Decrease Font SizeIncrease Font Size || Print Button

Address by Shri Pawan Chamling, Chief Minister, Sikkim
49th N.D.C. Meeting
, 1st September 2001, Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi.


I bring with me the warmest regards of the Sikkimese people to the Hon'ble Prime Minister Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee, Hpn'ble Union Ministers, Hon'ble Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission and Hon'ble Chief Ministers of various states present in this august gathering. With your permission, I would like to lay down our thoughts before the National Development Council.

2. For us the meeting of the National Development Council is always a rare occasion and indeed a very valuable moment. It is in this meeting that we get an opportunity to convey to the entire nation as to what a small, magnificent and peaceful State of Sikkim has been doing. It is a very great privilege for me personally to come and address such an august house, which primarily determines the future direction and destination of our country.

3 We give very distinct importance to the meeting of the National Development Council as it provides us with a compact forum for expressing the needs, aspirations and achievements of the Sikkimese people. It is through this forum that we have been conveying the contributions made by Sikkim in the building of a modern India.

4 In Sikkim, we.have always adopted an outward looking policy mainly aimed at complete integration with the mainstream India. This was crucial for us owing to the state's political background, its late entry into the democratic process and rather late adoption of the planned development measures. More so, the people of Sikkim wanted a much deeper and wider interaction with the national mainstream. This could not be one-way process. Therefore, we encouraged a variety of activities in the state that attracted the people, entrepreneurs, professionals and institutions from different parts of country. The Union Government has been extraordinarily generous in understanding our needs and has encouraged us to be active players in the mainstream of nation.

5 However, the most critical input in joining the national mainstream has been the development process of the state. With the support of the Union Government, Sikkim has made very significant strides on very many crucial fronts, including, economic, social, cultural, environmental and political. All these could be achieved after Sikkirn became the 22nd state of the country, 26 years ago. Let me take this opportunity to highlight some of them.

6 Our Performance Record

  • Sikkim is the most peaceful state today by any subjective and objective standards. A well-established tradition of social and communal harmony exists.
  • Sikkim is one of the most politically stable states.
  • The State Domestic Product has recorded an average annual growth rate of over 8 percent in the last decade or so.
  • As against hardly 30 percent infants covered by immunization in 1975, it was more than 70 percent in 1999.
  • The number of primary health sub-centers was 2 in 1975 which increased to 147 in 1999.
  • Sikkim is probably the first State to provide free Hepatitis vaccination covering 100 percent children population (below 5 years)
  • The literacy rate, which was hardly 17 percent in 1971, has now increased to 70 percent.
  • We have possibly the best teacher-student ratio at all levels in the schools. Free education especially for the girl child is already in place and we are enabling better nutrition to our school children. Quality of education is being focused rather than expansion of schools.
  • Sikkim has achieved over 80 % electrification of rural and urban households.
  • It has provided access to safe drinking water to almost 85 % of the households.
  • Sikkim has the 10th highest per capita income in the country. It has also recoreded one of the highest growth rates of 12.96% percent per annum.
  • The total food production has steadily increased from over 61.8 thousand tonnes in 1980-81 to 1.06 lakh tonees in 199-2000 produced in hardly 64000 hectares of net sown area. The area under cultivation is mere 12.03 percent of the available land.
  • An impressive feature of Sikkim’s overall expenditure has been an overwhelming share (consistently over 74 percent) taken by the developmental activities.
  • The State, traditionally has a sound track record of maintaining gender equality
  • The position of human development in Sikkim is significantly higher than many other states. The Human Development Index has consistently improved from 0.454 in 1991 to 0.532 in 1998.
  • Sikkim also has the rare distinction of producting two state-of-the art reports prepared very recently. These reports are the Human Development Report 2001 and Sikkim: The People’s Vision. In the process, Sikkim became the 3rd State in India to produce the Human Development Report.
  • State has an exemplary record of taking tough decisions to save forests. Tree felling has been severely restricted. Grazing has been banned in the Reserved Forests. The Govt. has also initiated steps to make Sikkim a plastic and polythene free state. We have also in this process banned the use Gutka and tobacco.
  • We have been able to both traditionally and scientifically conserve our rich biological diversity including that of more than 5000 species of angiosperm (one third of the total national angiosperms)
  • On the environmental conservation front, the Sikkim’s Chief Minister was voted as the Greenest Chief Minister of India in a rigorous opinion poll conducted by the internationally acclaimed institution viz., New Delhi's Centre for Science and Environment

Reorientation of the Development Paradigm

7 Despite the above achievements and positive points, the growth has been sluggish in many sectors in the state. Poverty, illiteracy and unemployment still continue to characterize the Sikkimese society and economy. The plan investment made has tended to benefit only a few. A majority of the rural folks are still striving to receive the fruits of development. Possibly we seem to have suffered from poor designing of schemes, weak delivery and the lack of monitoring and evaluation of the state sponsored development projects.

