Friday, December 21, 2012

Terminated BSNL workers get their jobs back

GANGTOK, 20 Dec: All the twenty-two Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited [BSNL] employees engaged as casual and contract workers, whose services had been terminated recently, will be joining work and their still awaited wages for two months disbursed “as soon as possible”, assured BSNL, Sikkim, General Manager Arvind Bajaj, while speaking to the press in his office here today.
This announcement came after the protesting employees finally managed to meet the GM today. Mr. Bajaj had been on leave for the past week and joined office only today. The protesting employees, who have been making rounds of the GM’s office for the past several days, managed to finally meet him today, and as expected, a heated exchange of words followed.
Casual and contract workers from all over the state had ‘gheraoed’ and sat on a dharna at the office of the GM at Baluwakhani this morning seeking direct answers regarding what they see as their ‘illegal’ termination from duty and their pending wages.
At present, a total of 22 employees, who had been with BSNL had their services terminated since 15 November without prior intimation or a formal notice. The workers were waiting for the GM with whom they wanted to speak directly regarding the matter since he had been allegedly ignoring the pleas of the workers for over a month.
The demands of the employees were that all the terminated employees be reinstated and be employed either under contractual basis or regularization keeping in view their service record and the tenure of their service. The employees had demanded ‘Job security’ and want BSNL to ensure that all guidelines as prescribed by the GoI related to pay scale and other benefits for casual and contractual workers be followed without ‘monopolizing’ the administrative structure.


Joining the nationwide strike, all banks, including their ATMs in the state, remained closed today. All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA), All India Bank Officers Association (AIBOA) and Bank Employees’ Federation of India (BEFI) had called for the strike to oppose the government’s move to introduce changes in banking laws and amendment to the Banking Regulation Act.
Seven lakh employees from various banks of the nation went on strike today after a conciliatory meeting of the Indian Banks' Association with the chief labour commissioner failed to arrive at a solution.
The unions are protesting against the amendments to the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, which are aimed at handing over Indian private sector banking to multinational banks and increasing presence of Indian corporate and foreign direct investment in public sector banks. They are contesting that the amendment to the banking laws will dilute the interest of public sector banks.
All banks, other than the State bank of India, will remain closed to transactions. The unions of SBI staff, including the National Confederation of Bank Employees and SBI Officers Association, are not joining the strike.

Sikkim bodybuilders to participate in 10th Eastern India Body Building Championship

GANGTOK, 20 Dec: For the first time, a team of six bodybuilders from Sikkim will be participating in the Eastern India Body Building Championship (EIBBC)-2012 scheduled to be held at Bagnan, Howrah in West Bengal on 23 and 24 December.
The EIBBC with its venue at Bagnan Boys High School is being organized by Bagnan Baghanjatin Bayamagar, approved by the Howrah district physical culture and fitness association recognized by Eastern India Body Building & Fitness Association (EIBBFA) under the auspices of West Bengal State Body Building Association (WBSSBA) affiliated to the Indian Body Building and Fitness Federation (IBBFF).
The competition is considered one of the biggest bodybuilding platforms in the region and brings a good opportunity for the boys from Sikkim to prove themselves and in the process be noticed for the Mr. India title scheduled for later next year.
This is the first time that Sikkim State Body Building Association (SSBBA) is sending this many body-builders who are considered the cream of body building in Sikkim since the contingent also has the present Mr. Sikkim along with two others who have won the prestigious title in previous years.
The six bodybuilders have been shortlisted from 30 competitors from 18 bodybuilding and fitness gyms from all over the state. The trials were held on 03 December that was judged by SSBBA general secretary, Anil Raj Rai and other senior members from the association.
The Sikkim contingent comprises of the present Mr. Sikkim, Arun Gurung (60 kgs), four time Mr. Sikkim, Suresh Chettri (65kgs), former two-time Mr. Sikkim, Pema D Bhutia (80 kgs), Norbu Tshering Bhutia (70 kgs), Sonam Dadul Bhutia (80 kgs) and Subash Thapa (70 kgs).
The team is leaving for Kolkata tomorrow and is being led by team manager, IB Gurung who is also the state chief coach, joint secretary of SSBBA and national judge for the Indian Body Building Association (IBBF).

