Attend ‘Janta Mela’ organized for urban areas- cum-‘Jan Sampark Abhiyan’ , where I interacted with ‘lamas’(monks) as well as the people from the three constituencies of Gangtok, Arithang and Tadong at Khel Gaon, Resithang, Ranka, today.
This is for the first time that our Government has organised ‘Janta Mela’ for the ‘lamas and the under-privileged from urban areas.
Over the years, it is evident that our people have focused only on the fulfillment of their needs and desires, rather than thinking of larger interest and welfare of the State- a challenge that our Government has been facing. It is time that our people realize that they have a collective responsibility as citizens in a democracy. They should rise above personal and individual interests and work towards common goals for the betterment of Sikkim and the Sikkimese people. I hope our people realize this folly and learn from developed countries where the people have great sense of belonging and responsibility towards their state/country.
Addressing the ‘lamas’ who had gathered in large numbers, I stressed on the following:-
1.They should compare the benefits that the ‘Sangha’(monk community) enjoyed during the days of monarchy, pre-1994 and after we formed the Government. The ‘lamas’ should also gauge the quantum of development that the State has witnessed in the last 24 years. From being the most backward and poorest state, we have today emerged as the top-five prosperous state in the Nation and the premier state in the North-East. Keeping in mind the rich Buddhist heritage of Sikkim, we have come up with mega- structures like Statue of Guru Rinpochee at Samdruptse, Buddha Park at Ravangla that have become popular not only in the Country but all over the world. The Statue of Chenrezig at Sanghachoeling, to be inaugurated shortly, will be another addition. After which, Sikkim will become ‘zingkham’(Heaven) Besides, construction and repair of many monasteries and ’manilakhangs’ have been undertaken, with most of them being converted into concrete buildings. Grant –in- aids to monasteries and other institutions are also provided timely. Very soon we will also be enhancing the salaries of Monastic School Teachers.
2.Speaking on our decision to start the Buddhist University in Sikkim, I stated that this has been initiated particularly for the benefit of our monk community. Not only will our brethren from the Bhutia -Lepcha community have the opportunity to study Tibetan medicine and become ‘Amjis’(doctors) ,they can also become masters of Buddhist philosophy and other related studies. We came up with this concept as we want our ‘lamas’ to become real ‘gurus’ and impart knowledge to the laymen, following the footsteps of the great masters like the Buddha and Guru Rinpochee. So, our ‘Sangha’ community should take up the responsibility of making the University a great centre of learning.
3.I emphasized that our Government has no agenda to misguide the monks or go against ‘dharma’. We have deep respects and veneration for the monk community. If at all, we seek anything from them, it is only their blessings. I reminded them that it was our Government that banned the practice of performing ‘serbangs’ to State dignitaries as we firmly believe that this holy ritual is to be reserved only for high-ranking ‘lamas’ and not for the layman.
4.I spoke on the historical significance and the contribution of the three lamas-Latsun Chempo, Sempa Chenpo and Rinzing Chenpo-which led to the establishment of Sikkim as a country with its capital at Yuksom in 1642 AD , with Chogyal Phuntsog Namgyal as the first ruler. Without their contributions, Sikkim and the Sikkimese people would have never existed! As a tribute and an honour to these three great personalities, we will be constructing their statues at Yuksom. Similarly, based on the aforementioned historical facts, I have always maintained that the members of the Bhutia- Lepcha community are the real creators of Sikkim. Without their contribution, Sikkim as a country would never have been formed.
I urged our fellow Bhutia – Lepcha brothers and sisters not to feel insecure in any way. They must remember that our Government has always ensured that their rights and privileges always stand secured and protected. Old Laws like the Revenue Order No.1, reservation of 12 seats and 1 Sangha seat in the Assembly have never been tampered. Moreover, recently we have also implemented the policy of 20 %BL seat reservation in Panchayats and urban local bodies. As for the issue of increase in the number of seats in the Assembly, our Government firmly stands on our principle of keeping the BL and Sangha reserved seats untouched and protected. We will never even think of decreasing these seats and providing them to the LT community as suggested by some section of people, who are doing nothing but using sensitive issues like religion and caste for their vested interest.
In a democracy, people have the great responsibility as well as power to choose their representatives and the Government of their choice. They should however, never take this crucial duty lightly. The onus lies on them to choose good people as their leaders- those who will work for the welfare of the State and the people, those who will take Sikkim to greater glory and not those who will destroy Sikkim. A good Government should be like parents and guardians of the people, one that loves and cares for the people like their own children as we have always done. Our people should always keep these factors in mind while choosing their leaders.
Our critics and the opposition parties often harp on bringing about change, meaning change in Government. They go to the extent of saying that I have stayed too long as a Chief Minister and I should be ousted! Is that a valid reason for change? I agree that change is inevitable in all spheres. But any kind of change must be for the better. The people of Sikkim should not be foolhardy in going for ‘change’ just for the sake of it. They must keep in mind that choosing leaders is not as frivolous as buying a new pair of shoes!
Speaking to the Members of the Business Community, I highlighted the following:-
1.The Members of the Business Community should value all that they have been able to achieve in the last 24 years. The older generation will agree with me that they had to go through tough times as businessmen in the regime before our Government. They had to go face threats, extortions from goons sponsored by the then Government along with taunts and disrespects hurled on them by the State machinery regarding even their skin colour, physical features and attire. They should compare it with the situation prevailing after our Government was formed. We have never resorted to any kind of unfair practice and have treated every person equally. The Business Community has only prospered over the years with our people- centric policies and development in all spheres with most of our bazaars being transformed into business hubs.
2. For the benefit of Old Settlers, our Government is leaving no stone unturned in securing Income Tax exemption . We have also ensured that they get all facilities equivalent to SSC/CoI holders barring Government jobs and provisions laid under Revenue Order No.1.We have provided them all benefits from RCs to reservation in urban local bodies to reservation in higher education for their children, free education upto college level. BPL families of Business Community are also eligible for free medical facilities and referral facilities outside the State. In case of death of a Trade License holder, new licence is issued in the name of his wife/children. Other benefits that are provided to the rural populace are now extended to them, such as rural housing scheme, distribution of free LPG cylinder ,pressure cookers and rice at Rs 3 per kg.
Speaking to the Government employees, I reiterated the fact that they receive the best pay packages and perks compared to their counterparts in other states. In addition, they have been given timely promotions. They are exempted from paying income tax, which gives them a huge financial benefit. But do they still remember that till 2008, they were paying taxes from their monthly income? Sometimes I wonder whether they remember that it was our Government that was successful in granting this exemption from the Central Government!
With such facilities and perks, all our employees should be satisfied and work with more zeal and dedication. But strangely, I still find some of them discontented. They are so only because of their too many desires and ambitions.
I assured to look into any anomalies that may have cropped up in the recent pay revision.
I also announced that henceforth Peons will be re-designated as Office Attendants.
The demands of Gangtok, Arithang, Tadong constituencies which was presented to me, will be taken up positively, with the first phase of all works starting within a month.