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Address of His Excellency Shri. Balmiki Prasad Singh, Governor of Sikkim on the occasion of Budget Session of The Sikkim Legislative Assembly on 25th June, 2012.

Hon’ble Speaker, Hon’ble Members, I extend my warm greetings to you all. Every budget brings new hopes to the people. Let us renew our commitment to do our best in the service of the people of our State.

For the year 2012-13, the Union Planning Commission has allocated Rs.1499.89 crores as the State’s Annual Plan. This is an increase of 7.14 % over the 2011-12 allocation of Rs. 1400 crores. The allocation includes Special Plan Assistance of Rs. 158 crores and Special Central Assistance (untied) of Rs. 250 crores. This excludes Special Plan Assistance (PM’s package) of Rs. 200 crores which is to be utilized for earthquake reconstruction and rehabilitation works.

Sikkim entered the national mainstream in 1975. Besides, the Sikkimese people faced many challenges and hardships on account of its locational disadvantage. Above all, the Himalayan state has unique problems which require special attention different from the states in the plains.

In recognition of these, my Government has introduced a range of social safety measures to assist the vulnerable sections of our people. In education and health sectors, this august House has enacted many historic legislations for free access to quality service and quality infrastructure. Education is free up to college level including special incentives like free uniforms, free text books, exercise books, raincoats and shoes.

It may be recalled that the State Gross Domestic Product growth at constant prices was 8.95% for the year 2010-11, which is higher than the all-India growth of 8.6%. The per capita income at current prices of every person in Sikkim is much higher than the national average. The State Economy has been showing a steady growth and is expected to keep up with this trend in the 12th Plan period as well.

In spite of being a landlocked and sensitive border state with poor connectivity, hilly and inhospitable terrain and inadequate infrastructure, Sikkim has been maintaining peace and tranquility. The socio-economic indicators over the decades have improved enormously, which is being reflected in the improved living conditions of the people. As a result of the efforts of my Government, the poverty level in the State which in the year 1994-95 was 41%, has come down to 13.01% in 2009-10.

During the last 18 years, we have created infrastructure that supports the people and helps generate economic activities in the State. The Siddheswar Dham at Solophok, the Statue of Guru Padmasambhawa at Samdruptse and the Kanchendzonga Amusement Park at Ranka are shining examples in this behalf. This tempo is being maintained as work is going on at the Pilgrimage and Cultural Centre, and the construction of the Chenrezig statue at Rabongla; the Culture Centre at Yangang; the Sky Walk at Bhaley Dhunga; Ramayan village at Barang in Lower Tumin, and the construction of the sleeping Buddha at Singhik.

Due to the hilly and difficult topography of the State, we are totally dependent on road connectivity. The construction and maintenance of roads in the State is a formidable challenge.

Various activities and works in Sikkim are seriously affected by the yearly monsoons. During monsoons, many of our vital communication linkages get disrupted. While we get little amount of time for productive activities because of the heavy monsoon onslaught during the summer, during the winter season working hours are likewise minimized due to the extreme cold

The objective of the 11th Plan was faster and inclusive growth and the steps taken in the 11th Plan period have resulted in substantial progress. The 12th Five Year Plan envisages faster, sustainable and more inclusive growth for the period 2012-17. The progress towards inclusiveness is difficult to assess as inclusiveness is a multi-dimensional concept. Inclusive growth should result in lower incidence of poverty, improvement in health outcomes, universal access for children to school, increased access to higher education and improved standards of education, including skill development. It should also create an environment of better opportunities for wage employment and livelihood. There should be improvement in provision of basic amenities like water, electricity, roads, sanitation and housing. Special attention needs to be provided to the needs of the weaker sections of the society.

My Government has drafted long term strategies and programmes for the 12th Five Year Plan period. Good progress has been made over the last couple of plan periods. The earthquake of 18th Sept, 2011 however, has been a huge setback to our developmental efforts. It has caused large scale and extensive damage, and shaved off some of the progress made earlier. Therefore, a great deal of time and valuable resources during the first two years of the 12th Plan will have to be invested in rehabilitation and reconstruction of the damaged infrastructure and implementation of measures for disaster preparedness.

During the same period, our priority would be to move on the path of sustainable economic development and self-reliance by harnessing the State’s natural resources. Towards this end, the priorities of my Government are promotion and development of environmental as well as eco-friendly tourism with special emphasis on the promotion of horticulture and floriculture and also production of low volume but high value organic agricultural produce.