Collaborative effort required to arrest Orange Fruit Drop

KC PRADHAN, a Concerned  Horticulturist

I read the editorial in NOW! [“Missing Bees”] on the decline in all major cash crops of the State with concern. It was horrifying to see the colossal amount of orange fruit drop in Dzongu as telecast in local cable news a few days back. Lum in Dzongu was considered a highly prized citrus growing belt immune to any serious diseases. This plight might be rampant elsewhere in the state as well.
Though the concerned Department might be already on the job, nevertheless, it is good for the people at large to know and to launch a massive campaign – rather a Panchayat-wise effort - to collate information on one hand and cultivators’ perception on the other without trying to influence information. This should help people at large invest in a brainstorming session in which both, the scientists assigned to the job and progressive growers, can have interactive sessions with a view to come out with a methodology in the best manner possible from the information gathered. Bhutan faces a similar situation and serious research is being carried out there with the help of outside expertise. The situation is too huge for the department officials alone to tackle and people’s participation is urgently required. The fallen fruits should be collected on a daily basis and maggots destroyed before they pupate underground to emerge as Fruit Flies in more damaging proportions. The whole cycle being less than 40 days, it is advisable to take it as an emergency campaign. Though it is the tail end, nevertheless it is worth a try wherever the situation still demands it.
The usual procedure as narrated in literature is to collect the fallen fruits and bury them in four feet deep trenches. The fruits collected in thick plastic bags, the tops tied and exposed to a full blast of the Sun has proven effective in destroying the maggots. It is also advisable for farmers to know the lifecycle of the Fly (Dacus dorsalis) so that they can devise their own methods to contain it. It is learnt an “adult fly punctures the ripening fruits by penetrating its needlelike ovipositor and laying eggs just inside the inner rind of the fruit. Larva on hatching feeds on the pulp inside. Fungal and bacterial infection takes place through the puncture hole due to which rottening of fruit occurs. The fruit ultimately drops down. This usually occurs when the fruits start ripening as the yellow colour attracts the Flies.
The female inserts 2-15 eggs into the rind of the ripening fruit, and around 200 eggs are laid in a month’s period which hatch in about 2-3 days during summer and 10 days in winter. The maggots take 16-29 days to attain full growth in the pulp and then undergo pupation 3-7 inches deep in the soil. The adults emerge after 4-14 days depending upon the climatic conditions”.
Such being the lifecycle of the Fruit Fly, unless it is systematically destroyed on a routine basis, soon it spell the end of Sikkim orange (mandarin) as it happened with Sikkim Apples with scab-disease some thirty years back.
Since an Organic Pesticide and Fertilizers manufacturing unit has been established in the State, it would also be well advised to put them on the job and to see how efficient it is. In most Citrus growing countries it is regular practice to spray chemicals to destroy the flies. But since Sikkim has gone Organic, it is vital that some effective organic pesticides are lined up well in time and importantly it is well publicized besides made easily available.
The efficacy of fruit traps that were supplied is also good to know along with farmers’ perception. ICAR and Krishi Kendras should also be roped in to contain this emerging menace that is being observed in Citrus. It is also important to understand and study the situation in citrus orchards outside the State.
Large Cardamom and Apples, as mentioned in the Editorial, are other areas that demand equally urgent attention. Before such a meet is held it is important to understand the exact state of affairs on the field, the various programmes already in action both by the Department and the Central Govt. agencies based in the State, the synthesis of which, have to be combined with the stakeholders with a view to come up with a well conceived and unanimously accepted and endorsed line of action. This participatory approach alone is the answer to these rather vexing problems.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Namprikdang Namsoong Festival gets underway

MANGAN, 19 Dec: The five-day Namprikdang Namsoong Festival 2012 was inaugurated by North Zilla Adhakshya Anguli Lepcha today. The festival, organized by the Namprikdang Namsoong Celebration Committee here at Namprikdang Ground in Upper Dzongu at the confluence of the Teesta and Tholung Chu, has grown in significance over the years.
The general secretary of the celebration committee, Samten Lepcha, while speaking to NOW! informed that the Namsoong festivities at Namprikdang began in the year 1976 and the festival includes folk dances , traditional food stalls from and outside the state, traditional games and other entertainment for visitors. The Zilla Adhakshya was accompanied to the inauguration by the North Zilla Upadhakshya, Nim Tshering Lepcha, as the special guest.
Following the welcome speech by the NNCC general secretary, the cultural secretary NNCC, Namgyal Lepcha underlined the history and importance of the Namsoong Festival here at this confluence.
The Upadhakshya in turn spoke about the development taking place in North Sikkim in terms of preserving tradition and culture and stressed on the ongoing project of a multipurpose ground at Naga and the Bongthing School coming up at the same venue.
The chief guest, Anguli Lepcha, in her address highlighted that the Namsoong was a festival of all communities and urged the people to participate in the celebrations at Namprikdang. She also thanked the people of North Sikkim for their unconditional support in electing her to the post of Zilla Adhyaksha and assured that she will work for the people.
A colourful cultural programme was also part of the programme. The inaugural function was also attended by Chairman Milk Union, Choden Lepcha, former chairperson Chumki Saring Lepcha, district officials and people from all walks of life.

