Sikkim which joined the national mainstream only in 1975, obviously joined the planning process of the Country in the late seventies. In the real sense of the term, meticulous planning process involving experts and all sections of people upto the grass root level, started only in the 1990s on a more conscious note. Within a short span of little over thirty years, Sikkim has achieved many development milestones and is today one of the most happening and progressive States of the Indian Union.
Key sectors as engine of growth
Sikkim and the North East generally suffer from locational disadvantage due to geographical constraint. However, to transform disadvantage into an advantage, the State Government has taken the policy decision to undertake natural resource-based schemes and development program on a sustainable basis. Promotion of eco-tourism including village tourism, hospitality service, hydro-power generation, education, horticulture, floriculture, apiculture, agro-based industries, pharmaceutical and other eco-friendly clean industrial sectors are among the priority areas identified by the State Government as the most viable professions of the 21st century world.
Since the majority of Sikkim'spopulation lives in the rural areas, rural development is the top priority of the Sikkim Government. The policy decision taken by the State Government to spend 70 per cent of the total plan budget for the development of rural areas of Sikkim ever since 1994 is being implemented effectively. As a result, perceptible improvements are visible in the living standards of the people in the rural areas. They have become more friendlier with the modern development interventions and instruments and are taking full advantage of the Government'sinitiatives.
Panchayati Raj administration
To enable the rural people to effectively participate in rural development, the Sikkim Panchayat Act, 1993 has been amended. The State Government has now given the administrative control of all government institutions like Primary Schools, Primary Health Sub-centres, VLO Centres, Libraries, Community Information Centres, Rural Tourism, Minor Irrigation Works, Community Centres, grounds for sports etc. falling under a Gram Panchayat Unit (GPU) to the President of the particular Gram Panchayat.
As the backbone of its economy, Sikkim'sagriculture sector has been given top priority. The sub-sector of horticulture and floriculture has shown an impressive growth. We successfully held International FloriShow in Sikkim towards the beginning of the year 2008. Sikkim also made significant progress in the livestock and poultry production. It is very soon reaching a stage of self sufficiency in milk production. The intervention in the dairy sector particularly by the Swiss Development Agency is highly laudable in this regard.
Impressive milestones have been established in education, health, women'swelfare, cultural and intellectual spheres. The religious, cultural and intellectual dimensions of the Sikkimese society comprising of Bhutias, Lepchas and Nepalis have been earnestly promoted. Sikkim'sglorious culture has found expression in its literature, folklore, music, dance and drama reaching new standards of excellence. Sikkim'sliterature has been enhanced with the publication of new works.
Affirmative share to womenfolk
Women form one of the most backward units of society anywhere in the world. Even within the backward pockets, women in many cases live in the most uncaring situation and circumstances. Therefore, the State Government is tirelessly working to make womenfolk march ahead shoulder to shoulder with all members of the society. In a traditional set up favouring male chauvinism, it was always daunting to carry out reform measures and grant women more power and perks. Fighting against all odds, Shri Chamling has been able to elevate the status of women at par with male members of the society.
Impressive stride in Education
By any subjective or objective assessment, the achievements made by the Chamling Government in Education and Health sectors are noteworthy. Compared to the past, today the State has now hosts of Degree Colleges, Medical and Engineering Colleges, Sanskrit Mahavidyalaya, Computers and Communication Institutes and other educational centres spread across the State. One OBC residential school is being established at Kamrang and a Tribal Residential School is set up at Soyam in North Sikkim. One Boarding School shall be established for the SC students at Namchi.
?Smart School? concept is now being adopted in schools and emphasis is being laid on the quality of education. A Central University in Sikkim has been established by an Act of Parliament. A full-fledged course contents and extensive syllabi are being worked out with particular emphasis on branches of studies suitable for Himalayan region. The first Semester studies under Sikkim University have commenced in Colleges in the State. Construction of a full-fledged University complex are being conceived and under construction in the 300 acres of land acquired by the Government at Yangang.
Reading of Nepali language, as the lingua franca of Sikkimese people, has been made compulsory in all schools in Sikkim. Likewise, ethnic languages of Gurung, Tamang, Kirat Khambu Rai, Mangar, Sunwar, Sherpa and Newar are being taught at the primary level. Teachers in these subjects have been recruited in schools and these subjects are taught as part of the academic curriculum. The literacy rate, which was only 56.9 percent in 1991 has increased to 82 percent today.
The State of Sikkim has a full fledged Directorate of Capacity Building to undertake training in diverse skills and trades. The Government has done this to consolidate the solid gains arrived at from innovative Skill Development Fund project introduced in 2003. This Fund focused on building diverse skills and capacities among the youth in the State. The results have been encouraging and we have clearly seen a conspicuous down-turn in government employment seekers among the youths. This Directorate organised an Employment Fair in November 2007 bringing a range of employment and career providers in diverse areas to the doorsteps of our youths. Similar Employment Fair is being organized in February 09.
