SIKKIM NEWS: Speech of CM Pawan Chamling at the 55th Meeting of National Development Council

SIKKIM NEWS: Speech of  CM Pawan Chamling at the 55th Meeting of National Development Council – ahead of all with  vision & action ?!!

The Speech of Hon’ble Chief Minister, Dr Pawan Chamling at the 55th Meeting of National Development Council, Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi on 24th July 2010 - tough act to follow ?!! (Pic File Photo)

FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF INFORMATION AND PRESS RELATIONS, GOVERNMENT OF SIKKIM

The Speech of Hon’ble Chief Minister, Mr. Pawan Chamling at the 55th Meeting of National Development Council, Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi on 24th July 2010

24 July, New Delhi: The Speech of Hon’ble Chief Minister, Mr. Pawan Chamling at the 55th Meeting of National Development Council, Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi on 24th July 2010.

Hon’ble Prime Minister, most respected Dr. Manmohan Singh ji, Hon’ble Union Ministers, Hon’ble Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Hon’ble Chief Ministers of various States and distinguished guests and officials of the central and state governments.

On behalf of the people of Sikkim , I convey my warm greetings to the Hon’ble Prime Minister, his distinguished Cabinet Ministers, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, fellow Chief Ministers from other States and to all the distinguished Members of the Planning Commission and senior officials present in this august gathering.

I feel highly privileged to attend this meeting where we get rare opportunity to convey to the entire nation, the hopes and aspirations of the people of Sikkim and the tremendous progress and development that the State has witnessed over the years contributing towards the overall economic growth and prosperity of the nation. The National Development Council Meeting is a rare occasion and we highly value the outcome of this important meeting.

At the outset, I would seek to emphasize Sikkim ’s sensitive and strategic location along the three international borders that would impose considerable limitation both with regard to geographical accessibility and free play of development dynamics and options that are usually available with other States. For decades together, Sikkim has remained a strong fortress securing country’s interest on diverse parameters like ensuring (a) military security; (b) environmental security and (c) development related security. Therefore, the crucial role that Sikkim fulfills quietly as a Himalayan border State should be taken into account while deliberating on such a high national forum like the NDC.

You are aware that as the member State , Sikkim entered into the planning process of the Country only towards the end of 1970s. It took some time before Sikkim could re-position itself to harvest the full outcome of the planning processes involving fiscal consolidation and deeper insight into the development instruments specially after liberalization of the early 1990s under Dr. Manmohan Singh. Immediately after the Sikkim Democratic Front party was elected to form government on December 12, 1994, we took a number of very conscious steps to integrate all our development initiatives into established institutional framework based on professional inputs and fiscal prudence. What we have achieved today both with regard to improved socio-economic indicators and deeper development reach, has been possible due to a very rigorous and consistent endeavour on our part based on a very scientific approach and dispassionate appraisal of both our inherent strengths and our weaknesses.

The range of development strategies that we introduced during the last three terms of our governance have brought about visible transformation in every aspect of peoples’ lives. To be economically more explicit, we have witnessed more than a three fold increase in all our socio-economic indicators. In relative terms, Sikkim today is the best State in the Country with multiple increase in many of the socio-economic statistics bringing in robust economic vibrancy and socio-cultural sustainability in the State. For example:

The Annual Plan size for Sikkim increased from Rs. 120 crores in 1993-94 to Rs. 1175 crores in 2010-11.

The percentage of BPL in Sikkim in 1993-94 was 41.43% which came down to 19.2% in 2005 itself.

The literacy rate of 56.9% in 1993-94 has increased to 85%

The Infant Mortality Rate of 70 per 1000 in 1993-94 has improved to 33 per 1000 now

Internal Revenue of Rs. 44.72 crores in 1993-94 has gone up by an impressive Rs. 571.98 crores now

State Domestic Product for Sikkim which was only Rs. 426 crores in 1993-94 has gone over Rs. 2612 crores at current price now

The Per Capita Income of Rs. 8,402 in 1993-94 has gone up to Rs. 43,901 at current price during 2008-09.

Sikkim ’s forest cover of 43.95% in 1995-96 has increased to 47.59% in 2009 graduating Sikkim to 2nd rank under the Environmental Sustainability Index in the Country.

We are clearly encouraged by the positive outcome and further working towards bringing about a double digit growth in the economy. The current level of 20 percent of plan allocation in the education sector will be further consolidated after regular assessment. The present level of teacher-student ratio of 1:16 is one of the best in the Country which need to be sustained and improved upon in subsequent years. We have achieved more than the national average in many crucial indicators be it health, education, rural development and tourism.

The State Government is laying special focus on eradication of poverty. A great deal of emphasis is being given in the rural sectors for the upliftment and development of the people of the rural Sikkim . Proper designing of schemes and feasible projects are regularly monitored to ensure that the benefit accruing from these schemes percolates down to the lowest level of the Society. As a result, the percentage of families living below the poverty line has been steadily and swiftly decreasing over the decade. This explains the positive dent we have been able to make into poverty duly strengthening all sections of people in the State. Plan allocation of seventy percent was made as far back as 1994 for rural upliftment. The same policy continues to guide our focused social commitment by duly introducing range of social safety nets to guarantee basic minimum needs to the deprived and disadvantaged section of the society and provide them a dignified life.

