Attended the State Disaster Risk Reduction Day, themed ‘Volunteerism in Disaster Management,’ organized by the State Disaster Management Authority, Land Revenue and Disaster Management Department at Chintan Bhawan today.

I highlighted on the significance of volunteerism which is a widely accepted concept in disaster management, particularly in view of preparedness, risk reduction and post-disaster rehabilitation. Volunteering is a work undertaken by any individual out of one’s own will towards extending help to others. It is for the good of others without expecting any benefits in return. Such noble deeds and thoughts are a rarity in today’s world where we find good human beings in very few numbers. So, we should encourage volunteerism in our society, especially among the students and the younger generation. Self-Help Groups (SHGs) too can play a pivotal role. I informed that Village Disaster Management Plan has been implemented in Sikkim, and over 1,000 volunteers have been adequately trained to serve the people at times of disasters. Volunteers need to work with utmost determination to serve the society for the sake of humanity.

I dwelt on a popular practice prevalent in our society not so long ago, which unfortunately, is being forgotten nowadays. Sikkimese society has been known for peaceful coexistence and mutual support, with every member being there for each other during times of distress as well as in good times. For instance, if a villager faced personal loss like damage of house due to natural calamity, his/her neighbours would come to the rescue and help in reconstructing the house. This shows that the society was totally involved and ready to provide the required help to the fellow beings voluntarily, without expecting anything in return and also not waiting for any government support to come by. Such practice can be termed as ‘community help/assistance’ undertaken out of a person’s own volition. I called upon the gathering for reviving this system of community participation and set an example for other states to emulate.

We all know that Sikkim is an earthquake-prone State and the young fold mountains of the Himalayas further increases the State’s vulnerability to this natural disaster. Natural calamities and its catastrophic effects cannot be averted. But what we can do is take preventive measures. Instead of only concentrating on relief and rehabilitation measures, emphasis must be laid on preventing damages of lives and assets at any cost. I called upon the Panchayats to undertake awareness programmes on safety and disaster management right from the level of GPU. Even students have to take active participation in this regard.

We all say that the main reason behind natural disasters is global warming, which itself is the result of high emission of carbon dioxide and green house gases. However, it is surprising to note that there has not been much deliberation at the global level in combating this menace. It is for sure that a major portion of carbon emission is due to chemicals that are used in agriculture, petro-chemicals, insecticides and pesticides and so on. If the use of chemicals could be decreased to some extent, many natural disasters of the world can be averted. To mitigate this issue, Sikkim has shown the world the path through organic farming. I called upon the people of Sikkim to come forward to further promote the ‘organic brand’ and disseminate the message of living with harmony with nature by adopting organic farming practices. Similarly, the State Government has also focused on environment protection and conservation by formulating policies. But the Government alone cannot do everything. Our people must take responsibility and ownership towards protecting the environment by at least following the rules in place. We must make sure that our greed to earn more must not harm the environment. It is to be remembered by all that we humans are just a part of the environment and to survive, we need a healthy environment. Therefore, we must minimize our interference with nature and the environment and take steps to conserve it for the future.

I made the following announcements:-
1. Felicitation of all individuals/NGOs/SHGs involved in disaster management on the occasion of Republic Day on 26th January, 2019.

2. To make Sikkim a model State in disaster management by the year 2020.

3. Introduction of Disaster Management as a subject at the Primary level school curriculum from the next academic session.

4. All infrastructural constructions like construction of buildings, electricity lines, water supply, roads, etc should be made earthquake resistant.