Saturday, September 27, 2014

Jang wants out

Jang village sits on a dangerous perch above the Teesta Stage-V reservoir. Now, it has had enough to the trauma of development-induced slips and slides and wants NHPC to acquire their land and homes so that they can move on

Jang village, located on the left bank of the Teesta near Dikchu, has been on a precarious perch ever since the hydel project came to its neighbourhood. Its situation turned even more at risk when the project was commissioned in the year 2006 and the reservoir, over which the village sits, was filled up. Since then, the residents have seen their lands sink away, houses tilt, courtyards crack and landslides tear off from the below the village, tugging at its very foundations. Through the years, the villagers here have suffered damage, received inspection teams and collected reimbursement for repairs and damages. The cycle is proving too repetitive and the condition too traumatic for the people who are now demanding that NHPC acquire everything - from their imperiled lands to the in-threat houses - compensate them adequately so that they can relocate.
While this demand has been raised often by the people, it had not been taken into consideration with any seriousness by the concerned authorities until recently. The trouble at Jang has now clearly grow too dire to be sidestepped any longer and measures have begun to evaluate the scale of damage with the intention to compensate the affected families, paving the way for their relocation. The entire village of 45 houses wants out, but in the present process, 16 houses located below the road are being surveyed.
A joint inspection was carried out recently at Jang. The inspection team comprised of officials from NHPC central team, Joint Director, Mines & Geology Nima Sherpa, SDM-Gangtok KL Lepcha, GVA-Tintek Pema Wangchen Bhutia, Panchayat President BB Gurung, officials from Land Revenue and Power departments and the affected landowners.
All the 16 houses at Jang which lie below the Dikchu-Singtam highway have been declared unsafe for habitation and all of them wear wide cracks induced by the landslides which have been tearing away from the slope below into the Stage-V reservoir. A survey carried out by the Mines & Geology Department attested that these houses were unsafe for habitation. Since the houses have been so affected by the hydel project, it was recommended that they be acquired by the project developer - NHPC.
Before this, another eight houses at Jang had already been declared unsafe and compensated. With 16 more being considered for similar compensation, the number now stands at 24 or the 45 houses at Jang. The remaining houses are above the road alignment and are also seeking proper evaluation and acquisition by NHPC.
The Gangtok SDM, KL Lepcha, who was part of the inspection team, admitted that many joint surveys have been conducted for Jang and all have made similar findings; it was now time for concrete outcomes. Meanwhile, at present, assessment of land is being carried out by the Land Revenue Department after which the Buildings Department will prepare an assessment of the houses, following which an official compensation package can be worked out for the Jang families, adds GVA Tintek, Pema Wangchen Bhutia.
The people insist that they do not want compensation for damages anymore and want their lands and properties to be acquired by NHPC once and for all since the area is no longer safe for habitation.
“We don’t even want relocation packages. We want to be compensated for our properties after which we will settle elsewhere on our own and will neither harass the government nor the project developer,” says Mohan Koirala, one of the affected residents of Jang.
Meanwhile, a similar joint inspection was also conducted for Phidang village on the opposite bank.
This inspection was led by DC North, TN Kazi along with SDM Dzongu, Tshering Dorjee Bhutia, along with the NHPC central team from Faridabad headed by RP Sharma, Chief Engineer (Geology), VK Saini, Chief Engineer, Tech (Civil), Nima Sherpa, Joint Directer, State Mines & Geology Deptt, representatives from Land Revenue Deptt, Panchayat member Tshering Gyatso Lepcha and the affected landowners.
The team inspected all the lands and houses damaged by the reservoir on the right bank which falls in North District. It has been ascertained that the land and building belonging to Karma Donka Lepcha of Phidang, has been severely damaged as has the attached agriculture land.
Likewise, the land belonging to Samten Lepcha, Nedup Lepcha and Naksuk Lepcha towards the reservoir has also been severely damaged by a landslide which has torn away sizeable portions of their land.
The affected landowners argue that landslides around the reservoir have been triggered owing to the lack of reservoir rim treatment which should have been undertaken before the commissioning of the project, failing which, toe erosion has been excessive causing slips and sinks on the slope. The affected people complain that they sacrificed their meagre ancestral properties for a national cause, but their gesture was not adequately reciprocated by the project developers who have not ensured adequate safety measures.
A brief meeting was held after the inspection at Phidang where the Panchayat Vice President Tshering Gyatso Lepcha stated that NHPC should take serous steps in light of the damage caused to the area and insisted that this be expedited.
The DC North informed that several joint inspections and surveys have been conducted, and that time has now come for NHPC to acquire the damaged land and properties and adequately compensate the people. The DC added that since a central NHPC team has seen the situation, the results this time should be fruitful.
The NHPC Chief Engineer (Geology) in turn said that there are clearly damages of private lands and homes as it has been ascertained and said that there would be a positive outcome based on the survey.
The affected people informed that improper Reservoir Rim Treatment measures adopted along the reservoir which the NHPC in the past are to blame. The rim treatment should have been more scientifically undertaken, taking into consideration the local topography and lay of the land.
Concerning this case , at Phidang village NHPC has paid compensation to houses lying within the purview of the Reservoir at EL 581-EL 585,that is the NHPC acquired areas.
In the winter of 2013, NHPC had set aside a substantial package for the protection of Dikchu New Market area and even shut down power generation for a month when protective works were undertaken at the reservoir level. But the rim treatment measures adopted, which should have been one of fully strong grouting rod concreted mixture at least up till the reservoir submergence level [EL 579] so as to protect Toe Erosions Scouring Tremors and Vibrations from occurring, was not done. The Mangan-Dikchu highway below Dikchu New Market is also now at risk of collapsing anytime due to the slide tugging at it from the reservoir.
Among the other demands of the affected people are requests for installation Halogen lights at strategic locations along the reservoir to save lives in the event of a calamity. Such measures are included in the DPR Public Hearing Book of NHPC, but remain undelivered till date.

Yishey D. conferred ALL Grassroots Women Achievers Award

Accomplished writer and journalist [Sikkim Express], Yishey D., was felicitated recently by the Assocham Ladies League [ALL] at a special function held in New Delhi with Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Venkaiah Naidu, as chief guest.
Yishey was conferred the ALL Grassroots Women of the Decade Achievers Award in recognition of the sensitivity with which she writes and the empathy with which she has fleshed out the sociocultural nuances of grassroots Sikkim.
Assocham Ladies League honored 35 achievers, namely Meera Munda, social activist Mehvish Mushtaq, first Kashmiri woman App developer; Anar Patel, founder of Gramshree, Chavvi Rajawat, first woman Sarpanch in Rajasthan who left her corporate job for it; Meena Raghunathan of GMR Varalakshmi Foundation for CSR; Uma Chigurupati of Hyderabad Heritage Foundation; Hiresha Verma of Dehradun who is a social entrepreneur helping women in Uttarakhand to rebuild their lives after the floods through a vibrant mushroom business; Alana Golmei of the 24/7 “North East Helpline and Support Center”; Dr. Sailakshmi Balijepalli of Ekam Foundation working for zero child mortality; Valli Annamalai from Madurai curbing female infanticide, and  others.

ALL is the country’s first all-women industry chamber with a deep commitment to women’s leadership in all aspects of society.

