Saturday, September 6, 2014

State level Teachers' Day celebration

GANGTOK, 06 Sept: Two teachers of primary and secondary level from each district were conferred with the state award on the occasion of Teachers' Day on 05 September in the state level Teacher's Day celebration held at Chintan Bhawan. The awardees are Mrs. Pemkit Lepcha PRT, Lingzya JHS; Mrs Indira Tiwari PRT, West Point SSS; Mrs Sakuntala Subba, PRT, Sadam SSS; Mrs Bhakta Maya Tiwari PRT, Gaylshing Girls SS; Mrs Karma Chomu Bhutia, HM, Pakshek JHS; Mrs Tshering Chuzom Lepcha, GT, Modern SS; Mr. Mathias Tamang, HM Ratepani SSS and Mr. Harka Bdr. Khamdhak, GT Darap SSS were honored with the state award.
The function was chaired by Minister, Human Resource Development Department, RB Subba as the chief guest. The Minister handed over cash prize of Rs. 2 lakh to the National awardees 2013, Mrs Sangkit Lepcha, PRT, Pakshep JHS and Mr. Dinesh Pega HM Dodak Secondary School.
Commendation certificates were also handed over to the fifteen teachers from the state. Mr. Kunzang Wangchuk Lachungpa - Gairee PS, Mrs. Ongkit Lepcha - Martam SS, Mr. Agam Dhar Dangal- Tumin Namrang JHS, Mr. Tshering Dorjee Tamang – Amaley PS, Mrs Shanti Giri- Maypong PS, Mr. Dhan Bdr. Thapa- Simchen PS, Mr. AT Lepcha – Hee Yangthang, Mr. Samten Lepcha – Lingthem JHS, Mrs. I.B. Panicker- Mangan SSS,  Mr. Deoraj Sharma Tadong SSS, Mr. Kailash Thapa- Rangpo Bazar JHS, Mr. Deepak Kr. Sharma- Melli Payong JHS, Mrs. Sakun Gurung- Namthang SSS, Mr. Rinzing Sherap Bhutia- Tashiding SSS and Mr. BB Rai Kechuperi SSS, were the recipient of commendation certificate. On the occasion a number of  schools holding top three position in various streams of class ten and twelve board examination 2014, were also conferred with the awards.
Compendium document of North District HRDD was also released by the chief guest on the day.

Himalayas and East South Asia with Sujeev Shakya

GANGTOK, 06 Sept: Rachna Books at Development Area is hosting a talk on Himalayas and East South Asia by Kathmandu-based author and columnist Sujeev Shakya on 08 September at 5:30 pm onwards.
Author, columnist and "Thought Leader" Sujeev Shakya ( will share his views on the emergence of new sub-regional blocs within Southasia. He is based in Kathmandu heading beed management private limited, a management consulting and financial advisory firm working in Bhutan, Nepal and Rwanda. He is author of Unleashing Nepal (Penguin Updated 2013) and travels globally to speak on economy, business, management and leadership. He also Chairs Nepal Economic Forum.
With the coming of new leadership in New Delhi, and the Prime Minister of India reaching out to the neighbors, the general mood of optimism runs high.
Southasia will not be the same as the neighboring countries will draw more attention. Further, there is also a new perspective in looking at the Indian Northeast.
All this provides an opportunity to relook at sub-regionalism within Southasia. East Southasia comprising of Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Eastward of Bihar in India. China is talking about a Trans Himalayan corridor.
What this would mean to the region? Where are the economic opportunities in store? What we can see happening over the next couple of years?
The entry fee for the talk is Rs100.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Belivers Church State Council elects new members

GANGTOK: Rev. Fr. Silas Subba has been nominated as the new President of Believers Church State Council of Sikkim. Fr. Subba was made president in a meeting held today here at Believers Church head office at Tadong. Others nominated are Rev. Fr. Suk Bahadur Kami [vice-president], Ashok Kumar Rai [secretary], Bhim Limboo [treasurer], Bishnuman Rai, Ranjit Mohara and Buddha Tamang [members], informs a press release issued by Anmol Rai of Believers Church Sikkim.

Kumari Manger [SDF]
Age - 33
Education - Class X
Profession - Business and Social Worker

Rup Narayan Chamling [IND]
Age - 46
Education - B.A, PGDM
Profession - Social Worker and Government Contractor

Bikash Basnett [BJP]
Age - 26
Education - PG Diploma
Profession - Self Employed

Bishnu Prasad Adhikari [INC]
Age - 33
Education - Class X
Profession - Social Worker

Sancha Raj Limboo [IND]
Age - 34
Education - Class XII
Profession - Farmer


1979 [as SC reserved Khamdong constituency]
Winner: Dal Bahadur Damai of SPC with 879 votes
Runner-Up: Tilochan of SJP with 705 votes
Victory Margin: 7.16%

195 [as SC reserved Khamdong constituency]
Winner: Birkhaman Ramukami of SSP with 2,834 votes
Runner-Up: Purna Bahadur of INC with 591 votes
Victory Margin: 63.92%

1989 [as SC reserved Khamdong constituency]
Winner: Birkhaman Ramudamu of SSP with 3,330 votes
Runner-Up: Ganga Darjee of RIS with 973 votes
Victory Margin: 50.44%

1994 [as SC reserved Khamdong constituency]
Winner: Gopal Lamichaney of SDF with 3,260 votes
Runner-Up: Ganju Thatal of SSP with 2,164 votes
Victory Margin: 17.55%

1999 [as SC reserved Khamdong constituency]
Winner: Gopal Lamichaney of SDF with 4,507 votes
Runner-Up: Lall Bdr Das of SSP with 2,954 votes
Victory Margin: 20.65%
2004 [as SC reserved Khamdong constituency]
Winner: Birkha Man Ramudamu of SDF with 6,160 votes
Runner-Up: Santosh Kumar Bardewa of INC with 1,929 votes
Victory Margin: 51.23%

2009 [as Rangang-Yangang General constituency]
Winner: Chandra Bdr Karki of SDF with 5,558 votes
Runner-Up: Avinash Yakha of INC with 2,361 votes
Victory Margin: 39.25%

April 2014 [as Rangang-Yangang General constituency]
Winner: Pawan Chamling of SDF with 6,343 votes
Runner-Up: Bikash Basnet of SKM with 3,201 votes
Victory Margin: 32.23%


NOW: How does it feel to be selected to represent the Chief Minister’s home constituency? Did you know in advance that you would be the party candidate?
KUMARI MANGER: No, I did not even expect it, but now that I have been chosen, I feel very proud to be selected by the party president as the SDF candidate for this election. I am very happy and thankful to our Maiti Raja [Pawan Chamling].

What do you think Rangang-Yangyang needs from its representative? What role do you see yourself playing if you win?
Rangang Yangang needs a public friendly leader who knows what the dreams and aspirations of the poor are. I will always be there for the public of this constituency and work as a bridge between the government and the people. I know the problems of the bastiwalas because I am one of them and have grown up in villages and I will work hard to meet the expectations of the party president.

Some very big projects are coming up here – the SU campus and the Skywalk project for instance; both are also much delayed - how do you propose to ensure proper implementation should you win?
Both the projects are huge and rely heavily on the central government. But I will try my level best.

The obvious question that everyone has - why did you leave SKM and join BJP?
Firstly, the State BJP and BJP high command were interested in fielding me as their candidate in this election with the support of SKM. BJP being a national party believes in expanding its reach to every part of the country and to get my candidature approved by the central high command is a prestigious accomplishment. The BJP-SKM alliance will not only benefit Sikkim in this election but it will have wider positive outcomes in the future as well especially in the fight against 20 years of corruption and nepotism.

BJP failed rather miserably in April 2014 while you and SKM did reasonably well. How do you plan to improve on BJP’s electoral performance in Sikkim?
I agree that BJP lost miserably in the April polls but after the party made a clean sweep at the centre there has been increasing enthusiasm in joining BJP in the state. There are many plans which I have discussed with the central high command in my recent visit to Delhi and am in constant touch with them over the phone. SKM alliance with BJP has also aroused interest in many youngsters to join BJP in the near future. It is expected that a sizeable number of people will join the state BJP as party workers.
What will be your main campaign plank and approach?
The main agenda for my election campaign will be SKM-BJP alliance which proposes to eradicate corruption in the state and calls for CBI investigations to be allowed in Sikkim. I will also tell people about the positive impacts of the BJP government in the country like launching of programmes like Jan Dhan Yojana.