8 We are striving to change the entire orientation of the development goals, designs, mechanisms, instruments and institutions in the state. We are fixing performance milestones in all sectors of the economy. Most importantly, we are seriously working towards delegating responsibilities, decentralizing the entire decision-making and delivery process, making the existing system of governance, transparent and directly accountable. We are inducting fresh set of development managers with strong professional and non-governmental bias,

9 In other words, Sikkim's development direction is at the crossroads today. We have three fundamental challenges before us. First, the challenge posed by globalisation led economic reforms where the role of state and the government will be increasingly diminished. The second challenge is of locating fresh avenues of resource mobilisation for development purpose. Most of the traditional bases of resource mobilization are getting fast eroded. The third challenge is to evolve mechanisms to tackle the new paradigms of development set forth by the new agents and institutions of development.

10 In view of above, we have for the first time constituted the Sikkim State Planning Commission with a very distinguished panel of members. These members are drawn from some of the best institutions of the country that include Council for Social Development, Jawaharlal Nehru University and National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. The Commission will henceforth provide a professional guidance to the entire process of economic development in the State. It will also be a guiding force that visualizes the stumbling blocks. It will identify the instruments that will steer the economy past the major hurdles. It will also provide us with very clear-cut strategies and institutions to realize our freshly laid out development goals. Our Goals:

11 Sikkim has a distinct vision. Our Government has a very challenging agenda, which we are striving to achieve in the next fifteen years. Naturally, this agenda aims at building a prosperous Sikkim wherein its people can live a full and a highly dignified life. We have to give people adequate choices as mentioned in our Human Development Report 2001. Broadly this agenda includes:

  • Improvement in quality of life for all
  • Quality education and health for all
  • Equal employment opportunities for all with massive thrust on self-employment
  • Developing a strong and accountable administration
  • Poverty and illiteracy free Sikkim
  • Peaceful social life based on conservation of cultural heritage and pluralistic strengths
  • Social and distributive justice
  • Rule of law leading to an absolute crime free Sikkim and
  • Structural changes in the state economy for sustainable growth.

12 The State is working to achieve over 10 percent annual growth in the economy and reduce the fiscal deficit to 2-3 percent of the State Domestic Product. The vicious circle of deficit, burgeoning interest burden, debt servicing and again more deficit needs to be broken by reforms, disinvestments and private participation. A greater synergy among social and economic sector schemes is required for promoting coordinated implementations. We are now in a position to take some difficult but meaningful policy decisions that will go a long way in providing Sikkim with a sustained level of growth. Tackling Globalisation: the Sikkimese Way

13 For us in Sikkim, the globalisation process is a fact of life today. We have no choice. Globalisation is like boarding a flight, once you board it, you really cannot get out unless you reach the destination. Therefore, we have to accept it, absorb it and participate in it. Ironically, we still do not know where we are going as the flight of globalisation is driven and its destination determined by the developed countries. We are worried on two counts. First, its likely impact on the traditional socio-cultural values and second impact on the economic systems.

14 Though no one is sure about the real impact of the ongoing process of globalisation, yet, it is expected that my state will be both positively and adversely affected by this. Our state being a small and developing one, we have always tried to protect it from the external shocks. We have been successful in many ways.

The Middle Path Approach

15 Reforms themselves are not important. What is important is what we reform and how sustainable are these reform measures particularly in the context of meeting the needs of poor, down trodden and marginalised. We don't want the reforms process to come to us like a 21st century monster. For us in Sikkim, we want the entire reform process to be friendly, effective and people centric. We would like to internalize the reforms, so that every Sikkimese understands it, assimilates it and maximizes gains from it. We would like to define our newly designed development strategy as the "middle path approach".

16 Our policy, therefore, would be to maximise the gains from the globalisation process and minimise its negative fallouts. Broadly, Sikkim has a two-pronged strategy to face the challenges posed by the globalisation process. First, we would like to adopt as many corrective measures and reforms under the national drive of second generation reforms. This includes:

  • strict adherence to fiscal discipline,
  • correcting the ills of public sector through disinvestments,
  • cutting down the level of competitive subsidies and
  • down sizing and right sizing of governmental machinery.