Vroom, Vroom, Women…

More and more women at taking to two-wheelers in Gangtok, as much for convenience as the thrill of feeling the wind in their hair

Even as more women are taking to driving cars in Sikkim, in a noticeable trend, they are also increasingly taking to the thrill of two-wheelers. “Why should boys have all the fun” is clearly finding resonance among the ladies here as more and more of them are opting for two wheelers as their preferred mode of transportation. What has now become the irritating rashness of boys on wheels on city roads is meeting competition from the responsible acceleration of women threading through Gangtok traffic snarls on two wheels. Welcome to the roads, ladies!
Bhawana Rai, a first-year student, says that owning a scooter was an empowering moment for her, making her independent whether going to college or running errands. Riding a two-wheeler gives her confidence and now that she is an expert rider, she enjoys her newfound mobility.
“My scooty gives me confidence to move around freely without being dependent on anyone,” she tells NOW!
According to data available with the office of the RTO, Motor Vehicles, Gangtok, the total number of permanent driving licenses issued to women in 2013-14 stands at 536. Not a staggeringly high number, but it still is nearly 45 more licensed women drivers on the roads every month. And, most of the girls are applying for licenses to drive two-wheelers, a source at the Gangtok RTO office informs.
The RTO office also states that the number of two wheelers registered to women since April this year has crossed the 40 mark. Learners’ licenses issued to women meanwhile have reached a whooping 1,017.
Rosila, a teacher, says, “Girls are more comfortable riding a two-wheeler than travelling by taxis. Taxis are not always convenient for a woman working late hours or for students heading to or returning from coaching centers or tuitions early in the morning or late in the evning,” she points out. And then, share cabs do not necessarily link all lanes and reserving taxis is an expensive proposition for regular commuters.
She adds that she chose to purchase a Honda Activa for Rs. 63, 000 earlier this year since this was not that big a sum to pay for “freedom”.
“Even when it rains we always have the option to wear raincoats and ride. Riding is refreshing and even maintenance is less as compared to owning and driving a car. And there is no tension that you will not get a parking space with two-wheelers or get stuck in the jams of Gangtok traffic”.
Ajeet Oberoi of Yamaha Innovations, a showroom selling two-wheelers near Sikkim Jewels, Tadong, is happy to see his business growing on a daily basis. “The rise in the number of women driving two-wheelers is a major reason for the surge in sales. We have sold more than 80 scooters already till September this year,” he says.
The father of a girl who went to buy a scooter at Yamaha Innovations states, “It is far safer for my daughter to drive a two-wheeler than to travel in taxis since she works long hours in a private firm at Sang Khola. Girls have to move out of home to attend college and also for jobs in surrounding areas of Gangtok like Ranipool or Singtam. Using a scooter is a safe option as I know what time my daughter will be back home,” he says.
Medha Pradhan, a 19-year-old college student, cited another reason for buying a two-wheeler. She states, “My scooter gives me the opportunity to explore surrounding areas of Gangtok or hang out with my friends without worrying about transport.”
She also mentions that girls have also started with the trend of “scooty gangs”, which she also wishes to be a member of in the coming days. These groups include three to five members who all share the same passion and love riding their two-wheelers and enjoy hanging out together.
The mother of a college student had a different perspective about the surge in “women on wheels.” “Eve-teasing can also be avoided if girls ride two-wheelers, I guess riding scooters is a safer way for our daughters to travel once it starts getting dark.” she said.

Vajra Guru Dhondrup recital begins at Samdruptse next week

Vajra Guru Dhondrup, the recitation of Vajra Guru Mantra 12 crore times to invoke the blessings of Guru Padmasambhava for universal peace and welfare of all sentient beings, is scheduled to be held from 03 to 18 October at the Guru Rimpoche statue complex at Samdruptse in South Sikkim.
These recitals have been held for the past six years without break at Samdruptse, organized by the Samdruptse Management Committee and attended each year by thousands of devotees not only from all over Sikkim but also from Nepal, Bhutan, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and other parts of West Bengal.
As informed by Bhaichung Bhutia of the publicity wing of the organizing committee, the committee members are hoping that this year as well the prayers will receive a good attendance and participation.

He further informed that like every year, the committee has arranged transportation, meals and accommodation for monks, nuns and lay practitioners who wish to participate in the prayers. Mr. Bhutia also said that this recitation of Vajra Guru Mantra at Samdruptse had become the important annual event of Namchi receiving the participation of members of all communities through local clubs and associations and even at individual capacities. 

Ask, and you shall be provided… cash memos

People in Sikkim are not accustomed to asking for cash memos for the purchases they make; nor are the business enterprises here accustomed to giving cash receipts for the sales they make. While it is always advisable to ask for a cash receipt on a purchase, the casual attitude of the people has virtually pushed this business exercise of asking and receiving cash memos to redundancy. In this context, the direction of the state government making it mandatory for all business enterprises in Sikkim to issue cash memos on sale of any commodity is rather curious as well as puzzling. No doubt there is already a standing order on the issue which makes this mandatory but, like the public, the government too is casual and never took this ‘standing order’ seriously either.
What makes this recent order puzzling and difficult to comprehend is that the state government has threatened to cancel trade licenses of those business enterprises which do not issue cash memos to customers. It is indeed difficult to see small shops issuing cash memos on purchases by customers; in fact, as an official of the UD&HD informed, cash memos are to be given for purchase of all ‘packed items’. Even the tiny paan dokan by the corner of the road has packed items. Would be rather impractical to expect receipts being issued there. But the government is serious, or so its officials insist.
The Urban Development & Housing Department issued a notification last week that makes it “mandatory” for all business establishments in the state (all trade license holders) to issue genuine cash memos to the consumers for any packaged items sold. As officials inform, the notification, which comes into immediate effect, is intended at benefiting the consumers by strengthening the legal support system under the Consumer Protection Act, failing which the trade licenses of the business establishments can be cancelled by the concerned department.
“There have been instances when the lack of proper receipts and cash memos has discouraged consumers from taking legal action against errant business establishments in cases of expired or damaged goods that were sold to them,” states UD&HD, Special Secretary, LB Chettri.
The question is how does the government intend to put this direction in to effective implementation? The Special Secretary informed that the matter of implementation would be shouldered by the Urban Local Bodies and the inspectors of the UD&HD.
The other aspect of such a move of the government is to enhance tax collection and thereby, increasing state revenue and also checking any irregularities in transaction. As most business enterprises do not often issue cash memos it is difficult for the tax collection agencies to verify the actual amount of goods sold and therefore the taxes that accrue to the government.
However, the UD&HD Special Secretary stated that the department is still working out the logistics of the items that could come under the purview of the new notification with the business establishments. He also added that the State Consumer Helpline, Legal Metrology Unit under FCS&CA department already had the logistics for the extension of the new notification.
“The Consumers don’t ask for cash memos but now as per the new notification if the consumer asks for the same and is refused, the trade license of the business establishment can be cancelled. The implementation part is still being examined and we have given the business establishments some time to get their books in order,” explains the Special Secretary.
There is also the question of whether there is a minimum purchasing amount below which issuing of cash memos can be dispensed with. State Consumer Helpline legal counselor, Sunita Subba informs that unlike the previous rule where the shopkeepers and business establishments had to produce cash memos for purchases above Rs. 100, the Consumer Protection Act now makes it mandatory for any business establishment to provide cash memos for items that cost even Rs. 2  if the consumer asks for the same.
The legal counselor also informs that all “packaged items” including liquor, medicines, sweets in tea shops and paan shops selling packaged items are all covered under the Consumer Protection Act and if a consumer asked for a receipt or a cash memo, the business establishment was required to furnish the same in the interest of the consumer failing which all necessary action could be initiated against the business establishments.
While it does seem a fancy notion still that all traders and shopkeepers will now voluntarily issue cash memos several traders in Gangtok informed that all trade license holders running businesses were actually required to keep cash memos. This is as per the rules of the UD&HD and also Consumer Protection Act. “If someone asks for a cash memo, how can we refuse them? If it is the rule then we will have to follow it otherwise action can be initiated against us,” states a local business man.
The business community however wants the notification to be circulated widely so that every trade license holder knows about the notification and the penalties that come with it. “As of now it is still not clear to many as to what comes under the purview of the notification, this should be made clear to all, after which the implementation should take place,” states another businessman. 

The notification states that all ‘Business Enterprises in Sikkim are required to issue valid cash memos preferably electronic to the consumer on sale of any commodities.” Further it states that in the event of failure to issue cash memo the trade license shall be cancelled “…in accordance with Rule 13(l)(k) of the Sikkim Trade License and Miscellaneous Provisions Rules, 2011. 

