Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Orchid Show inaugurated, winners unveiled

Chief Minister Pawan Chamling inaugurated the annual Orchid Show 2015 at the Flower Exhibition Centre here at the Chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal Memorial Park at the Ridge on 17 March, Tuesday. An official press communiqué informs that the inaugural ceremony was attended by Ministers and senior officers of various departments, with students from different schools from in and around Gangtok also invited. Although the display at the flower show complex is a year-round affair, the Orchid Show is ceremonially inaugurated every year on 17 March.

Govt to conduct exams for EIILM students

The Human Resource Development Department, Government of Sikkim, has decided to resume the suspended examinations at EIILM University so as to safeguard and protect the interests of students. The examinations will commence on 20 March and continue till the 24th. The examination will be conducted under the supervision of the Department along with the assistance from the Dean and the faculty at EIILM University here. The Department has made all the arrangements for conducting the examination. The relocation of the students to other institutions will be taken up by the Department after the completion of the examination process. The decision has been undertaken with the necessary approval of Principal Secretary, HRD Department. This was conveyed by Jitendra Singh Raje, Director, Higher Education, Human Resource Development Department, while addressing a press conference at the HRDD Conference Hall in Gangtok on 14 March. [IPR Deptt]

Sanju has a football academy too!

Rural Sikkim’s potential for sports gets Sanju Pradhan’s endorsement in the form of a football academy in Sombaria

The best football exports from the State first strapped their boots in their homes in rural Sikkim. The soccer triumvirate of Bhaichung Bhutia, Nirmal Chettri and Sanju Pradhan, all discovered the game in the bastis. What they also have in common is that their talent was discovered young and all three of them accessed professional coaching early in their growth as footballers. It is clearly in recognition of these round realities and the potential of rural youth to grow into “proper” footballers that Sanju Pradhan, who himself arrived in the professional circuit as recently as 2006, has lent his name and resources to establish a football academy in Sombaria, West Sikkim. The village-town is not even big enough to be a sub-division, but has the boasting rights to claim that team India regular and Atlético de Kolkata’s star midfielder, Sanju Pradhan, is a homeboy. And now, Sombaria also has a Sanju Football Academy, established in January 2013, and having a current roster of 42 footballers in training!
Rural Sikkim is teeming with football talent, and the need is to identify, groom and provide them with the right platform at the right age, Sanju stresses while explaining why he helped establish this football academy.

Dimapur, Never Again. Never Anywhere

The lynching of a rape accused by a mob last Thursday in Dimapur, Nagaland holds a lesson or two for the government, administration, law & order agencies, politicians and also the general public of Sikkim.
As per media reports, a mob of 7,000-8,000 people reached the ramshackle building that serves as the central jail at Dimapur, overpowered the Nagaland Armed Police guards and got hold of Syed Farid Khan, an accused in a sexual assault case. The mob dragged Khan out of the jail and beat him as he was paraded naked along the streets for about eight kilometers. Already dead from the beating, his dead body was finally hung from the city tower.

To realize Sikkim’s falling fertility rate, check enrolment figures at ICDS centres and Govt schools

Much has been made of the falling enrolment figures at the Integrated Child Development Scheme centres [for toddler] and in Government schools in rural areas. Many have blamed the mushrooming of private schools even in rural areas for this drop in enrolment numbers, and while they might not be completely wrong, a substantial contributing factor is also the fact that Sikkim now has fewer children per family than perhaps at any time in its history. Fertility rate - the number of children an average woman is likely to have during her childbearing years, conventionally taken to be 15-49 – in Sikkim, as per the Census of 2011, is lower than even population replacement levels.

Hate and Paranoia are Handicaps, Not Virtues

Set Goals for the young, Not Boundaries

The madness which visited Dimapur in Nagaland last week is not unprecedented; such horrors have occurred often in our country and across the world, exploding every time people allowed hate and paranoia to supersede humanity and faith. The belief that the victim had raped a “local” and the fear that he will get away with it were only the sparks – misinformed beliefs, shallow understanding of situations, complexes and an inflated sense of entitlement provided a ready mix of easily combustible emotions which exploded with such barbarism last week. Unfortunately, the issue of influx and the slogan of local protection are painted in such broad strokes that every condemnation of the anarchy which ended in a brutal murder is being qualified with supporting arguments talking about the impact of influx and speaking of problems like illegal immigrants. The passion which was whipped into deranged fury in Dimapur recently was infected with the same arguments that one hears right wing leaders spit with practised venom at every community they see as the “other”. They remain at the task despite repeated failures, but every once in a while they succeed, and from such episodes draw the oxygen for a new round of sowing distrust and ill-will.

Now, a Football Mela!