The spirit of democracy is clearly demonstrated during the tenure of the Sikkim Democratic Front government over the last 16 years. After having put in place, the institutional machinery of the Panchayati Raj Institutions as per the 73rd Constitution Amendment, our Government has forged ahead in creating yet another historic milestone with the peaceful and orderly conduct of the elections to the urban local bodies in accordance with the 74th Constitutional Amendment. The entire election process, which was historical has been free, fair and peaceful. The new regime that has emerged in the true spirit of the 74th Constitution Amendment will infuse a more creative input into the developmental scenario of our State.

Democratic decentralization with inclusive and participative governance has been put in place in every panchayat administrative unit throughout the State. With the creation of the 27 Block Administrative Centres, the process of decentralized district planning for every micro unit of administration within the State has been brought into operation. The bottoms-up approach to the planning process involving District level officials and elected representatives of all Gram Panchayats and Zilla Panchayats has now become a reality. With a view to empowering the Panchayat institutions, the State Government has continued to earmark 10% of the plan outlay under every developmental sector as decentralized allocation to be devolved and utilized under the independent discretion and control of the Zilla and Gram Panchayats within their respective administrative jurisdictions.

The Skill Development Initiative we launched in 2003 has continued to remain the most effective program to make our educated youths employable, skilled and capable to harness diverse opportunities available both within and outside the State. Apart from the existing Directorate of Capacity Building, we have also established the Institute of Capacity Building in the State to expand the scope of capacity building prospects including larger avenues with physical facilities including induction of resource persons to impart training in relevant disciplines. The launching of the Chief Ministers Self-Employment Scheme has been instrumental in carrying forward the initiatives taken under the Skill Development Mission and thousands of youth have been covered for vocational ventures including agro-based activities, IT related vocations, and eco-tourism services.

We have formulated a multi-pronged approach for securing employment oriented development skills over the decade. Accordingly, the capacity development measures initiated by the government have contributed to spurring the growth of the economy of the State even in the midst of the global recession. The capacity building initiatives of the Government have witnessed commendable success with placement figures recording well over 70% in the hospitality sector alone.

We have added a new dimension in our effort by establishing one Livelihood School each in every constituency. Many young boys and girls are undergoing different kinds of vocational upgradation training in such Institutes across the State.

The State Government accords topmost priority to health sector bringing in fresh programs from time to time besides upgrading the existing facilities available in the State. Innovative steps involving both preventive and curative measures which encompass diagnostic facilities for timely detection of ailments covering all age-groups including provision of treatment and rehabilitative health care have been undertaken. One of the most recent initiatives has been the launching of the Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Annual and Total Check-up for Healthy Sikkim (CATCH) campaign. We need to be adequately equipped with a comprehensive data covering the health profile of each and every citizen in the State which will be monitored and updated annually so that the required delivery mechanism for timely intervention in providing health care and treatment can be organized more efficiently. This exercise will involve upgrading the technical expertise of our doctors including the Para-medics as well as improving the physical facilities for diagnostic services covering the entire network of our medical Centres throughout the State. We will initiate action in this regard with careful planning and also chart a realistic road map to achieve the goals.

The existing facilities available with the STNM hospital in Gangtok are inadequate to cater to the growing pressure for treatment and medical care. With a view to resolving this problem, we are constructing a 575 bedded multi-specialty hospital within the State Capital. This project has been conceived to ameliorate the hardship and distress to our citizens. You will be happy to know that we have already introduced Mobile Medical Units to cover people living in remote and inaccessible areas.

A number of schemes for extending health care assistance to patients have been launched under the Mukhya Mantri Jeewan Raksha Kosh programme. Under the auspices of this scheme, two programmes namely the Mukhya Mantri Netra Jyoti Yojana and the Mukhya Mantri Sravan Shaki Samridhi Yojana have been envisaged which provides for free distribution of spectacles and hearing aids to the needy patients. Problems relating to anaemia and malnutrition will also be addressed with regular administration of de-worming and Iron Folic Acid (IFA) supplement courses covering children, pregnant and lactating mothers including men who are anaemic. My Government has also started administering MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine for girl child between age group of 0-12 years. These programmes will also be complemented with the distribution of protein supplement food inputs to remedy the malnutrition problems effecting children under the auspices of the Mukhya Mantri Antyodaya Pustakhar Yojana under the State Government programme.

Our endeavour has been to free Sikkim from the culture of consumerism and promote the State as the producer State and the people as productive citizens. We are working hard to ensure that all kinds of demands created in the State are met within the State. And we want to see the Sikkimese people themselves fulfill local demands by being producers of goods and services in the State. Therefore, the State Government is formulating strategies based on Sikkim ’s own natural resources, all the climatic zones found in the State, geographically rich zone with its immense biodiversity wealth. That means Demand-Supply graph in the State should be equally maintained and local demand should be fulfilled through local efforts on the basis of our own skilled manpower and increased production of goods and produces locally.