Taxi driver associations say no to cooperatives

The transfer of ticket counters at taxi stands to cooperative societies has been protested by taxi driver associations. For now, they have decided to keep their protest in abeyance till 10 Oct when a mega-meeting is proposed to discuss the issue

Taxi driver associations in the state will now wait till 10 October before taking a decision on whether or not to go ahead with their proposed strike in protest against cooperative societies taking over their erstwhile positions in the taxi stands at the ticket counters.
The taxi drivers are protesting the decision of the state government to hand over the operations at the various taxi counters in the state to Cooperative Societies. In this regard, they had also threatened to call a statewide strike if this decision was not rolled back. It has been the taxi drivers’ associations which have been manning the ticket counters at the taxi stands all these years and it is no secret that it is a good business. It is not just the associations of east district, taxi driver associations of all four districts are united in their stand against this decision of the government, informed Kumar Thapa, Social Secretary, Main Line Taxi Drivers’ Association.
A meeting had been called in the office of the District Collector [East] on 24 September after which the aggrieved taxi drivers decided to wait till 10 October when, it is expected, a meeting will be held among the concerned departments and the drivers. It has been revealed that there was, in fact, a proposal put up to the government calling for the removal of taxi drivers’ associations from operating the ticket counters and allotting the same to cooperatives. Three state agencies had put up this proposal which include Motor Vehicles Department, UD&HD and the Municipal Corporation.
The taxi drivers are not just aggrieved at the decision of the government to hand over their business to cooperatives. Kumar Thapa informed that they are also aggrieved of the delay on the part of the concerned departments in renewing their registrations as taxi driver associations. The proposal for renewal had been put up to the departments for the renewal of their licenses to operate as associations but had yet to receive any response. Another demand put up by the taxi drivers’ associations seeks a ban on main line taxis operating without allegiance to any particular taxi stand. There are a number of taxis which operate to Siliguri and back and are not “registered” at any taxi stand. These taxis, according to Kumar Thapa, are detrimental to their business and need to be removed. In fact the demand is to have such taxis removed from the roads by 10 October as well.
The meeting of 24 September called by the DC-East Tsewang Gyatso was only to decide on another meeting, on 10 October, during which all the concerned agencies would be represented. The same set of grievances were also put up to the Chief Minister earlier and again on 26 September through the Principal Secretary, CMO. Earlier, the government had also proposed that the ticket counters be operated jointly by the cooperatives and taxi associations. This was rejected by the associations.

Playacting real concerns


Tadong Senior Secondary School teachers and students have been collaborating for a while to combat addiction among the young, and in the latest instance, successfully staged a play to generate awareness and funds against drug addiction and alcoholism. Clearly, the school’s commitment to eradicate this menace is not confined to speeches and slogans and is seeking out innovative and creative avenues to translate stand into action.
“Hajam ko Darpan ma Hamro Chaya - A Reflection of Self”, the play staged by the Tadong School at Sikkim Government College auditorium here from 16 to 20 September received a tremendous response from the people and played to packed shows on all days.
The two-hour long play has been written and directed by Jiwan Rai, a teacher at the school, and is enacted by students from the school itself who essayed all roles with skills which displayed no amateur jitters or awkwardness.
As for the play, it plays out at the “MC Hair Cutting Saloon” and features songs and elaborate dialogue-bazi. The songs, each carrying a social message, were performed by teachers Sukmit Tasho Rai and Deoraj Sharma and an ex-student, Prakash Sundas. All these three are professional singers and musicians or repute, and this reflected in the professional quality of the playback singing. The play also included dances by students.
“The play tries to explain that drug addiction and alcoholism are dangerous killers and seeks to encourage everyone to come forward to fight this menace and make Sikkim a drug-free society,” explains the writer and director of the play.
Mr. Rai adds that the play also addresses the problem of fraying social structure which is resulting in children falling prey to the drug mafia. He adds that the other motive of the play is to bring all stakeholders to the same platform and then build collaborations to combat this social problem.
Ticket sales went into the Charity Fund constituted at the school for students in need. This, Mr Rai informs, was the brainchild of the school Principal Doma L Zimba.
He informs that the treatment of an addict at a proper rehab costs around Rs 30,000. The school, he adds, has already sponsored the treatment of two students from the school fund. He stated that in a bid to deal with the issue long term, the school has constituted this Charity Fund for students vulnerable to addiction and some of whom have already become addicts.
It is informed that teachers and students have voluntarily contributed towards this fund and community support has also been invited. “This fund will be used to treat drug addicted students, to hire professional counselors regularly and to meet the expenses of medical emergencies resulting from addiction,” Mr Rai informs.

Emergency expansion at Emergency Ward

The Emergency Ward of the Sir Thutob Namgyal Memorial Hospital has been facing problems of over-crowding for a while now, and is now going to finally receive some expansion by the beginning of next year with the construction of an extension wing right next to the present ward, the construction of which has already started.
While speaking to NOW!, Dr Yogesh Verma [Principal Consultant cum Medical Superintendent at STNM Hospital] informed that the 20-bedded extension of the Emergency Ward which is being constructed right next to the present ward should be finished by the end-December and be made operational by January 2015. The expansion is being taken up as an emergency case. This extension, Dr. Verma said, will ease the problem of space, even though it will not solve the problem completely as demand is for still more space.

The work, he stated, is being carried out by the Engineering Cell of the Health Department.

Sikkim this week

Workshop for I.O’s
GANGTOK: A two-day workshop on “Investigation and Appreciation of Evidence” for Investigating Officers of the Police was organized by the Sikkim Judicial Academy, High Court of Sikkim, here on 22 and 23 September. The workshop was inaugurated by Registrar General, High Court of Sikkim, K.C Barfungpa, who is also the Director, Sikkim Judicial Academy. Debaditya Roy and Arjun Chettri were present as resource persons.

Dedicate Eye Wing inaugurated at Singtam Hospital
SINGTAM:  Governor Shriniwas Patil inaugurated the “Dedicated Eye Wing & Free Squint Operation Camp” at the District Hospital, Singtam, on 22 September. In a special gesture, the Governor dedicated the camp to the Chief Minister with whose birthday the inauguration coincided. In his address, he urged health officials to henceforth observe “eye promoting programmes” on 22 September every year. He also suggested that a free Squint camp be held soon in North Sikkim as well. The Health Minister, AK Ghatani, in turn informed that around 170 patients were screened across the State of whom 21 will undergo the “free SQUINT” operation during the three-day camp.

Poultry Farm School opened at Rey-Mindu
GANGTOK: The Agriculture Technology Management Agency, East, under the Agriculture Department, in coordination with Animal Husbandry Department, opened a Farm School on Poultry Farming (Banaraja Chickens) at Rey-Mindu, Tympin, East Sikkim on 22 Sept, an official press release informs. The inaugural programme was attended by around 25 poultry farmers of Rey-Mindu and surrounding areas and had Rinchen Lepcha, Ward Panchayat, Tympin, as the chief guest. The 25 will form the first batch of the Farm School and will be provided training and assistance.

Bikers petition Governor on Viswa Bharati issue
Gangtok: Executive members of Dirty Angels Motorcycle Club called on the Governor earlier this week and submitted a memorandum on the Viswa Bharati University issue. The bikers were led by their president Kinchok T. Bhutia, and the visit was in follow-up to the signature campaign organized by DAMC in Gangtok on the issue last week. 2,242 signatures were received by the club in its pursuit of seeking support and justice for the Sikkim girl harassed at VBU. In the memorandum submitted to the Governor, the Club sought proper health check up of the Sikkim student in well equipped rehabilitation centre, financial assistance to the family for the treatment ; immediate arrest and expulsion of the staff involved in hiding the cover-up at VBU; State government to be proactive in responding to such situations; HRDD to maintain proper data on all the students from Sikkim studying outside the state; and counseling sessions once a year for Sikkim students studying outside the state [to be organized by HRDD in coordination with their counterparts in the destination states]; financial assistance to associations formed by Sikkim students studying outside.

India’s Mars Shot

An editorial in The New York Times comments on a determined effort which sends a satellite to the red planet and makes a nation proud.
In successfully launching an orbiter to Mars this week, India’s space program demonstrated what’s possible when a determined group of people put their minds to solving a complex problem.
India’s Mangalyaan, or “Mars craft” in Hindi, is not the first orbiter to reach the Red Planet — the United States, the Soviet Union and the European Space Agency have previously achieved that feat — but it has done so in its first attempt and on a shoestring budget of $74 million. (NASA’s Maven mission to Mars cost $671 million).
Furthermore, India is the first Asian nation to reach Mars. The Indian satellite will remain in an elliptical orbit around Mars to study the planet’s surface and atmosphere.
There is always a certain amount of nationalism attached to space missions, and Indians are justifiably proud of the achievement of the Indian Space Research Organization. Indian officials have said they are hoping to build on the success of the Mars Orbiter Mission, nicknamed MOM, by landing a rover on the Moon and sending humans into space.
The mission has its critics. Some argue that India should be spending the money it is devoting to space exploration on food, shelter and other basic necessities for millions of Indians who can’t afford them. The nation certainly needs to spend more on those and other needs, but the space program has benefited the country in many ways, improving its ability to forecast the weather and connecting remote areas through satellite communications. More broadly, the Mars mission can serve as an inspiration to political leaders, scientists and Indian citizens to take on big problems and solve them in creative ways.