The Battle for Yangyang- PURAN TAMANG

As far as bye-elections go, this one has set itself up as one packing in more drama than perhaps even the statewide Assembly elections held in April. What is more, this constituency, in its present avatar as Rangang-Yangang or earlier [till 2009] status as Khamdong, has never been a very easy constituency to win. It is the SDF president, Chief Minister Pawan Chamling’s home constituency, and that perhaps puts more pressure on him and the party because the contest is not just about winning, but also winning big. Interestingly, with SDF already having formed the government and with this one seat not making any difference to its stability in power, the election should have been an easy walkover. But the party is clearly not taking any chances and has deployed itself in full strength to the campaigning and is working from the grassroots up, competing not only against the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha backed BJP, but also checking against possible split of votes caused by the Chief Minister’s brother, Rup Narayan Chamling, contesting as an Independent.
The bye-election at Rangang-Yangang was necessitated by the Chief Minister having won from both, this and Namchi-Singithang constituencies in April and deciding to relinquish his home constituency.
In April, the SKM debutante, Bikash Basnet, who interestingly returns to the contest as a BJP candidate this time, put was a respectable performance, securing around 32% of the votes polled. It goes without saying that the SKM-BJP collaboration hopes to retain these votes and then make a play for RN Chamling eating into SDF votes. Should the votes be split three-ways more or less evenly, a swing of two or three percent votes could decide the winner.
That is the projection, but election mathematics is never that simple or obvious. Voters will be factoring in the situation created by the April elections and the potential of candidates and parties to deliver on their aspirations.
At one level, this is a personality-driven election, as most elections are in Sikkim. And the moment it becomes a Chamling vs. Chamling contest, the other three candidates fade into the sidelines. As things stand, with only a week left for the constituency to go to bye-polls [13 Sept], officially, only SDF has announced and conducted public campaign meetings. Mr. RN Chamling and his supporters are also on the campaign trail, and although SKM leaders are reported to be campaigning for their former candidate, BJP has officially not convened public meetings yet. At present, most of the publicity material occupying public spaces at Yangang belong either to the SDF or RN Chamling.
While it is candidates who compete in elections, the contest is also about plans and proposals for the constituency. On this count, as far as SDF supporters are concerned, they remain satisfied with what has been charted out for the constituency by way of the Sikkim University campus and the Bhaley Dhunga Skywalk project, two mega-projects on the anvil.
Speaking to this correspondent, they reiterated support for the party and reminded that like on 12 April five months ago, their vote will go for peace and sustained development again on 13 September.
Mr. RN Chamling, who has not issued any official press statements thus far, is reportedly concentrating on door to door campaigning. His supporters, when contacted, explain that they are supporting his candidature because he has been an earnest social worker who has always been there for the people. They believe that with Mr. RN Chamling representing them, the quality of basic facilities like roads and all-round development will improve. Apart from the mega-projects already earmarked for the constituency, his supporters are keen to see Yangang develop as a tourism hub.
Supporters are expected to be passionate and confident, at least while on campaign mode, and the same can be sensed when one interacts with party and leader supporters at Yangang. What the voters are thinking beyond this circle is not very clearly understood and should be the aspect that candidates pay closer attention to. Rangang-Yangang is often mistaken by casual observers to be a small constituency, it is not, at least not by Sikkim standards. At 11,762 electors, it is a reasonably big constituency [the capital Gangtok has barely 10,000 voters in comparison] and what is more, they are also keen voters, having registered an 85% voter turnout in April even though the result [of Pawan Chamling winning] was obvious to all. It also perhaps because of this reason that this constituency has traditionally received candidates from the constituency itself, a luxury not all other constituencies enjoy.
For those with a soft spot for trivia, the bye-election presents some interesting asides. Bikash Basnet for instance secures the rare record of contesting technically the same election representing two parties within six months. RN Chamling also becomes a rare instance of a brother seeking to replace a brother but by challenging the officially mandated candidate. This is also a very young contest in which a debutante, RN Chamling, is the oldest candidate in the fray despite his young 46 years even as the “veteran” in the group [Bikash Basnet who is technically facing his second election when all others are first-timers] is the youngest!
And that really is what this contest is heading to become- an interesting contest albeit one with very few ideological conflicts beyond the traditional claims and allegations.
1)    Number of Voters: 11,750 2)    Male Voters: 6,083
3)    Female Voters: 5,667 4)    Polling stations: 14
5)    Critical Polling stations: 2 -Nehbrum and Kolthang
7)    Number of EVMs: 14
[IPR Deptt]

What’s with the weather?

The rains have finally hit Sikkim, and, the reprieve of sun-baked days notwithstanding, are hitting us hard. There is nothing new in that, some might say, but there is more to it than is obvious. The long bouts of sunny weather followed by heavy rain point towards a worrying trend that has been in play for the past many years. While the total amount of rainfall the state receives annually has more or less remained the same, the number of days when it rains has decreased. Another, and perhaps larger, matter of concern has been the steady rise is minimum temperatures. At 0.07 degree Celsius per year, Sikkim probably has the highest rate of increase in minimum temperatures in the entire country according to the Meteorological Department, Gangtok.
The fall in the number of rainy days as against normal overall amount of rain, means there is an increase in the intensity of the downpours. This does not augur well for a state which has forever been battling landslides and bodes ill for the agricultural sector as well.
“Bursts of heavy rainfall are not conducive to farming since there is more surface water run-off. Water does not percolate into the soil properly as compared to light rainfall over a long period of time which allows for enough water to be absorbed by the soil on which the crops can survive for longer periods. Heavy rain also erodes the top soil which is the most important factor for plant growth,” explains Joint Director, Indian Council for Agricultural Research [ICAR], Dr. RK Awasthe. He adds that this change in the rainfall pattern of Sikkim has been noticeable since 2004.
On the effect of such change in the rainfall pattern on the agriculture of Sikkim, Dr Awasthe says that it is difficult to assess any change because of a lack of base data to compare present conditions against.
“We, along with the rest of the world, have woken up a little late. Since we do not have proper data of the past, we are now conducting experiments by simulating similar conditions in the Plant Growth Cell at our Centre to find out what changes have taken place. Studies have also been started now and it will take a while before we can come to any conclusion,” he shares.
Meteorology In-Charge, Gangtok, Dr GN Raha, highlights that rainfall and weather conditions in the state remain normal. From 01 to 27 August, the state received 1,606 mm rain which is 18% above normal [1,366 mm]. In comparison to the country which has received 17% less rainfall this year, conditions in the State are normal, he states, adding however that in the long term, the number of rainy days has decreased.
“The mean minimum temperature has been increasing at the rate of 0.07 degree Celsius in Sikkim every year which is probably the highest in the country and this is a matter of concern. A rise in minimum temperatures is more worrying than a rise in maximum temperatures because it has wide ranging effects. Climate change, apart from various other factors, is responsible for this,” says Dr Raha.
The impact of this rise in minimum temperatures has already started manifesting in Sikkim according to Dr Awasthe. “We are seeing newer insects like the Tea Mosquito Bug which wasn't here says 5 years ago. Plants like Hibiscus [Jawakusum] and Lantana which grow in warmer regions can be seen even at higher altitudes here. Lantana is spreading very fast across the state which is not good because it wipes out everything else around it,” he says.
Lantana is a tropical plant considered an invasive weed and its spread is aided by the characteristic of their leaves, which are somewhat poisonous to most animals, while their fruit is a delicacy for many birds which distribute the seeds. Biological control of lantanas has been attempted, without robust success in certain places like in Australia where about 30 insects were introduced in an attempt to control the spread of lantanas.
According to Dr Awasthe, pest and disease management will be one of the major challenges for agriculture in Sikkim in the coming years especially with the state set to go fully organic by 2015. The rise in temperatures will affect a change in the host-pest range where the vegetation and crops will be altered along with the pests and diseases that they attract. Further, warmer climes together with high precipitation, provide the best conditions for growth of pests and diseases. Erratic and untimely rainfall makes moisture preservation another important challenge, he adds.
Considering the El Niño phenomenon that is to occur this year, Sikkim seems to have been spared any dramatic weather event as such. 'El Niño' begins as a giant pool of warm water swelling in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, that sets off a chain reaction of weather events around the world – some devastating and some beneficial. In contrast, the rest of the country, as predicted, has had scanty rainfall due to El Niño.
While there is no denying that agriculture is a major stakeholder in the climate change movement, what comes through from the interactions with experts and concerned department heads is the feeling of helplessness against this global phenomena. What is needed are mitigation and adaptation strategies along with research and studies into the impact of what climate change means for Sikkim.

