SIKKIM NEWS: Chamling digs past to slam tourism critics

SIKKIM NEWS: Chamling digs past to slam tourism critics – well justified to get miffed, a visionary policy that is now paying rich dividends for all of Sikkim to enjoy and to be dubbed by all as the Switzerland of the region ?!!

Sikkim's Vision 2020 - to make a vast difference from the rest of India ?!! (HN Files)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Gangtok, Sept. 27: Chief minister Pawan Chamling today chided the Sikkimese civil society for leaving the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) government alone to fend off criticisms invited by its tourism-centric policies in the past 16 years.

“We started eco-tourism first in the country in 1994. We took hard, risky and unpleasant political decisions to start eco-tourism in the state by banning grazing, commercial felling of trees and removing yak sheds from forest areas. But that time, we had received only criticism and verbal abuses from people, some of whom even filed a case against us. Efforts were also made to destroy our rural vote banks,” Chamling said during the World Tourism Day celebrations here.

The Chamling government in 2005-2006 had removed yak sheds from forests in West Sikkim district, leading to resentment among the affected people. Yaks are found in higher altitudes of West and North districts and have been a source of livelihood of the indigenous tribes for generations.

“Today the people of the same areas who opposed the removal of yak sheds and the ban on grazing are launching websites on eco-tourism promotion after realising that the removal of the sheds was a correct decision,” said the chief minister, who also launched a website on eco-tourism at Utteray in West Sikkim.

Chamlingdid not spare the business community either.

“The beautified MG Marg today is one of the main tourism attractions in Sikkim. But when we started the renovation work and removed taxis, we were abused by all, including traders who claimed that such steps would erode their business,” said Chamling.

The 1km MG Marg stretch located in the heart of the state capital had been renovated from scratch in 2008 with cobbled stones and benches, flower pots and fountains. The entire path has been declared a no-vehicle zone, allowing tourists and people to walk leisurely listening to music from Bose speakers hanging from lampposts.

However, Chamling feels that he was let down by the public when his government was criticised during the beautification of MG Marg.

“Although my government was cornered, everyone knows today how the value of MG Marg has grown. The civil society does not come forward in support of our policies. Despite the people’s neutrality, we surpassed all hurdles,” he said.

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