Terminated casual and contract workers gherao BSNL GM’s office

GANGTOK, 19 Dec: Disgruntled BSNL casual and contract workers from all over the State, upset with their sudden dismissal from service, gheraoed the office of the General Manager, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, Arvind Bajaj, at Baluakhani here this morning seeking “direct answers” regarding what they see as their ‘illegal’ termination from service and demanding their pending wages.
Some of the employees who had gathered here have claimed that they have not been paid their wages since July earlier this year and that all these employees have been out-rightly denied clearance of any contractual wages by the BSNL, General Manager.
The flaring tempers were however brought under control after it was conveyed to the picketing employees that the GM was out of station and only after the DGM, SK Samantha asked the ‘terminated’ staff to give the GM’s office three days time starting today to look into their charter of demands. The workers are presently being backed by hundreds of other employees working at BSNL, C&D Group Union, Listed Employees Union and the Executive Union.
“If the demands are not looked into and we are not taken seriously then we will sit on an indefinite hunger strike because this is our bread and butter, our families depend on these wages. We also warn that if any untoward situation happens then the GM will be solely responsible,” stated Mani Raj Rai who has been working in the accounts section since 2005.
The demands of the employees are that all the terminated employees be reinstated and employed either under contractual basis or regularization keeping in view their service record and the tenure of their service. The employees have demanded ‘Job security’ and want BSNL to ensure that all guidelines as prescribed by the GoI related to pay scale and other benefits for casual and contractual workers be followed without ‘monopolizing’ the administrative structure.  
The protesting employees contend that around 75 personnel working in different sections including security and BTS maintenance are being allegedly ‘victimized’ by the new GM who took over office just seven months back. At present, a total of 22 employees like Gombu Sherpa who has been with BSNL as a gardener for the past 23 years have been terminated from service wef 15 November without prior intimation or a formal notice. The employees believe that a total of 75 employees will be similarly terminated in the State in a phased manner.
As per the employees, the BSNL administration is using a ‘divide and rule’ strategy by removing employees in phases. The agenda as informed by the workers is that BSNL is doing this to avoid a larger controversy and divert the entire issue.  
“We have come here to get answers from the senior officers as they have not taken our matter seriously and have been continuously sidelining our legitimate demands. We want to add that if the GM keeps on ignoring us like this then it will be he who will be responsible for any untoward consequences,” stated Mani Raj Rai.
“We have no alternative source of income and are completely dependent on these wages. Due to this frustration, many of the workers might resort to committing suicide or act in an unlawful manner,” argued Pema Lhamu Sherpa who has been working at BSNL for the past 12 years.
The workers also allege that the GM has still not met with the workers and has only corresponded through the DGM. They further state that the reason cited by BSNL to terminate these workers was because BSNL did not have any funds available and that the West Bengal circle that has 16 SSA (including Sikkim) is running at a loss.
“This is a big lie since as of now no employee has been terminated in other SSA elsewhere. It is only Sikkim where this is happening. The reason of non-availability of funds is also wrong since I work in the accounts section and know what the books state,” stated Mani Raj Rai.
In the meantime, the workers are waiting for the GM with whom they want to speak directly regarding the matter since he has been allegedly ignoring the pleas of the workers for over a month now.
The workers in the meantime have also written to the Labour Department, GoI regarding the issue with copies of the same directed to the Chief Minister, both Sikkim MPs, Minister Labour department, Ministry of Telecommunications, GoI, SP (East), CGM, WBT Circle, Labour Department, GoI, Circle Secretary, WBT Circle, District Secretary, BSNLEU and Casual Labour Union, BSNL.

Pipon elections held in Lachung

GANGTOK, 19 Dec: Coming close on the heels of the recently-concluded panchayat elections comes news of another interesting democratic tradition of the State - the election of the Pipons under the Dzumsa system in North Sikkim. Held on the first day of Losoong, 14 Dec, the process turned tense in one of the blocks of Lachung.
The elections for the posts of Pipon in the two blocks of Lachung, namely Lema Block and Khedum Block, were held on 14 December; while the election in Lema went peacefully, there is now a stand-off between two contesting candidates for the Pipon seat in Khedum block with both claiming to be winners. While this had initially led to a tense situation in Lachung, as DC [North], TW Khangsarpa, informs, the situation has calmed down now.
Two candidates claiming to have won the election at Khedum are Nedup Lachungpa and Karma Lachungpa; the latter is also the incumbent Pipon who was contesting for a second term as Pipon for Khedum. It is informed that Nedup Lachungpa had been declared winner by the Chultimpa of the Lachung Gumpa.
On the other hand Karma Lachungpa also declared himself as winner and proceeded to submit his winning declaration to the concerned authority, the Chungthang SDM who was present at the venue of the election which took place at the Thomchy School ground. As of now the matter is yet to be resolved.
The DC, while confirming the stand-off between the two contestants, informed that the matter will now proceed to the court of the prescribed authority which is the Secretary, RMD Department. This is as per the Sikkim Panchayat Act in which is also incorporated the procedure of election to the Dzumsa in North Sikkim. In fact the DC also held a meeting between the two candidates and informed them of the process to be followed and the authority which will finally dispense the matter.
With the RMDD Secretary presently in New Delhi, the matter remains unresolved. As regards the Pipon elections itself, the DC stated that since this was a traditional kind of election the administration does not involve itself directly in the matter or interfere with the process and especially as the election process has not been codified. The only charge of the administration is the maintenance of law and order.
So the reason why both candidates claim to have won has not been scrutinized yet and will have to await the arrival of the prescribed authority. However both claim to have got the majority votes of the 284 strong electorate of Khedum block, Lachung. The Pipon elections for Lachen are scheduled for February 2013.