ULBs finally empowered to issue and cancel trade licenses

The Urban Development and Housing Department has now authorized Urban Local Bodies [ULB] to issue and cancel trade and hawker licenses in their jurisdiction. Earlier, only the Secretary was empowered to issue trade and hawker licenses.
In a gazette notification issued on 14 August, the state government has empowered the Urban Local Bodies to issue trade and hawker licenses within their jurisdiction to local applicants possessing Sikkim Subject Certificate or Certificate of Identification as per clause (b) of sub-section (1) of section 31 of the Sikkim Municipalities Act, 2007, read with Rule 4 of the Sikkim Trade License and Miscellaneous (Provision) Rules, 2011.
However, in case of old settlers or businessmen residing in the state of Sikkim prior to 1975 having Residential Certificates, the state government has decided to issue or cancel trade licenses only after obtaining approval from the Licensing Authority i.e the Secretary, UD&HD, under relevant Act and Rules regarding the issue and cancellation of Trade License and Hawker License.
Another notification published on the same date says that haat days in all Bazaars of Sikkim will henceforth be held only on Sundays.

A legal approach to addressing suicides

Even as Sikkim awaits a civil society response to the worry of growing suicides, the State Legal Services Authority has begun an effort to extend counsel and intervention to a society at risk…

An initiative has finally been made to address the suicide crisis in the state and this effort comes from unexpected quarters. Armed with a squad of paralegal volunteers already in place at the grassroots level, the Sikkim State Legal Services Authority has stepped up for a cause that has failed to draw any earnest takers so far. Even as the state ranked in the top three in terms of suicide rates in the country for the past many years, there have not been any sincere or consistent attempts to take this cause up.
While suicide is treated as a crime in the country, it is interesting to have a body like SSLSA taking up the issue from a completely different angle. As stated, there have not been any substantial efforts made towards addressing this issue by government or non-government agencies in the state so far and together with the lack of research on the subject, the only way open for suicide prevention remains awareness and sensitization of the masses.
To start with, SSLSA teamed up with the Health Department to train trainers who would then spread awareness on suicide prevention among the masses and train others in the subject as well. The first such training was held on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention from 25-27 August. 42 participants attended the training programme which had Psychiatrists Dr. CS Sharma and Dr. CL Pradhan, Psychologist Nancy Palmu Chankapa and Sociologist Chungchung Bhutia as resource persons.
Apart from the theoretical aspect of suicide prevention, the training also delved into data collection and research. The three-day long programme saw exchange of ideas and sharing of experiences by para-legal volunteers many of whom are spread across rural areas of the state.
SSLSA is also looking at incorporating suicide prevention topics in the 'Lessons in Law' chapter that it plans to include in school books in Sikkim.
The Health Department has also sprung into action and plans to develop a crisis centre which will be responsible for the hotline. It may be recalled that on 01 July Justice SP Wangdi of the High Court of Sikkim had directed the Department of Healthcare and Family Welfare to come up with concrete proposals to tackle the high rate of suicides in Sikkim.
“Since the state government has no provision for hiring staff for such a centre we are looking at getting a reputed NGO to run the 24X7 Suicide Prevention and Crises Centre with Telephone Hotlines in Gangtok”, informs Dr KJ Topgay. The department has already called for proposals from reputed NGOs/Voluntary Organisations for this purpose.
On World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September, the department is organising a sensitization and awareness programme for media persons of the state, he informs. “We have conducted such awareness programmes at Sichey, Mangan and will continue to hold such programmes in other areas as well. We also plan to organize a training for doctors of STNM hospital soon”, adds Dr Topgay. Other plans include forming survivor groups and setting up crisis centres in other parts of the state as well.

Many lives have been lost to suicide because depression is triggered by several negative life experiences and the person does not receive treatment – or does not receive effective treatment for the depression. You are not depressed when you feel sad for a day or two; you are depressed when you experience a prolonged period of sadness that interferes with your ability to function. Depression occurs because of an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. It is an illness. And it is highly treatable.”
- Dr. CS SHARMA, HoD, Psychiatry, STNM Hospital

“In order to tackle severe depression and eventual death from depression-induced suicide, we need to investigate the underlying issues of depression, and that will be done not only in the light of socio-economical situation of a society but also issues related to anthropology. Cultural context is one of the determinants that regulates a person’s mood and mind. However, anthropological factors for causation of suicide are still unclear.”
- Dr CL PRADHAN, Neuropsychiatrist, STNM Hospital

“Counseling is a secret dialogue between the client and therapist where the therapist helps the client to identify problems, make decisions and give them confidence to put the decisions into practice.”
- NANCY PALMU CHANKAPA, Psychologist, STNM Hospital

Efforts to prevent suicide have been celebrated on World Suicide Prevention Day – September 10th – each year since 2003. In 2014, the theme of World Suicide Prevention Day is 'Suicide Prevention: One World Connected.' The theme reflects the fact that connections are important at several levels if we are to combat suicide.
Connectedness is crucial to individuals who may be vulnerable to suicide. Studies have shown that social isolation can increase the risk of suicide and, conversely, that having strong human bonds can be protective against it. Reaching out to those who have become disconnected from others and offering them support and friendship may be a life-saving act.
World Suicide Prevention Day in 2014 is significant because it marks the release by the WHO of the World Suicide Report (WSR). The report follows the adoption of the Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 by the World Health Assembly, which commits all 194 member states to reducing their suicide rates by 10% by 2020.
Be part of the connectedness of World Suicide Prevention Day this year. On September 10th, join with others around the globe who are working towards the common goal of preventing suicide. Together, we can shine a spotlight on this major public health problem and ensure that it receives the policy attention that it warrants.

UD&HD hikes shop rentals

The state government has hiked the rent at all shopping complexes and open spaces by 15 percent from the prevailing rate. A gazette notification has been issued hiking the rent of rooms and open spaces in all shopping complexes and infrastructures belonging to the Urban Development and Housing Department.
At present, the rent for space at Super Market as prescribed by UD&HD is Rs. 12 per square feet whereas for Kanchenjunga Shopping Complex [erstwhile Lall Bzaar], it is Rs. 9.50 per square feet. Similarly, there are different rates for different markets and shopping complexes throughout the state.
The UD&HD has said that this time the department has hiked the rent with mutual consent of the traders and hawkers in the state to avoid any confrontation between the authorities and business community.

Tackling addiction with drama


The Principal of Tadong Senior Secondary School (TSSS), Doma Lhamu Zimba officially launched the posters of the 2-hour long play on drug addiction and alcoholism, “Hajam ko Darpan ma Hamro Chaya - A Reflection of Self” here at the school auditorium on Thursday afternoon.
The play is written and directed by Jiwan Rai, a teacher here at TSSS, and will be enacted by students of the school. The play will be staged at Sikkim Government College Auditorium from 16 to 20 August.
While stating that SAATHI, an anti-drugs programme after its launch at the school had helped in changing the mentality of many students to a great extent, Ms Zimba added that the students from Tadong Senior Secondary school had thus endeavored to take on the challenge of generating awareness amongst the masses through the play scheduled to be held at the college auditorium at 5pm on different dates.
“This is a play which will help other children realize that addiction is a lethal killer and highlight the message of a drug free society. Since everyone has a part to play, the children and our school faculty decided that this play would be the ideal way to disseminate awareness at a larger level,” added the principal. The entire production team for the play is from Tadong School with various production inputs like music and sound from professional artists.

Commission completes inquiry, now Lokayukta to take a relook


The Commission of Inquiry comprising of Justice [retd] RK Patra appointed by the State Government in 2011 to enquire into corruption allegations leveled against the Chief Minister and several Cabinet Ministers [of previous SDF governments] has “directed” the State Government to “inquire into certain aspects” of allegations leveled against four former Ministers [out of 22 accused].
The Commission was instituted to look into corruption allegations leveled by the Congress party [in its publication “Sikkimma Burmaloot”] against 22 former Ministers in the year 2010. Of these 22, the Commission has “not fully accepted the explanations furnished” by four former Ministers – Sonam Gyatso Lepcha, NK Pradhan, TT Bhutia and Menlom Lepcha. The Commission had submitted its report on 07 March earlier this year and the same, along with the action taken report on its directions was tabled in the Legislative Assembly during its one-day sitting on 01 September. After tabling of the report and the ATR, the House was adjourned sine die.
The Commission, as mentioned, has not fully accepted the explanations furnished by former Power Minister Sonam Gyatso Lepcha [sitting Deputy Speaker of the Sikkim Legislative Assembly] along with three other former ministers NK Pradhan, Thinlay Tshering Bhutia and Menlom Lepcha.
While detailing the action taken report on the Commission’s recommendations, Law Minister RB Subba told the House today that “…on the coming into force of the Lokayukta Act 2014, and the Lokayukta being constituted, any allegation of corruption pending before the Vigilance Wing of the State Government or any other body or authority or Commission of Inquiry, constituted under Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, shall stand transferred to Lokayukta constituted under this Act to be dealt in accordance with the provisions of this Act.”
In effect then, allegations against all the 22 [including the 18 given a clean chit by the Patra Commission] have been forwarded to the Lokayukta for further inquiry.
Minister Subba detailed that despite the clean chit given by Justice RK Patra Inquiry Commission to 18 former and sitting ministers and MLAs including bureaucrats named in the Commission's report and irrespective of whether the commission had accepted their explanations as to their income and assets, the case automatically stood transferred to the Lokayukta.
He said that these cases will be independently dealt with by the Lokayukta adding that he has also already received a summon from the Lokayukta to appear before it on 16 September.
“The Lokayukta at present is seized of the matter and allegations against persons concerned are subject matter of fresh investigation by Lokayukta in accordance with the provisions of Sikkim Lokayukta Act,” the report submitted in Assembly states. Needless to add, the Opposition has dismissed the Patra Commission as an eyewash and also condemned the Speaker’s refusal to allow a debate in the Assembly on the Commission’s findings or the government’s action taken report.

