One year after SKM ascending to power

One year after SKM ascending to power

by Birendra Tamling

It was not easy and possible task to come to power by overthrowing Sikkim Democratic Front who was at the helm of power for around twenty five years, but under the capable leadership of PS Golay, Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) wrested the seat of power. With the accomplished leadership of PS Golay along with sweat and toil, discipline of its party worker and supporters, systematic poll publicity strategy and active use of social media, SKM finally came to power. It was also possible due to boundless support of the people and the blessing of residing deities of Sikkim.

The new generation of Sikkim were in search of change, for they had witnessed only one political party serve the State under the leadership of Pawan Chamling and had no idea or experience of rule by any other political party; thus they were determined to bring change of the system, which came to fruition on 27th May, and now, one year has also been completed.

The people of Sikkim by giving 17 Assembly seats paved path for SKM to run the government while the party that ran the show for around two and half decades was cornered to the opposition bench. In the past one year, dramatic political upheavals were witnessed in Sikkim. While ten of the legislators from SDF defected to Bharatiya Janata Party, two of them switched side to the ruling SKM. Now only former chief minister and legislator and also the president Pawan Chamling is left in SDF. Even though the BJP could not win a single seat in the election, with the defection of 10 legislators and winning two in the bye-poll, it has become the main opposition party in the State. With the winning of bye poll by the party president PS Golay and together with two legislators defecting from SDF, the government under PS Golay is secure with 19 legislators.

SKM government which came to power with the support of Sikkimese people completed one year in office on 27th May, 2020. The party coming to power with fortitude of bringing radical changes under the dynamic leadership of PS Golay, has within a span of one year delivered and implemented many pro-people programs, while many schemes and projects also have been announced in principle. Amongst the others, even though the preceding government had announced to pay the arrears under the fifth pay commission in installments, the SKM government decided to pay in one go. Similarly, the daily wages under MGNREGA which was only Rs. 177/- has been enhanced and made Rs. 320 and Rs. 335/- for the skilled labourers.

Learning of Sanskrit language has been made compulsory in all schools and around 170 Sanskrit teachers have been appointed. Their monthly honorarium also has been enhanced from Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 18,000. Under the national Health Mission, 382 employees have been appointed permanently. It has been decided that Offices in rented premises will be shifted to government buildings. The special task force assigned for security of the Chief Minister has been replaced with personnel from Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB). Red beacon on the vehicles of Ministers have been done away and now onwards only the vehicles of Chief Minister, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Sikkim State Legislative Assembly and that of Justices of High Courts are allowed pilot vehicles. Earlier, apart from the Chief Minister, even the Ministers and legislator and Advisors had luxury vehicle worth crores of rupees, but SKM government has announced of strict austerity measures and directed to use only Scorpio vehicles. The luxury vehicles used previously have been auctioned and Rs. 5.00 crore accruing to it has been deposited in the State treasury.

Those affected by the construction of Pakyong Greenfield Airport, did not get justice in the previous regime, but SKM government has disbursed over Rs. 20 crores to all the affected people. Now there is no disruption and the airplanes can take-off and land without any issue. While making a permanent recruitment, the term “junior” used to be prefixed to the lower level officials during the previous SDF regime hurting their self respect. This has been done away by the SKM government and their pride reinstated.

The government has made legal provision to regularize all the C and D grade employees who have completed service of eight or more years. Around 89,201 State government employees have been provided health insurance under which up to five family members are entitled to Rs. 10 to Rs. 20 lakh. Around 289 employees working as ad-hoc, SSA/RMSA non-teaching staff has been regularized. There have been 79 direct appointments for group B personnel. 70 group C and D employee have been given appointment under compassionate ground. 22 Assistant professors have been appointed permanently. Similarly, 07 assistant professors have been given permanent appointment at Soreng B Ed. College.

68 para-medic staffs have been permanently recruited. Four food safety officers have also been appointed. 143 GRS and APO have been given permanent appointment. A total of 417 employees under different department have been given promotion. From 1st April, 2020 re-employment and extension of services has been banned. Rule of 180 day maternity leave for home guards has been notified. The consolidated pay of medical officers has been enhanced from Rs. 45,000 to Rs. 55,000. Budget for procurement of medicines and other essentials have been increased from Rs. 13.41 crores to Rs. 40 crores.