Golay supporters gear up for Rolu Picnic anniversary

GANGTOK, 19 Dec: Dissident SDF MLA from Upper Burtuk, PS Tamang [Golay] will once again be observing the anniversary of the Rolu picnic of 2009 at the same venue on 21 December, Friday. The Rolu Picnic, hosted by the MLA and his close aides shortly after the Assembly elections that year saw Mr. Tamang go public with his dissidence against his party and government and the political colour of the picnic attracted disciplinary action against government servants suspected of having attended the ‘picnic’.
While many would have expected Mr. Tamang to announce his political party on the Rolu anniversary, especially since many of his close aides have been announcing that the party will be unveiled before the year ends, sources state that this is unlikely.
While this will not be the time for the declaration of the new political party, it is expected that some political statements and announcements will be made by the dissident faction led by Mr. Tamang.
Sources meanwhile inform that a new party, supposedly the one to be floated by the ‘Golay camp’, was recently registered at the Election Commission of India, New Delhi, but not in the name of Mr. Tamang thus leaving the option open for him to continue as a dissident SDF MLA and quit at a later date.
There is also the question of the party symbol which is the prerogative of the ECI. The desired symbol sources inform was the candle.
On the other hand while the declaration of the new party is not expected this 21 December at Rolu, there may be some hints at its constitution or even the manifesto, which, as sources inform, have already been prepared and kept ready. It will be interesting to see whether any government employees attend the picnic this time.

Namchi hospital records significant first – removes 6.5 kg tumour

NAMCHI, 19 Dec: Doctors at the District Hospital here successfully carried out a complicated surgery today and relieved a patient of a 6.5 kg tumor. This marks a significant first for the District Hospital Namchi and has spread joy to the family which had grappling with this debilitating condition afficting the mother of the house.
The patient, a lady from Lower Rayiong village, had been admitted to the District Hospital here with a tumor in the ovary. Her son informs that the tumour was detected two years ago, but the family had been unable to seek proper treatment due to financial constraints.
“We had admitted her in Namchi with a lot of hope and after the successful surgery all the family members are very thankful to the doctors and staff of Namchi District Hospital”, he expressed.
Speaking to NOW!, the District Medical Superintendent, Dr. Barun Subba, confirmed the successful operation and informed that the patient was brought to them in a critical condition and thanks to the professionalism of the team here, saved. While minor tumours have been surgically removed at the district hospital here in the past, this was by the far the most challenging and complicated procedure attempted.

Grand pre-Christmas celebration to be held at MG Marg

GANGTOK, 19 Dec: More than 30 churches from in-and-around Gangtok will be coming together for the first time to put together a grand Pre-Christmas Celebration on the evening of 22 December here at MG Marg.  Churches from Ranipool to Pangthang are involved in this Pre-Christmas Celebration being held under the aegis of the United Christian Welfare Society of Sikkim [East District].
Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, Pre Christmas Celebration Committee [PCCC] programme coordinator, RK Stephen Karki mentioned that usually every church celebrates Christmas each year in its own way but this time all churches from in-and-around Gangtok have decided to celebrate Christmas together by coming onto a single platform in a grand manner.
The celebration will feature Christmas carols, songs, dances and many other items by local and guest artists and choirs along with a performance by a local Christian band, Solemn Faith, from 4 to 8 PM on 22 December. A skit ‘Crown of Throne’ by The Man Called Jesus [TMCJ] group from Siliguri is another highlight of the celebration. A message of Christmas will also be shared by Rev Robin Chettri from Assembly of God Church.
According to PCCC treasurer, Himal Rai, this celebration would also be another tourist attraction in the state and would help to promote tourism further in the state. He also welcomed local people to be a part of the celebration. This celebration will now be held every year on a larger scale, he added.
The press conference was also addressed by PCCC secretary, Andrew Chettri. Similarly, churches in Namchi are also organizing the Pre Christmas Celebration in a grand manner at Namchi on 21 and 22 December.

Opp parties form Democratic Alliance of Sikkim

GANGTOK, 19 Dec: Democratic Alliance of Sikkim [DAS], an alliance of national and regional opposition political parties and non-political organizations in Sikkim, was formally announced on 17 December during a press conference.
DAS comprises of Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee [SPCC], Sikkim Himali Rajya Parishad Party [SHRPP], Sikkim Liberation Front [SLF], CPIM and Sikkim Gorkha Prajantantrik Party [SGPP] along with some non-political organizations.
Former Lok Sabha MP and Concerned Society of Sikkim convener, Nakul Das Rai has been appointed as the convener of DAS, while the names of the executive members and agendas of the alliance will be announced soon.
DAS convener, Mr Rai stated that in view of the present situation in the state an alliance was the need-of-the-hour in order to stand united to restore democracy in the state.
“It was the demand of the people of the state that opposition parties come on one platform to fight against the present dictatorial government. Respecting this demand of the people this alliance has been formed to take up people’s issues”, said Mr Rai.
SGPP chief advisor, NB Khatiwara said that the alliance will contest the upcoming Assembly election in 2014 on seat sharing basis, however, he added that the priority of DAS is to focus on the issues of the state and reach out to the people.
“We have invited the dissident SDF MLA, PS Golay to join the alliance as well. During our recent meeting last week, he said that he will make a decision after the formation of his party in mid January next year”, said SPCC president, NB Bhandari.
Meanwhile, the BJP state-unit president, Padam Chettri informed that he is in talks with the senior leaders of the party on joining the alliance. “This matter will be discussed thoroughly with the central committee of the party but I extend full support to DAS at an individual level”, said Mr Chettri.

