Gangtok, June 3: Navin Kiran, the Vice Convener of Sikkim Subject Committee on June 3, called a press conference to address issues in the State, like the Economic Revival Committee, amongst others.

As a prelude to the conference, Kiran warned the SKM party to “stop politicizing every little thing”. Below are some issues he addressed:

Economic Revival Committee 

Looking at the financial effect of the lockdown on the common people, the State Government had set up a 5-member Economic Revival Committee (ERC) on May 15, with BJP MLA Sonam Venchungpa as the Chairman. Kiran’s opines that when the Committee was formed, people thought it would help to revive the economy and the sectors most affected by the lockdown, but the Committee’s recent press conference has made him, other activists and the general public feel disappointed.

The middle-class people, who live a hand to mouth existence had a lot of hope in the Economic Revival Committee but now, they are disappointed. “When the Prime Minister announced Rs. 20 lakh crore package, we were very hopeful because our pockets are empty, but the press conference of the committee on June 2, has made it clear, that we the common people will not be getting a rupee also. The Committee should have made it clear from the start of how much funds are allotted to Sikkim by the Centre, how much of the Chief Minister Relief Fund (CMRF) has been collected and used, what is the line of difference between the CMRF and the ERC, Quantified losses.

These are the issues that should have addressed at the press conference of June 2. There is no data collected of bow much loss has the Animal Husbandry Department suffered,” said Kiran.

“The 56 pharmaceutical companies based in Sikkim have a 10-year exemption from taxes, the ERC on June 2 announced that they would be talking to the pharma companies soon. What has the Committee been doing for the past 20 days? This talk should have been executed at the start. Has the ERC just been doing time pass for these many days? For the ERC, the financial burdens and difficulties brought on by the lockdown do not make a difference, it’s the general public who suffer.”

Kiran feels that Sikkim does not have any scholars with an Economics’ PHD, nor is there a PHD because the pubic is not dependent on markets and shares. After all, the state is a small economy. Kiran also made transparent the revenue receipts, based on the CNAG reports:

2017-2018- The State Government’s revenue receipt was Rs. 5200.79 crores received from the state’s share of Union duties and taxes, which according to Kiran shows that Sikkim is surviving on the mercy of the Centre Government. 

Kiran through the press conference has demanded that the State government and the ERC answer the following questions:

Is the Committee and the Government bringing forth any economic package for the benefit of the common man? What happened to the relief package for drivers?

Kiran requests that the Committee put forward their packages in simple words and packages and not big English words so that the package meant for those who suffered due to the lockdown would understand it with ease. Relief funds and packages should be transferred directly to the beneficiaries accounts is another suggestion put forth by Kiran.

Intra District Movement

With the lockdown now in it is the fifth phase from June 1, the new guidelines of the State government have dictated banning Intra-district Movement within the state. Kiran has criticized this move of the administration saying that while the lockdown was a preventive measure, it has gone on for a long time with the common people suffering the most.

He suggests that the lockdown be eased slowly because the public is now aware that the virus and the restrictions are going to be there for a prolonged period.

Pataal Lok and Civil Defenses’ mistake on advertisement for civil corps volunteers

Pataal Lok, a web series produced by Anushka Sharma and streaming on Amazon prime, recently came under fire by netizens due to a racial slur on the Nepali community. Since then the makers and actors have had multiple complaints and FIRs lodged against them. Kiran, on this, informed that on May 23, an FIR was lodged against the show at Sadar Police Station specifically under 154 CrPc, but as such the authorities have not taken any action against the show.

Kiran made his grievance vocal because other states, associations and organizations have filed alike complaints and FIRs yet, they have been neglected. Further, Kiran plans to meet the Magistrate within a week and file an official complaint against the show, so that law and order authority can be directed to investigate on this matter.

The other issue he spoke about is how when the Centre’s Civil Defense posted an advertisement for volunteers to apply to join the Civil Defense Corps- a citizen’s emergency force, the advertisement eligibility criteria stated- “have to be citizen of India, subject of Bhutan, Nepal and Sikkim, or resident of Delhi”. Many Sikkimese people took offence on the advertising error.

State politicians also made their disappointment and offence known at this blunder. A senior officer was suspended over the mistake and an apology issued. While on this, Kiran says that the state politicians made it a bigger deal than necessary and that the blunder was just that: a simple mistake. “Nowhere in the advertisement has it been stated that Sikkim is not a part of India, and Sikkim Subject lives on. The State government is blowing this out of proportion, this is not an issue. The government should focus on bigger issues at hand like the commentary of Nepali folk on Pataal Lok,” is Kiran’s stand.

RMDD’s notification on Panchayats

Rural Management & Development Department’s (RMDD) recent notification which dictated that instead of Gram Panchayats, relief materials and packages or others, would be distributed by Block Division Officers (BDOs) and \or Assistant Engineers (AEs). Kiran says that this empowering of BDOs and AEs is unconstitutional and has angered many Panchayats. Panchayats, Kiran believes are ‘the Constitution’s obligation’ and that the State executive is trying to bully them, while also calling on all Panchayats to unite and overrule RMDD’s notification. “This notification from RMDD shows the true face of the SKM party,” says Kiran.

One Nation, One Ration Card

The One Nation, One Ration Card was rolled out by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on May 14 in all states and Union Territories by March 202. The One Nation, One Ration card will enable that under the National Food Security Act, 2013, about 81 crore persons are entitled to buy subsidized food grain — rice at Rs 3/kg, wheat at Rs 2/kg, and coarse grains at Re 1/kg — from their designated Fair Price Shops (FPS) of the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) The authentication for this scheme will be through Aadhaar verification.

The goal of the One Nation, One Ration Card scheme is to provide solutions to the limitations of the earlier food security schemes that were domicile or state-based, which means that the beneficiaries could only ration at a fixed Public Distribution System (PDS). Since 37% of the population in India constitutes migrant workers, to obtain a Ration Card could take 2-3 months, and it would be hard for them to obtain ration in a new location which could lead to losses for the migrant force. This scheme will make it easier for the migrant workers to avail rations in all corners of the country. Sikkim also joined this bandwagon on June 1. The Public Distribution System falls under the State Subject, and with Sikkim implementing the One Nation, One Ration Card. Other states like Mizoram, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Nagaland, Manipur have also complied to the One Nation, One Ration Card.

On this, Kiran was quoted saying, “My stand on this is that there is not any controversy as such, because all states of India are complying, and Sikkim cannot be the only state to reject this scheme. 26-27 States\UTs have already joined this scheme and Sikkim cannot be the only odd one out.”

Lastly, Kiran addressed the recent FIR lodged by the State Bank of Sikkim (SBS) against ten major defrauders, saying that the SBS has passed loans overlooking rules and regulations, because of the closeness of the borrower with the ruling party, while the FIR is a welcome new for him and others, what were the SBS officials doing during the approval of the loans? Why weren’t rules and regulations followed?

“Earlier on February 10, 2020, I had filed an RTI to make clear on who were the ones who took loans from SBS, for what and how much has been returned and what is the outstanding principal? Because SBS is a common man’s institution, because that is where they keep their money, SBS should make the names of the defaulter’s public. We will have to unite and save the State bank of Sikkim and shouldn’t let it drown like the Punjab & Maharashtra Bank or others. The Rs. 20 crore that amounts from the ten defaulters is just the tip of the iceberg.”

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