Government has put prohibition on organizing of banquets in hotels on government expenses.

Government has decided to deduct 35 percent from Chief Minister and Ministers and 30 percent from the salaries from legislators for one year to be utilized for control and care of covid-19. The ration allowances for IRB personnel working in New Delhi has been increased from Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 2,900. The education allowance for IRB personnel which had been withdrawn by the previous government has been restored back.

The stipend for students of Dzongu of North Sikkim which had been stopped by the previous government has been restored. The government has planned to provide free of cost IAS coaching to 50 educated youths.

Government has declared second and fourth Saturday as a holiday. The government has given huge relief to the milk producer farmers by increasing Rs. 8 per litre the price of milk, which had never been done in the previous regime. Similarly, old age pension has been enhanced by Rs. 500 per month. To gain political mileage during the poll, the previous government has in a hurry inaugurated the incomplete and empty multi-specialty hospital at Sichey, but the SKM government has renamed it as STNM hospital and restored the glory and heritage. Now a Tertiary Cancer Care Centre also has been established in the STNM hospital for the first time.

There were no arrangements to tackle emergency situations that have been brought by covid-19 pandemic, but the SKM government has put in place all the necessary resources. Working on war footing, construction of Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (VRDL) was completed within 26 days and inaugurated on 21st May, 2020 by Hon’ble Chief Minister PS Golay, who dedicated it to the people of Sikkim. Presently testing facility for covid-19 is running smoothly and it has done away with the dependence on Siliguri. Sikkim now has its own laboratory, which indeed is a matter of pride. Sikkim is one step ahead in the health sector of which the credit goes to Hon’ble Chief Minister along with the SKM government and the health department. Stamp duty on transfer of ancestral property has been abolished. The government has distributed around 5000 laptops to students of colleges and universities as well as the Rural Development Assistants, while 116 sewing machines were distributed to different SHGs.

The government has issued an order to provide employment to land donors for school according to their educational qualifications.

During the SDF regime, Taxi Stands were taken away from Drivers Associations and given to the cooperative societies formed by sycophants, which has been restored back to the drivers associations. Legal provisions have been made for payment of taxes on vehicles from one to within five years. System of online registration of vehicles has been started in the State. The government has decided to celebrate 27th July every year as Driver’s Day (Chalak Diwas).

A commission has been set up to estimate Below Poverty Line (BPL) families in the State. To keep Sikkim free from corruption, a special agency has been established. A total of 350 fully furnished houses with TV sets will be constructed at an estimated cost of Rs. 17,61,682 lakh per unit under Sikkim Garib Aawas Yojana; while house for the urban poor will be constructed at Rs. 17.00 lakh per unit. A total of 1202 BPL families will be provided health insurance up to Rs. 2 lakh under Chief Minister Health Insurance Scheme at Manipal Central Referral Hospital. The government has also decided to provide house repairing expense to 45,069 disadvantaged families.

One model school will be developed in each district. A women’s rest house (Nari Nilay) will be constructed at STNM hospital premise, where women attendants and relatives of the patients can stay. In all government contract and supplies, 50 % will be reserved for women while for works up to Rs. 5 crores, deposit of earnest money has been waived for women entrepreneurs. Similarly, for work from Rs. 5 to Rs. 10 crore, only 50 percent of earnest money has to be deposited by them. However, for works above Rs. 10 crores, they will have to deposit in full the earnest money as well as the TDR. Extension of services for C & D group employees will be given only according the need and circumstances. The work for stitching of school uniform has been given to Self Help Groups (SHGs). For widow pension, the age limit has been decreased from 40 to 21 years. Under Pradhan Mantri Kishan Samman Yojana, a total of 7,914 farmers have been provided pension. A total amount of Rs. 83,00,28,819.00- the compensation amount for land acquisition has been paid by the SKM Government. It had not been paid by the former government. Previous government which had failed to establish an independent BSNL hub in Sikkim has been successfully established by SKM government. Futher, SKM government has made provision of Rs. 63.00 crore for construction of 54 feet tall statue of Kali Devi at Budang Fort of Central Pendam. Similarly, decision has been taken to celebrate 7th July as “A Day for Mother Earth” every year. The government has decided to develop West Sikkim as major tourist destination, which will connect some of the picturesque tourist destinations of eastern Nepal. Just like the Nathula Trade center between India and China, Chewabhanjyang at Indo-Nepal border will be developed as a trade centre for which proposal has been sent to the centre.