Editorial: Missing Bees?

Farmers from Dzongu recently complained of falling produce in their orange orchards. Local orange produce could be in decline elsewhere as well. It has been at least a couple of decades since the State lost its North Sikkim apples [although one hears off and on about attempts to revive apple orchards there]. Large cardamom plantations stand devastated across the State. Between an entire Board devoted to spices and a department charged to look after Horticulture, an explanation remains awaited. Although one hears often about mischievously named crop diseases afflicting the fruits and frequent reference to the advanced age of the [large cardamom] plantations, these only explain the symptoms which are manifesting in the fields and not the overall crop failure. There have even been reports of disease-resistant strains being experimented with and attempts to promote improved plantation management practices. What one does not hear being discussed as often is the health of pollinators in Sikkim’s fields. Agriculture does not require pollination, but horticulture, every expert will agree, is not possible without pollinators. Fruit-bearing trees flower to attract pollinators, and the number of pollinating agents is directly proportional to the number and health of fruits borne. Bees are among the most prolific and important pollinators and the role of wild bees in pollinating large cardamom, as against the damage that honey bees can wreck, has been studied and documented. The same applies to oranges and apples, which are also serviced by a host of other insects. Study of declining produce in orchards elsewhere in the world has flagged shortage of pollinators as the main culprit. Bee populations are in unexplained decline across the world and even casual surveys will prove this to be the case here as well. It is perhaps important then that horticultural issues facing Sikkim should start at the basics by checking first on the presence and health of pollinators in the farms…

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Court frames corruption charges against Golay and four others

GANGTOK, 11 Dec: The District & Sessions Court at Gangtok today framed charges against SDF MLA from Upper Burtuk, PS Tamang, and four others for criminal breach of trust, criminal conspiracy, cheating and misappropriation of government funds under the Indian Penal Code.
Mr. Tamang and four other persons have been charged in a Vigilance case for the alleged misappropriation of funds from government schemes and abuse of power and position when he was Minister for Animal Husbandry, Livestock and Fisheries in 1996-97.
Sikkim Vigilance Directorate had registered a case against the now dissident MLA after the High Court of Sikkim had issued directions to it to investigate into the alleged misappropriation of government funds in the distribution of milching cows to the below poverty line families. The High Court order had come after the then Sikkim Sangram Parishad leaders led by the now Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee president Nar Bahadur Bhandari had filed a writ petition in the High Court of Sikkim seeking directions to the Vigilance Directorate to take up the case.
The case itself was initiated by Opposition party members in the year 2003 who had gone to Court with allegations of corruption against the former Minister and four others when Mr. Tamang was Minister for Animal Husbandry and the Court directed Vigilance to investigate.
Today, the District Judge, while passing the order on charges, recorded that the Court had found sufficient prima-facie evidence and substance against Mr. Tamang and four others and subsequently passed orders on charges under section 468/ 409/ 420/ 403 and 13(1)( c ) and 13(1)(d) of Prevention of Corruption Act.
Among the accused along with Mr. Tamang are former Sikkim Milk Union Managing Director, TB Gurung, Keshu Agrawal, Subash Tamang and Sanjay Agarwal [the last three charged under section 468/ 420/ 403 read with section 120 B of the IPC].
The State Government had launched a milching cow distribution scheme after the SDF party came to power in 1994 and issued guidelines for compulsory insurance and supply of milching cows from recognized firms.
Mr. Tamang was the Minister of Animal Husbandry, Livestock and Fisheries department at the time and is alleged to have violated the norms and guidelines while favouring local suppliers and misappropriating government funds. The scheme was funded by the central government with a sum of Rs. 79 lakh for the upliftment of people living under the Below Poverty Line.

Annual Gutor prayers and Kagyed Chaam begin at Enchey Monastery

GANGTOK, 11 Dec: The annual Gutor Puja and the Kayged Chaam [a masked lama dance] began today here at the Sa-Ngag Rabtenling Monastery [Enchey Monastery] situated at Chandmari. The prayers and dance are performed every year by the monks of the Enchey Monastery and is organized by the Enchey Gonpa Committee, informed Karma Samphel, one of the committee members, while speaking to NOW! today. The dates and timing are fixed by monks according to the Tibetan calendar, he added.
The puja is performed to ward off evil omens and seek prosperity for the people and world peace. The prayers are being led by Tulku Pema Kundal, the head monk of Enchey Monastery. The masked lama dance, meanwhile, depicts peaceful and wrathful deities.
On the first day [11 December], a series of 10 dances were performed while on the second day i.e 12 December [Kagyed Chaam] a series of 14 dances will be performed by the monks. The ritual will also include Hsorphang [burning ceremony of sacrificial objects signifying ending of bad influence of evil spirit over human beings and for the well being of all the people] till next year’s ceremony, Mr. Samphel informs.
The devotees who attend the performances with faith and devotion, it is believed, will be freed from the fear and suffering experienced while passing through the Sipa Bardo [the last and final stage of the intermediate state that lies between death and rebirth].