17 We have extended attractive packages and very clear guidelines for the private investors. We are unbundling our power utilities. We are sensitising people, politicians and bureaucracy about the dire need to have efficient management of existing utilities and infrastructure already created. We have already organised several rounds of "Sikkim Investor's Forum meeting" with state, national and foreign investors.

18 Politically also there is consensus that the way forward is by encouraging private participation in many of our programs. The Government will increasingly be playing a role of a facilitator and would devote much of its time, energy and resources to consolidate what has been done so far.

19 Secondly, we are more concerned about the adverse impact of globalisation on the deprived and marginalized people. This is more serious because many of our rural areas are still not very easily accessible. We all firmly believe that globalisation led economic reforms will bring about a higher growth in the State. This higher growth will expectedly generate more income and employment.

20 But the most critical question is, how to transmit this high growth to the poorest of the poor living in our villages. We have to translate it into people's welfare and more equitable distribution of income. Then, what is the transmission mechanism?

21 We have two clear options. Do we follow the same route that we followed for the last 50 years, when the entire delivery mechanism remained dependent on bureaucracy? Or, do we set up a new range of delivery mechanisms? My government feels that the challenges brought forward by globalisation are diverse and need to be faced with much more vigour. We therefore, require new instruments to cut the ice.

22 This is where we see a major role for the non-governmental organisations. The NGOs can increasingly supplement and to a large extent even replace the governmental machinery. This will make the delivery of goods and services to the poverty stricken and deprived communities a lot more effective and sustainable. We want NGOs to bring the entire spectrum of development resources including technology, management skills and finance. You will be happy to know that even as I speak here there are those who are working quietly toward this end.

23 In order to convey our strong urge to involve the NGOs in the development process, particularly, at the grass root level, we organised a very comprehensive Round Table meeting with the national and international NGOs in Delhi. We are overwhelmed by significant and prompt response from various well-known NGOs. Many of them have already begun activities in areas, such as, eco-tourism, drinking water, health, education, human resource development, agriculture, horticulture, dairy development and natural heritage management.

Sikkim in the North Eastern Council:

24 Sikkim is now being inducted as a major constituent of the North Eastern Council (NEC). Due to our consistently high performance records in the past, we are going to be an unique member of the NEC. We have significant advantages of having very high degree of political stability, very distinct record of being the most peaceful state and a sound development performance. We are joining the NEC both because of our search for means to broaden our development and to be a part of the larger process of regional integration. We expect two very substantive gains from our joining the NEC-First, it is likely to trigger off a major breakthrough in the industrial activity in the State. Secondly, the concept of sub-regional cooperation is fast emerging in our parts of the South Asia region. There have been consistent efforts to create a South Asian Growth Quadrangle consisting of Bangladesh, Bhutan, North East parts of India and Nepal. Similarly, the concept of B1MSTEC that is the economic cooperation among Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand has already been formalized. We see in all these, a major role for Sikkim and tremendous opportunity for our economic growth.

25 These groupings and arrangements will provide us with a huge market, modern technology, foreign investment and most importantly, a possibility of sustainable economic integration.

The Tenth Plan: How Crucial ?

26 The Tenth Five Year Plan is going to be very critical for us in many respects, such as:

  1. It is during this Plan that we are really going to test the entire new orientation we have designed in the State. Will our middle path approach work?
  2. The high growth rate target is going to be a major challenge
  3. The induction and determination of the roles of the non governmental development agencies will be decided.
  4. The fresh avenues of resource mobilization will be explored and launched.
  5. The development paradigm focusing simultaneously on economic reforms and human development will again be a formidable challenge
  6. The setting up of new institutions for sustaining growth may be a daunting task and
  7. Employment generation at the rural level and expansion of newly emerging sectors for employment generation in the urban areas may require difficult decision making.

27 We planned the preparation of Human Development Report 2001 and Sikkim: The People's Vision in such a manner that the findings of these reports can go as a major input into the making of our Xth Five Year Plan. The Sikkim State Planning Commission has thoroughly discussed the Xth Five Year Plan approach paper prepared by the Planning Commission in the Centre. We found that we are not lagging behind in any respect with the thinking of the Centre. In fact, many of the plans and programmes which the Centre's approach plan envisages to do in the Tenth Plan have already been initiated in our State in the last few years. This is indeed very exciting for us as it vindicates the approach that we have taken thus far.

28 In keeping with the Centre's Tenth Plan Approach Paper, we want the government to play a minimalist role, the incremental capital output ratio to gradually go down, give absolute focus on our traditional strengths, i.e. the rural areas and agriculture sector and work towards drastic improvement in fiscal imprudence.

29 The higher the level of attainment we have, higher will be the degree of happiness and tranquility in the State. Our Government is totally committed to this and dedicated to achieve this.