The Sikkim Government has worked relentlessly to guarantee full socio-cultural and economic security to all sections of the people on a larger canvass of human-centric development. My Government has the unique distinction of having pioneered to advocate the movement for women’s empowerment from all perspectives granting them affirmative share be it with regard to reservation in employment, admission to educational programmes, election to Legislature, Local Urban Bodies and Panchayati Raj Institutions etc. This paradigm shift in our Government’s policy towards addressing gender equality covering every realm of governance will have positive repercussions in transforming the social fabric and quality of the lives of our people in the years to come and for the posterity.

These forms of special dispensation in various forms and formats have already been provided to the deserving and needy sections of our citizens falling under the ambit covering SC, ST, OBC and the differently abled persons including the old aged people.

Closely following the goal of social justice paradigm, my Government has launched yet another unique scheme under the Chief Minister’s Universal Financial Inclusion programme to cover all the married rural women in the State. This will empower them economically which would invariably raise their status and self-esteem in a given society. Apart from the existing incentives to girl child, the State Government has initiated a significant social reform measure aiming to provide our womenfolk with complete social security cover to live a dignified life. With issue of one Smart Card to one married woman and with an initial deposit of Rs.1000/- for one mother at her credit the scheme takes off providing her access to Banking to be available at her door steps at her own village. Besides, this scheme would provide insurance cover against accident, property losses covering five members of the family.

Our efforts towards harnessing the potential in the eco-tourism sector has begun to yield dividends to all stakeholders engaged in this industry and more importantly to our numerous local youths in terms of employment in various activities relating to this booming trade.

This is a happening area of economic activity in the State and I am convinced that Sikkim which is already a premiere destination within the Country shall soon find a respectable place in the world tourism map. The rich cultural heritage, peace and tranquility, the natural scenic beauty with a breath taking collection of flora and fauna and the congenial and hospitable nature of our people are very favourable attributes we have for promotion of tourism industry.

As part of our Government’s effort to provide economic spin-offs for the upliftment of the population, some very noble projects are being conceived and many of them already installed and commissioned. These include installation of 135 ft. tall statue of Guru Padmasambhava at Samduptse, development works at Chardham, Solophok with facilities like Rishi Kutir, Meditation Centres etc. Another pilgrimage centre Buddha Park at Ravangla is being developed. Another statue of Chen Regiz in West Sikkim is being constructed by the Government. Further, construction of Culture Centre at Yangang, Bhanubhakta Study Centre at Geyzing, Sirijunga Study Centre and Tenzing Hillary Park shall be completed within this financial year. Construction of Kanchendzonga Tourist Villa cum Socio-Cultural Centre and Amusement Park at Ranka is completed which was formally inaugurated by Her Excellency President of India Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil on 15th April, 2010. In fact, we are creating our own pilgrimage and culture tourist circuit within the State. These infrastructural development works have been conceived as a means to project Sikkim as a favoured pilgrimage destination for tourists from within the country as well as from across the globe. Construction of Ramayan Busty is very much in the pipeline which shall be started at the early date.

The State Government has also undertaken an ambitious project of installing Skywalk at Bhaleydunga in Sikkim . Closely similar to the one unveiled in Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA, this one will have some special features of its own both in its elevation which stands at 10,102 feet and that the cliff will be connected by a ropeway from a nearby town. This will be a unique project not only in Sikkim but also in the Country. We have engaged consultants to finalize action plans for the planning, design and execution of these projects.

The State government has taken all measures to bring down the fiscal deficit to 3% of the GDP in consonance with the FRBM Act and has left no stone unturned to ensure that the maximum resources available in the State is mobilized. However, a word of caution needs to be placed on record that taxation beyond a certain level will not only be counter productive but also detrimental to the interest of people.

In terms of Connectivity, the Airport at Pakyong built under the aegis of the Airport Authority of India is making very steady progress. A high level State Committee has been constituted to monitor and assist the AAI to ensure that the project is completed on schedule.

In terms of railway connectivity, the Government of India has been kind to sanction the rail connectivity from Sevoke to Rangpo at a total cost of Rs. 3380 crores. As per the latest report, the project has been awarded to M/S IRCON International ltd (Indian Railway Construction, an undertaking under the Ministry of Railway, Government of India. The work has since started and would be completed by the year 2015. Thereafter, the 2nd phase from Rangpo to Gangtok would be taken up.

National Highway 31A double laning has been funded and sanctioned by the Ministry of Surface Transport to be implemented by the Border Road Organization into a double lane highway from Sevoke to Nathula. Although the work is in progress, it needs to be expedited for early completion of the lifeline to Sikkim . The other alternative route to Siliguri in West Bengal via Chalsa must also be taken up expeditiously. Once these projects are completed, the people of Sikkim will get immense relief from prolonged monsoon in the hills and the continuous disruption of the National Highway by rains, landslides and other natural calamities.

While the Sikkim Democratic Front government in Sikkim has entered into the 17th year of uninterrupted governance, we are now seeking to bring about comprehensive development in all sectors in Sikkim under the well-defined Mission mode with 2015 as the target year. They include:

Sikkim Total Literacy Mission 2015.