Rabong warms up with sports for Pang Lhabsol supplications

The 2014 Pang Lhabsol celebrations have begun in Rabongla, South Sikkim with the Intra State Volleyball Tournament on 28 August where over 28 teams are participating for a prize money of Rs 1 lakh and Rs 50,000 for the winners and runners-up respectively. The finals of the tournament will be held on 08 September. On 02 September, the National Open Volleyball Tournament began while the Buddha Rim One Day Cross Country Mountain Biking Challenge was also held on the day. The volleyball tourney has six teams comprising of players from the national team from Uttarakhand, Punjab, Jharkhand, Assam and Nepal Armed Police are competing. The finals of this tourney will be held on 09 September. A photo exhibition - Historical perspective of Sikkim from the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology collection and a retrospective of the works of Sikkim’s pioneering photographers Yap Tse Ten Tashi and Yap Paljor Dorji Tashi curated by Tenzin C Tashi - is also part of the celebration along with other attractions like the Monsoon Marathon and Beat Contest Final on 08 September.

[photographs: JIGME BHUTIA]


…on the beautiful slopes of Kalimpong - frozen smoke writing history with a bright ink
The journey that had begun as a morning walk, had transformed into a dark peripatetic madness.

One Morning, April 1984

When seven-year-old Phurchu woke up, he was surprised to find his father watching over him, gravely.
Phurchu had a bed that creaked whenever he moved, reminding him of his grandfather who had this irritating habit of grinding his teeth, whatever were left, for no reason. But his father had taken care not to rock the bed when he sat on it. From his bed, Phurchu could see his mother in the kitchen, sitting on a mura, crying.
He wondered why…
She would normally have been cooking at this time. Especially today! It was his birthday!
Phurchu had not been seeing much of his father. This time as well, his father had been away for three days and three nights. But he had learnt to take his father’s unannounced disappearances as routine, quite like the frequent closure of his school, sometimes for weeks on end, even when there were no festivals around. Much like the processions on the roads, menacing CRPF personnel parading everywhere, frequent retorts of gunfire bursts (which, to Phurchu, did not at all resemble the sound gathered from the movies) and between them, the silences louder than the exploding bombs, the burning of houses that he could see from his window on odd mornings on the beautiful slopes of Kalimpong - frozen smoke writing history with a bright ink. All of these had played so often that they had become normal occurrences for the seven-year-old.
For Phurchu, the best part of course was not having to go to school. He was having a ball.
He distinctly remembered his father’s arrival last night. His sleep was broken due to the banging on the door which initially he thought to be another spate of exploding bombs, but when he heard his mother’s admonishing tones, he knew who had arrived. He had tried to get up, but sleep benumbed his limbs and the 5-kilo quilt pinned him down like an opportunistic wrestler. He heard his mother and father talk in urgent, heated whispers. After sometime his mother had started crying. That had somehow lulled him to sleep.
And now…
“Get up Phurchu. We have to take a walk.”
His father forced a smile that made him look insane.
“Mmm…!” Phurchu showed no enthusiasm on this unusual proposal.
He pulled the quilt over his face and pretended to still be asleep.
“Come on, son. A He-Man never feels lazy to go for a walk. Aren’t you a He-Man?” Father coaxed him and gently pulled the quilt off his son’s face.
His voice carried the trace of a blocked nose.
“I feel too cold to go, Apa. We’ll go after the sun comes out, okay? After breakfast?” Phurchu made a last ditch attempt to procrastinate.
“No, no. Your Apa does not have that much time. A good boy always obeys his elders.”
He held his son’s hands and pulled him up. Phurchu rubbed his eyes and yawned.
“Are you going again? Where are you going?” Phurchu tried to make his father guilty by exaggerating his disappointment.
“You’ll know soon enough,” he replied cryptically and pushing the small shoes near the bed with his foot, said, “Just put on your sweater and shoes. You can wash your face later. Come on, hurry up. I don’t have all day.”
A reluctant pair of feet disappeared into the canvas shoes while the older man found a sweater for his son. He made Phurchu put his head through the neck of the sweater and helped him slip his arms in the sleeves. Once the son was ready, his father examined his handiwork with satisfaction and said, “We’re all set. Let’s move.”
As they proceeded towards the door, Phurchu stole a glance at his mother; she had not spoken all this while and was looking blankly over an empty pot, eyes swollen. A subtle stiffening in Phurchu’s hand around his finger made his father turn. He looked at his wife resignedly for a minute and said, “You hear, there? All the money is in the left drawer. I’ve left the keys on the table. By the way, don’t forget to burn the papers in the other drawer, all of them. Phurchu and I are just going to have a chat while we walk.”
She began to sob even more as the two walked out of the house, on to the road.
The road stretched its long arms both ways and seemed to be enjoying the scratching brooms of the municipality sweepers. A look at his watch told him that it was only five, but the morning was bright enough even without the sun.
Once, a bright artist from Dr. Graham’s Homes school had painted an imaginary aerial view of Kalimpong. The work was considered a masterpiece and as though to acknowledge its due worth, it was displayed in all the schools of Kalimpong. This painting, a sizeable 24”x30”, depicted the town with the Deolo hill on the north, Durpin in the South and the two rivers Relli on the east and to the west, Tista.
Phurchu had also seen the painting. The overhead picture of his own town was amusing for him. When his father had remarked on how the town had grown, Phurchu had silently disagreed; he thought, looking at the picture, it seemed that instead of the town growing in the middle of the wilderness it was the wilderness that was swallowing up the town. And in some ways he was quite right. For such was the township of Kalimpong that the moment one left the road and took one of the side roads, the scene changed dramatically like in some revolving theatre and one could end up in a moment on some dusty path leading down to the village.
It was one such path that the father and son took, the damp clay sticking adamantly to their shoes. The path danced abundantly and suddenly hid behind a large jackfruit tree. For a moment Phurchu forgot his morning lethargy, curious to find out how the path would unfold.
They walked without a word. Among the shallow terraces they saw goats fornicating in front of a hut. Phurchu was well aware of the act and just to overcome the embarrassment he asked his father, “Where were you for the last three days?”
“I was working,” he said tersely and seemed determined not to elaborate.
Phurchu sensed it and did not pursue the issue. He longed for his bed.
“Why did we have to come out so early!” he grumbled.
“Because you have to learn a lot of things.”
The father was fumbling for something in his trousers pocket.
The frown wrote lines of confusion on his forehead.
“Things... There are many things you don’t know. And you have to learn fast.”
“Why?” Phurchu was perplexed. It was so easy to get back home – just turn and run.
“Because you don’t have the time. I don’t have the time myself, you know!”
“What do I have to learn exactly?” Phurchu had a feeling he was stirring a hornet’s nest.
“Tell me, what would you like to be when you grow up?”
The father opened his conversation as though playing a riddle.
Phurchu thought for a while and said, “I’d like to be like Philip uncle.”
“A bus conductor?” The amazement of it made the father halt and stare at his son. But his gaze eased and a wry smile spread on his lips. Then he continued, “So you want to be a bus conductor. Okay!  Fine… You can make a killing as a bus conductor as well. After all it’s money that matters. Who cares whether you are a conductor or a contractor.”
He fell silent for a while. Phurchu was thinking about the metal pistol Philip uncle’s son Sanu had, that did not break even when used as a walnut cracker.
“But as a conductor, or anytime when you’re in a moving vehicle, you have to keep one thing in mind,” Phurchu’s father was saying, “You should never stick out your tongue and you should never pick your nose.”
“Apa, I want to pee.” Phurchu said to his father.
When they came to a thick bamboo grove that opened up like an umbrella at the canopy, the father gently released Phurchu’s finger. The boy, who still carried sleep in his eyes, walked behind a tree, slipped down his pajamas and peed. Suddenly, his father came running to him, shouting, “Stop Phurchu! You’re pissing on your own shoes.”
Phurchu turned to look at his father, unsure of how he was supposed to do what his father wanted.
“Always remember, son, before you take a leak peel it like this…,” he said actually pulling down his son’s foreskin, and continued, “Otherwise you’ll end up ruining your clothes. Understand?”
The boy nodded, but he could not pee anymore. After waiting for some time they continued.
“Why shouldn’t we pick our noses or stick our tongues out in a bus, father?”
“Because roads are bad; they are full of bumps and puddles and holes. When the buses jerk and jolt you could end up biting your own tongue off or your finger might get shoved further up your nose. That’s why you should not stick your tongue out or pick your nose in a bus, or in any vehicle for that matter. Can you remember that?”
Not waiting for his son’s reply, he walked up to a poinsettia bush and started taking a leak himself. Phurchu looked longingly towards the town, imagining a hot plate of fried rice in front of him.
“Actually, you should write all this down. It will stand you in good stead in the future,” his father said, zipping his fly.
“Can we go back now, Apa? I’m hungry.” Phurchu said, almost begging.
His father pretended to look at him in mock dismay. He said nothing but gestured that they should carry on.
Just then the bell at the MacFarlane Church began to ring. As if breaking a trance, it made the whole atmosphere come alive for Phurchu’s father. He became conscious of it and furtively scanned his surroundings.
“Look! It’s just 5:30. Nobody eats this early in the morning. This is time for morning walks. It’s good for health. Remember, even though you’ll hear many people say this, there’s nothing, nothing at all, more valuable than health. This walk will give you a good appetite and better digestion. You’ll see.”
It looked like he wanted to elaborate further on the theme of health, but he abandoned the idea. Instead, he gently put his hand on Phurchu’s shoulder, subtly urging him to move on.
The countryside they were in was actually a horticulture farm. It was to the credit of the people who worked there that the cabbage and radish fields looked healthy and thriving, but the townspeople believed that this was primarily because of the sewage of the entire town which flowed down here. That, of course, did not stop the farm from selling their products in town and the people bought them anyway.
Phurchu held his tiny nose and complained to his father, who seemed impervious to the smell, “Apa, let’s go back. It’s too dirty here.”
“Don’t forget that you and I have also contributed to this smell. Why don’t you try to single out the smell of your own shit! Can you do that?” And he laughed.
“Let’s go back. I’ll be sick,” said the boy. He thought that the grossness of the joke was even more oppressive than the stench. He could not believe that his father could be so indifferent to the suffocating odour.
“Okay. Walk faster,” Phurchu’s father said. “We’ll soon be away from this.”
“Haven’t we already come away too far?” Phurchu asked.
“Yes, we might have. Just watch the path.” And he briskly moved ahead, his son following.
He kept quiet for another minute, and then repeated, “Just mind the path, okay? You might have to return alone.”
“Why, Apa? I can’t go back alone. You have to come back with me,” Phurchu said, starting to cry.
“Don’t start crying now. I was just joking. But do you expect me to be around you forever?” He said with mild impatience. But immediately, realizing the fact that such a question is not exactly reassuring for a kid of seven, he tried to distract his son by rubbing his sole on the grass pretending to have stepped on some shit.
Phurchu’s father looked up towards town which really appeared incredibly far away. The path concealed itself among the bushes like a vengeful snake skulking in the grass waiting to strike. He looked down towards the Relli river and the wilderness that unfurled beyond it in the morning light. A tug at his sleeve made him look quickly at his son and then at the wilderness again, his eyes just a pair of unreflecting, dry niches in the face. Just then, a careless crack of a pipe-gun rang out somewhere below. As if on cue, Phurchu’s father shuffled his feet and seemed to be preparing for something. Nearby a nestling dropped from a tree. Its agonized chattering went unnoticed, no bird came down to take it back to the nest.
“Son, I’m running out of time. I think I’ll have to shorten the purpose of this little jaunt. But even as we do so, I must tell you one thing. That is…” he stopped, as if he was disturbed by the quiet of the morning.
He was holding his son’s hand. He squeezed it so hard that his son squirmed. He let go of Phurchu’s hand, but there was no remorse in his face. All of a sudden his eyes assumed the blankness of a condemned man. The transformation robbed Phurchu of words.
After a while, Phurchu’s father resumed, “That is, you don’t have to always take sides in this world. People always fight for different reasons. Some out of conviction, some without. Do you follow me?”
Some months ago his mother had taken Phurchu to the local Sericulture farm where there was a huge mulberry tree. The gardener there grew pally with his mother and so he shook the tree for Phurchu. The fruits showered thickly to the ground but Phurchu standing under it, palms wide open, could not catch a single fruit. His father’s words reminded him of that day. But he could pick the fruits from the ground then, though.
When he saw no change in Phurchu’s face, his father decided to continue. Phurchu had not seen his father this grave, ever.
“You remember our milkman before the present one? Innocent, plain and harmless? You know what happened to him? He is dead. Shot mercilessly and blindly by the CRPF for nothing; hence, the new milkman. You remember the rooster thief whom Uncle Philip and others caught and was beaten black and blue? Well, the times have changed for him. He is one of the most powerful men now. You might’ve noticed things are not as calm as they used to be two or three years ago. The gunfire, bomb blasts, people running, people chasing – something is going on. You’ll not understand what. But you’ll be a part of it all the same, eventually.”
Phurchu seemed to listen carefully. He did not know what to say. By this time, he had found a roasted pea in his pocket which he promptly popped in his mouth. His father paused only to take a deep breath.
He resumed: “Whatever. Listen carefully. When you are able to understand what is going on now and if ever you find yourself in such times when you grow up, I’ll give you a few hints to remember. To begin with, try your utmost not to take sides. I can warn you that it’s the hardest thing to do, because it might leave you lonely sometimes. Powerful people will proclaim – ‘you are either with us or with the enemy,’ – and torment you.”
Phurchu was totally exhausted by now, physically and mentally. He was too tired to follow his father’s ranting. They were too grown up for him anyway. In fact, he rather suspected that his father was not talking to him at all. He was talking to himself; why else would he be so inscrutable. Phurchu, was really horrified at this thought. His eyes were filled with tears as he looked up to his father, who was unmoved by his son on the verge of tears. He seemed to carry the disquiet of the universe on his face. His eyes seemed dead, the mouth, however, spoke, “But if you do end up taking sides, then know how to fulfill it. For instance, if you side with the people fighting against the administration, then your commitment should be undivided. You are in it for better or for worse anyway.”