Spotters from leading clubs expected to come scouting at 3-day talent hunt at Paljor Stadium

Around two dozen local lads are currently playing for frontline football clubs of the country. These footballers, all groomed in the dustbowl football grounds around the State and at the astro-turfed extravagance of Paljor Stadium are living their dreams, playing professional football for top teams in the Indian Super League and I-League. Needless to add, their breakthrough has now seeded a dream to follow suit among all budding footballers across the State, but opportunities to get noticed and signed up are not always as forthcoming. 

Centre no longer keen on integrated child development

The Union Budget Has Cut Outlay for ICDS By More Than Half!

In the recent Budget Session the centre decided to leave it to the states to continue or discontinue a number of welfare schemes which were earlier entirely or largely supported by central funds. One such scheme is the Integrated Child Development Scheme [ICDS] which has been running in Sikkim since 1976-77. The fund allocation for the ICDS at the national level has been reduced from Rs. 18,195 crore in 2014-15 to Rs. 8,335.77 crore in 2015-16. The decline is around Rs. 9,859 crore which is a more than 50% reduction. The ICDS funding pattern has been modified so that states will now have to shoulder a higher share.  This has reportedly been done following the recommendation of the 14th Finance Commission.

Substantial hike in consolidated salary package for PGTs and GTs of Science and Mathematics

The Human Resource Development Department has effected a substantial hike in the consolidated salary being drawn by ad-hoc Post Graduate and Graduate Teachers for Science and Mathematics employed in Government schools here. As per an Office Order dated 03 February, the consolidated salary for Science and Mathematics PGTs has been enhanced from Rs. 14,000 to Rs. 25,000 per month and for Graduate Teachers of science and maths, from Rs. 12,000 to Rs. 20,000.
The new salary package is to come into effect on 01 March 2015 and extends to existing ad-hoc teachers as well.

Upgrades for Gyalshing and Jorethang municipal bodies

The State Cabinet, at its sitting 10 March, cleared the Urban Development & Housing Department’s draft Bill recommending amendments in the Sikkim Municipalities Act to upgrade the Nagar Panchayats of Gyalshing and Jorethang to Municipal Council level.
A post of Chief Minister Pawan Chamling’s fanpage on Facebook informs that the Cabinet has cleared the draft bill proposing amendments to section 8 and 13 of the Sikkim Municipalities Act, 2007 and re-organisation and up-gradation of Gyalshing Nagar Panchayat into Gyalshing Municipal Council and Jorethang Nagar Panchayat into Naya Bazar Jorethang Municipal Council.
Subsequently, new wards of Byadong, Upper Kyongsa and Lower Kyongsa have been included under Gyalshing Municipal Council and two new wards, those of Sisney Naya Bazar B and Sisney Naya Bazar A have been included to Naya Bazar Jorethang Municipal Council, it is informed. The municipal elections are expected in April.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Not illegal, but harassment nevertheless

WB cops and their aversion towards Sikkim vehicles

The West Bengal Police might be within its rights, and jurisdiction, in ambushing Sikkim vehicles along the national highway on the pretext of checking documents, but the manner in which it is going about its business is blatantly unethical and reeks of premeditated harassment. The irritation has been visiting Sikkim-registered vehicles on the West Bengal side of the highway for close to six months now, and what is making the entire exercise offensive is that the cops on the other side are clearly not driven by a calling to serve the people or enforce the law, and are instead obsessed with digging up forgotten rules and demanding unheard of documents from Sikkim vehicles. It should obvious to anybody by now that getting documents in order is no guarantee to hassle-free travel on the highway because the cops there are making sure everyone loses time at their pickets along the highway. There are as many as seven such pickets between Rangpo and Siliguri, and getting an all-clear from the first one is still no guarantee that the entire charade will not be played out by later “check-points”!

Referral reference

A patient getting referred out of the State for treatment might benefit from the expertise of super-speciality hospitals and specialist doctors, but the process can be long and the paperwork tedious and complicated. Here are some detailed tips on how to negotiate your way around if you, God forbid, end up as a member of a ‘patient party’ attending to a referred patient…

Sikkim is arguably among the most generous of states when it comes to providing financial assistance to its citizens seeking advanced healthcare remedies outside the State. It has several healthcare related programmes and schemes being implemented through the Health Care, Human Services and Family Welfare Department. Among these, here I would like to share my experience with regard to two schemes- the Sikkim State Illness Assistance Fund [SSIAF] and the Mukhya Mantri Jeevan Raksha Kosh Scheme [MMJRKS]. Both schemes provide cashless access to advanced healthcare to patients referred outside the State.
SSIAF is meant for patients from BPL families referred outside State and who are in need of necessary assistance to receive medical treatment for certain life-threatening diseases, treatment for which is normally very expensive, in super specialty hospitals. In Sikkim, the patient is provided up to Rs. 1.50 lakh in the form of cashless treatment facility i.e. payment made directly to the hospital by the State Government. Financial assistance beyond Rs. 1.50 lakh is to be provided by the Central Government.
MMJRKS, on the other hand, is meant for APL patients referred outside the State for treatment. In this scheme, the State Government provides cashless assistance starting from Rs. 20,000 up to Rs. 2 lakhs depending on the case history of the patient.