The Cooperative movement in Sikkim has been encouraged in a big way. The cooperative societies in the State can now take up work up to Rs. 3 crores, which is an increase from the earlier ceiling of Rs. 2 crores.

I am happy that the border trade through Nathu La, resumed in 2006 will now increase due to the inclusion of eight new items for export and five new items for import. These newly added items for export have been exempted from duty leviable under Customs Tariff Act.

In 2011, the Chief Minister alongwith Ministers and officials undertook a 42 days tour of the State. Every nook and corner of the State was visited as far as possible to interact with people at the grassroots level. Rs. 1000 crores have already been committed for the construction of rural roads and bridges, school buildings, rural drinking water facilities and community centres in the villages which will taken up in a phased manner over a three year period.

My Government’s priority would be to further consolidate the growth and develop our human capital. While we will build infrastructure and take development to the next higher level, we will also consciously preserve and protect the ecology and environment. It is also our aim to rejuvenate the waste lands, conserve water resources and our forests while taking advantage of the natural resources. We have chosen a strategy for development, protection of environment and ecology and development of infrastructure and resources to contribute to the welfare of the State.

Since the year 1995-96, the State leadership has been allocating 70% of its plan outlay for rural development and this policy continues to guide the overall development scenario of the State. Due to this policy, a remarkable transformation has been achieved in the rural areas. The planning process has been decentralized. District Planning Boards under Zilla Panchayats have been formed for formulation of developmental plans at the district level.

As far as democratic decentralization is concerned, Sikkim was ranked third in the country by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj in the performance and accountability of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) during 2010-11. Block Administrative Centres (BAC) have been established to provide administrative, accounts and technical support to a cluster of Gram Panchayats. 29 such BACs were created to cater to the needs of 165 Gram Panchayats in the State. 50% of all posts in PRI’s are reserved for women.

In the rural housing sector schemes such as - the Rural Housing scheme, model house, Indira Awaas Yojana, Mukhya Mantri Awaas Yojana have been in operation and considerable success has been achieved with only 6 % of the total rural houses remaining kutcha. My Government has recently launched the Chief Minister’s Rural Housing Mission with the aim to convert the existing 6000 kutcha houses to pucca houses. We aspire to achieve “kutcha house free” status by 2013.

Sikkim is the first “Nirmal Rajya” in the Country to have achieved 100% sanitation under Government of India’s Total Sanitation Campaign. After achieving this unique milestone, the focus is on sustainability of results achieved, managing slip backs, improving school hygiene, and proper solid and liquid waste management.

We hope to achieve the Bharat Nirman target of providing road connectivity to all the 154 habitations with population of more than 500. Similarly, in the area of rural water supply, all habitations are targeted to be fully covered during 2012-13.

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has been successfully implemented in Sikkim. We have bagged 3 national awards in the implementation of this national flagship programme.

In the area of education, we seek to eradicate illiteracy. Owing to the liberal and inclusive educational policy of my Government, the literacy level which was 16.8% in 1971 has risen and stood at 82.2% in 2011. The Chief Minister’s Merit Scholarship Scheme has been introduced since 2010. We have so far invested around Rs. 10 crore in providing education to 350 meritorious students, in the best schools across the country and within the State. This unique scheme is free of any reservation. This programme is aimed as a long term investment in human resource development so that the children are well-prepared to take up jobs within and outside the State and are ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The Capacity Building and Skill Development initiatives have added a new dimension in shaping the future of the youth of the State. A full-fledged Directorate and an Institute of Capacity Building has been established. This institute imparts training and transfers knowledge in capacity building to unemployed youth. A wide range of activities such as promoting skills in livelihood schools, sponsoring the youth for vocational trades, establishment of business ventures with loans provided under the Chief Minister’s Self Employment Scheme, awarding of free scholarship programmes to meritorious students who secure admission in the world’s top 20 universities and provision of easy loans for higher education under the Comprehensive Educational Loan Schemes are some of the interventions that have encouraged and helped the youth to look beyond the Government for jobs and livelihood.

In a departure from the situation where the Government was the largest employer and source of investments and enterprise, we have taken a number of steps in the last decade to promote partnerships with private sector and non-government organizations. A few international and national private sector companies have set up ventures in horticulture, floriculture, urban development and tourism in Sikkim.

The rich natural resources of the state have also enabled us to attract major investments in the power sector. We are keeping the local context, culture and environment of Sikkim in mind while developing public private partnerships. The peaceful environment, coupled with negligible crime rate with no labour unrest and the peace-loving nature of our people, has made Sikkim an ideal place for investment.