Ticket seekers leave dejected from Gangtok railway booking counter, again

GANGTOK, 11 Dec: For the 6th day running today, the Passenger Railway System at the SNT railway booking counter remained shut with no response from officials even as there was much ‘hungama’ at the counter this morning. There was a long line of people comprising mainly of army personnel who had gathered seeking railway tickets.
On seeing that there was no response from the railway ticketing authorities at the office, there was much shouting and venting of grievance by the people and instead of addressing the public the present officials, it is informed, shut shop.
The railway booking counter at the SNT complex has been shut since 06 December causing tremendous inconvenience to the general public including service personnel who are usually major patrons of the passenger railway system in Gangtok. The crowd that had gathered this morning after having vented their grievance left dejected.
It is a surprise that the concerned agency remains unwilling for whatever reason to release the required funds for upgradation of the passenger reservation system which, itself, has actually been in the pipeline for quite some time now. No government official is willing to come on record thereby giving the impression that they have something to hide.
A sum of Rs. 3.6 lakh [reportedly required for the upgradation] is not much when it comes to providing an essential service and particularly considering the fact that the SNT makes about Rs. 2.4 lakh per month in commissions through the PRS in Gangtok. This is the amount, as reported earlier, required to upgrade the railway booking system in Gangtok. It would only be general courtesy on the part of the department or the government to issue a statement to the public regarding the immense inconvenience that it has been facing for no fault of theirs.

USFC gets Australian Nathan Hall as new head coach

GANGTOK, 11 Dec: United Sikkim Football Club [USFC] has appointed a new head coach for the remainder of the I-League 2012-13 season. Australian Nathan Hall was officially presented as the new USFC coach here at Paljor Stadium today.
USFC senior manager Arjun Rai presented the club’s official jersey to the 27-year-old Australian who took charge as the new head coach yesterday.
Introducing the new coach, Mr Rai informed that Hall was with clubs in Australia, Thailand and Indonesia before coming to India on the USFC assignment.
“The club was giving poor performance under the previous coach and the club’s CEO Bhaichung Bhutia was the interim coach for five matches. The club did well under him but since he is also a player and had other responsibilities also, we needed a full time coach and we are happy to have Nathan as our new coach,” said the United Sikkim senior manager.
Hall is coaching in India for the first time though USFC is his fifth club in Asia.
“It is a new and exciting challenge for me to help United Sikkim to stay in I-League. Sikkim has been waiting for I-League for a long time and the team needs to stay. The target is to make sure that at the end, we are still in the I-League for the next season”, said the new head coach.
Hall’s contract with the Snow Lions is till the end of this season which concludes on April last. USFC is at present in a relegation tussle languishing in the 12th position of I-League table with four losses, five draws and one win.
“The season so far has not been particularly good for USFC but we still have a long way to go. I don’t know much about Indian clubs but I know that we are a small club with less experience in I-League. We have potential in our squad and my first job is to improve our players and train them hard to be very competitive”, said Hall.
Hall’s first assignment is to prepare the team for this weekend’s clash against Mumbai FC at Pune. United Sikkim is leaving tomorrow to play three away matches before returning to Gangtok on 30 December.
The new coach trained the players yesterday and believes that he requires 3-4 weeks to know the strengths and weaknesses of each player. “Obviously the shape and organization of the team needs to be better. Each player has to understand his role and position but you cannot give them too much in a short span of time. We will have to take small steps. It will take 3-4 weeks for me to know each player”, he said.
Commenting on his relatively young age as a coach, Hall said he is not bothered about what people are saying about his age. “I was the youngest professional coach in Asia and I don’t care what people have to say. For me, performance matters”, stated Hall.

Zero-Balance bank accounts for direct cash subsidy transfer to begin with West and East districts

GANGTOK, 11 Dec [IPR]: As per directives of Government of India, direct transfer of cash subsidy for various government schemes has been proposed.
In order to facilitate the same, as per the decision taken in the meeting held by Sikkim Lead Bank, all the banks in their respective areas of operation will take up the task of opening zero balance bank accounts for all the beneficiaries who do not have an account with any bank. This will be undertaken at all the GPUs, initially in the West and East district (since it is included in the Pilot scheme of the Central Government for direct cash transfer).
The documents required for opening of Zero-Balance Bank Accounts are:  Two pass port size photographs (preferably Head of the family); Photocopy of proof of identity (voter ID / Ration card / UID / Driving Licence etc.)
All the Block Development Officer may instruct the Ward Panchayats under their jurisdiction to kindly inform the respective beneficiaries.