Press need to be free and independent and unlike the pressure built by the former regime, they will only be provided necessary assistance. National news channels were prohibited during the former government, but presently they are free. Press Club of Sikkim has been provided with a government building. Life insurance will be provided to all media persons. Under Ayushman Bharat Yojana, 31,552 marginalized families will be insured. Hostels for Sikkimese students will be constructed in major cities like New Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata. The government has also decided to give two additional increments to those teachers enrolling their kids in government schools at primary level. A Nepali cultural hall will be constructed in Jorethang, South Sikkim.

The government will provide employment to 1000 unemployed youths annually.

While addressing the gathering on the occasion of its 8th foundation day SKM at Rangpo, Hon’ble Chief Minister PS Tamang (Golay) had said, “CAA and NRC will not be implemented in Sikkim, the State government has already cleared its stance on the issue to the centre. Limboo and Tamang communities will get justice and soon their seats in State Assembly will be secured. Further, to incorporate the 11 left out communities in the tribal list, talks are in process with the central government. Private companies established Sikkim will have to reserve 50 percent of its CSR for education sector.”

Despite being in power for 25 years, SDF government could not provide refrigerators to primary health centers and sub-centers, but the present SKM government has decided to provide refrigerators to all PHC and CHCs in the State. There will not be Panchayats on party line; section 129 of Sikkim Panchayat Act, 1993 has been amended to make panchayat election free of political party affiliation. From now onwards all candidates for panchayat elections will have to contend as independent candidates. SKM party is gradually fulfilling its poll promises and will accomplish all of it within the five year tenure.

Sikkim should be kept in peace and tranquility was the words given to the people by SKM party leader and Chief Minister PS Golay. He has stayed true to his words, which is a boon to the people of Sikkim. But unfortunately, former Chief Minsiter Pawan Chamling had given an instigating speech during the poll campaign, “When the youth strike with both hands, there will be double impact for which, I will not be responsible.” Such were the words of former Chief Minister while on the contrary, the then opposition leader, PS Golay would go on to say, “the hands of youth should raise not to slap but to serve.” Had the SDF returned to power, maybe there would have been destruction, many may have had to lose their lives, many may have had to take refuge elsewhere, may be slicing of udders of cows would have repeated, but Chief Minister PS Golay ensured of maintaining peace. Even after the poll result, he did not involve and engage in using nasty invectives against anyone. He directed to take legal action against those taking law in their hands which still continues. Presently, the whole world is besieged with challenge of covid-19 pandemic. To fight it, it needs collective effort. To tackle the challenge of this pandemic, support of every section is necessary, but the attitude shown by the opposition parties in Sikkim seems to direct it as personal issue of SKM government. As aptly said by Political Advisor of the Chief Minister Shri Jacob Khaling, “While we are fighting against corona pandemic, the oppositions are fighting against the government.”

The first positive case of covid-19 was from a 25 year old youth who had returned from New Delhi on 21st May, 2020 and was confirmed on 23rd May 2020. However, people are hopeful of regaining their health at the earliest. While the government is putting all its effort in containing the spread of covid-19, the cooperation and discipline of the people also have assisted in controlling it. While all the rank and file from Chief Minister to the lowest level of government servants including the party workers of ruling SKM party are engaged day and night in controlling and eliminating the spread of this pandemic, the role of the oppositions are undoubtedly zero. Instead of giving healthy tips and advices to the government, they are found trying to blame the government and spreading canard and confusions among the citizens using fake id in social media platforms. Despite all the odds, Sikkim is in total control of the pandemic and is optimistic that it will overcome it in future.