The two had come a rather long distance and the town was no longer even visible. Here, the bamboo grove was denser, the path muddier. All the cottages were thatched, attached to the ubiquitous cow-sheds that reeked of dung. The stray people around looked dirty and scared. Phurchu, his eyes moist by now, mustered all his courage and in a voice that sounded like the un-oiled door of a metal almirah, begged his father, “Apa, I’m scared. Let’s go back home. Please!”
“Let me finish the lesson first. I’m just about finished. Okay?”
And then, after carefully maneuvering over a log bridge across a small stream, and helping his son safely across, he said, “But woe betide if your loyalties get divided because of your scruples and you try to balance your conscience by going over to the administration to give them the names of those who ambushed the police jeep in August last year. Because that is treachery. And you will, and should, be punished for it.”
Phurchu’s father had to stop at that point because just then, out of nowhere, a young boy in his twenties came running down and glancing at them for the briefest of a second, overtook them. His camouflaged trousers were tucked into his boots. A black handkerchief tied round his head, a homemade gun slung across his back.
As he went bounding down, he jumped over the stream that Phurchu and his father had just crossed. Perhaps he misjudged his leap, for he very nearly fell on his back into the rocky stream; but he balanced himself somehow and threw himself face first into a thick lantana bush. Before he vanished, he had to struggle quite fiercely to disentangle himself from the maze of branches.
For a moment, Phurchu was completely distracted from his own surreal predicament, rapt in that fleeting cameo.
The two stood still for God knows an eternity. When Phurchu looked up at his father, he saw horror in his eyes.
“Apa…!” Phurchu nudged feebly.
The older man suddenly jerked into his senses. He disengaged his finger from his son’s grip and wiped his hand which had gone damp with sweat.
“Come son. Let’s move along.”
And they resumed their walk. After a while, Phurchu’s father began again.
“Now, where was I? Oh, yes. You will and should be punished for it.” And he put his hand on his son’s shoulder and gently pulled him closer, so that their bodies touched as they moved forward.
“But fortunately, there will be more than one group fighting for the same cause. It is always like that, my son. People do like to do things in their own particular way. All would like to be the ones who calls the shots,” Phurchu’s father said, or rather whispered.
It was probably because of the atmosphere around the place. It was too quiet, and perhaps he did not want his voice to carry. And Phurchu was in that state of half sleep and half dread, and the calm seemed to deafen him and noise seemed to lull.
The words of wisdom were coming faster and faster, as if Phurchu’s father had made a tryst with time.
He continued, “Can you remember all these things? Look son, these are really very important things for you. For your benefit, let me repeat: if you have taken a side which is fighting for a very important cause against the Administration, you should never betray your people and you should never, either for your conscience or your personal benefit, go over to the other side. For when your betrayal surfaces, you’ll be on the run. On the run because the group you used to side with, has sworn to spill your blood and the Administration, after getting a taste of your flair for treachery, will do everything to suck you dry. Phurchu, there is no choice for you but to remember all this.”