Slump in production of Lum oranges

MANGAN, 11 Dec: Lum oranges, famed for being the sweetest grown in the State, have seen almost a 70% fall in production this year. The Lum Orange is usually a large sized fruit and is also exported outside the state.
“Usually, I produce around 30,000 fruits in a year, but this year my harvest will not go above five to six thousand,” said Karzang Lepcha, one of the farmers from this village. He further informed that, hailstorms, which usually hampers production, have not occurred this year so it is not clear why the production has gone down so drastically this year.
Similarly, Chugay Lepcha one of the farmers informed that his annual harvest normally gives around forty thousand but this year he is expecting to get only 8 to 10 thousand. The villagers here are not sure of the reason behind this sudden fall in production.
Meanwhile, the KVK has provided a tank for the farmers to store their ‘drop fruits’ which are recommended for disposal after the application of prescribed medicines.
Ward panchayat of the area, Tshering Gyatso Lepcha, while speaking to NOW! informed that the KVK has provided such tanks to each household. The villagers have now even grown suspicious of the medicine, with some convinced that this was leading to the fall in production.
“We are not technical experts to comment on the actual cause of the fall in production but we have been told by KVK officials and experts that the actual cause is insects”, said Mr Lepcha.

JNMI celebrates silver jubilee on World Disability Day

NAMCHI, 11 Dec: Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Institute here at Boomtar celebrated its 25th year of establishment along with the observance of World Disability Day 2012 [which had been postponed due to school examinations], here at the Institute on 10 December.
Namchi Municipal Council chairperson, BT Tamang, was present as the chief guest while SP District Jail, KL Tenzing was the special guest. The programme was also attended by the newly elected panchayats of the area.
Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Institute, Boomtar, Namchi is an institute for differently abled students (visually challenged) and has already set an example by producing many talented students. During the ceremony, the students of JNMI presented solo songs and also recited poems.
The Headmaster of the Institute presented the welcome address while a Special Educator also addressed the gathering. The students also shared their views and experiences.
While addressing the occasion, chief guest Mr. Tamang said that, around 25-26 years ago he had given this land for just a token amount to the organization to start the institute and today many talented students have already set an example for the State as well as the country. He welcomed the use of ‘differently abled’ instead of ‘physically challenged’ and further said that the differently abled are really unique as proven by their achievements. He also applauded the effort of the headmaster, teachers and other staff of the institute.

CM's message on 19th Government Formation Day


“We have clearly seen our way forward and the direction we take henceforth”

Respected fellow Sikkimese
On the occasion of 19th Anniversary of the SDF Government Formation Day, I extend warm greetings to the people of Sikkim. On December 12, 1994 the people of Sikkim installed, for the first time, a truly democratic government responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people and ever since this party and the government have continued to enjoy the confidence of the Sikkimese people winning public mandate after mandate in each subsequent elections held thereafter. This, I believe, is the result of good governance based on people-centric programs and policies with both short-term and long-term goals. On this day, therefore, I express my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the people of Sikkim for their continued support and confidence on our governance and also congratulate them for their responsible decision to strengthen democratic institutions, promote socio-economic prosperity, peace and security, communal harmony and development in the State.
Through sheer hard work and ambitious development program, Sikkim today is one of the most progressive States in the Indian union. The socio-economic indicators of the pre-1994 Sikkim and the post 1994 Sikkim clearly reflect the dichotomy and the improved life standards of the Sikkimese people. This we have been able to achieve through two-pronged strategies. One, we have invested our energy and resources to social sectors including education and health to ensure quality human development. And secondly, we have identified revenue-generating sectors and worked towards full realization of potential areas including hydro-power generation and promotion of eco-tourism trade.
In the health sector, the much acclaimed CATCH program has covered 50% of the state’s population. Mukhya Mantri Jeewan Rakshya scheme is to facilitate the sick for treatment outside the State while at the same time, the 575 bedded multi-specialty Hospital is expected to complete by 2014 where we will have our own Medical College at the Multi-Specialty Hospital. In education sector, the existing arrangement will be re-assessed to make facilities for creating greater awareness amongst children and education opportunities. We are committed to providing land and other ancillaries to Central University at the earliest and work in tandem with authorities at the Central University which the Government of India has created for the people of Sikkim.
Respected citizens
Over the years, the result has been evident. We have been able to integrate Sikkim into the mainstream in a more meaningful way. Now we are part of the North East Council. Limboo and Tamang communities are Scheduled tribes. The traditional Nathula pass is re-opened for trade and the import-export items expanded for realistic outcome. Income Tax exemption to Sikkimese has been granted by the Government of India. We have to secure Assembly seats for Limboo and Tamang. Hydro-power generation and eco-tourism are earnestly promoted area for a sustainable revenue base. Small scale clean industrial units including pharmaceutical units set up in the State to provide additional job avenues for our local people. We are preparing youths to be competitive with the Chief Minister Merit Scholarship rewarding the toppers with cash award of Rs. 1 lakh, Rs. 75,000 and Rs. 50,000 to local Sikkimese bagging rank No.1, rank No.2 and rank No.3 respectively in all the three streams of Science, Commerce and Arts in the CBSE at Class XII level and similarly three cash awards for rank No.1, rank No.2 and rank No.3 in CBSE class X level. We encourage giving loans to bright students who want to undergo higher education and higher skill development training coaching in reputed institutes in the Country for All India Competitive examination like Banking, Civil Services and Sub ordinate Services. Our Skill Development programme will be further graduated.
We are also pursuing development model based on principle of social equity and justice. Woman folks are given equal social status at par with their male counterparts through granting them affirmative share. In fact, we introduced some preferential treatment including exclusive reservation in government employment and panchayati raj. The recently concluded Panchayat election in Sikkim has seen 50% women in Gram Panchayat, Zilla Panchayat and Zilla Adhakshaya and up Adhakshya posts.
We have gained regional, national and international recognition for some of our innovative schemes like Organic Mission, Capacity Building, Green Mission, eco-friendly tourism etc. In fact, many programs similar to ours are being launched at the national level. We have received number of national awards as mark of recognition under various sectors. We are being honoured for Best all round State in overall performance in entire country, for environmental protection and growth, for core infrastructure development and drinking water and sanitation.
That means, we have now gained much ground in terms of development and the need of the hour is to further consolidate our efforts of the past. Today, we have created enough democratic space for all to prosper and establish Sikkimese culture to appreciate good works and recognize their contribution. This is a healthy practice to bestow honour where it is due. Consequently, we have honoured distinguished personalities like late Kazi Lhendup Dorjee, the first Chief Minister of democratic Sikkim.
We have challenges ahead owing to various factors which are global in nature. We have to tackle them at the local level. Knowing well that every effort counts, I am sure that every Sikkimese would contribute something positive.
Dear citizens, though the path is long and hard, we have clearly seen our way forward and the direction we take henceforth. We are trying to secure Scheduled Tribe Status for the remaining Sikkimese people. With full confidence in the collective wisdom of the beloved Sikkimese people and support we are bound to succeed. With Guru Rimpoche’s blessing and our efforts we will achieve our objectives for ensuring peace, progress, prosperity and development in the State.
Wishing fellow Sikkimese once again on the Anniversary of Government formation, I pray to the Almighty for your good health, well being, peace, communal harmony, progress and prosperity. Towards that objective, let us re-dedicate ourselves today for the tasks. Here I am reminded of the unflinching work of our bureaucracy headed by the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police and their team of sub-ordinates.
Thank you once again
Jai Sikkim
Jai Hind

