Former Chief Minister and President of the SDF party Pawan Chamling has expressed his deep displeasure at the massive corruption that Sikkim is witnessing under the SKM government. The State Bank of Sikkim has been emptied. An outsider has been given a loan of 70 crores. He says that the total budget and loans the SKM government has availed in mere two years are equal to the total loan and budget that the SDF government availed of in 25 years. He also said that the SKM government has been selling Sikkim’s major revenue-earning infrastructures and prime locations of Gangtok to outsiders one after the other.
“Q. The SKM party’s major campaign about ‘Change” was based on the allegation that the SDF government was corrupt. However, now one of the major concerns has become the unprecedented corruption under the SKM government. How do you respond to what is happening in Sikkim?
Ans. In order to understand the extent of corruption taking place right now in Sikkim, one has to understand the history of Sikkim’s economic progress. When we formed our first government in December 1994, the State Bank of Sikkim and the state budget were literally empty. We had to take an overdraft from the Central Bank to pay the salary of government employees for the months of January and February 1995. What happened after that is there for everyone to see. We stabilized the Sikkim economy in a manner that no one had imagined. Today, Sikkim is the second richest state in India with an NSDP of ₹ 4,87, 196. Only Goa is ahead of us. We stabilized the State Bank of Sikkim and created an Emergency fund of ₹500 crores to help the state tide over unforeseen calamities such as a pandemic. We opened branches of the State Bank of Sikkim at the BAC level across the state. We also established a Cooperative Apex Bank and extended its services at the Subdivisional level through its branches with a view to help Sikkim farmers avail of short-term, low-interest loans. We provided loans to low-income group entrepreneurs, contractors, taxi drivers, etc. through the SBS. We started the Chief Minister Start-Up Scheme under which hundreds of young local entrepreneurs benefited and Sikkim saw an unprecedented rise in entrepreneurship. That’s the way we worked towards strengthening the economy right from the grassroots up at the rural level. Consequently, Sikkim recorded an outstanding economic upliftment of the Sikkimese population. Almost all Sikkimese people living in extreme poverty (BPL) were pulled out of extreme poverty. The poor moved into the economic middle class and those who were in the middle class became richer. No state had seen such economic upliftment within one generation after the Second World War.
Now, look at how the state government is approaching things. The government is prioritizing individuals who are related to the SKM leaders, a few party workers, and moneyed contractors and suppliers. This handful of people are exploiting government favors and getting massive loans from the SBS. A man from outside Sikkim has been given a loan of ₹70 crores. Other close aides of the present CM have been given loans of ₹40-₹60 crores. The State Bank of Sikkim has been emptied by these individuals. What is worse, the loans have been sanctioned arbitrarily without guarantor and assessment of viability. Such illegal disbursement of loans is unprecedented.
Please note also how the SKM government has been marginalizing small contractors and suppliers. They didn’t receive their payment even during Dashain time. Only contractors who were allotted high-budget work are being paid.
This is just a small example of how the SKM government has been destroying the economy of Sikkim. A few direct beneficiaries of the distribution of the loot are loudly singing the praises of the government. But remember, by the time Sikkim feels the impact of these actions, it will be too late. Remember that all of our revenue-generating infrastructures and assets built by the SDF government during the last 25 years are being sold one after the other. Hydropower, Old STNM Hospital, Taxi Stand near Police Headquarters have all been sold. Look at the deterioration in service today. Repeated power cuts have become the norm today. It will become worse in months to come. The roads are poorly maintained. Water supplies in urban areas are becoming a major issue. People are experiencing poor services in every sector.
The SKM government received a total budget of over ₹30,000 crores in the last two and a half years which is almost equal to the total budget amount received by the SDF government in 25 years. Moreover, compare the loans taken by the SDF and the present governments. We took a total loan of ₹7000 crores in 25 years and the SKM government has taken loans of ₹7,000 in just 2 years. Now compare the development works done in the field by both governments. Forget about development, the SKM government has not been able to even repair the infrastructures established by the SDF government.
Corruption and development cannot go together. Lack of development is proof of corruption. Corruption is therefore manifested in a lack of peace, prosperity, public happiness, security, and quality of life. Right now, what we see in Sikkim is what we expect to see in a state where the government is corrupt. There is a fear psychosis among the people of Sikkim. The use of police machinery against vocal citizens is rampant. Many vocal citizens have been assaulted and threatened by goons repeatedly. Forced political conversion is the order of the day. It is learned that many journalists were called by the IPR secretary and were given some lessons on news reporting. There is public frustration. Development works have dried up completely. Unemployment has reached a peak. There are victims of extortion everywhere. Drug abuse is growing uncontrollably. The incidences of suicide, rape, theft, and murder are on the rise. Open robbery is going on in Gangtok. Freedom and rights have been snatched from the people. There is no rule of law in Sikkim today. The happiness index is at an all-time low. The debt of Sikkim is ever on the rise.
I leave the matter before the people to judge. If such corruption is allowed, Sikkim will soon become the poorest, the most unsafe, and the worst-performing state in India.”
Vice-President, Publicity Affairs