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Speech of His Excellency Shri. Balmiki Prasad Singh, Governor of Sikkim on the occasion of State Day Celebration at Chintan Bhawan on 16th May, 2012.

I

On this special occasion of the 37th State Day, I extend my heartiest greetings to all the Sikkimese people. It was on this day- thirty seven years ago- that the people of Sikkim embraced democracy by joining the Republic of India. This has enabled our people to guide and shape their own destiny. Our citizens have participated in the democratic process in a manner which is worthy of our great Sovereign Democratic Republic. This is particularly evident from the peaceful manner in which elections are conducted in the State; people voluntarily turn up in large numbers to cast their votes.

Sikkim has integrated well with the rest of India both socially and economically. There is free flow of goods, ideas and capital in the entire country. Students from Sikkim are studying in academic institutions in different parts of the country. Similarly, professionals and businessmen from the State are plying their trade in various cities across the nation. Sikkim has been home to teachers and businessmen from other parts of India. Engineers and businessmen from outside have set up industries and assisted us in building our infrastructure. Our sportspersons are excelling in different sporting arenas, and bringing accolades to the Nation and the State.

The Annual Plan outlay of Sikkim has increased from a mere Rs. 120 crores in the year 1994-95 to Rs. 1500 crores during the Current Financial Year 2012-13. The State’s own revenue too has increased significantly from Rs. 94.95 crores  in 1994-95 to Rs. 609.87 crores in 2011-12.

Sikkim has to its credit several awards from the Government of India and other agencies in the field of education, health, tourism, environmental management, security and justice. The State occupies the top position in terms of key indicators of growth/development such as per capita income, literacy rate, infant mortality rate, life expectancy and other socio-economic indices.

The per capita GSDP of Sikkim at current prices for 2010-11 stood at Rs. 92,808 as against the national per capita of Rs. 60,349.
    
Since 1975, Sikkim has made impressive progress in all areas of democratic governance. Sikkim is a special category State and the Centre has been consistently forthcoming in providing the financial support needed to establish developmental infrastructure in the State. The successive plans and programmes initiated by the Central and State Governments have enabled the State to be among the fastest developing States in the country.

II

We faced a most serious crisis on account of the 18th September earthquake. It made an adverse impact on every family in the State. 60 people lost their precious lives and more than seven hundred people were injured. In total, 61,535 buildings including monasteries, schools and colleges, private houses and government buildings as well as the State Secretariat were damaged. Roads and water pipelines too sustained damages.

The Army formed the bulwark of the relief operations and displayed great skill and swiftness in dealing with the disaster. The Army was supported by units of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), ITBP and the State Police. The political leadership, medical personnel, civil society organizations and young children came forward in large numbers everywhere to participate in relief work.

The earthquake brought people and organizations across the country together to share the grief and render assistance. In a way, it made the people of Sikkim realize that their challenges were not theirs alone, but that of the entire country. Hon’ble Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh visited Sikkim on 29th September and announced an interim relief of Rs. 1000 crore for restoration of infrastructure.

The earthquake has brought before our government agencies as well as to the people of the State new realities. It is quite evident that we need earthquake-proof houses, better-built roads, nature-resistant water pipelines and earthquake-resistant workplaces. Our existing building laws and construction manuals need close scrutiny. We are steadfast in our resolve to put the State on the developmental path again. And favourable changes are visible. For an earthquake cannot defeat the resolve of the Sikkimese people to progress.

III

As we have embarked on the 12th Five Year Plan, we have accorded priority to certain key indicators of development, namely :-
•    Quality infrastructural creation;
•    Improving basic amenities for the citizens – like drinking water, sanitation, waste management among others ;
•    Capacity building and skill development programmes for self-employment; and
•    Developing strategies to harness our natural resources while also protecting the ecology and environment.

We hope to reach our long-standing goal of self-sustainability in the course of the Twelfth Plan.

Today, every family in Sikkim aspires to give their children quality education.  

To meet this challenge, we are conscious of the shortage of quality schools in the remote areas of the State. The State Government launched the Chief Minister’s Special Merit Scholarship Scheme in 2010. Under this scheme, meritorious students from the State receive State sponsorship to study in the best public schools in the country. This year, 200 students have been selected. In addition, over 1000 students are receiving scholarships from the Government.

The State’s Prerna Yojana, and Centre’s Incentive to Girl’s for Secondary Education are important schemes, which the State is implementing in full earnest for the development of the girl child.

We have taken initiatives to impart skills for self-employment of the youth as well. Sikkim has established a full-fledged State Institute of Capacity Building and Directorate of Capacity Building. These two institutions are working satisfactorily in providing training facilities to the local youth to enable them to get gainful employment within and outside the State. Livelihood schools have also been established in each constituency to impart basic trade and vocational training.

The Chief Minister’s Self Employment Scheme is an important initiative that is helping our youth to be self-reliant. It provides financial assistance to enterprising youth to start their own business. During the year 2011-12, the Government sanctioned Rs. 6 crore to more than 270 beneficiaries to take up income-generating enterprises of their own in tourism, hospitality, animal husbandry and agro-industries. Since the introduction of this programme in June, 2002, over 6500 young people have benefitted from more than Rs.71 crores made available as assistance by the Government.

The aim of our educational system should also be to impart such an attitude in the students that would help them to develop professional skills and the capacity to work as a team.