The Tourism sector holds the key to economic prosperity and livelihood in Sikkim’s context. There has been sustained increase in arrival of tourists in the State. A high growth in tourism augurs well for Sikkim.

My Government has taken all steps to keep the State pollution free, green and peaceful. Some of the important measures we have undertaken are systematic solid waste management, total sanitation coverage of the State and ban on use of plastics and non-bio degradable materials. Since the launch of State Green Mission, every year we have planted trees and flowering plants in vacant land wherever found, besides carrying out avenue plantation and rejuvenation of waste lands. In times to come, this effort will further help beautify the State and also conserve its rich bio-diversity.

By focusing on quality eco-tourism, we aim to promote sustainable development of tourism and encourage the private sector to further develop tourist infrastructure and services without disturbing the ecology and the environment. We already have more than 8 National and other awards conferred on the State in the tourism sector.

More recently, Sikkim bagged 3 tourism-related awards from the President of India. This included the Most Innovative and Unique Tourism Project Award 2010-11 for the vision and construction of a world-class pilgrimage cum cultural tourism complex, Siddheshwara Dham at Solophok, Namchi. Sikkim also bagged the best State Award for comprehensive development of tourism 2010-11 for the initiatives taken by the State Government in the development of tourism infrastructure and for the overall development of tourism in the State.

We have made substantial progress in the health sector. The critical indicators of health including Infant Mortality Rate, Maternal Mortality Rate and disease prevalence have shown consistent decline. These achievements are the result of improved coverage and efficiency of public health delivery system together with interlinked interventions and changes introduced by my Government.

With the objective of increasing medical access to the people, my Government has launched the Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Annual and Total Checkup for Healthy Sikkim (CATCH) since 2010. I am happy that a considerable section of our population has been screened and accordingly covered under the scheme. Our mission under CATCH is to make Sikkim a healthy State by 2015.

Planning has been decentralized under National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) in order to prepare the village, district and State level Action Plans under this National Flagship Programme. The NRHM programme has integrated all health programmes in order to further augment the health outcome.

A 575 bedded multi-specialty hospital is under construction at Sichey in Gangtok. This hospital costing Rs. 475.78 crores is being funded through State Plan. It is our endeavor to provide the best medical treatment and facilities within the State at an affordable cost to the poorest of the poor.

Hydro-power generation without environmental erosion and ecological damage has always received special attention of my Government. The State has chalked out a clear road map to harness the targeted capacity of 5000 MW and generate substantial revenue. The power sector will be one of the key drivers for resource generation for the State. My Government is committed towards providing reliable electricity to every household as well as industries and institutions.

Organic agriculture is an economically viable and sustainable occupation. The diverse climatic conditions of Sikkim are favourable for large cardamom, ginger, mandarin oranges, flowers and medicinal herbs. It is our endeavor to encourage the rural youth to take up this programme, and capitalize on making organic farming a sustainable source of income and livelihood. A total of 830 youths have been trained and engaged in Organic Farming activities.

Realizing the horticulture sector as an important driver of rural economy, Government has given top priority to this sector. Further, post-harvest infrastructure like Ginger Processing Unit, Cold Storage Units, and Refrigerated Vans are being put in place.

Economic development has been accepted and recognized as the process of transforming the lives of the people. The character of development, its direction and pace and the way people share the benefits are determined by the manner in which a State manages its investment resources. Investing in development has always been the central activity of the State Government, aimed at promoting economic growth and social welfare due to which the State has earned the distinction of being an exemplary state.

Duly respecting the hopes and aspirations of the people, my Government has been sincerely making many socio-political demands in favour of the people of Sikkim. The State Government has been representing to the Central Government for early resolution of some pending demands including Reservation of Assembly seats for Limboo and Tamang communities in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly, Grant of Schedule Tribe status to the left-out ethnic communities of Sikkim and Income Tax Exemption in respect of the left-out communities including members of the old business communities of Sikkim. We hope that these demands placed by the State Government will be addressed by the Central Government soon. This will ensure that the social cohesion and harmony prevailing in Sikkim be further strengthened and consolidated.

It is a fact that peaceful law and order environment, political stability and good governance are the principal factors needed to foster development and prosperity. Sikkim is not lagging behind in this context.

Let us resolve today to build a better tomorrow and not rest on past laurels as we step into the 12th Five Year Plan, in which the challenge is to ensure better implementation and improved accountability while we judiciously use our resources for the overall development of the State and her people.

I offer my best wishes to you and I hope that this budget session will be productive and useful.


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