Sensitised on sanitation

GANGTOK, 25 Sept [IPR]: The month-long National Sanitation Campaign for Swachh Bharat kicked off for Sikkim from MG Marg on Thursday. The campaign was launched simultaneously with the National Sanitation Campaign of the Government of India. RMDD Minister, SB Subedi, flagging off the campaign, spoke on the importance of cleanliness and hygiene.
Amplifying the axiom of “re-using and re-cycling”, the Minister planted saplings in flowerpots made entirely from discarded car tyres. Also on the day, waste carrying vehicles for the Liquid Waste Management projects of Namthang, Lachen and Tashiding were flagged off. The Minister also flagged off a mountain bike rally and a students’ rally seeking to convey the message for Clean Sikkim.
Earlier, delivering the welcome address, the RM&DD Secretary, DR Nepal, spoke at length about the need for proactive involvement of the people in the mission and outlined the action plan of the campaign starting with rural-level sensitization.

Rock for Peace & Harmony

Rock n’ Roll has often been wrongly associated with drugs and alcohol, but this has been on the mend at least in Sikkim, where for the past few years, people working with rehabilitation and treatment have used music as a medium to spread the message of a drug and alcohol free society.
In a similar initiative, Mirakai Rehab of Aho in East Sikkim under Drishya Foundation and the Yargey Association of Tatangchen (YAT) are all set to woo rock n rollers by organizing a rock concert on the theme, “Peace and Harmony” at Guards Ground, Tatangchen on 02 October, Gandhi Jayanti. A strong focus of the show will be on spreading awareness against substance abuse.
On stage will be Still Waters, one of the premier bands of the state who will also be giving new artists a chance to perform on stage alongside them. And the programme that starts at 4pm sharp will not just have rock music to spread the message on the ills of substance abuse, there will also be other events lined up for the audience like a bodybuilding show by members of SSBBA, dance and cultural performances by students and a cat walk by teenagers from the locality.  
Entry to the event is free for all and the show has been supported by Café Live n Loud, Ladakhi Depo, Red FM, Nayuma Television, Sikkim Distilleries, Good News, Royal Plaza and the Cultural Affairs & Heritage Department.


3,000/7,972 done; Rs. 227 cr of Rs. 389 sanctioned received

As the state crossed the third anniversary of the devastating 18 Sept 2011 Earthquake, the Rural Management & Development Department presents a status report on the ambitious Reconstruction of Earthquake Damaged Rural Houses

The reconstr
uction of 7,972 houses under the Reconstruction of Earthquake Damaged Rural Houses (REDRH) Project is sanctioned under the PM’s Special Package. Owning a home of our own is a dream often not easy to achieve. But for 3,000 rural households of Sikkim, this dream has turned into a reality as they have moved into their brand new homes. The philosophy of Build Back Better has been the guiding strategy for both these projects. The homeowner-driven implementation model has been adopted and it has helped to establish a sense of ownership and identity with the beneficiaries.
An efficient and transparent mechanism of beneficiary selection, stock material management, physical progress monitoring and simplification of the technical elements has been established. The core house design, building standards, construction material (cement and steel), technical supervision and capital has been provided by the project. While the home-owner undertook the actual construction, procured local construction material (stone, sand, timber etc), arranged for mason and labour and also added their own finances. Skills upgradation trainings for the masons and engineers were specially organized in partnership with IIT-Delhi.
In terms of physical progress, a total of 3000 houses have been completed while another 2,000 houses have crossed roof level, 2,500 houses have crossed plinth level and for the remaining 472 houses work is underway.
Out of the total sanctioned cost of Rs 389.83 crore, we have received Rs 227.03 crore from the Government of India so far. Inspite of this, the physical progress achieved is far more than the financial support received so far.
[RM&DD, GoS]

Rakdong-Tintek GPU wins block level sports

Dikchu: The Block Level Rural Sports Competition under Rajiv Gandhi Khel Abhiyan [RGKA] concluded here on 24 September with the Rakdong-Tintek GPU emerging victors followed by Tumin GPU on second place, and Samdong-Kambal and Patuk-Singbel GPU in third and fourth positions respectively. The valedictory function had Zilla member Saraswati Regmi present as chief guest and was also attended by the Tintek GVA Pema Wangchen Bhutia, Deputy Director Sports, Panchayat President Rakdong-Tintek GPU, BB Gurung, RB Biswakarma, AD Sports, Yadunath Sapkota, panchayat members and people from all walks of life. The event was held in five disciplines - archery, tae-kwon-do, athletics, kho-kho and football .

Terminated hydel projects take Court route back to North Sikkim


North Sikkim appears headed to, again, bear with the complexities of hydel projects with an ‘additional’ three hydroelectric projects. Three hydroelectric projects in North Sikkim which had earlier been terminated by the State Government are all likely to resume from the point where they let off. Following the earthquake of 18 September, 2011, the State government had terminated a total of five hydel projects- two in West Sikkim and three in North Sikkim. Now, the terminated projects in north Sikkim are all set to resume after the project developers approached the High Court of Sikkim which decided the matter in favour of the project developers. Bureaucratic arbitrariness in terminating the projects without arguing out all aspects of the situation or clearly explaining the reasons behind the decision won the day for the project developers in the Court.
All the three projects are to be constructed on the Lachungchu, which is a tributary of the River Teesta in north Sikkim. In fact, all the three projects are located further above the 1200 MW Teesta Stage II being developed by Teesta Urja at Chungthang. The 99 MW Lachung HEP undertaken by Lachung Hydropower Private Ltd, the 99 MW Bhimkyong HEP undertaken by Teesta Hydropower and the 99 MW Bop HEP undertaken by Chungthang Hydropower limited, all on the Lachungchu, have been allowed to resume by an order of the High Court issued on 17 September, 2014.
The High Court has quashed the order of termination of the projects issued by the State Government [on 12 March this year]. The termination order was issued by the High Powered Committee chaired by the Chief Secretary set up to arbitrate on the matter following the High Court’s earlier directions on the matter. The Committee was to reconsider the initial order of termination of these three projects issued by the Power Department on 21 June, 2012. Following this order of termination the project developers approached the High Court of Sikkim; the Court redirected the matter to the high powered committee which, eventually, stood by the earlier order of termination. Following this, the project developers again approached the Court which has now quashed the order the high powered committee on termination of the projects.
The high powered committee under the CS had recommended the termination of the projects mainly on three grounds. Firstly, as per the agreement with the state government the developers had to achieve financial closure within 12 months of the signing of the Agreement (by 17 January 2009). This could not be achieved. Secondly, and also as per the Agreement, construction works on the project were to be undertaken within 6 months of financial closure. This, too, was not achieved. Finally, commercial operation of the projects was to be achieved within 72 months or 5 years of the signing of the Agreements (by 17/1/2014). This, too, could not be achieved.
As regards the first point of financial closure within 12 months, it is explained that the Ministry of Environment and Forests had imposed a complete embargo on the projects on 08 October, 2008 which was lifted only on 18 September, 2010. Therefore, it was argued, the deadline on financial closure could not be met. The embargo had been imposed a few months before the end period of achieving financial closure. The Court noted that no financial institution would like to invest money in a dead project. In fact the embargo was lifted only two years later. The high powered committee, it seems, did not consider this point while passing its recommendation for termination.  While the committee was aware of the embargo, the court noted, it completely ignored it and ruled that financial closure was not achieved within the time schedule.
The issues and constraints presented by the earthquake of 18 September, 2011 were also raised by the project developers. It took a long time for normalcy to return after the earthquake. This point, too, went unnoticed by the high powered committee. The court notes that the contract is not between two private parties but between the government and private companies. “Thus, the government as an employer was under obligation to take note of all these facts and then take a decision in a reasonable manner and not in an arbitrary manner,” reads the order of the division bench of the High Court.
The High Court goes on to observe that the high powered committee should have considered that when the financial closure itself was not achieved for reasons which cannot be attributed to the developers then how  could the construction works or commercial operations of the projects be achieved. “It does not appear to be a case in which the companies sat as idle spectators and did nothing… the companies started working on their projects even before the formal Agreements were executed…,” noted the court.
Finally, when the embargo was lifted, the project developers went about commissioning various studies as required of them when they were slapped with show cause notices on why the projects should not be terminated. This was on 05 December, 2011.
The Court further notes that the committee “completely ignored” these factors and proceeded to take a decision in a straight line for not achieving the various milestones as per the Agreements.
As quirky as it may sound the committee itself recorded that failures on the above aspects could be attributed to a host of reasons and yet it went on to recommend the termination of the projects. And while cost overruns were obvious and was also noted by the committee, the projects being BOOT projects, the financial burden was on the project developers and not the state government.
The arbitrary decision of the high powered committee in terminating the three projects has only resulted in the projects being delayed by a further almost three years. The state government will now have to set new timelines for various milestones such as financial closure, commencement of construction and commissioning of the projects. Needless to add, there will definitely be cost overruns and in the end analysis, a prolonged period before these projects are commissioned and the state can rake in the benefits.