Sikkim Organic Mission 2015.

Sikkim Self Reliant Mission 2015

Sikkim Social Security Mission 2015

Sikkim Green Mission 2015

Sikkim Healthy Mission 2015

Sikkim eco-tourism Mission 2015

Sikkim Poverty Free Mission 2015

The above missions indicated, are being closely evaluated and pursued in all sincerity and honesty. We have also constituted group of experts to ensure that a road map to achieve the mission is regularly evolved and monitored through to 2015 when we will have the mission fulfilled in the larger interest of the State and the people. We would constantly seek the guidance and support of the Central Government to achieve our target. I am confident that the Hon’ble Prime Minister and all his distinguished colleagues in the Cabinet and the Planning Commission shall, as usual, bless us with due consideration and magnanimity.

Further to this, we would also like to apprise this august gathering about the progress made in various flagship programmes that are presently being implemented in the State. A team of the Planning Commission had visited the State from 22nd Oct- 27th Oct, 2009 and after visiting the various projects in the Districts and having interacted with the people, the observations made by the team is given below:-

“The overall performance of the State is very satisfactory. The sincere implementation of flagship programmes has changed the quality of life of the people living below the poverty line and these programmes have been very crucial for increasing their income”.

Let me have your permission to update this gathering on the flagship programs, their status and highlight issues related thereto:

National Rural Employment Generation Programme (NREGS):

The State proposes to achieve 100 days of employment in 2010-11 (from 43 in 2007-08 to 51 in 2008-09). Number of job card holders increased from 30,907 in 2007-08 to 69,213 in 2008-09 and 73,269 in 2009-10 (upto September 2009).Number of households provided employment increased from 19,787 in 2007-08 to 52,006 in 2008-09. Projects like construction of concrete stair path to hill habitations, re-plantation and regeneration of orange and cardamom plantation, making of minor irrigation channels, construction of playground for children, land leveling and shaping, terrace farming and spring sheds have been identified.

All works are being monitored by Gram Panchayats which help in Social Audit. All records are computerized in MIS and transparency safeguards at bloc level are followed. Moreover, efforts have been made to converge all NREGA schemes with other flagship programmes.

Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY):

Under IAY, Sikkim has been performing very well together with convergence under Rural Sanitation. The funding pattern is at the ratio of 90:10%. The Government of India guidelines are followed in the implementation of this programme. This scheme has also been helping in promoting village tourism in the rural areas. The success rate is around 90%.

National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP):

A) Old Age Pension Scheme: With 18,916 beneficiaries covered upto March, 2010 at the rate of Rs 400/- per month (50:50 between centre: state). Since the pension is very low enhancement of pension by 100% is suggested by the State Govt. 2009-10 target is of 500 persons.

B) National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS): For (i) Widows and (ii) Differently abled persons. All guidelines pertaining to the scheme are being followed.

Prime Minister Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY):

PMGSY was launched on 25th December 2000 and we are in the 7th phase of road construction (2008-09).In Stage II all new connectivity roads after its formation cutting is eligible for strengthening and black topping. Owing to high maintenance costs it is desired that the Central Government bear the costs for maintenance. The state has won ‘India Today’ Bharat Nirman Award for best rural connectivity. Road connectivity target is to be completed by 2011-2012.

National Rural Health Mission (NRHM):

Under this Mission programmes like the Reproductive and Child health Programme, National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, Integrated Diseases Surveillance Programme (IDSP), National Iodine Deficiency Programme, Revised National Tuberculosis Programme, National Blindness Control Programme and Externally Aided Projects are integrated.

Issues under consideration remain connectivity to difficult areas (for PHC’s and PHSC’s), infrastructural development in terms of buildings, increase in honorarium to contractual staff and timely release of funds.

Integrated Child Development Services Scheme (ICDS).

Sikkim has 11 ICDS Projects with 988 Anganwadi Centers all over the state. All beneficiaries are provided supplementary nutrition according to Government of India norms together with health and nutrition education, on formal pre-school education, health check up, referral services, immunization etc.

Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme (ARWSP):

The aim is to provide clean and safe drinking water in the rural areas. Issues under consideration remain tackling the cases of bacteriological contamination of water supply for clean and safe water.

Total Sanitation Programme (TSC):

The State has won the first Nirmal Gram Puraskar for achieving 100% sanitation. Individual household latrines achievement in 2007-08 and 2008-09 is 107% and 106 % with full coverage. All schools and Anganwadi Centres are also fully covered with sanitation facility.

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA):

With the introduction of SSA the aim of universalization of primary education is being realized. The success of the programme can be seen by comparing the present educational scenario with that during the commencement of SSA in 2002. Infrastructural facilities for primary schools have been created together with toilet and drinking water facilities.

Mid Day Meal Scheme (MDM).

The Mid Day Meal Scheme since its launch in 2002 has been extended to EGS centres, monastic schools and Sanskrit pathshalas and has been extended upto the Upper Primary Stage from 2008 onwards.916 institutions are provided Mid Day Meal. Issues to be considered are the high transportation cost due to hilly terrain and the cooking cost could be borne by the Central Government.

Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM):

Under JNNURM, ‘rehabilitation of sewers in Gangtok’ and five other UIDSSMT water supply schemes (Mangan Water Supply, Sewerage Namchi, Jorethang, Melli, and Rangpo) are under implementation. Funds provided in the first installment for the city mobility plan under JNNURM have also been utilized by purchasing 25 new buses for Gangtok town.

Technology Mission for Horticulture in the North East:

Progress made in different aspects of horticulture in Sikkim is phenomenal. Floriculture has witnessed unprecedented growth as has the cultivation of off-season vegetables. Infrastructure for post harvest and marketing facilities are being created. Remarkable role is being played by the mission in strengthening organic farming, capacity development of farmers and functionaries for which statistics are shown in the write up for the horticulture department. Issues under consideration remain the enhancement of subsidy for green houses and support for mass scale rejuvenation of orange and large cardamom.

Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP):

AIBP schemes have been implemented very effectively in Sikkim . A total of 370 schemes have been implemented since 1999 to 2007 at a cost of Rs 1422.46 lacs and coverage of 4730.46 hectare potential created.

Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY):

Under RGGVY, the State shall be electrifying 100% villages within September 2010. Under the scheme, the State is also providing free electricity connection to the BPL families.

Accelerated Power Development and Reform Programme:

Under R-APDR scheme, the amount for Part A has been sanctioned by the Ministry and the same is being implemented. The Part B- DPR under this program has been submitted to the Ministry for covering 2 towns.

I strongly urge the Union Government to take all these factors which needs consideration as this is an invisible economic cost that the State is undergoing and would have to be looked into in all future decisions that are being taken for assessment of Sikkim ’s Plan and non-plan expenditures. Grants from the Planning Commission, Government of India, though increased over the years has still remained restricted. This leads to a greater burden on the State for resource mobilization for which a small state like Sikkim would find it extremely difficult to cope with.

Coming to the specific detailing of issues flagged under the agenda items for today’s discussion, I would like to take this occasion to highlight some of the unprecedented measures introduced by the State Government to tackle the multiple issues over the decades.

Restoring dynamism in Agriculture:

Agriculture being the most important industry of the world, our effort in Sikkim has been to attract more and more educated and young Sikkimese to take up agriculture, horticulture and floriculture as an industry. In floriculture, Sikkim is already the No. 1 State in the Country which would be further nurtured to play more crucial role and contribute towards the global floriculture output. All measures comprising technology transfer, delivery of inputs, pre and post harvest technology, marketing etc. will be systematically organized and judiciously harnessed for greater result. This will be done particularly with regard to re-plantation of cardamom in our cardamom farms. Similarly, greater emphasis will be given to tea plantation and new plantation and rejuvenation of orange orchards in the State.

We are entering into a tie-up with Himalaya Drug Company, Bangalore to boost the rural economy through contractual farming with 100% buy-back of the production in chirata, kutki and bojo and other medicinal plants without any expenditure of the State Government.

To further provide additional marketing facility to our farmers, four Kisan Bazars in four districts are being constructed during this financial year, followed by seventeen Kisan Bazars at the BDO level in the villages We are undertaking this project to provide ready outlet for organically growth produce by our farming community, and fulfil demands of the consumers across board.

The call given by Sikkim Government to make Sikkim totally organic has caught the imagination of the entire people in the region. With less than 14 percent land available for productive cultivation in the State, the share of agriculture to gross state domestic product (GSDP) has come down from 48.7% in 1980-81 to 18.8% in 2006-07. Therefore, we have been trying to find an effective way to supply high value produce within the limited land to the world population who are growing more health conscious and seeking to ignore the chemically-treated food items across board.

While organic farming practices along the hilly states generally revolves around securing livelihood on their small rain fed farms, our approach has been a comprehensive package seeking to transform every inch of the Sikkimese soil into organically viable and sustainable land to promote Sikkim as brand entity on organic farming. The Mission has been to transform Sikkim into a total organic state.

In addition to regular drive underway to transform our land as totally organic, there are other related issues to be pursued to fully reap the benefit accruing from the organic mission which include organic certification, identifying competitive organic market and cost effectiveness.

Managing India ’s water resources:

You are aware that Sikkim Himalayas forms the vital link to connect large river bodies of Indus River Basin, Ganges River Basin and onward to Brahmaputra River Basin which extends further on to Yangtze and Mekong. The Himalayas as the water tower of Asia sustains life in the Indian subcontinent. This explains how significant is the sustained health of the Himalayas for us. However, there is certain degree of environmental concerns caused by the process of global warming. The issue of Climate Change is debated worldwide like never before, with world power concerned about the outcome and impact of the climate change phenomenon.

I am pleased to inform this august gathering again that the Sikkim Government had started taking long-term initiatives way back in the early 1990s when the debate on climate change and commitment on cutting the CO2 emission was not seriously tabled as it is today. That means, together with pursuing our development imperatives, the State Government in Sikkim has been conscious of environmental wealth to promote the concept of carbon sink economy in the State.

