I felt blessed to inaugurate the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPCS) today at PNG Complex, Gangtok and dedicated it to the members of the community. The foundation stone of the church was laid on 3rd October, 2013, and I believe that this magnificent church would not have been possible without the blessings of the Lord.
While addressing the members of the community, I stressed on the fact that Sikkim today is a model of secularism, where every citizen has the right to profess the religion of his/her choice. There has been no communal tension and unrest in the last 25 years of our Government. Peace, harmony and religious freedom prevail in the State. No person is discriminated or marginalized based on caste, creed or religion. We have also ensured that every community falls within the reservation policy for jobs, higher education, etc. 2 % reservation is provided to the Scheduled Caste Christians whom we have categorised as Weaker Section. Our Christian community should realize that there is complete protection of their identity as minority community; and they have been treated with respect and honour that they so rightly deserve. Further, there is security and all round development of all the communities of the State. Government grants and assistance are provided for construction and maintenance of places of worship of all faiths and communities. In fact, Sikkim is the only State where religious institutions are constructed with the help of financial aid from the Government.
Talking on the progress that the State has witnessed in the last two and a half decades, I highlighted few of the key indicators mentioned below:-
– The per capita income has increased from Rs.9,000 (1994) to Rs. 3,41,000 which is 2nd highest in the Country.
– The growth rate has increased by 5,000 times.
– The basic minimum needs of the people have been fulfilled.
– Life expectancy of the people has increased by 11 years.
– Sikkim has witnessed the quickest reduction of poverty after World War II.
– Literacy rate has increased to 96.72% -the best in the Country.
– Highest road density.
I urged the Pastors and Elders to sensitize the youth regarding the educational facilities provided by the State Government including free education till college level, education loans, startup scheme, free coaching for All India Service Exams and free MBBS course in the upcoming medical college. Our younger generation should opt for jobs beyond the government sector. Ample opportunities have been created in fields like tourism, organic farming and other service sectors. They should be willing to work with sincerity, determination and a sense of purpose to meet their goals.
Regarding One Family One Job (OFOJ), I informed that in the second phase, a total of 8000 candidates will be appointed, in addition to the 12000 already appointed in January, 2019. This will mean that almost 99% of households in the State will now have atleast one government employee. OFOJ will be an ongoing process which will continue in future also.
In conclusion, I expressed my gratitude to the New Church Inauguration Committee for organizing the function and giving me the opportunity to be a part of this pious occasion.