Politics heats up over Organic Sikkim aspirations

Gangtok: Sikkim Krantikari Morcha’s Dr. Mechung Bhutia had been going at the State Government, questioning its commitment to organic farming ever since he was elected MLA. Now, the SKM has found an ally in the Dhananjaya Kumar Singh, the chief of the Kisan Morcha, a frontal organisation of the BJP. Reportedly here on a “fact-finding” mission to evaluate the organic Sikkim mission, Mr. Singh joined the state-unit of the BJP in submitting a memorandum to the Governor and demanding the Chief Minister Pawan Chamling be dismissed from office for having misled the Prime Minister into believing that Sikkim was already an organic state. The response, both from the ruling party and the State Government, has been strong and quick as well, with the clarification that Sikkim has never claimed to already being an Organic State and that it was in the process of becoming one. A rejoinder issued today by the Sikkim Organic Mission of the Agriculture Department says this about the news reports on the SKM-BJP allegations: “The article only succeeded in exposing the ignorance of what has been happening with regard to Sikkim becoming an Organic State”.
The BJP Kisan Morcha chief is reported to have “apprised the Governor of the plight of farmers and rural people who were forced to implement the whims of Chief Minister Chamling, without any benefits or subsidies”. He further informed the Governor that many farmers were “openly” using chemical pesticides and artificial soil enhancers to ensure a yield that could support the farmers’ basic needs.
The Sikkim Organic Mission has countered such claims by contending that there has been “no significant reduction in yield.
The SOM communiqué informs that Sikkim aims to become Organic only December 2015 and that about 32% of the total agricultural land has already been certified as Organic and that by year-end, another 30% will be so certified.
It also refutes allegations that Sikkim has been enjoying “large funds” in the name of organic farming. “Neither the State Government nor the Departments have availed such large funds in the name of organic farming as claimed…” the rejoinder states.
The clarifications have however been dismissed by the SKM, which, in a press release issued today, sees these as “tactical policy of deceit and beguilement”. It reiterates that the party was not against Organic farming, but opposed to false claims.
“SKM party is of the strong opinion that the present SDF govt. has thoroughly misled the people of Sikkim and the nation as well regarding the organic farming in Sikkim by providing false information,” it claims.
The SDF party too has rubbished the Sikkim-BJP claims, arguing that the Kisan Morcha chief and Opposition MLAs are clearly not aware organic farming and its certification procedures or even the Sikkim Organic Mission because of which they were making such ill-informed allegations.
The press communiqué from Sikkim Organic Mission states, “It is for everyone to understand that Sikkim Organic Mission is a combined effect and effort of all the people of Sikkim – Government, farmers, various stakeholder institutions, market forces etc and that all those involved have to give concerted support so as to take Sikkim to a stage where it can swiftly move to occupy prominent space in Indian agriculture”.

Regions first open heart surgery conducted at CRH

The Central Referral Hospital in Gangtok successfully conducted the first open heart surgery of the State recently when it replaced the aortic valve of a young lady from Tumin Saley in East Sikkim on 11 September. The patient was discharged on Monday. She was admitted in the hospital two months back and underwent an Aortic Valve Replacement here.
Dr. Sudheer Deodatta Palkar, Senior Cardio Vascular Thoracic Surgeon at CRH, along with his team of doctors and nurses performed the four hour long surgery on Phuchung Lepcha. Until her surgery, she was bedridden, and now, following the successful operation, she is able to move around and speak normally as earlier.
Not just Sikkim, this is perhaps the first open heart surgery in the entire Northeastern Region by any hospital established on the Public-Private partnership model.
Addressing a media briefing, Dr. Palkar told reporters that the patient had checked into CRH complaining of chest pain and shortness of breath. She was unable to walk even a few steps without running out of breath and suffering acute chest pains.
A series of investigations and Echo Cardiogram diagnosed her with Aortic stenosis and Aortic incompetence, Dr Palkar informed, adding that an additional CT Angio of the heart and great vessels showed Aortic root transverse diameter of about 28 mm which further confirmed the diagnosis. Aortic valve stenosis is a disease of the heart valves in which the opening of the aortic valve [main artery that carries blood out of heart to rest of the body] is narrowed. The aortic valve is located between the left ventricle of the heart and aorta, the largest artery in the body, which carries the entire output of blood to the systematic circulation.
Phuchung was brought to the hospital by the Pastor of her church. Her medical expenses was borne through Sikkim Manipal Swasthya Suraksha, a health scheme launched by CRH covering hospital costs upto Rs. 1.50 lakh, and the remaining cost was absorbed by the hospital itself since the patient could not afford it.
Thus far, patients requiring open heart surgery would have to travel to Kolkata or Delhi or one of the other metros for the procedure. Now, with Dr. Palkar, having 37 years of experience in heart surgery, having joined CRH [barely a year back], Sikkim has a cardio-superspeciality wing to cater the people of the Northeast.
While interacting with media-persons, Ms. Lepcha admitted that she was worried about the treatment and thanked God and the service provided at Central Referral Hospital. “It saved me valuable time and money. I am really thankful to CRH, Dr. Sudheer Deodatta Palkar and his team for giving me a fresh lease of life,” she said.
Dr. Palkar informs that CRH will now start operating on CAGB, congenital heart repairs and major Vascular surgery like aneurysm of big artery. The aim, he said, is to make CRH a major referral tertiary care cardiac unit of the northeastern region.
R. Rajmohan, Chief Operating Officer of Central referral Hospital, Manipal informed that the department of Cardiology and Cardiothoracic has a separate OT equipped with the latest state of the art equipment, coronary care unit and full time cardiologist, Cardio Thoracic surgeon, Cardiac Anesthetist and well trained nurses and technicians.

Shop for the Body - - REBYNA RANA

Even as some products move into multibrand stores, there is the world of cosmetics and beauty care which is seeking to move into the exclusive domain and one such unit debuted in Sikkim over the past month. The internationally reputed cosmetic line which prides itself as being genuinely natural and totally organic is now serving the beauty care needs of Gangtokians with an exclusive showroom in town. Body Shop, which announces that its entire product range “is inspired by nature and infused with the goodness of natural ingredients for enhanced effectiveness”, has opened a showroom at Tara Palace here at Namnang.
Owner-cum-Manager of the new store, Devrath Subba, shares that Body Shop products were already quite popular in Sikkim and that the store has now made it more convenient for them to pick up their requirements.
The store has already built a regular clientele and with the festive season having kicked in, is also offering a 20% Dasain Discount on perfumes and cosmetic items.
On the anvil, the floor is now preparing to introduce an exclusive section dedicated to Forest Essentials, India’s leading Ayurveda company offering natural and organic treatment for skin, hair and body care, and also a section dedicated to lingerie, women’s wear and beauty products from Victoria’s Secret.