By now the sun had started streaking through the mesh of leaves, and now and then hit the trickling water flowing unevenly along the stream. It was getting a bit warm.
Oblivious of all this, Phurchu’s father looked carefully down at the rugged path as far as his eyes could see. Suddenly, he halted and looked at his son whose innocent face told a tale of exhaustion and fear. Phurchu was beyond repeating his plea to return home. All tenderness in his father’s face was buried in layers of unknown agony, remorse and despair. The man took a deep breath as if to conclude a story, and resumed, “So, as I told you there will be more than one group fighting for the same cause. And more often than not, remember, they will be fighting with each other. Or why should they not belong to the same group and fight with the Administration more strongly?”
With that rhetorical question he began his journey again, the end of which the son was totally unaware of, and perhaps, even the father as well. The journey that had begun as a morning walk, had transformed into a dark peripatetic madness.
“But son,” he started, “The risk of an inter-group feud is also an advantage, and you have to use it. Or will you have any other choices? None. Hence, you will be forced to seek asylum with another group. You’ll either be out of perils or you’ll be sacrificed in the name of the very cause they are agitating for. It’s fifty-fifty. That is a gamble you have to take.”
They had come quite far from the town. Halfway between the Relli river and home, the trees were thicker now. Phurchu, because his legs had already walked further than they could, had to be supported by his father even over small jutting stones and gaps in the path. His protests were long drowned by his father’s unsolicited soliloquy and so, taking it as one of those unhappy days that he often experienced in school, he accepted his lousy luck.
All right, he bitterly reconciled, this day I not only have to get out of bed in an ungodly hour, but also delay my breakfast, walk around half the world to this wilderness, listen to all these pearls of wisdom I could do without, and spend the worst birthday morning ever. I’m sure it’ll end soon. It has to.
Just then three boys appeared from the shadows of the trees.
They were in their late teens or thereabouts. Any innocence concomitant to their age had been erased by the soot smeared across their faces. They had an ape-like nimbleness despite being heavily encumbered by the weapons they carried. They looked like veterans of a deadly game.
Phurchu felt a strange limpness in his father’s fingers and his hand was released involuntarily. His father’s face froze.
The father asked, “You do remember the way back home, as I told you. Do you?”
He wanted to say no, but nothing came out of Phurchu’s mouth. He was still trying to figure out what was wrong.
“Very well, then. Time has come for you to find your way to town. You can do it, can’t you? Go now, quick!” And he detached himself from his son and started walking down towards the boys.
“Hello bhaiharu! Came looking for me? I was coming anyway. Did Ongkal get my message?”
Phurchu heard his father approach those boys in amicable tones. His own feet were, like the bamboos around him, fixed to the ground.
“Don’t call us brothers.”
Menace rang in the newcomers’ voice. “You don’t know the meaning of the word.”
And they surrounded him.

Phurchu’s father turned to his son once again and shouted, “Still there? I told you to go back, didn’t I? Now hurry back. I’ve to go to Ongkal on important business. Now go back, hurry!”
Phurchu, who felt he was in some kind of a nightmare, mustered all his strength and will and shouted back, tearfully, “No Apa, I can’t go back alone. Please let’s go back together. I’m scared.”
But by then the boys had already dragged his father long way down, cursing, shoving, kicking and pushing.
Phurchu began to cry. Even long after his father vanished from sight, Phurchu kept calling and crying.
When his father did not reappear even after a long time, and Phurchu had drained all his tears and gone hoarse from crying, he was suddenly overcome by an irresistible urge to go back to sleep. But he fought it. He resolved to wait for his father.
He sat on the dusty path, mouse-like and sobbing, “Apa… Please come back…”
It was mournfully quiet all around.
[This short story was first published in the Sunday edition of NOW! over three issues from 19 April 2009 to 03 May 2009]

A Tribute to Madan Mohan Rasaily Jewel of Sikkim, always - KC PRADHAN

In the passing away of MM Rasaily, recipient of Denzong Thu-ki Norbu, Jewel of Sikkim 1974 - the highest civilian award of the Kingdom of Sikkim – the State has lost one of the greatest souls it had ever produced. Sikkim is the poorer in losing one more stalwart of the yesteryears; a person who saw history in the making from very close quarters. What is more, he was a passionate fighter for the just cause.
He hailed from an illustrious family and his father, Manbir Rasaily, was the first Finance Secretary of the erstwhile Kingdom. My father, a Forest Manager, being his father’s colleague, our family relations went back several decades. MM (to his close colleagues like MP, CD, JT, KS, JK, ES) was a Sikkimese in the truest sense and he adhered to his principles till his last. For his astute determination and stubborn loyalty, he had to suffer a lot in later life, but given the extremely strong moral fibre that his character was stitched with, he took all these in his stride, always holding his head high and never being vengeful. He was a man at peace with himself as I often noticed, falling asleep the moment he lay on bed. Many a times I would still be continuing a conversation not knowing that he was already fast asleep.
He was a storehouse of Sikkim’s stories and history, especially the phase immediately before Sikkim became the constituent unit of the Union of India and knew the inner stories in keener detail than anybody else. He was a close and true lieutenant of the erstwhile ruler and had the determination to make his vision a reality. He was blunt and never hesitated from calling a spade a spade.
To me, he was a teacher, guide, friend and colleague in the administration. I first came across him in school in 1947 when he was the Scouts Master cum Geography Teacher at TNHS (now TNA) with a command of English unknown in those days having just completed his Senior Cambridge from Mount Hermon School in Darjeeling. He was one of the first Hillmen to study in the premier English public school in those days. He was a highly disciplined person and did not tolerate any lackadaisical attitude - a trait he carried throughout. We were together in IFC (Indian Forest College). He was my immediate senior and taught me cycling - a must for all Officer Probationers for whom bus rides to town were a No-No. Being an immediate Junior it was an added advantage to take many tips which put me in good stead. He was the blue-eyed boy of veteran forester PD Stacey, an IFS officer from the days of the Raj and Forestry Chief of then undivided Assam - as Director of Forestry Education in FRI and Colleges. All his classmates- 20 in number - liked him and many of the Juniors just loved him as he had a gift of befriending all. He was very warm-hearted towards the menial staff and they would often fall back on him for help to take matters up with the authorities. Peter, his house attendant was special to him and he regarded him as his true guardian.
As the first Forester with Superior Training in Sikkim as its head, he ushered in many innovative ideas. Transportation of logs from Lachung to Bardang by river floating system conceptualized by Political Officer Basil Gould and well sold to MKS P.T. Namgyal was his pet forestry project. In the process we travelled throughout the length of the river Teesta to understand the way this river plays. Never knew that there was such a vast whirlpool below Singhik where even 1,00,000 cft of logs would get just sucked in and lost. This led us to plan a chute of timber scantlings detouring this notorious section of the river. The whole idea was to put in place a paper mill at Melli (present Brewery site) with 25 metric tons per day capacity churning out high quality security paper. Construction of a series of accommodations for the staff in the Department was his brain child as well. There were meager resources but we had raw material such as timber at our disposal. This gave the staff much respite. He had a keen sense of mechanical and engineering technicalities and we established a series of Donald Gravity ropeways to haul the timber and logs across the valleys. Veteran foresters like PS Moktan, DP Rai, JB Rai, CD Lama and Kundup Lachungpa were the key lynchpins.
Perfecting the technique of natural generation of Silver Fir in north Sikkim was the idea conceived of by him and Forester par excellence Kundup Lachungpa well supported by FG Sinchung - his FG confidante! Later on, it led to SSO (Subsidiary Silviculture Operation) and was included in the Plan Fund duly appreciated by the Planning Commission. The system was much admired when TN Srivastava, then Inspector General of Forests visited the area in early 1970s as Silver Fir’s natural regeneration in the western Himalayas had been an utter failure and they had not been able to find any remedy. But in Sikkim whether it was followed to the extent desired is another matter.
We were the first two forest officers in Sikkim with training in Superior Forestry –a course started in 1947 in Dehradun to train officers on the same lines in Coopers Hill in Oxford for Imperial Forest Service - and had the occasion to travel to all the interiors of the State together for many years. That gave us an insight to Sikkim from the grassroots level. He, with his smart black beret, was feared by all and people used to vanish in the forest the moment they saw our entourage headed by him leaving all their loads whether wood, fodder or timber along the roadside – path, rather. To his subordinates, he was both loved and feared as even the slightest misbehavior meant an on-the-spot dressing down. FG Kaluk, his orderly, despite all his mischievous habits including stealthily taking his revolver for target shooting and for which the punishment was lying overnight under the chair, did not hold any ill-will against his master.
He played a significant role for a decade and half prior to the merger in the administration in Sikkim. He was one the three members of the External Affairs Committee. Though he was very close to the Chogyal, he was generally on the wrong side of the officers on deputation. That led to a series of wrangles though to Dewan Baleshwar Prasad, he was the officer to be relied on always, and teased for his signature which looked like an ‘elephant’. During the Chogyal’s regime, he was entrusted the department of Industries, Trade and Commerce.  Sikkim Jewels with P. Pherwani as the Consultant was his dream project.
Sunanda Dutta-Ray has included some of MM’s remarks in his book: “Indians don’t have enough experience of the hills, all their problems are geared to problems of hunger in the plains… We want to associate with small but developed countries that share our difficulties”. Just this excerpt speaks volumes of his bluntness.
BB Lal, Executive Officer and Governor, was his nemesis. But once the Bhandari Government came to power he was given his place of honour and well accommodated in the administrative unit. When he was super-annuated as Home Secretary after 35 years of long service, the Government saw it fit to reward him with the same emoluments as the Chief Secretary though he was not a Member of IAS.
He was also a sportsman with hockey as his choice as I remember from IFC days and was a first rate soccer referee. He was a great disciple of Satya Sai Baba. The Sai Mandir at Balwakhani was established due to his persuasion when led the organization as its President. He loved Bhajans and he himself mastered the art of singing some of them.
The most important aspect that remains unknown, unless he has left behind any writings, is the short sojourn he undertook with the Chogyal attending the Coronation of HM King Birendra in Nepal against the wishes of the Indian Government. What was the true story and the information that were fed by the Indian Embassy to MEA that led to accelerating the process of the merger will ever remain unknown and un-clarified. This missing gap, to which he alone was privy, will always remain a mystery in Sikkim’s history.
He is no more, but memory lingers. He lived a full life and left an undeniable mark in Sikkim’s history. The future will understand him better. I miss him dearly. We had many issues to be clarified but that opportunity, unfortunately, never came. It is so heartening the children were brought up with strong values and high sense of dedication and are making marks in their respective fields much to the delight and pride of Sikkim. Our sympathies to the bereaved family in their hour of sorrow and pray that his Soul be rest in peace. Adieu!
[The writer is a Forester and a former Chief Secretary]