Editorial: Hill People

11 December was International Mountain Day. It passed unobserved in Sikkim as perhaps most of India which is unfortunate because the theme this year was significant – “Celebrating Mountain Life”. Pressures of modernity put too much stress on mountain lifestyles, and what is worse, the ‘development’ model of the plains is being increasingly imposed on Hill People. This strains the careful balance that hill communities have evolved after generations of living with the environment as against the mainstream civilisation’s exploitation of natural resources. The demand for resources abundant in the mountains has always been there, but the pressure has increased in the past half a century or so; a coercive pressure which the mountain communities have not been able to resist or manage too effectively. The disintegration of mountain environments has accelerated as more and more hill communities converted to lifestyles which distanced them from the land which was earlier integral to their livelihoods and survival. This is not to suggest that hill societies should be discouraged from aspiring for and acquiring modern luxuries and amenities and slotted away denied as museum pieces. The rush of modernity has however been too quick and the rootedness to the land which defines all rural populations [which most hill societies were until very recently] was snapped too suddenly in the hills. The crossover not being smooth, the communities find themselves maladjusted and this is obvious in the crumbling urban infrastructure and desolate rural scapes which define mountains at least in our country. The celebration of International Mountain Day on the theme “Celebrating Mountain Life” would have thus presented an apt opportunity not only for the plainsfolk to learn about how things were in the mountains [and continue to be in some pockets], but also for the Hill People to begin the process of anchoring their identities and responsibilities with more purpose.
The day this year also marked the 10th anniversary of the International Year of Mountains as designated by the UN, and IMD was projected to “achieve a stronger engagement of actors/institutions and the civil society in sustainable mountain development”. This approach, tied with the theme for the day this year, would have been best served if sustainable mountain development programmes were based more on traditional arrangements of the hill people instead of the power-point presentations by resource persons speaking in generalisations which strike no resonance with the ‘stakeholders’. Although mountains cover approximately one-quarter of the world’s surface, it is home to barely 12% of the human population. The voice of the hill people does not thus carry very far when it comes to framing policy and establishing priorities. Thus far they have been spoken on behalf of, sometimes by well-meaning and informed well-wishers and sometimes by opportunistic issue mongers. If the world body accepts that Mountain Life is worth Celebrating, it is perhaps time that the mountain people were allowed direct access, a voice that is truly representative of what is at risk not only for them but also the rest of the world if the mountains, its ecological balance and its people are allowed to crumble away...

Note for our readers

We are back after an admittedly very long break of about a week owing to the Lossoong and Namsoong holidays. Prior intimation to our readers should have been made, however, we hope to ensure that this is done the next time we decide to take such a long break. Thank you.