Survey of manuscripts begins for Sikkim

It has been an initiative too long in the making and is now finally taking baby steps towards getting done – a survey of manuscripts, even those in private collections, is being attempted as part of a national effort, launched in Sikkim by the Cultural Affairs and Heritage Department and funded by the National Mission for Manuscripts.
In this regard, the Department, in coordination with the National Mission for Manuscripts, New Delhi, organized a preliminary meeting-cum-training session on the National Survey of Manuscripts at Mannan Bhawan on 25 September.
An official press release informs that Cultural Affairs Minister Garjaman Gurung, who was present as the chief guest, in his keynote address, underlined the importance of having a manuscripts repository in Sikkim. Conveying his gratitude towards the National Mission for Manuscripts for funding the survey in Sikkim, he directed all the district co-coordinators and the surveyors to undertake the survey seriously and complete the task in time. He also appealed to those with important manuscripts in private collections to cooperate with the surveyors in getting the data recorded properly.
Earlier, the Commissioner-cum-Secretary CA&HD, Nalini G Pradhan, informed that such a survey of manuscripts was being conducted for the first time in Sikkim. Reiterating the value and importance of manuscripts, she requested all participants to convey this message and the need for preserving the manuscripts to their family members and friends as well. At the same time she also stressed that a proper databank of manuscripts has become a necessary.
Dr. Dilip Kumar Kar who is also the National Coordinator from the National Survey of Manuscripts gave an introductory note on the National Survey of Manuscripts and the Manuscripts Research Center. He also explained the manner in which the initial survey is to be conducted in Sikkim.

Achhe Din continue for locals

It’s a good time to be a local in Sikkim. The benefits and facilities being showered upon this segment by the government in its fifth term in power have taken on a new dimension. The State Government seems to be directing its earnest focus and delivering on promise made on local protection. It will be recalled that the issue of local protection was a major agenda of the SDF party in the run up to the general elections this year and is also listed in its manifesto. It is all ‘achhe din’ for holders of domicile certificates.
From exemption from paying school or college fees to preference and exclusivity in the awarding of various licenses, it’s local all the way this time. And no one’s complaining either. The new government started this year with its local bent of mind with the declaration of driving licenses only for locals and continued it with the declaration that trade licenses too, would now only be issued to those possessing Sikkim Subject Certificates or Certificates of Identification.
The affirmation over local protection continues. Allotment of shopping spaces in shopping complexes will now be to locals only.
In a new announcement, the state government has notified that henceforth, all allotment of shop rooms/open space will be made only to those applicants who are unemployed and holders of Sikkim Subject Certificates and CoIs. UD&HD, the nodal department, will now allot shop rooms and open spaces in shopping complexes all over the state only to unemployed “locals”. This decision, as informed, has been taken considering the shortage of shop rooms and also in view of the large number of local unemployed applicants.
The UD&HD has also notified that urban local bodies are to issue trade and hawker licenses only to local applicants possessing SSCs and Certificates of Identification. While the announcement to this effect had been made earlier by the new SDF government the department has issued a notification to this effect a few weeks ago.
It has further been informed that trade and hawker licenses are also to be issued to Residential Certificate holders residing in Sikkim since before 1975; however these can be issued only after obtaining approval from the Secretary, UD&HD. All applications for trade licenses by holders of Residential Certificates residing here since before 1975 are to be forwarded to the Secretary, UD&HD for approval, it is informed.
Continuing with the ‘achhe din’ for locals, the department has also notified that preference will be given to locals in the issuing of trade licenses particularly the local educated unemployed. This has been effected through an amendment to the Sikkim Trade License and Miscellaneous Provision Rules, 2011.
Not just in trade and commerce activities, the emphasis of local protection and empowerment is being demonstrated in other areas as well. Recently, the government took the momentous decision to regularize Muster Roll and Work Charged employees with over 15 years of service. Here too, only those possessing Sikkim Subjects or Certificates of Identification were declared eligible for regularization. While this is already guaranteed by Rule 4[4], in order to sort out those who possessed these domiciles and those that didn’t departmental committees were set up which then went about conducting a sort of survey asking the same question to the employees. And before that, the government had exempted all school and college fees for local students.

Liar’s Dice rolls into Oscars, Sikkim celebrates

The movie which secured a national award for Sikkim’s Geetanjali Thapa, has now also worked its way to becoming India’s entry for the Oscars in the foreign language category. Liar’s Dice, in which Geetanjali co-stars with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, is written and directed by Geethu Mohandas.
The development has triggered much excitement in Sikkim and congratulations and best wishes have started pouring in starting from Raj Bhawan itself with Governor Shriniwas Patil extending warm greetings and congratulations to Geetanjali over the film’s nomination.
A press communiqué issued by Raj Bhawan conveys, “The Governor also conveys his good wishes and prayed for her success in the Oscar. Ms. Geetanjali Thapa has also been assured all possible help from Hon’ble Governor in the days to come.”
Liar’s Dice is the story of a woman (Geethanjali Thapa) who sets out in search of her missing husband along with her daughter and a pet lamb. The director, Ms. Mohandas, introduces the movie as a “very simple story” with a “political undercurrent”.
Geetanjali is clearly at the centre of things in the movie, and in the words of Ms. Mohandas, she hasn’t seen “a finer actor than Geethanjali in India”.

East Sikkim Karatekas fight to victory

East District lifted the Team Championship at the 13th State Karate Championship 2014 for Sub-Junior & Junior [Boys & Girls] and Senior [Men & Women] held on 20 and 21 September at Paljor Stadium indoor gymnasium. West District emerged the runners-up.
Mingso Hang Limboo of Hee Karate Academy of West Sikkim in boys’ category and Babita Sharma of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, West Sikkim in girls’ category received the Best Fighter trophies and Rs. 5,000 cash prize each in their respective categories.
Sikkim Police, in turn, bagged the Most Disciplined Team trophy.
A total of 250 Karatekas from 15 Dojos from across the State had participated in the two-day championship organized by the Sikkim State Karate-Do Association [SSKA].
The valedictory function had Culture Minister, GM Gurung, as chief guest.
In his valedictory address, the Minister encouraged the younger Karatekas to take advantage of all available opportunities to excel in their respective disciplines, highlighting that sports has been accorded priority by the State Government.
SSKA president, Balbir Tamang, informs that SSKA Karatekas have bagged 70 national and international gold medals, 70 national and international silver medals and 79 national and international bronze medals so far for the state and the country.
Karate Chief Coach, BB Subba, a 6th Dan Black Belt, further mentioned that the medal winners in this state championship will now get the chance to represent in the upcoming regional and national championships.

4 more coaches pass AFC ‘C’ course

Four more coaches from Sikkim - Karma Gyaltsen Bhutia, Alpan Lepcha, Tenzing Tsephel, and Micheal Lepcha – have passed the AFC “C” License Certificate Course of Football Coach. They were among the 24 who attended the 13-day course conducted by Asian Football Confederation at Paljor Stadium from 05 to 17 June earlier this year.
The AFC ‘C’ Coaching Certificate course aims at training coaches and developing their basic techniques and skills. It is designed to teach coaches to organise, direct and conduct basic coaching practices especially targeting young players. In the final examination, students will be assessed on their practical coaching abilities, knowledge of the laws of the game, in addition to learning and understanding of the theory contents of football.
AFC had deputed M. Savio to conduct the course in Gangtok.
SFA president, BK Roka, has congratulated the four coaches on their success and advised others not to get discouraged and try again in the near future. SFA general secretary Menla Ethenpa further informs that the certificates will be handed over during the finals of the 35th Governor’s Gold Cup scheduled for 21 Oct 2014. Sikkim now has 20 AFC ‘C’ licensed coaches and one AFC ‘B’ license-holder coach.
4 more coaches pass AFC ‘C’ course
Four more coaches from Sikkim - Karma Gyaltsen Bhutia, Alpan Lepcha, Tenzing Tsephel, and Micheal Lepcha – have passed the AFC “C” License Certificate Course of Football Coach. They were among the 24 who attended the 13-day course conducted by Asian Football Confederation at Paljor Stadium from 05 to 17 June earlier this year.
The AFC ‘C’ Coaching Certificate course aims at training coaches and developing their basic techniques and skills. It is designed to teach coaches to organise, direct and conduct basic coaching practices especially targeting young players. In the final examination, students will be assessed on their practical coaching abilities, knowledge of the laws of the game, in addition to learning and understanding of the theory contents of football.
AFC had deputed M. Savio to conduct the course in Gangtok.
SFA president, BK Roka, has congratulated the four coaches on their success and advised others not to get discouraged and try again in the near future. SFA general secretary Menla Ethenpa further informs that the certificates will be handed over during the finals of the 35th Governor’s Gold Cup scheduled for 21 Oct 2014. Sikkim now has 20 AFC ‘C’ licensed coaches and one AFC ‘B’ license-holder coach.