I seek to inform this august gathering that that we took the first conscious initiative way back in 1995-96 by declaring that year as Harit Kranti Varsh and the year 2000-1010 as Harit Kranti Dashak. And during the last one and half decade, we have taken some historical decisions to conserve the Himalayan eco-system. They include:

  • ban on green felling in forest;
  • ban on use of non-biodegradable materials like plastic and poly-bags;
  • ban on grazing in reserved forest areas, plantation areas and water sources areas;
  • launch of “Smriti Van” program;
  • introduction of Compulsory Environment Education in Schools; establishment of State Biodiversity Park Butterfly Park , Birds’ Sanctuary and creation of herbal gardens across State;
  • blanket ban on scaling of sacred peaks and also defilement of sacred caves, sacred rocks, sacred lakes, chortens and sacred hot springs ;
  • free LPG connection for people belonging to the economically weaker section of society;
  • abandoned and closing down of 2700 hectare of “G” Firing Range acquired by the Army establishment in North Sikkim ;
  • creation of Eco-Club, Green Funds in Schools & Colleges;
  • ban on killing of Wildlife;
  • ban on commercial exploitation of medicinal plants from the wild; and
  • launch of Sikkim Green Mission

As people living in the Himalayan heights and who intermingle and interact freely with the sublime Nature on a daily basis, we the Sikkimese people, have sensed the growing impact of global warming as manifested in erratic climatic behaviour, irregularity in the food chain system, unseasonal river floodings, landslides etc. With a sense of heightened urgency, we constituted Glacier and Climate Change Commission in January 2008 to adequately safeguard environmental sanctity in this region and generate abounding global commitment towards effective measures to contain global warming.

As part of the mandate available with the Commission, scientists and glaciologists have carried out a number of studies and field visits to glaciers high in the Himalayas , with some very positive observation amidst global concerns. Of lately, the State Government has also taken initiative to prepare State Action Plan on Climate Change for Sikkim in collaboration with German Technical Cooperation to address urgent issues regionally.

Apart from all the institutional interventions, the State Government is also initiating certain innovative measures at a very local level, at the district and Gram Panchayat level. One such initiatives is the Dhara Vikas i.e. Spring-shed Development program to adapt to climate change and ensure rural water security. In Sikkim , Muhaan, Simsaar and Dhara- the mountain spring and its tributaries have been traditionally playing a vital role in providing water security to nearly 65,000, i.e. over 80% of the rural households. These springs get recharged from the sub-surface flow or from the rain-water that percolates down.

However over the years, many of these springs are drying up or becoming seasonal and the discharge during the lean season is declining. These have reduced the “sponge action” of the land and consequently limited rainwater percolates down creating a hydrological imbalance in some of the watersheds. It has been estimated that less than 15% of the rainwater is able to percolate down through deforested slopes to recharge the springs, while the remaining flows down causing floods. Hence Government operated water supply and drinking water schemes are being adversely impacted due to the diminished discharge of springs. It has also been forecasted that global warming and climate change will further adversely impact the spring water resources. Hence development of these spring sources under the banner of Dhara Vikas- Spring-shed Development under NREGA will help in ensuring long term water security for the villages of Sikkim .

Village water sources most of which are based in the private lands play a critical role in ensuring rural water security. Water is increasingly becoming a critical ingredient for sustainable development. A mapping work has been initiated to document the status of these water sources on a GIS platform using GPS (Global Positioning System) and field survey. Information pertaining to each spring like its location, elevation, land ownership, discharge, households dependent etc is being collected to evolve Village Spring Atlas using GPS and field survey to ensure sustainable management of water resources. The target has been to map 1000 springs in one year.

Being a high altitude state, the consumption of firewood in the rural households is substantial. Hence the RM&DD through the State Renewable Energy Development Agency (SREDA) has been providing 100% subsidy on gobar gas and LPG in large quantities. This has resulted in a substantial reduction in firewood over the years. Recently solar water heaters at household level are also being provided as alternative to firewood to the high altitude remote villages where regular supply of LPG is difficult.

The more recent initiative namely ‘Ten Minutes to Earth’ program was started in 2009. Dedicated to the environmental well being of the State, this campaign has gained immense popularity among all sections of people. Like on all other occasions, plantation drive under this particular program has become very popular among people. The people of Sikkim again planted saplings in large number on June 25, turning this event as an annual ritual, as annual festival. This day will be observed every year as green day throughout the State planting yet another lakhs sapling by the people.

Problems in achieving power generation targets

Closely linked with our mission to attain self sufficiency is harnessing our rich natural resources. My Government has taken a bold initiative to judiciously harness the abundant resource potential with regard to hydel energy. Bestowed with a handsome hydel power potential of 8000 MW, we have so far commissioned projects which have the capacity to generate 610 MW of hydel energy which leaves considerable gap against the total exploitable hydel potential of 8000 MWs.

The present generation capacity of 610.70 MWs is particularly contributed by the 510 MW Teesta Stage V Hydel Project as well as the 60 MW Rangeet Hydel project along with several other mini and micro hydel projects which have been commissioned over the recent years.

