Sikkim’s new Chief Minister, PS Golay’s speech at the 5th Edition of the NITI Ayog Meeting in Delhi on 15th June has been his first major task after his appointment. In his rather short speech he dwelt on the “issues of water, drought, agriculture and security”. He underscored the fact that these issues exist in spite of an abundance of water resources in Sikkim, particularly the Teesta and Rangit and adequate rainfall. According to him, the water scarcity has “adversely affected the entire agricultural heritage and related livelihood.” He blamed the water crisis on “unplanned, unviable, hazardous and largely unsuccessful hydel power plants” which, according to him, have “created a huge imbalance in water availability and distribution.”
In a scathing criticism of the Chamling-led government he hinted that Sikkim was no longer the fresh water capital of the Eastern Himalayas due to 25 years of corrupt and mis-governance that “tried to freely auction every natural resource”. He issued a warning saying “We consider all these to seriously impinge upon our national security.” He made no attempt to qualify this mysteriously vague statement and pledged to correct these wrongs and provide a new direction.
He said that all the four districts of Sikkim could be incorporated in the aspirational districts program. He also invited international and multilateral institutions like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank to Sikkim. In the context of the India-ASEAN Free Trade agreement, he talked about the possibility of investors from South East Asian Countries coming to the North East Region under the newly introduced North East Industrial Development Scheme 2018 (NEIDS) of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Curiously enough, he decided to highlight his government’s priority to introduce courses and programs in Sikkim schools, colleges and universities designed to inculcate a ‘sharp consciousness about national security interests’. This does call for local academicians to debate the pros, cons, necessity or otherwise with clear forethought.
He ended his speech, once again highlighting the failed hydel power projects, debt, empty exchequer and requested the Union Government to appoint an independent national commission to examine the mismanagement of funds and to grant and provide a onetime generous financial grant to the State.
Sikkim’s popular political discourse which is largely confined to social media, somehow failed to make this speech a subject of discussion. The local columnists and political commentators did not make any comment on the maiden speech of Sikkim’s new Chief Minister.
Vimal Khawas, Associate Professor, Sikkim University wrote on his Facebook wall that, while the challenges and threats deserved mention in the speech of the Chief Minister, the government’s plan to turn them into opportunities was striking by its absence. According to him, the Chief Minister should have dwelt on how his government plans to tackle the degraded Teesta basin, water pollution issues related to the pharmaceutical industry, tourism and Sikkim, the promotion of the organic mission and the debt burden. The lack of a road map in his speech was a let-down.
While the government moves on, for the moment the billion dollar question is – if the Centre refuses to give a grant of 4000 crore, what is the alternative plan of the Goley-led government to replenish the state exchequer which he claims to be empty? The government has promised jobs for 30 thousand youth and regularization of all temporary government jobs in their first 100 days. It will be interesting to see how the new state government fares as it faces a baptism by fire.
By Jiwan Rai, the author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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