India’s Daughter Was Without Fear, So What is Everyone Else Scared of?

Mindsets which ban girls from wearing jeans feed ideologies which have led to ban on India’s Daughter

Sunday is International Women’s Day, and even if in the past the token observation of this Day attracted more derision than support, our country has dragged itself to such a nadir when it comes to women’s rights that one prays that, if nothing else, at least the tokenism continues. Let the charade pretending to be concerned about women’s rights continue till some real breakthroughs are achieved. Till then, at least once a year, let the customary hats be doffed for women’s empowerment even if laced with a misogyny which has become normal in this country of ours which still believes that banning things is an effective protection for its “innocent” masses.
You know something is wrong with our understanding of free expression and public debate when the demand for a ban on a documentary film is argued on the grounds that it provides a platform for a convicted rapist and the defense for the documentary is made on grounds that it does not.

National Green Tribunal petitioned with challenge against shrinking of Eco-Sensitive Zones

The working president of Affected Citizens of Teesta, Tseten Lepcha, acting in his individual capacity as “a person living in the buffer zone of the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve/ Khangchendzonga National Park and being affected by the decision to reduce the ESZ and not necessarily representing any organization”, has approached the National Green Tribunal challenging the Notification of the Ministry of Environment & Forests reducing the Eco-Sensitive Zone buffer around national parks from the existing 10 kms to an insignificant 25 to 200 metres. The National Green Tribunal, Eastern Zone Bench, has admitted Mr. Lepcha’s petition.

BJP-SKM alliance set to continue for municipal elections

As things stand, the BJP-SKM alliance, struck for the first time for the bye-elections at Rangang-Yangang constituency last year, will continue for the upcoming urban local body polls as well. Senior SKM leaders have confirmed to NOW! that the alliance for the municipal elections has been finalized and will be announced shortly. The alliance has been formalized to the level of seat-sharing formula, it is informed.

Amar Subba – The Ruggedest of them all

Marathoner Amar Subba has added another feather to his overflowing cap with a win at the Ruggedian Obstacle Race 2015 held at Kolhapur in Maharashtra on 22 February. He secured the first place in the Open Men 45-plus category on his debut in the obstacle race.
The 46-year-old completed the 15 km race overcoming 15 types of obstacles in 54 minutes 59 seconds. He was awarded with a trophy, medal and certificate. Ruggedian is India’s biggest and toughest obstacle race as per the organisers - Kolhapur Adventure Sports Association [KASA].
Around 400 participants from different parts of the country and abroad participated in the Ruggedian race. Speaking to NOW!, Mr Subba shared that the race was a tough one but interesting nonetheless. “I was determined to give my best and finish the race in the first place,” he said.

EIILM withdraws request for Govt takeover, calls interviews to fill VC and Registrar vacancies

The Eastern Institute for Integrated Learning in Management [EIILM], the private university which has remained consistently in the news for all the wrong reasons of late, has, in a dramatic turn of events, withdrawn the representation made to the State government urging it to take over the University. Following this is the publication of advertisements calling applicants for a ‘Walk-in Interview’ for the post of Vice Chancellor and Registrar of the University.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A creature of habit

SAGAR TAMANG is arguably the only taxi driver around who has stayed with the same vehicle [a 1994 model Maruti Omni] and the same employer for 17 years now! Even friendships rarely last so long and alliances are known to crumble even sooner. Sagar’s story then becomes an interesting one to share. Excerpts of a conversation with Subash Rai…

Are you young, educated and skilled but still wondering why you are not employed? The story of 38-year-old Sagar Tamang from Shyari in East Sikkim should offer you some points to ponder. Mr. Tamang, a taxi driver by profession, drives a 1994 model Maruti Omni van, the wheels of which have been under his charge since 1997, when, as a strapping 21-year-old, he was employed to drive this taxi. Since then, it has been the same vehicle and the same employer for Mr. Tamang; an exceptionally rare feat for the profession he is in… and he’s loving it! What is more, he is still plying the same route - from Lall Bazaar Stand to 6th Mile Tadong along the National Highway. Subash Rai catches up with him...
NOW: Your vehicle is 21 years old now, the same age as when you first started driving it. What did you do before taking over the keys of this vehicle?
SAGAR TAMANG:
You know, our time was filled with problems. I couldn’t study much, so trained as a driver. I even got employed as a driver on Muster Roll in the Forest Department but could not come to terms with the bureaucratic ways of functioning. Guess my luck also did not favour me so I quit after a year. I still remember the vehicle assigned to me at the Department – it was a Petrol Jeep [and he goes on to spell out its registration number as well].

