s match will be a good fight.

Match will be tough, fast and competitive: SLFC coach

GANGTOK, 07 Dec: Shillong Lajong Football Club [SLFC] is confident of a win in its North Eastern derby away match against the home club, United Sikkim Football Club [USFC] tomorrow at Paljor Stadium. The SLFC team arrived in the capital on 05 December.
Shillong Lajong FC head coach, Desmond Bulpin said, “This derby match will be tough, fast and competitive and we are hoping to win the match. The club has performed well so far in this season so we are looking forward to win tomorrow’s match against the home club”.
“It would be difficult to play against the USFC on its home ground but the team is quite confident to play better and give a good fight to the home team,” he expressed. The coach mentioned that some players have sustained injuries and would not be playing tomorrow’s match but the rest are all set to give a good fight.
Responding to media queries, he stated that a few players in the team have already played on this ground for the USFC so their presence in the team would be of some advantage. It has to be mentioned here that Renedy Singh, Sushil Singh, Govind Singh and Basant Singh, who are with Shillong Lajong at present, played for the USFC in the earlier seasons.
“I am impressed with the football pitch and ground of the USFC. USFC is a good club and has good future in Indian football”, said Mr Bulpin. He also conveyed his condolence on behalf of the club’s management and players on the sad demise of Bhaichung’s father.

Prajwal arrives home to share ‘simply written stories’

GANGTOK, 07 Dec: The curtain raiser of the book launch [Sikkim chapter] of “The Gurkha’s Daughter” by Sikkimese author Prajwal Parajuly was held at Rachna Books here at Development Area today. The book will be launched for Sikkim at Rachna Books tomorrow.
A compilation of eight short stories, “The Gurkha’s Daughter” has UK’s Quercus is the principal publisher while the Indian edition is being distributed by Penguin Books India.
Mr. Parajuly introduce his debut book as “simply written stories”.
“I have two stories based in Gangtok, one in Kalimpong, one in Darjeeling, one based on the Bhutanese-refugee situation, one in Kathmandu and one that happens on a road journey between Kathmandu and Birtamod. Some stories entailed weeks of research and field visits. Others were all in my head, so it was simply a matter of getting them down,” Mr. Parajuly shared today.
He informed that his next book, a novel, “Land Where I Flee” will be released sometime in December next year.
“This book is about the 84th birthday celebrations of an old lady by four of her nephews and nieces at her house in Gangtok. In fact, there is a whole chapter on Gangtok in the book”, he added.
Speaking on writing and Nepali literature, he said that translation of Nepali literature into other languages was very important and there is a need to commercialize writing as even writer’s need to make a living.
He also spoke about some of his favourite writers, such as Arundhati Roy, Vikram Seth, Indra Bahadur Rai, Bir Bikram, Sanu Lama etc.
As an advice to budding writers, he stated that they should continue reading and writing, be comfortable with the language, know the basics, focus and strike a balance between their writing style and use of words.