Education wins


Human Resource Development Department, Gangtok, has emerged as the new champion of the Inter-Departmental Football Tournament played here at Paljor Stadium. In the nail-biting final match of the 3rd edition of the tournament played on 20 September, HRDD-Gangtok edged past Roads & Bridges Department in a tie-breaker. With this, Forest Department’s domination of the tournament ended. Foresters had won the first two editions of the tournament.
HRDD-Gangtok had secured its berth in the finals beating a strong State Bank of Sikkim squad in the first semi-final while Roads & Bridges knocked out Power Department to make it for the Saturday clash.
The stadium was packed with supporters of both teams who cheered lustily for their respective teams throughout the match. Roads & Bridges started strong and finished the first half 2-0 ahead.
The drinks break revitalized the HRDD-Gangtok team which started the second half aggressive and strong, and had leveled the score 02-02 before the final whistle.
The match directly proceeded to a tie-breaker through penalty shoot-out. HRDD converted all five strikes while RM&DD scored 03/05 stepping aside for HRDD-Gangtok to lift the trophy.
The month-long tournament had begun on 17 August with the 29 teams. The league-cum-knock out mode tournament was organised by Boy’s Club.
Sports & Youth Affairs Minister, RB Subba, was present as chief guest on the final day. The winner’s received a cash prize of Rs 45,000 [Rs. 25,000 from the organisers and Rs 20,000 contributed by the Minister] along with the trophy while the runners-up received Rs 15,000 and a trophy. SBS who stood third received a cash prize of Rs 10,000.
Jigmee Bhutia of Roads & Bridges was adjudged the Man of the Final Match, while the Man of the Tournament honour went to Nor Tshering Lepcha of the State Bank of Sikkim. The Man of the Tournament trophy in the above-50 years old category went to Sonam Lepcha of Law Department.
Power Department was adjudged the Most Disciplined Team trophy. The Highest Scorer trophy was shared by Jigmee Bhutia of Roads & Bridges and Karma D Bhutia of Higher Education [HRDD], both of whom scored nine goals each.
Best Goalkeeper trophy was handed over to Mukum Subba of Tourism Department.
Likewise, the Boy’s Club has also contributed Rs 10,000 to Mayalmu Sangh and another Rs 10,000 to Ishwarambha Samiti Sangh of Ranipool. The band from Kumdini Homes of Kalimpong also received Rs 10,000 from the organisers and Rs 10,000 from the Minister. 78-year-old Lobsang Chumbi Bhutia also received a Token of Appreciation for watching every match of the tournament of this edition.
The HRDD-Gangtok captain, Udai Subba, was delighted with the victory and thanked all players and officials along with supporters of the team.
Mr Subba appreciated the Boys’ Club initiative in organising the tournament for not only providing a break from the rigor of office work, but also motivating employees to stay fit and healthy. He added that if the tournament was sustained, it could also generate jobs for sportsperson in the future. He also stressed for support from all sides for the tournament.

Founding Principal of Harkamaya College of Education passes away

Dr. PKS Ray, the Founding Principal of the Harkamaya College of Education, passed away on 21 September, 2014. He was 74 years old. The college faculty and students are in mourning and have conveyed their condolences to the bereaved family.
Dr. Ray had joined Harkamaya College of Education on 01 August, 2003 and continued as its principal till 31 March, 2007. He had completed his M.Sc. (Mathematics), B.Ed., M.Ed. from Regional College of Education, Bhubabeswar and Ph.D (Education) from M.S University, Baroda. He was a respected academician and taught for more than 39 years in various capacities at institution like Regional College of Education, Dept of Teacher Education (NCERT). It was on his initiative that, for the first time in Sikkim and North Bengal, Harkamaya College introduced M.Ed. Degree from 2006 onwards. He was a noted scholar who produced more than 10 Ph.D. scholars and has authored text books for schools, undergraduate and post graduate courses.

Govt preps up for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra via Sikkim

Gangtok, 26 Aug [IPR]: A preliminary meeting to work out the logistics, timeframe and other matters relating to preparedness of the State Government with regard to alternate route through Nathula to conduct Kailash Mansarovar Yatra was held at the conference hall of Secretariat, here in the capital, today. The meeting, chaired by Additional Chief Secretary SC Gupta, was attended by the representatives of UD&HD, Commerce and Industries Department, Tourism Department, Roads & Bridges and Additional District Collector, East.
It may be mentioned here that a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Ministry of External Affairs of the Republic of India and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China on opening a new route for Indian Pilgrimage (Kailash Mansarovar Yatra) to the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China on 18th September 2014 during the State visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to India.
The interactive meeting deliberated on various issues pertaining to Nathula Trade Route and available infrastructure, road condition in the context of the proposed new route. It also discussed on the requirement of acclimatization center for the pilgrims visiting Kailash Mansoravar. The meeting took note that the new development should not be taken into isolation but has to be a part of the holistic integrated plan.

Serenading guests with welcome songs ANAND OBEROI

In these days of assembly-line music stars and mimicry passing for talent, the simplicity of a soulfully folksy tune from a four-string Sarangi in the hands of a master artist comes as a rare treat. Gangtokians don’t have to travel far to be so serenaded and a walk to the Deorali Chorten area will set them up for an unplugged session by veteran Gainey, 55 year old Gopal Gandharva who has been attracting appreciation for the authentic and relaxing sounds he caresses out of his handcrafted Sarangi. He has been a regular at the Chorten grove for the past 15 years.
He has managed to retain his family heritage and keep the craft financially viable by creating what can only be called a ‘sustainable’ bank of patrons in the hundreds of tourists who visit the Chorten Monastery and neighbouring Namgyal Institute of Tibetology everyday and huddle around him to take home a photographic memory of this fading tradition. The music, of course, they carry in their hearts.
Gopal Gandharva was born in Rangpo after his parents moved here from Assam in the late 1950s looking for a better future in this valley of plentiful. When his father could no longer travel playing the Sarangi, Gopal, who never received a formal education, took over the family trade when he was just 14 years old.
“My father taught me the basics of the instrument and then there were other Gaineys from whom I learned more. I could not pay them money so my guru dakshina would be to carry their loads, wash and cook for them while they traveled to different areas performing,” recalls Gopal Gandharva who is now a veteran who can now play more than 300 tunes, including some French melodies which a group of visiting tourists shared with him.
A maestro in his own right, Gopal Gandharva can also play tunes in almost all local languages including Lepcha, Bhutia, Limbu, Manger, Rai and Gurung. And his skills don’t end here; he has also mastered several Hindi songs which he says are more popular with ‘domestic’ tourists.
“My job as a Gainey is to make people feel welcome and at home which is why I started playing the Sarangi at the Rangpo Tourist Guest House some 30 years back. It is from playing at the guest house that I knew I could make a living out of this inherited art which is when I decided that I would explore more opportunities,” he tells NOW!
It may also be mentioned that Gopal Gandharva is also one of the few folk musicians who is invited to play for the Chief Minister whenever he halts at the Rangpo tourist guest house.
Gopal Gandharva has already married off two of his daughters from earnings earned from his Sarangi and is now training five ‘chelas’ under him. While three of his pupils are from Pendam, two belong to the same caste as him. “I have been training them for the past three years and all of them have become experts,” he shares with pride while appreciating the initiative of Director, HRD, Shankar Dhakal who also gave him the opportunity to train as a folk music trainer at the Culture Department in Dimapur.
It may also be informed here that Gopal Gandharva has also passed the B-Major auditions organized by All India Radio in 2009. Since then he has been invited to play at various states including Orissa, Kolkata Chennai and New Delhi, which he says is the initiative taken by one Dr. Om Prakash Bharati of the Culture Department at Kolkata.
“Earlier, I used to play from house to house and door to door, but slowly I was motivated to play at hotels which is when my journey into folk music really started,” he recalls. However, he adds that unlike the earlier days, he is now no longer given the opportunity to perform outside the state since the Culture Department here now has its own set of people who are given preference. Similarly, he adds that it has been a long time since he even visited the AIR recording studio where he has already performed.
These days, Gopal Gandharva makes a reasonably earning on a daily basis during peak tourist season playing at two venues, one at Chorten monastery and the other at Rangpo Guest House complex, which is where he also lives with his wife. He further says that he tries to make it to Gangtok every morning but now since age is catching up on him, he misses a few days in a week and performs for arriving tourists at the Rangpo guest house whenever he stays back.

