Speech of Honble Governor of Sikkim Shri Shriniwas Patil on the occasion of Republic Day 2014.
My dear fellow citizens


On this auspicious occasion of our Republic Day, I extend my warm greetings and good wishes to the people of our State and to my fellow countrymen.


This is the day on which the people of India adopted a democratic Constitution which enshrines some of the noblest principles of governance by the people. The Constitution of India articulates the hopes and aspirations of our people in a simple yet powerful way.


On this happy occasion, let us pay our respects and gratitude to our martyrs who have laid down their lives for the cause of freedom. We must recognize that it is because of their selfless sacrifice that we live as free citizens of this great nation.


On this occasion, let us remember the members of our armed forces and para-military, who are on constant vigil for the security of our nation. I convey my best wishes to their families on this happy occasion. Let us pay our homage to the great sons of the country who have sacrificed their lives in fighting the enemy.


I am happy to observe that in Sikkim, the Constitution has been in effective operation. Democracy has taken deep roots and people are living in harmony, contributing to the peace and tranquility prevailing in the State. Law and order problems are almost non-existent. I appeal to one and all to preserve this healthy environment of peace and harmony for the all round betterment and prosperity of the State.


Dear Citizens,


Today is also an appropriate occasion to take stock of the progress made by our State in various fields.


During the 11th Plan Period, we made commendable progress and achieved many milestones in our development stride. We recorded a GSDP growth rate of over 21 % during the 11th Plan. In terms of major socio-economic indicators too, there have been remarkable improvements.


We are now at the end of the 2nd year of the 12th Five Year Plan. The 12th Five Year Plan is based on broader, faster, sustainable and inclusive growth.


We will continue to focus our attention towards the development of social sectors and rural development. Special emphasis has also been laid for the development of our youth and students who are the future of our State.


Our focus in Rural Development is on food security, water, connectivity, health and sanitation, education and livelihood opportunities. We have allocated over 70% of the State budget for our rural areas.


Decentralization of work and devolution of power is a reality. The State Government has provided funds, functions and functionaries to all Gram Panchayat Units (GPUs) in the State. This has made governance in rural areas an effective reality.


My government has launched a project to provide pucca houses to all its citizens who are living in Kuttcha houses through its Chief Minister’s Rural Housing Mission (CMRHM). This is a Rs. 211.20 crore social housing project which aims to provide earthquake resistant houses to over 30,000 people residing in kutcha houses.


The State Government under the Chief Minister’s Meritorious Scheme is sponsoring promising students at Class V level to the premier public schools within and outside the State. We have also started a special merit scholarship for girls named Prerna Yojna , which has helped many promising children from weak family backgrounds.


The free laptop scheme of our Government has generated widespread enthusiasm among students, parents and teachers alike. The younger generation, who are the future of the State, should now shoulder the responsibility of taking the State into an era of advancement with dedication and determination. The youth must now look beyond Government jobs in Sikkim and make efforts to explore opportunities beyond the boundaries of Sikkim to make a future and name for themselves.


My Government has started another unique initiative, where our educated youth who aspire for IAS and allied Services examination (UPSC) are being sponsored to the best coaching centres in the country. More than 146 young Sikkimese are presently undergoing coaching in reputed institutions in Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Hyderabad. Similarly, under the comprehensive education loan scheme, a large number of students have availed interest free loan to pursue higher education in Universities within and outside the country.


We have started an innovative programme called the Chief Minister’s Annual Health Check-Up Programme (CATCH). This programme was launched to ensure that all citizens, especially those living in rural areas, are checked for all the vital signs of diseases and relevant clinical test are done. In this way, advanced diagnosis of ailments is being made possible and immediate follow-up actions can be taken.


This ambitious CATCH programme targets to cover the entire population of Sikkim by the end of this year. Other States like Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh have appreciated this programme and have shown an interest in adopting this model.


Dear Citizens,


There are tremendous opportunities of employment generation in tourism sector. At the end of the 11th Plan tourist arrival in Sikkim was roughly 29 lakhs. We have an ambitious target of reaching the figure of 50 lakhs during the 12th Plan period.


The crowning glory for Sikkim is the fact that ‘Lonely Planet’, the global travel guide, in its website, has named the State as the “best region to visit in 2014”. The Lonely Planet has rated Sikkim even above renowned tourist places such as the Kimberley in Australia, Texas in US, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe/Zambia and Hunan in China. At the same time, Sikkim has made another commitment to itself - to reach new heights in responsible tourism. We should all take full advantage of this recognition so that our youth have attractive career options.


Besides tourism, horticulture is the most important engine for rural development in Sikkim. With the unstinted support of the Govt. of India and the highly proactive and farmer centric policies of State Government, horticulture has become a sustainable source of income generation.


Organic farming is the new mantra in Sikkim and is being promoted in a big way. My government proposes to convert Sikkim into a fully organic State. This is one of the most critical interventions to counter the challenges posed by the constraints of geography, topography and highly limited arable land. Further, organic movement being a worldwide phenomenon; markets for our products are assured.


Among the many challenges in this sector, global warming has led to aberrations in our rainfall pattern and in many places water sources are drying up. As a result, water management has become a major challenge. To address this issue, a project titled “Water Harvesting for Individual Farmers, as well as, Community basis” worth Rupees 15.30 crore was submitted to the Govt. of India, which has been accepted. Further, due to our highly fragmented land holding pattern, traditional farming is becoming uneconomical. As such, there is a need to promote high value horticulture to enhance financial gains to our farmers. Towards this we are proposing cultivation of high value crops under greenhouses.


Another important area having great promise for Sikkim is floriculture. Sikkim has a special name in floriculture largely because of our exotic orchids. Owing to the climatic advantage of our region, Sikkim is poised to enter into the international floriculture industry. Our skilled and enterprising youth must all take advantage of this emerging opportunity.


Amidst this, I must also remind that marketing of all kinds of horticulture produce still remains the weakest link in the value chain. Further, various schemes, programmes and construction of post harvest and marketing infrastructures, such as cold rooms and storage has brought about a marked improvement in this area. The demand for Sikkim’s organic products and floriculture items is increasing day by day. To meet these demands, there is a need to set up an organized marketing system.


I am proud to say that Sikkim is one of the most proactive States of the Northeast. It is a front runner in the effective utilization of Central Government grants for the development of agriculture. The Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India too, has been highly sensitive to our needs and aspirations. As a result, the Ministry has been gracious to grant a College of Horticulture in Sikkim under the Central Agriculture University. This will open up tremendous opportunities for our youth in the near future.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,


On this happy occasion, let us once again pay our homage to the founding fathers of the Constitution and our brave jawans , who have laid down their lives in the defence of our motherland.


Let us re-dedicate ourselves to the cause of democracy, peace and harmony. Let us also renew our resolve to work and contribute to the speedy development of our State and the Nation.