Monday, February 23, 2015

Free bijli for the bastis

Notified - 100% subsidy for 100 units of electricity for rural homes 

Homes in rural Sikkim will now enjoy up to 100 units of free electricity. Thus far, only BPL families in rural Sikkim were entitled to subsidized electricity supply of up to 50 units for a two-point connection. 100 units of free electricity for homes in rural Sikkim was an election promise of the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front and the notification to this effect was published on 26 November 2014.
The 100% subsidy for all domestic consumers in rural Sikkim for consumption up to 100 units comes with the caveats that the homes have energy meters installed to ensure accurate metering and in the event that consumption crosses 100 units in any month, the entire consumption shall be charged as per the existing tariff of Rs. 3.45 per unit.

Prepped for school

Books and uniform supplies delivered to district offices, transfer confusion to resolve in another fortnight at most

A new academic session has begun, and even though things will still take some time to settle down, what with the teacher transfer confrontation and still awaited filling of substantial vacancies in teaching posts, at least the supply of the basics of text books and other educational aids like exercise copies and uniforms will not be delayed. The Human Resource Development Department, it is informed, has reached the supply of text books and exercise copies to its district offices. Heads of the respective schools in turn have been urged to pick up their required number of text books and copies from the respective stores, Jitendra Singh Raje, Director Higher Education, who is also in-charge of text-books section told Sikkim NOW! Completion of distribution onwards to the students should take, at the most, another ten days, the Director adds.

Cabinet subcommittee formed to take final call on govt involvement in Teesta Urja for Stage III

The State Government has constituted a Cabinet Sub-Committee to examine all issues related to the Sikkim Government taking a major equity stake in Teesta Urja Hydro Power which is developing the 1,200 MW Teesta Stage III hydel project in North Sikkim.  The Cabinet Sub-Committee is headed by Power Minister DD Bhutia, and includes GM Gurung, Minister for Roads & Bridges; RB Subba, Minister for Human Resource Development; and PB Subba, Principal Chief Engineer-cum-Secretary, Energy & Power Department as Member Secretary. The subcommittee, as mentioned, will examine issues in connection with raising the equity stake of the Government of Sikkim through the Sikkim Power Investment Corporation Limited (SPICL) to 51% in Teesta Urja Limited (TUL) in relation to Teesta Stage III.

Sports Academy tryouts begin Wednesday

The State Sports Academy at Gangtok has emerged as a centre of excellence in as far as producing footballers with the skills and grooming to play among the best in the country. Graduates of this academy are presently playing in popular Indian Super League, I-League and other reputed football clubs of the country, with still others wearing Army and Sikkim Police colours. Nirmal Chettri, Sanju Pradhan, Robin Gurung are a few among the more successful footballers who trained at the State Sports Academy.
Every year, players from the Academy are picked up by different clubs, Army and Sikkim Police and in this process, their seats fall vacant. To fill these seats, the Department of Sports & Youth Affairs, which manages the programme, conducts selection trails every year. The Academy has a prescribed strength of 30 players.

On-your-marks for municipal elections

Scheduled for April 2015, the urban local body polls continue a rather extended run of election-related politics for Sikkim

Sikkim is having a rather extended run of election-related politics. The Assembly Elections of last year included a bye-election [for Rangang-Yangang], and now the State gears up for urban local body elections due in April if things proceed according to plan. The last urban local body elections, held in April 2010, had served up a walkover for the ruling party when Opposition parties boycott the elections and SDF cornered 44 of the 47 total wards in urban local bodies of Sikkim uncontested. This time, it is unlikely that such an easy walkover will happen because at least three political parties have decided to participate in the elections. The ruling SDF and Opposition SKM have already made formal announcements to contest, and the BJP too has confirmed that it will be in the fray. Meanwhile, although the official dates for the elections are not announced yet, the parties have taken their mark and begun their outreach programmes.

Govt requests ED to release endowment fund from EIILM’s frozen bank accounts

Plan is to conduct stalled examinations and then arrange for transfer of students to other institutes

The Higher Education Directorate of the Human Resource Development Department has requested the Enforcement Directorate to release “endowment fund” from the Eastern Institute for Integrated Learning in Management [EIILM] bank accounts to allow for the proper conduction of stalled examinations and easing other complications afflicting the students at the university’s Malbasey, West Sikkim, campus.
The ED, it may be recalled, has frozen all bank accounts of EIILM university, and attached all its properties [except the campus in Sikkim] pending investigations of money laundering. Following this, EIILM had suspended classes at the campus last year and students there have been on dharna demanding resolution for two months now. The University management has even demanded that the State Government take over the university, an option that the government is not keen on. Authorities at the HRDD are however at work to ensure that the future of the around 200 students enrolled at EIILM-Sikkim is not jeopardized.