MM Rasaily passes away

Former bureaucrat Madan Mohan Rasaily passed away at the age of 90 on the morning of 03 September at his residence in Gangtok. He is survived by his wife Rani Mala Rasaily, two sons and two daughters. The funeral is scheduled for 05 September at Ranipool.
The Late MM Rasaily served Sikkim in various capacities in different departments. He retired from service in 1988 as additional Chief Secretary cum Home Secretary. He is the recipient of 'Pema Dorjee' medal for his dedicated service and was also conferred the highest civilian award of erstwhile Kingdom of Sikkim, the Denzong Thuki Norbu [The Jewel of Sikkim].

Japan and India’s China challenge

Editorial featured in The Japan Times
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, on a five-day visit to Japan through Wednesday, reached broad agreements to expand bilateral economic ties and security cooperation. It is indeed a positive development for Japan to pursue what the leaders termed a “special strategic and global partnership” with the world’s largest democracy, which has a huge market of 1.2 billion people. Still, Japan and India may find themselves talking at cross purposes if Tokyo is seeking closer ties with New Delhi as a means to counterbalance China’s growing influence and assertiveness in the region.
During their meeting on Monday, Abe and Modi agreed to consider upgrading the framework of their foreign and defense talks and to regularize joint exercises between the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Indian Navy. Abe pledged to extend ¥3.5 trillion in Japan’s public and private investment and financing to India, including official development assistance, and double Japanese direct investments in India — both within five years.
Abe and Modi welcomed the accord on a commercial contract for production and supply of Indian rare earths to Japan, a move that would help reduce Japan’s reliance on China for the supply of minerals vital to the production of high-tech products. They confirmed that the two governments would expedite talks for early conclusion of a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation pact that paves the way for export of Japan’s nuclear technology to India.
On the defense front, the two leaders said they would speed up working-level talks for exporting the MSDF’s US-2 amphibious aircraft to India. Their joint statement called for maritime security, freedom of navigation and peaceful settlement of disputes under international law — an apparent reference to China’s maritime disputes with several countries in the East and South China Sea.
Behind the efforts to step up Japan-India security cooperation is China’s increasing maritime assertiveness and military buildup. Along with their longtime bilateral border disputes, New Delhi is wary of China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean. Japan’s relations with China remain deeply strained in recent years over the territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands as well as other issues related to wartime history.
But while Abe has not been able to hold a summit with Chinese leaders since he returned to office in December 2012, Modi met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the July BRICS summit of emerging powers held in Brazil. Japan was the first country that Modi visited outside the Indian subcontinent for bilateral talks since he took office in May, but Xi is set to be the first leader of a major country to travel to India for talks with Modi when he visits there later this month.
The government reportedly sought an agreement to upgrade the foreign and defense meetings with India, currently held at vice-ministerial levels, to Cabinet-level discussions during the Abe-Modi talks, but eventually only confirmed that they would “seek ways” to beef up the consultative framework. It is speculated that India hesitated to the upgrade because it did not want to antagonize China.
During the July talks in Brazil, Modi and Xi are said to have agreed that the two countries need to resolve the border disputes. Modi also called for Chinese investments in India’s infrastructure projects. He also reportedly said India would positively consider an invitation by Xi to join the China-led initiative to create Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank — of which Japan and the United States are wary — as a founding member. Xi invited Modi to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing in November, although India is not a member of the APEC group.
China is one of India’s most important trading partners, with bilateral trade roughly four times larger than Japan-India trade. Modi appears to be trying to balance his country’s security needs with its economic interests. Japan also has a crucial stake in mending its relations with China — its largest trading partner — and will have to do it on its own.

The Beautiful Game brightens up office hours!


The Inter-Departmental Football Tournament is playing an inspirational role – motivating Sarkari Babus to come down on the “ground” making time to break the monotony of processing files and introducing the beautiful game to their schedules. Officials and employees of different government departments can now be seen busy in practice every morning and evening at Paljor Stadium, sharing the ground with equally eager but much younger footballers. The Inter-Departmental Football Tournament has become a popular annual event for government employees.
This credit truly goes to the one of the oldest and most popular club of the state, the Boy’s Club which revived this tournament in the year 2012 after it had remained in hibernation for a very long three decades. It is informed that the tournament was last played [before 2012] in the year 1982. It is now into its third season since revival.
The resumption of the tournament has compelled government employees to take out time from their busy schedules to lace up football boots, squeeze into uniform and sweat it out at the ground. It is refreshing to see senior officers and junior staff practicing and playing together to establish better coordination and teamwork. The football, insist the officers, has livened up the offices as well as the camaraderie of the ground continues into the offices.
Initially, the tournament was approached just as a recreation, “time-pass” to break the monotony of deskbound jobs for the government employees. But just in these very few years, the tournament has become very competitive and its participants have become serious sportspersons. While you will find a lot of joviality at the ground during matches, there is never a frivolous moment – everyone is clearly having fun playing serious football.
The tournament has also recorded a substantial increase in the number of teams signing up for each edition. Now, seeing the increasing competition and improved standard of the tournament, the participating departments have even begun scouting within the department for still better players and even going to the districts to source players [from within the same department of course].
In the first edition of the tournament, a total of 21 departments had participated in 2012, which increased to 23 teams in the second edition. In the third edition this year, 29 departments are in the fray! The defending champions this year, Forest Department, has won both the previous tournaments and is clearly the team to beat this year as well.
As an encouragement for players, this time, the number of spectators has also grown manifold.
Boy’s Club general secretary, Nima Thendup, when asked what made them revive the tournament, mentioned that the Club revived the tournament in the hope to encourage government employees towards healthier lifestyles by inculcating a sports culture among them. He added that over the three years, the tournament has been able to encourage government employees stay healthy and “sporty”.
“In the first edition of the tournament most of the players were unfit and we recorded lots of injuries during the matches. Now, the players are much more fit and we have recorded only very few injuries and the tournament standard has also noticeably high,” Mr Thendup said.
He added that with the increase in the level of competition, the participating departments have now been calling in colleagues posted at different parts of the state [this was earlier limited to Gangtok].
“This would also help them know each other better and would ultimately build a good relationship between them as senior officials and junior employees have been playing and practicing together,” he adds.
This tournament is also important for the Boy’s Club as savings from the organizing of the tournament are used to run the boys football academy for U-12, U-14 and U-17 of the Club.
“Savings from the tournament are used to manage the football academy of the club throughout the year,” Boy’s Club coordinator, Basant Gurung said. He said that with the support of the Boy’s Club these children of the academy have been doing well and many of them are now placed in good clubs and academy.
Mr Gurung expressed that this tournament could also help create jobs for sportspersons in different department in the future.
Sports & Youth Affairs Deputy Director [coaching], Thupden Rapgyal, mentions that over these three years, the tournament has not only become more popular but has also made government employees more health conscious and convinced them to stay fit. He points out that even employees who are not playing in the tournament were coming to the stadium for jogging at least to stay fit and healthy. He informed that the stadium is nowadays packed both in the mornings and the evenings with government employees, footballers and other sportspersons.
“Now, in these three years, we were able to inculcate the drive for a healthy life and sports culture among government employees who have now been practicing hard throughout the year for the tournament and to stay healthy and fit as well,” he adds.
Mr Rapgyal mentioned that government employees have now become an inspiration for their children and other family members to stay healthy. “When a senior official makes the effort to come and practice and play, he encourages and inspires his juniors and family members to stay fit and healthy as well,” he added.
Likewise, players of the different departments have appreciated the efforts of the Boy’s Club in reviving the tournament. They expressed that the tournament has given them a platform to play football after a long gap and encouraged them to stay fit.
Food Department midfielder Pintso Namgyal stated that the tournament has given a welcome break from the monotonous file work and employees have become conscious towards health and fitness. “The tournament has also provided a platform to those employees who found themselves distanced from football because of their jobs,” he added.
Mr Namgyal also stated that the tournament has also helped establish better coordination and friendship between different departments as now employees of different departments, even if they competed in matches, were practicing together.
Health Department striker, Ujjal Baraily, expressed that the tournament has not only become refreshing for the government employees but now it has helped employees stay away from unhealthy lifestyles.
Mr Baraily stated that the tournament has also helped them to get to know their colleagues in the districts and established stronger bonding.
Sports & Youth Affairs striker Norden Bhutia expressed that the tournament has been successful in leading government employees towards healthier lifestyles. “The tournament has also helped build up a good rapport and friendship between the employees in the department and with other departments as well apart from playing sports,” he adds.
Likewise, Sports & Youth Affairs stopper KD Lepcha believes that the tournament has created a welcome health consciousness among government employees. The tournament is currently in the league phase