The fact that Infrastructure development and creation of opportunities by themselves will not contribute towards economic development of our people has been recognized by the State Government. The Government would need competent manpower who, besides being educated, are capable and skillful to take advantage of the many opportunities available in different fields. Secondly is the need to change the stereotyped mindset of younger generation to answer the call of time and circumstances and switch over to more promising and potential professions including in service sector. Accordingly, the Government is encouraging all people- both educated and uneducated, the farmers and entrepreneurs to undergo exclusive training schedules for skill augmentation so that the opportunities arising out of our natural strength and rich climatic variations could be effectively harnessed by our local people.
For a more wider reach and impact, the Government has also made it mandatory for each Department in the State to undertake capacity building as part of regular programs and schemes on a regular basis. The Government is now upgrading the Directorate into a full-fledged Institute of Capacity Building in the next financial year with all the infrastructure and technological inputs to undertake skill development training among our youths. The idea will be to train youth after they pass out from School, College and University on a compulsory basis. Many of the Sikkimese boys and girls are undergoing training in pilot, mass communication, IT, hospitality service etc. in other parts of the Country and abroad.
Impressive stride in health sector
The Chamling Government in Sikkim has made Health facilities both accessible and affordable. Increased health facilities have resulted in better health for the people and the longevity of all the Sikkimese have steadily gone up. Free Medical Treatment to the people both within and outside Sikkim is provided at Government'sexpenses. Disease Prevention is given paramount importance. The entire State has been covered by the anti-Polio vaccinations and is on the verge of making Sikkim into a polio-free State. Population Foundation of India ranked Sikkim first State in health parameters for 2008 and conferred the 4th JRD Tata Memorial Award.
Sir Thutop Namgyal Memorial (STNM) Hospital is being converted into an ultra modern Hospital equipped with sophisticated and the latest machinery to enable the local patients to obtain the best treatment and facilities. This hospital is now linked with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi through Telemedicine, for both treatment and research. From a mere 2 in 1975, the number of Primary Health Centres and Sub-Centres increased considerably to 147 in 2002.
Sikkim is the first State in the country to launch Hepatitis ?B? vaccination programme for the benefit of children in the age group of 0-1 at Government'sexpense launched on 14th August 2001. Thousands of children have so far been vaccinated following implementation of the said programme. Similarly, Sikkim is the first State to launch Small Family Scheme to encourage girl child to delay marriage age and continue her education and receive handsome bonus at the end. We also initiated TB Control program to make Sikkim TB-free State, including ban on sale of gutka products in the State.
By bringing legislation entitled ?The Sikkim Prohibition of Smoking and non-smokers Health Protection Act, 1997? Sikkim became the first State in the country to ban smoking in places of public works or use in public service vehicles in the State. The Sex Ratio of 986 females per 1000 males in the age group 0-6 years is also one of the best in the country, indicating non-discrimination of sex and a very low death rate among female child in the State.
Environmental conservation: a new benchmark
Since the larger chunk i.e. – 5841.40 sq. km. (82.32% of total area of Sikkim) falls under recorded forest area, the State Government is very conscious of the need to protect the fragile nature of Sikkim'senvironment and eco-systems.
The floral and faunal wealth of the State is unmatched by any region. Over 4000 species of different plants and shrubs, around 700 species of rare orchids and rhododendrons and flowers of myriad hues and shapes have transformed Sikkim into a nature lover'sparadise. Very interestingly, Sikkim enjoys all the beauty of four seasons and the State is perhaps the only geographical location where within a distance of over 114 kms, one finds five opulent climatic zones. These climatic zones- tropical, sub-tropical, temperate, sub-alpine and alpine are placed within the range of 300 meters to 8,598 meters inhabited by colourful butterflies, humming birds and playful wildlife. Most of the 7096 sq km of Sikkim consists of mountainous terrain, interspersed with ravines and green valleys. The two main rivers are Teesta and Rangit both of which originate in the serene glaciers of the Himalayas.
Chief Minister, Shri Pawan Chamling recently had the distinct privilege to be invited to the Global Climate Summit held in Los Angeles in USA for extensive Seminar to deliberate on this global crisis.
In the raging debate of quantifiable reduction in the GHG emission at the global level, many of the State'sgroundbreaking initiatives on environmental conservation have been globally recognized as critical to reducing CO2 emission into our atmosphere.