Our Expectations from the Union Government

I. Repositioning Employment Scenario:

30 One of our major areas of concern is the growing numbers of our young who are unemployed or underemployed. This is a real challenge. We cannot brush it under the carpet. We are redefining the way forward through our educational policies but that is going to take some time. In the meanwhile, we will need tremendous amount of support in helping those who are already caught up in this dilemma. I need not stress how important this factor is for an enduring peace and tranquility in our strategic state.

31 There are estimates that show that the numbers of unemployed are quite large. Our Government is constantly monitoring the trend and status of unemployment. By now, at least 42 percent of the 1991 population who were then in the age group between 10-14 to 25-29 would have entered the job market. This would imply that over 1,70,000 young people are looking for jobs today. Many of these employment seekers have already been absorbed after my Government came to power 7 years ago. However, given the predominance of the government sector in the employment sector and its waning capacity to absorb more people, this would have also created a much bigger reserved army of the unemployed in the State.

32 The Union Government can help us in the following; We have tremendous potentials in certain specific areas. We have the huge potential in power, information technology, tourism, natural resources, health, education and agro-based industries. The service-oriented sectors are our other strengths.

33 The Union Government can direct both public and private resources to these sub-sectors in a more focused and effective manner. Most of these are services sectors and have huge employment generating potentialities.

II Skill Development Fund :

34 In order to create a '"reserve army" of skilled manpower, our government is now floating Kaushal Vikas Kosh (Skill Development Fund) to train and equip youth with the modern and professional skills. The fund will be set up to sponsor graduate youth to various regional and national institutions in acquiring professional degrees and skills in areas like tourism management, information technology, rural management, small scale enterprises, science and technology, media management, advertising and public relations, feature making, arts and crafts. A range of institutions will be set up to help realize the goals.

35 The Union Government can support both Skill Development Fund and setting up of Institutions.

III Consolidating the Education sub-Sector :

36 Since we have achieved a significant level of educational foundation, we are now concentrating on two major aspects of education. First, we would now strictly adhere to improving the quality of education, as this is the gateway to the new dynamics of development. For this we are re-examining the entire curriculum, reassessing the recruitment and teaching pattern and encouraging private sector to set up schools with modern infrastructure. Secondly, we are diversifying the educational system by introducing professional colleges, technical institutions and skill building schools. The primary idea is to inculcate scientific temper amongst the young Sikkimese children right at the school level.

37 We are now negotiating to get even the existing educational institutions affiliated with the institutions of national and international importance. We expect that this will finally lead to accumulation and spread of both intellectual and professional capital in the State.

38 We expect the Union Government to support us in setting up all these new institutions.

IV Re-focusing on the Rural Mass :

39 The villages are the greatest asset and strength of the Sikkimese Society. We need to encourage many of our young to remain in the villages. This can be ensured only through direct intervention at the village level. Our development programmes are primarily focused on the rural areas with a district emphasis on decentralisation under the 73' amendment of the Constitution. We want to launch very specific programmes for the marginalized households. 40. The Union Government may like to give us full institutional and financial backing in launching the above programmes. The NGOs and other development agencies, both national and international may be encouraged to come to Sikkim for this purpose.

V Acquiring the Best Technologies :

41 Technology is our main weapon to fight a war against stagnancy. Injection of new and cost effective technology in many of our traditional patterns of livelihood is our priority. The list is endless. The objective is to bring in new ideas and technology that will help rather than hinder. Since sustaining and preserving our environment and mountain ecology is our prime goal, the key intent is to have minimum negative impact. At the same time, Sikkim has developed indigenous technologies in areas of medicine, food, agriculture, and other rural technologies that can be used on commercial scale. These require urgent patenting.

42 We would like the Union Government to provide us with all the basic and modern technologies through its various agencies including the ICAR, and also extend all support in the process of patenting our indigenous technologies.

VI Infrastructures to tackle Globalisation impact:

43 The removal of restrictions including the quantitative restrictions in the import of agricultural products under the time bound agreement with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) would mean that there will be no restriction on import of agricultural commodities. This implies that many of our traditional agricultural product including fruits, vegetables, dairy products, cardamom and ginger are likely to face stiff competition from other countries.

44 Owing to the high subsidies that go into agricultural products, technology and massive scale of production in the developed countries, our products may not be able to compete with them. This is a serious challenge to our farmers. We have to sensitise our farmers and prepare them for more competitive production base and system. One of the safeguards adopted by my Government has been the setting up of Agricultural Export Zones (AEZs).