We also have, in the pipe-line, as many as 21 hydel power projects which have been entrusted for execution on joint venture between State Government and reputed power producers and the National Hydro-electric Power Corporation. These projects envisage a combined installed generation capacity of 5000 MW. Four projects are targeted to be operational during the XIth Five Year Plan with a projected installed generation capacity of 1900 MWs. The Sikkim Power Development Corporation (SPDC) will also initiate steps to take up projects in partnership with the State Government under the PPP module. In all these ventures, the SPDC and the Government of Sikkim will hold equity of 26% as well as enjoy 12% free power for 15 years which will be enhanced to 15% over the subsequent period till the 35th year of the contractual agreement. Apart from the above arrangements from the PPP contract, the contractual agreement will also yield a fair share of dividend from these projects.

Issues pertaining to Urbanization:

The State Government in Sikkim has long deliberated on the need for planned and scientific development of our urban habitation. Compared to the plain areas, hill states like Sikkim has unique land pattern and land usages with larger percentage of land falling under private ownership. Therefore, any scheme for urban development depends on multiple factors including cost effectiveness, land stability and long term utility of the public services thus created. In order that we are well positioned and amenable to local geography and other factors, we have already initiated a number of steps for urban renewal.

In terms of urban planning and to ease congestion in major towns, we have undertaken initiative on “Eco-City-State” which provides for equitable development of both the urban and rural habitation to alleviate existing disparities in terms of basic amenities, livelihood opportunities, address city congestion and discourage rural urban migration.

Gangtok is already a premier city. We have created an open mall duly transforming a busy thoroughfare into a pebbled pavement with flowers pots and water fountains decorating the market place. By replicating this unique and successful experiment, we are in the process of beautifying all our notified bazaars in the same line. Duly unveiled by Dr. Monteksingh Ahluwalia ji in March 2008, the Gangtok mall in the city is free from all the vehicular traffic and is environmentally clean.

The urban expansion that we witnessed immediately after state’s merger was within the limited resources and local expertise to meet immediate need and requirement. As the expansion schedule was based on short term judgment, it left hardly any room for future planning to incorporate modern and professional inputs into the whole urban planning strategy for our already existing towns in the State.

The State Government is seriously working out long term plan to develop a satellite town in the periphery of Gangtok to provide an alternative to the capital town. This, you are aware, has been part of our policy planning to present a long-term future perspective on urban planning in terms of potential growth and expansion vis-à-vis the limited space available with us for human habitation. Therefore, this calls for a more scientific and a highly professional plan strategy so that public facilities in the urban areas could be effectively located or re-located without compromising on the quality of the services being provided to our citizens.

Sikkim State as a whole falls within the seismic zone V and is vulnerable to earthquake and its consequences. As most of our towns and bazaars have been carved out of the hilly slope, earthquake of small intensity or of minor tremor can cause major damage to human life and property. We have already experienced and encountered earthquakes of considerable intensity causing damage to our properties. Many of our important public buildings and infrastructural facilities have sustained major cracks. We can do little about this natural phenomenon, but can devise ways to minimize the effect.

In addition to growth of towns on a more physical sense, we are also looking forward to developing our towns as more productive units for facilitating greater business transaction and from the tourism point of view also, creating maximum number of opportunities for our people.

To provide a long-term solution to this growing trend, we have engaged the Surbana Consultancy Firm from Singapore for scientific urban planning in the State. They have carried out an in depth study about the growth potential of urban infrastructure in the State. With the full support of the Central Ministry, I am sure that we will succeed in our mission.

The flagship programme of Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) launched by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India in December 2005, has benefited Sikkim to a great extent and has enabled the State to primarily address the issues of urban poverty and infrastructure. The foundation stone of Housing Colony at Rangpo was formally laid by the Union Minister Madam Kumari Selja in December 2009. As the BSUP project, this housing complex will provide housing facilities to the needy and poor people, contributing significantly towards our goal of making Sikkim as kucha house free State at the earlierst. It gives me immense satisfaction to share that under the Integrated Housing and Slum Development for notified Slum Area, a total of 254 units of housing would be constructed over an area of 2.29 hectares at Rangpo and 8.6 hectares at Gangtok at a total cost of Rs. 2517.14 lakhs.

The State Government has, under the Panchayati Raj, dedicated almost 70% of the State budget to the rural poor, a distinct policy and now with these targeted reforms under JNNURM the State shall focus on the three pro-poor reforms to ensure that the city development is inclusive and in accordance with the strategy of inclusive growth adopted by the 11th five year Plan. As advised by the Ministry, a time bound action plan will be provided for Gangtok and towns of Sikkim for providing entitlements and amenities as envisaged in the 7 point charter within the Mission period. Implementation of these plans shall be done by availing funds under JNNURM State and Urban Local Bodies (ULB) resources, institutional financing and resources through the Public Private Community partnership.

The State Government has furthered its effort in terms of Beautification and Modernization of existing Bazars. As part of town beautification drive, a uniform, standard state-of-art design and architectural model shall be evolved as a blue-print for construction of all private and government structure and buildings.