We are conscious of the fact that public health is a key aspect of development infrastructure. It is, accordingly, being accorded special consideration in the State.

Quality health service for every citizen of the State is our objective. Towards this, we have successfully launched the Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Annual and Total Check up for Healthy Sikkim (CATCH) programme. The work is in progress.  

Our infant mortality figure stands at 30 per 1000 live births which is lower than the national average of 47 per 1000 live births. We need to create awareness about the benefits of delivery in the hospitals. Anganwadi workers and the NGOs can play an important role in raising awareness and encouraging people towards it.

The tourism policy of the State Government puts special emphasis on creation of tourism-friendly infrastructure, thereby to facilitate jobs in hotels, restaurants and public places. It also aims to provide value to farmers and other service providers.

We plan to expand and diversify tourism to our rural areas by popularizing home-stays, adventure tourism and village and eco-tourism.

Capacity building in this sector is our major concern. The Institute of Hotel Management at Rumtek is providing training in catering and management of hospitality enterprises. A Food Craft Institute has been planned to be set up at Namchi. The Himalayan Centre for Adventure and Eco-tourism at Chemchey too offers training and courses in adventure and eco-tourism skills, such as rock climbing, trekking, mountaineering and paragliding.

Tourism remains a core area and this is reflected in our Twelfth Five Year Plan programme. We plan to attract 5 million tourists by the year 2015.

Notwithstanding all these, we are conscious of the importance of preserving of the intrinsic character and aesthetic appeal of our villages from the forces of greed.

The elected representatives of Panchayats and their supporting staff have to be vigilant to ensure quality of works in their area, be it construction of roads, school buildings, primary health centres, and distribution of materials for other economic activities. It is our belief that the Panchayati Raj institutions hold the key to rural development as the elected men and women in these bodies constitute the primary element in the delivery of quality services to the people.

We in Sikkim have taken some special measures to strengthen the Panchayats and municipal bodies in furtherance of the constitutional provisions. The Government of Sikkim has raised the reservation of women from 40% at the national level to 50 % in the Panchayat and municipal bodies of the State. We have devolved financial powers and authority to the Panchayats. The District Planning Committee which is headed and chaired by the Zilla Adhyaksha is empowered to prepare, sanction and implement schemes and projects within the district. Gram Panchayat and Zilla Adhyaksha have been given full financial powers to sanction funds under schemes transferred to Panchayats.

All Government institutions within a Gram Panchayat jurisdiction, such as primary schools and primary health centres, have also been placed under the administrative control of respective Gram Panchayats. Officers and staff posted to the Block Administrative Centres (BAC) and Zilla Parishad offices discharge their functions under the Zilla Adhakshaya.

We have plans for effecting improvement in urban areas as well. In consultation with a Singapore-based consultant, a Development Guide Plan for the development of 20 major towns in the State including Mangan, Namchi, Gyalshing and Jorethang has been prepared. Focusing on North Sikkim, we are developing bazaars at Phodong and Phensang. There is an ambitious city development plan for Gangtok as well. It aims to bring much-needed transport reforms and other infrastructural development in the congested capital city.

With the completion of the airport at Pakyong, the process of urbanization is expected to accelerate. A whole host of planning to provide high class infrastructure needs to be finalized. We need to develop Ranipool and Pakyong stretch as Naya Gangtok at par with international standards.

Our economy is largely agrarian. We must focus on the agricultural sector in order to usher in inclusive growth in the State. This sector represents about a third of the state’s Gross Domestic Product.

The Government is providing quality seeds and training to our farmers on technology and scientific interventions. The main focus in this sector is to secure maximum productivity and management of agro-resources like soil, water and bio-diversity. The effort is to make farming ecologically sustainable and economically profitable. Our aim is to make Sikkim a total organic State by 2015.

The climate of Sikkim offers us a natural advantage in floriculture, which is also linked to tourism, and must be exploited. As many as 5000 families in Sikkim depend upon floriculture for their livelihood. So far the Government has distributed a total of 11,000 greenhouses in the State free of cost. The State has also gone into establishing joint venture under Public Private Partnership (PPP).

The response has been encouraging. In 2011-12, we exported Rs. 4.50 crore worth of floriculture products. We plan to make floriculture an export-oriented industry with a target to yield Rs. 50 crore per year within the next five years.

IV

It was B.R. Ambedkar who asserted in the Constituent Assembly that “we must make our political democracy a social democracy as well”. And he went on to clarify that ‘social democracy seeks to establish a way of life which recognizes equality, liberty and fraternity as the principles of life’. The evolution of political democracy in Sikkim has helped in empowerment of Sikkimese people through education, healthcare and creation of infrastructure. It is for us and particularly our younger generation to ensure that we do not create such layers of life in our society where wealth gets concentrated in the hands of a few and the majority are denied economic opportunities. 

Our political leaders and the permanent civil service who have the primary responsibility to take the State forward must constantly work to devise ways and means to remedy the shortcomings in the working and the structure of democratic governance.

It is true that democratic institutions in the State have been strengthened over the years. It is also heartening to note that political evolution in Sikkim has acted in tandem with the forces of religion, culture and ecology. The independent and impartial judicial system, an enlightened civil society and free media are playing important roles in strengthening of democratic governance in the State. Let us, however, remain vigilant.


JAI HIND


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