Safe Heaven for Tourists
Sikkim has more mountains per kilometer than any other area on the globe. The fabulous Kanchenjunga called ?Khang-chen-dzod-nga? or ?the house of five treasures?, the guardian deity of Sikkim, represented by its five glorious peaks beckons tourists and mountaineers from all over the world. Almost half of Sikkim'sarea is covered by virgin forest. The State Government has developed tourism with appropriate amenities. The tourist arrivals have recorded an annual growth rate of almost 10 percent per annum in the last six years. The number of domestic tourists in 1994 was 92, 435 and the number of foreign tourist for the same year was 6,888. In comparison, the number of domestic tourists in 2008 was over 4.5 lakhs and the number of foreign tourists stands at 23,000. This increase will be further accelerated when some major ongoing tourism sector projects and facilities are completed. Enchanted by its natural beauty and ancient heritage and the new modern amenities, the composition of tourist arrivals is itself likely to undergo changes as the state targets more and more high ends tourist flow from within the country and abroad.
The entire tourism sector policy of the State Government is driven by the mantra of making Sikkim the ?Number 1 Eco-tourism Destination in India?. With this avowed objective in mind, the State Government has made special efforts to develop tourist villages, trekking routes, adventure activities, bio-diversity parks, hotels and cultural centres. Ten eco-tourism spots are being developed with the help of Japan shortly.
To promote village tourism, thirty model villages having all the basic and modern facilities are being constructed in different parts of the State. All these will enable the visitors to enjoy a first-hand experience of the rich heritage and lifestyle of Sikkim.
To enable tourists to comfortably visit the old temples, monasteries, churches, gurudwaras and mosques and other shrines in Sikkim, pilgrim tourism is being promoted vigorously. The State government now proposes to support at least one tourist centre in each Gram Panchayat Unit in the State. The Himalayan Centre for Adventure Tourism is being established at Chemchey Village. A new adventure tourist complex, the Rangit Water World (RWW) at the NHPC Dam at Legship – the first of its kind for boating and rafting in dam water – was inaugurated.
Buddhist circuit has now been identified as one of the priority areas in the tourism development policy of the Government of India. Sikkim could be the hub connecting all the major Buddhist destinations in India and neighbouring countries ? Bodh Gaya in Bihar, Rumtek in Sikkim, Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, Lumbini in Nepal and Taktsang in Bhutan to Jokhang and Potala in Lhasa.
The Nathu la trade route once opened to the tourists traffic could integrate the tourism industry of Himalayan states in the north-east along with the regions having similar features in the neighboring countries like China, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal. This type of integration will transform the entire tourism potential into a galore of development opportunities.
In order to commercialize the hydel potential of the state for the overall development of the State, the Government has constituted Sikkim Power Development Corporation Ltd (SPDC) to implement both hydro power projects and to lay the associated transmission lines. Different projects are now being harnessed through private sector developers under joint venture. The hydel potential of the State is as high as 8000 MW and by the end of 2012, Sikkim will contribute 5000 MW of electricity to national hydel capacity.
Among these projects, Teesta Hydroelectric Project State-V has been commissioned. One of the six hydro-power schemes in the cascade identified on the Teesta basin, this project is under construction by National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) and is a run of the river scheme located in the State. During 2007-08, the State Government earned a revenue of Rs. 251 crores from sale of power.
There is a tremendous scope for Sikkim to undertake power trading both inside and outside the country. The present power demand projections under various scenarios by different agencies varies from 60 MW to 163 MW during the period 2004-2011. Given the power demand growth pattern in the State, Sikkim would hardly be able to effectively use even one-fourth of what it is likely to generate from Teesta V project alone. The other Teesta basin projects which are on the pipeline could generate considerable revenue for the State.
Sikkim: an abode of peace and tranquility
Democracy is at work in Sikkim. Peace, law and order prevail. Good governance is the hallmark of state'sadministration. So the people are always on a progressive mode. Free and fair elections have been held at the village level so that the people take full part in selecting their representatives. Rural leaders have been given more powers and finance to manage their own affairs and progress. In order to minimize the physical constraints on grounds of both distance and accessibility, a system of fast communication has been initiated by the Government through its websites and weekly newspapers. The Government is reaching out to the people by assisting them in many ways. Their basic needs like housing, food, safe drinking water, free education and free health services have been given top priority.
The law and order situation has remained exemplary. The crime rate of Sikkim is the lowest in the country. The progress of human development in Sikkim is significantly higher than many other states of India. Number of policemen per 1000 population in Sikkim is a handsome 6.1 providing maximum policing the Country. In a range of other social security indices, the crime rate in Sikkim is either Nil or very negligible on its own rights, For example, Sikkim'spercentage (%) contribution to all India total of crime committed against women is Nil and incidence of dowry deaths in the State has always remained Nil which amply demonstrate the status of women in Sikkim which is best like found anywhere in the country and the world.
Speedy justice is a hallmark of Sikkim as this State holds the record of the least number of pending cases in the entire country. District Court buildings have been constructed in all the four districts of Sikkim, with one High Court building in the capital in Gangtok.