We very humbly acknowledge people’s appreciation including the visiting tourists of our innovative pebbled lane developed along the Mahatma Gandhi Marg in the heart of the city. Similarly, Namchi bazaar has been remodelled giving a distinct look attracting both the common men and the visiting tourists. We propose to undertake similar beautification works of all our towns and bazars in the State namely, Melli Bazar, Makha Bazar, Namthang Bazar, Kaluk Bazar, Yangang Bazar, Rhenock Bazar, Rongli Bazar, Pakyong Bazar, Soreng Bazar, Maniram Bhangyang Bazar, Ranipool Bazar, Sombarey Bazar, Kewzing Bazar, Majitar in South Sikkim and Dentam Bazar in Sikkim.

Sikkim , you are aware, is all Nature. All and everything you find here are natural. In fact, everything natural here has greatly shaped people’s thoughts, feelings and imagination. In its varied manifestations, Nature provides people with solace, sermons and gods. In the State, we have decided to base all our development strategies on our natural resources without jeopardizing the tranquil atmosphere and the serene ecological balance.

Special problems of tribal Development

Even with the projected 8.5 % growth rate in 2010-11 and a 9 % growth rate forecasted for 2011-12, internal strife and disturbing elements are creating a war-like situation in many parts of the Country. Therefore, the most immediate and pertinent understanding of development on the whole should be translating statistics into authentic human happiness in absolute sense.

As a welfare State, Sikkim presents the best semblance of socio-economic equity to guarantee to all sections of population access to all fundamental rights, economic opportunities and provide to them decent living standard. Interest of SC, ST, OBC and weaker sections of society is safeguarded through various socially relevant measures. While backward sections of people in many parts of the Country tend to turn violent, in Sikkim all sections of people are provided with equal access to and capacity formation to harness all kinds of socio-cultural and economic opportunities. As per the calculation made by the State authority based on National Survey Sample (NSS) data per capita asset value of the Scheduled Tribes (Bhutias and Lepchas) in Sikkim is Rs 71,700 as against national average of the STs of Rs 30,000. The per capita asset value in general of the Sikkimese population is Rs. 60,000 as against the national average of Rs. 40, 000.

Sikkim surrounded by three international borders, has been an oasis of peace, tranquility and mutual respect. This we maintain, both as our ancient legacy and our consistent guarding of any untoward development detrimental to the peaceful co-existence prevailing in the State. As Member of the larger Indian fraternity, we have always been a friendly neighbor to our fellow population in Bhutan , China and Nepal . With the re-opening of traditional trade with the Tibet Autonomous Region of China via Nathula in Sikkim, we have enlarged the scope of mutual cooperation turning the hard border into a soft border where human element inter-mingles more freely thereby strengthen human bonding further ahead.

In Sikkim , the economic development is constrained by its geographical location. We need to address the growing demographic shift in the State both because of tendency to opt for rural-urban migration and strike a fine balance between the nature of employment opportunity and profile of job seekers locally and nationally. There is an imperative need to establish a wider connect to bring in greater economic vibrancy to the North East which is generally a slow growth region. People from the North East should be allowed to and empowered enough to re-assert in our natural strength and set a long-term program to effectively harness our resources promoting handicraft and handloom, horticulture, floriculture, hydro-power potential, eco-tourism, so on and so forth.

Protection of Himalayan bio-diversity and the forward and backward linkages emanating from it to the entire Himalayan community has never been quantified. The sacrifice being made by the people of Sikkim for the sustainability of the region should be well appreciated and needs to be taken into account. And we always look forward to an appropriate action plan to adequately compensate us for the sacrifices we made.

There are issues both domestic and also foreign with regard to managing the claims and counter-claims and the eminent stresses in water economy. The report of China seeking to divert the natural flow of Brahmaputra in Tibet region will surely spell disaster to the lowland economy of the North East including other parts of the Country. While the central government has put forward its studied position to address the risks of climate change, both nationally and internationally, I urge the Central Government to argue through all impending development with regard to water sharing, protection of the glacier and a special economic package to all Himalayan States to carry forward their conservation measures.

The tremendous strides and the development milestones achieved by Sikkim have been made possible with the full support and assistance of the Central Government. Much is being prioritized and achieved by the State Government but with its limited resources and financial constraints, we are often time restraint to fully exploit the development potential of the State. I take this opportunity to thank the Hon’ble Prime Minister and the Central Government for extending support to the people of Sikkim . And we look forward to receiving similar support in all our endeavours in the future.

I am pleased to note that the Planning Commission has begun the process for preparing the Twelfth Five Year plan. I am confident that the Hon’ble Prime Minister with a panel of experts and professionals will succeed in providing the most comprehensive future road map of holistic development for the Country.

I would like to congratulate the Hon’ble Prime Minister and the Central Government for the consistency and commitment to put Indian economy on a path of faster and more inclusive growth and to see and guarantee that no single section of society is left behind in the overall growth process of the Country.

Assuring the Hon’ble Prime Minister of our highest consideration and support as always, I once again thank the Central Government and the Planning Commission for inviting me to the National Development Council meeting.

Thank you
Jai Hind

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