Disaster Preparedness

Sikkim cannot afford to forget
Disaster preparedness should have nuanced the mood last week as Sikkim marked the third anniversary of the 18 September Earthquake. The monumental temblor had pulled a wicked surprise on Sikkim, not an easy trick to play on a region which has lived for centuries with extreme weather conditions – at one time luxuriating at nature at its most indulgent and at others cowering under nature at its most devastating.
The surprise of 18/09/11 stemmed not so much from the unprecedented scale of the earthquake as from the inexcusable fact that Sikkim forgot that it occupies a disaster prone sector the subcontinent. As for the earthquake itself, the only surprise it can stake claim to is in its confirmation that Sikkim harboured tectonic potential to push a 6.8 scale earthquake. Through the recorded history of earthquakes in the region, the big ones of the past century and a half [which wreaked substantial damage in Sikkim as well] had been earthquakes with their epicentres at “established/ identified” troublespots, at fault-lines many hundred kilometres away from Sikkim. In some warped sense of misplaced security, this had apparently convinced people and policy-makers at a subconscious level in these parts that the State could do very little to cushion the impact of the next big one and that Sikkim’s distance from the expected ground zeros would absorb some of the fury and dissipate the impact. This was admittedly wrong because no one can prevent an earthquake, but everyone can and should work towards mitigating it. And now, even the excuse of distance is no longer available with the tectonic plates on which Sikkim sits announcing that even they can pack a mean punch. In effect then, natural disasters are no longer about ‘if’ and ‘when’ and have now become ‘here and now’.
And now, as the amplified fury of end-monsoon showers are bringing home, it’s not just about earthquakes, but a host of other challenges like landslides, cloudbursts, GLOFs etc and if the winter runs dry, there will be forest fires and man-animal conflicts as well. Natural disasters do not play in isolation and when these incidents achieve disaster proportions, they work in combinations. Three years since the devastation of September 2011, after Sikkim has recollected the experience and taken stock of repairs and restoration, it should test the practicability and resoluteness of its proposed responses for future calamities. Modern lifestyles have a way of blindsiding obvious realities, and if any lesson is to be learnt from the 18 September horror, it should be in rediscovering the traditional knowledge base. Centuries of living in a particular region grooms people to instinctively respect the brute force of nature and adopt lifestyles which mitigate the impact of the nature of disasters indigenous to a particular region. Sikkim obviously had this, but lost it in the past fifty years or so. These need to be remembered and all disaster preparedness plans should respect the knowhow of resident populations and reinforce traditional practises with scientific verification and planning.
This anniversary, Sikkim spent too much time taking record of its repairs and rebuilding exercise. While this is necessary, it is also important that it revisits the trauma – a continuing plight for many – so that it does not forget. Then, it will also prepare better instead of only repairing.

Earlier, Dasain used to even taste different!

A shop in Lall Bazaar specializing in basti-produce. In the past, it would see frenetic business in the run up to Dasain… nowadays, it is business as usual even this close to the festival


The Dasain weekend is here! And like every year, everyone is busy, or so it would appear, preparing to celebrate one of the biggest festivals of the Nepali Hindu community of the State. But for 72-year-old-Dilman Chettri of Rawtey-Rumtek, preparations being done by his children and grandkids are of too superficial compared to the excitement that Dasain generated when his generation was still calling the shots.
“For us, Dasain meant everything from family get-together to offering prayers to the deities; chance to receive ashirwad [blessings] from elders to wearing new clothes - that once a year event - and also an opportunity to show off hidden talents in dancing or singing folk songs or even bhajans,” he said, frowning that for the present generation, the festival has become stuck in a mere formalities and tokenism.
According to him, the whole village used to start preparing for Dasain more than six months in advance. They used to decide and plan for the cultivation of special varieties of paddy for Dasain and similar planning was done to cultivate appropriate varieties of millet by the matwali communities [Limboo, Rai, Gurung, Tamang, Mangar etc.], timed for harvest around a month ahead of the Dasian to prepare jaanr/ chaang.
Supporting Mr. Chettri’s comment, 69-year-old Damber Kumar Rai said, “A separate paddy field used to be maintained, named ‘Thapachini Bari’, where only Thapachini variety of paddy used to be cultivated to make chewra [beaten rice] for Dasain.”
According to him Thapachini is the only paddy which can be cultivated ahead of the scheduled season and readied for harvest around a month ahead of Dasain so that chewra can be prepared for the festival. The traditional paddy is ready for harvest only a month after Dasain. Similarly, Nangkatwa Kodo [millet] is the best variety to be harvested before Dasain to prepare jaanr. While these were grown in farms across Sikkim earlier, they are only rarely grown anymore; at least not as part of Dasain preparations any more.
Earlier, chewra had a very special role and requirement during Dasain. People used to walk long distances to reach the home of their elders to receive tika. The welcome snack at every home in those days used to be chewra with banana and chini-ko chia [sugar tea]. The elderly duo reminiscing about Dasain of the yore highlight that sugar tea used to be a rare treat, offered only on Dasain and Teohar in basti homes. The chewra and banana snack was also an energizer which would get tired legs and young kids back in the Dasai spirit.
“But no one needs to walk any where anymore,” they quip in unison.
The duo informed that for tika and food, rice from the previous year’s stock was used and the favoured varieties were Chirakhey, Kalo Nunia, Krisna Bhog, Attay etc. all of whose grains are small in size [hence stick well on the forehead] and all have an aroma which serves as the most pleasant appetizer.
Besides, for curries to eat with chewra and rice, khasi, sungur, kukhura [mutton, pork, chicken] used to fattened especially for Dasain through the year.
“Gone are those days. Dasain those days literally had a different taste,” says Mr. Rai.
According to him, the present generation has become lazy because of surplus flow of cash. Liquidity, it appears is robbing people of the festive spirit.
Paddy fields are either lying barren or are leased out; quality hence becomes secondary and tradition skips the fields and settles for the cosmetic superficiality of ration shops. Agricultural tracts are used more to grow fodder for livestock because dairy is more lucrative than agriculture.
“These days, our children go Dasain shopping a day ahead of Tika and buy everything from rice to meat from the market. There is no excitement for kids to have new clothes for Dasain as their parents buy them new clothes all year round,” says Kul Bahadur Mukhia, a retired Government servant. “Those days” Dasain meant new clothes.
The memories of these elders echo at Lall Bazaar shops as well. Of course, the Lall Bazaar of yore is now the “Kanchanjunga Shopping Complex”. Dasain is only a few days away, but there is still no rush here. “Business is very down,” the shopkeepers complain.
Subhash Rai, a hawker at Lall Bazaar, who has been selling basti-ko chaamal, chewra and other similar products of the past 20 years informs, “There is no noticeable increase in the volume of sales of basti ko chaamal during Dasain.”
Mr. Rai mainly sales the mohan bhog and attay varieties supplied mainly from Rhenock and its surrounding areas. As far as chewra is concerned, sales go up substantially during Dasain, he informs. Unfortunately though, the chewra is no longer locally produced and supplies reportedly come from Nepal. Against the Thapachini variety used for chewra in Sikkim, Nepal farmers prefer Taichung, which is also grown in some parts of Sikkim. This variety, along with Jhapaka, Champasari and some Government-promoted varieties of paddy are preferred for chewra, but nowadays, farmers prefer to prepare more of murai instead.
Similarly, Mr. Palden, who has also maintained a stall selling similar commodities for the past more than 10 years, informs that the customers buy basti ko chaamal mainly to make kholey for recuperating patients. The belief is that basti ko chaamal has more nutritious.
But, as far as “Dasain special rice” is concerned, Lal Bazaar customers prefer “non-local” rice over basti ko chamaal. Basmati, KRT, Mayur etc. come in several varieties and cost less. At present the market value of basti ko chamaal is Rs. 80 per kilogram.
About the slack “season” at Lall Bazaar, Mr. Palden believes that against earlier, when Lall Bazaar was the main shopping centre, every nook and corner and locality of Gangtok and its neighbouring areas now have their own markets and shops. “Who knows, the smaller markets across Sikkim might be doing good Dasain business,” he comments.