High Court pulls up Army and State for non-compliance with directives

The division bench of Sikkim High Court has pulled up the state government and Indian army for failing to comply with its directives while paying rent of hired landed property of the public of Lachen in North Sikkim.
The Indian Army was required to furnish details of all the landholders with their name and address, whose land has been occupied by it, how much amount has been paid to them on account of hiring charges etc in tabular form with advance copy to the petitioners within a period of two weeks as per the High Court’s 12 August direction.
The Indian Army and State Government filed their respective affidavits before the High Court informing that they have paid only 50 percent of the total hiring charges calculated by them, without showing any justification or basis for withholding the remaining 50 percent.
While taking serious note of the affidavits the division bench headed by Chief Justice NK Jain and Justice Sushil Kumar Sinha observed that, “If there is no basis for withholding the remaining 50 percent of the amount, the same may be paid forthwith to the landowners. The respondents will make payment of interest on delayed payment also.”
“The respondents will also furnish the actual date on which the possession of land was taken by them,” the court said directing them to comply with the directions as well as the remaining directions given by this Court on 12 August within a period of ten days from 26 August, failing which the concerned persons will remain present in person before the Court on the next date and it may be treated as contempt of Court.
Earlier the High Court had directed the respondents to furnish the details of private land occupied by them; the amount of hiring charges paid by the respondents to each landholder; whether respondents have finalized the hiring charges as per the prevalent market rate, after hearing the concerned persons/ land owners; the basis for calculating the amount of hiring charges; and mode of payment of hiring charges paid by respondents to landholders.
The grievance of petitioners in their Public Interest Litigation is that their land as well as dwelling houses have been occupied by the Indian army forcefully without entering into an agreement to pay the hiring charges and without issuing any notification for acquisition of their land and houses.
They also stated that the Army has neither paid any hiring charges nor are they vacating the land and dwelling house occupied for the last 40 years.
After the intervention of the High Court on the PIL, the army started paying hiring charges to some of the landholders but it was a meager amount and not as per the prevalent market rate.

Face in the crowd, by ANAND OBEROI

Ambom – a Paljor Stadium original

Standing strong through the history and evolution of Polo Ground from a grazing field to a dust bowl football pitch to the astro-turfed Paljor Stadium of now, is “Ambom’s Canteen”. There could be no better a history teller about the stadium’s transformation from sand to turf than the 80-year-old Eden Lhamu Bhutia, lovingly called “Ambom” by all who have played at the stadium with any regularity at any time in their lives because the Paljor Stadium experience is not complete without a snack served by Ambom.
At the canteen, the same a wooden structure behind the gymnasium hall for the past 35 years, Ambom has been feeding hungry sportspersons, trainers, officers and people from all walks of life for many generations now.
With Ambom’s shyaphaleys, alu-thukpa, alu- bhuja, momos and alu-bun still fresh in the memories of all big names of Sikkim sports, the strict but still disarmingly charming lady has served piping hot food from the wooden window which continues to prominently display boiled eggs, bananas and chewing gum, standard fares for sports enthusiasts through decades who flock to the wooden benches of the canteen to get themselves the much needed diet.
Speaking to NOW!, the shy and hesitant Ambom questioned the need for a newspaper to carry an article about her as everyone around already knows her and has had a meal here. Refusing to even be photographed, it took a lot of convincing to get Ambom to briefly pose for the camera while she narrated what makes her do what she does.
“I have five children, two of whom have already expired while I ran this canteen at the ground. There are people who would run a business for the profits, but for me it is the satisfied faces of children after eating here that gives me the will to open shop everyday at 5 a.m.,” she says.
As for the name “Ambom”, she says that this started with her nephews and nieces who visited the canteen in the early days [and for whom she really was the Ambom by relation] and the name stuck.  Now everyone calls her Ambom - mother’s elder sister.
Ambom originally hails from Ben village in South Sikkim. Back home at the village, Ambom still has her Amla, her 98 year old mother who was the one who gave her the idea to setup a canteen as she was neither educated nor from a very financially stable background when she started living in the stadium complex five decades back.
“My husband worked in a bank outside the state and I had to sustain myself and my growing family which is why I decided to follow up on my mother’s advice and open this canteen. When we started here, there was just a single large auditorium where all indoor games including basket-ball were played. But with time and the development of separate infrastructure for different games, we had to shift to the present location,” she informs.
Ambom also recalls names such as Bhaichung Bhutia who were regulars at her canteen when he used to still play and practice at Paljor Stadium [during his school days at TNA].
As for the heydays of the stadium and the canteen, she says that there were times at the canteen when even 30 kilograms of meat would be insufficient for the momos because of the rush at the grounds. Things have changed since. Paljor Stadium does not attract such big crowds anymore. Meanwhile, she recalls that now the scenario has changed since the days when she sold momos for Rs. 5-7 a “double”, and a cup of tea went just for a rupee with even a half-cup serving of tea for 50 paise.
“There was a time when events like 15 August and Governor’s Gold Cup were the time of festivities at the ground. We hardly got time to even sit for a minute on such days because of the heavy rush but that has changed now and new establishments in front of the stadium are the new hangout for the new breed of sports persons,” she tells NOW!
While maintaining that the glory days of the stadium are in the more innocent past, she adds that infrastructure development around the stadium campus has also limited access for the footballers to come to the back of the stadium complex where her canteen is housed.
“Much has changed since then but the number of hungry children and sportspersons has not. There are still children eating here on credit, some of whom have not paid since 1994. Their ‘khatas’ are still active here. Sometimes old people come here and look at me and say, Ambom you are still alive! And these old people tell me that they were regulars here at one time. I am not very good at recognizing faces but once they start ordering and talking, I know what they are talking about,” she shares.
Ambom is now helped by her elder daughter Lhamu Bhutia in running the canteen and she shared of how Ambom sometimes serves what are practically free treats to those who could not afford to pay her. “Children come here in groups and the ones who have money order and start eating while the few unlucky ones just sit and stare at the rest eating and that hurts Ambom. She then starts serving free treats to the remaining telling them that they have to pay later; of course they never do and Amla knows that as well,” says Lhamu.
Ambom, for many sportspersons, be it from the field of football, Tae-Kwon-Do, TT, Badminton or basketball has stood in as the “dietitian” who has provided good nourishment at affordable price. There are still many sports associations which get their diets for their players from the canteen on credit. Working behind the scenes, in a hot and sweaty kitchen, amidst the din of hungry sportsmen and women, Ambom’s canteen has served the state’s sports people ever since one can remember.
One sportsperson calls her the ‘unsung hero’ of sports at Paljor Stadium.