45 We want total support from the Union government to all our infrastructural projects, including the above.

VII Appreciation of Comprehensive Security provided by Sikkim:

46 Sikkim has been the most significant geographical entity that provides comprehensive security to the Indian nation state. It provides

  1. military security
  2. environmental security and
  3. development related security.

47 First, it has been one of the very geo-strategically significant border states of India and has a huge concentration of security and military forces. We provide the best of services in protecting our national security interests. However, besides the other issues related to carrying capacity, the physical burden of these forces as a pressure on land and other natural and manufactured resources are quite gigantic. All these incur a huge development and environmental cost to the State that many other States in India do not have to incur.

48 Secondly, the onus of protecting and conserving the significant portion of the critical Eastern Himalayan region and its environment has been with the people and government of Sikkim including the mountain range. The protection of bio-diversity and the forward and backward linkages emanating from it to the entire Himalayan community and the plains land has never been quantified. However, many quarters are not able to appreciate this aspect of work or sacrifice that Sikkim and Sikkimese society are doing for the sustainability of the region. In fact, on account of this mainly there is water security for the entire North Bengal.

49 Finally, the very topography, being landlocked and agro-climatic variations have forbidden Sikkim to go for an array of interventions making economic development process very limited. At times, it has been a Hobson’s choice for the State to opt for a major development intervention, as the long run cost particularly in terms of environmental security may be much higher than the short run benefit. In other States, policy makers and politicians would have jumped to such kind of interventions, as they are not constrained by the factors that characterise the Sikkim Himalayas. This means Sikkim has very constricted development choices.

50 This limited choice and the related constraints on development interventions as compared to the wide range of choice and techniques available to other states, need to be considered as the opportunity benefit Sikkim have been / will have to forego. The benefits, which would have otherwise accrued to the state, need to be objectively assessed and accordingly make provisions for compensating the opportunities foregone.

51 One way to recognise these services of comprehensive security to the nation building process is to partially supplement the State resources for the upkeep of the hills and the Himalayan region. We consider this issue as very critical for the sustainability of Sikkim, the Sikkimese and the nation as a whole.

52 We strongly urge the Union Government to take into consideration all these three factors as invisible costs to the Sikkimese economy while deciding Sikkim’s plan expenditure and revenue budgets

VIII Emphasis on New Avenues of Resources :

53 Though, in absolute terms the grants from the Centre have been increasing over the last two decades, yet, in relative sense its share in total revenue has been falling. In other words, the grants from the Centre used to constitute as high as 77 percent of the total revenue of Sikkim in 1983-84 which drastically came down to 60 percent in 1990-91 and then to as low as 58 percent in 1997-98.

54 The absolute increase in central grant would appear further diluted if the high rate of inflation witnessed during this period is factored in. Hence, in constant price terms, this increase may be either very nominal or may be actually a fall. If this trend continues, by the next decade, the Centre's grant contribution to Sikkim's total annual revenue would hardly be 40 percent. Remaining 60 percent of the revenue, therefore, will have to come through the domestic resource mobilisation effort. This is a formidable challenge for the state.

55 However, an optimistic sign is that, Sikkim has vastly improved its resource mobilisation capacity. During the last two decades, the revenue of the state has recorded an almost a three fold jump from 8.7 per cent in 1983-84 to 28 per cent in 1998-99 of the grand total revenue. This is unequivocally, a substantial achievement.

56 Our worry is how to cover the persistent and deepening fiscal deficit. There is a political limit to degree and measure of taxation beyond which these measures become not only counter-productive but also detrimental to the people. The government, therefore, must go in for other alternative avenues. The service tax in tourism and other infrastructural facilities including communication, electricity, transport and roads and water are potential sources of revenue generation in future. The commercial exploitation of water resources mainly for export to neighbouring states will be also a crucial emerging source.

57 We appeal to the Union Government to effectively start a range of medium size hydel projects to harness the total potential of 8000 MW and similar other revenue generating projects that could be completed within a couple of years.

58 Let me conclude by again expressing the absolute commitment, devotion and dedication of the people of Sikkim to the nation building process of our motherland. We firmly believe that Sikkim is a major strength of our country. This Himalayan state, however, small and far off, has been positively contributing solidly to the consolidation of basic foundation of our country.

59 The people of Sikkim want to be in the forefront of a national campaign for better livelihood, efficient governance and high growth regime. We have already begun this process in a far reaching manner. We look forward to the blessings and total support from the Hon'ble Prime Minster and his able team to accomplish our goal of Sukhi Sikkim Dhanadya Bharat (prosperous Sikkim-rich India).

60 I express my deep sense of gratitude for giving me this opportunity to present the views of the people of Sikkim.

Jai Bharat