Chief Minister, Shri Pawan Chamling as the longest serving Chief Minister amongst Indian States as on today is completing three consecutive terms (first sworn in on December 12, 1994). Over the past one and a half decade, he has conscientiously nurtured the destiny of Sikkim and its people to make the State more peaceful, progressive and prosperous. An exclusive interview of the Chief Minister by Ashok Chaurasia is here as under.
You are going to complete your third consecutive full term as the Chief Minister of Sikkim. You are about to make a history in Sikkim. How you are feeling on this glorious moment?
As a human being and citizen of India, I feel happy to be able to conduct the affairs of the State for fifteen years. I want to thank the people of Sikkim and all credit goes to them for creating a strong foundation of political stability and for reposing complete faith on me as their dearest servant.
What major challenges so far you faced and how you tackled all those, with respect to social, economical and political development of the State?
When we took over the reign of government on December 12, 1994, everything was in total disarray in Sikkim. People were rendered speechless due to fear psycho unleashed by the then Government. The State was reeling under debt burden and the people were widely misguided and misled by the political leaders in power. To top it all, there were undemocratic forces, anti-people elements and reactionary people around actively trying to thwart our genuine effort in the interest of the State and people of Sikkim. We have faced them all. We have accepted the challenge and moved on undautedly to attain this height. Today people call Sikkim a happening State and one of the most progressive States in the Country. Today, we have emerged as the most peaceful and progressive State in the Country. Sikkim has changed the very concept of border state as being troublesome, insecure and infested by anti-national activities. We have proved that border could equally generate spirit of nationalism, economic opportunities and strengthen cross-cultural ties between Nations. We have changed this entire concept of border area which we think is our contribution towards nation building and national integration.
What inspired you to join politics from being a simple poet?
As a poet, I always try to paint the socio-economic plight of the people, especially the poor and the downtrodden. I employ poetry as a forceful tool to arouse curiosity and generate mass awareness among people about their natural right to live a dignified life. I realized that politics was an effective means to achieve the kind of social order that I create in my poetry and I was slowly drawn into the world of politics to basically address issue of human dignity and make them happy and contented.
What was your role during the merger movement of Sikkim as 22nd State of India?
The people'smovement that reached its high pitch in 1973 was the expression of spontaneous feeling of people to be part of the greater governance possible under the democratic system. The then leadership entrusted upon me the responsibility of leading people from South and West Sikkim for the pro-merger movement. Throughout the movement, I organized the masses into an orderly lot taking care of their daily bread, health and hygiene in our long march to attain our own salvation.
How you integrated the people of Sikkim into the national mainstream?
When we came to run the government we found that everything was in total disarray in Sikkim. People were rendered speechless due to fear psycho unleashed by the then Government. True democracy was in its deathbed. The State was reeling under debt burden and the people were widely misguided and misled by the political leaders in power. People were emotionally cut off from the mainstream because the persons in power regularly fanned hostile feelings against the mainstream leaders and New Delhi. General people and people in state bureaucracy including the technocrats were still to develop allegiance and complete faith in the working of Democracy.
The first step was to reinforce democratic values among people by calling myself as the first servant. I was the first and the only political figure in the State to call people supreme and all powerful in a democratic system. I am the nationalist leader and speak the language of nationalism. Forging an excellent rapport with the central leadership and the people of the Country, I have successfully promoted the State and the Sikkimese way of life at the national level, thereby establishing a strong bond between the people in the State vis-?-vis the country as a whole. In fact, I have coined resonating nationalist slogans like ?Sikkim hamro ghar ho, Bharat hamro desh? which has greatly impressed the regional thinking of people in relation to people and region in other parts of the Country.
India is facing a major unemployment problem. What do you suggest to solve this problem? What major steps you have taken to solve such problems in Sikkim?
Unemployment is a global phenomenon which has been further aggravated by recent global economic meltdown. People are losing jobs in millions worldwide and India is also feeling the heat more often now.
We in Sikkim have adopted a twin policy of identifying priority sectors based on our own natural resources and skill development of people at various level. The pace of development that we have witnessed in the State has created unprecedented number of local employment and opened up opportunities in other sectors outside government. We have created a separate Directorate of Capacity Building to train our people in different trade and profession. Many of our young entrepreneurs have been gainfully employed in different private companies located in the country and abroad.
In order to make Sikkim ?a self-reliant state? what measures your government has taken so far?
We have a long-drawn mission to make Sikkim self-reliant in every sphere by 2015. And our destiny lies in the sustainable utilization and harnessing of our rich natural resources through promotion of eco-tourism, hydro-power generation, organic farming, horticulture, floriculture and other clean industrial venture. With the issue of connectivity near addressed, we will receive tremendous boost in our endeavour to make our State self-contained by 2015.
How are you maintaining culture, tradition, social harmony, peace and tranquility of Sikkim?
In Sikkim, people witnessed a wind of change and a vigorous socio-cultural revival after our party was voted to power in 1994. We have always felt that overpowering one culture with many and many cultures by one has always proved retrogressive in nature, even historically speaking also. Hence, our approach was one that defines diversity in its collectivism. We have granted recognition to community-wise belief, way of life, custom and tradition. Local ethnic languages have been recognized as State languages and are taught in schools. Similarly, local festivals have been declared as government gazetted holidays. We have ensured complete freedom of belief, religion and people are free to profess their own religion and live according to their established socio-cultural norms.
What you want to say about burning global issue of terrorism, religious intolerance, violence and environmental pollution? What do you feel about the solution of these crises?
We are in the crossroad where human values and godly principle of mutual co-existence are threatened like never before. Owing to complex life situation that generally undermines traditional human values, outward consideration like materialism and consumerism has seeped into the vital of human existence.
We need to go back to our roots to find solace in nature and live with it. Our basic thinking and lifestyle should change duly making it more environment-friendly. We need to evolve a collective agenda at the socio-political level cutting across nations, regions and parties to effectively enforce collective responsibility and accountability leading to achieving the common goal.