SIKKIM as a Country? Was it a Blunder only?
In our free and liberal Parliamentary democracy, very often social collectivities not only have their own say but they also double up as evergreen pressure groups to display that they mean public welfare as their main ‘business’. But in reality not only they are exposed but they also manage to remain a force to reckon with in one form or the other.
Caste & Politics in New Avatar
While the once strong nexus between caste & politics seems to have apparently got weakened, this keeps re-emerging rather strongly in West & East coast with occasional outbursts in some of the Southern states, every now and then.
When a party is in power, India becomes one single entity or a Nation. In the reverse scenario however, the past issues concerning regional identities or Sub-nationalism come to the forefront.
It is the misfortune of the country that we still have hundreds of political parties entering the ‘battle field’ and whenever a stable coalition or the single party rule is possible, slowly or gradually the states which were once under its fold, also drift away easily.
CHANGING PATTERNS OR PARADIGMES
Despite ‘stringent’ conditions of the Anti-defection law, Aaya Ram and Gaya Ram keep asserting at regular intervals. As long as peace process is not disturbed, even if there is active attempt to assert the feeling of sub-nationalism, people at large pretend to tolerate. Such fissures, never theless, become embarassing at the time of a crisis or natural calamity, such as, Corona or Amphan super cyclone. Not only the regional parties pursuing a brand of sub-nationalism tone down their activity but the ruling party at the Centre apparently also ensures full ‘co-operation’ to such states. Idea is not only to tide over the crisis at hand but also to brighten or spruce up its prospects for a possible electoral victory in the next General or the State Election.
AVOIDABLE SIKKIM BLUNDER
The blunder or ‘slippage’ about international border state of Sikkim being equated with Bhutan and Nepal in an all India advertisement for the post of Civil Defence Volunteers in the NCT Delhi Govt. being mean and extremely painful, assumes vital significance for the devout and law abiding citizens of the state. It is not that in the midst of issuing such misleading advertisements, a blunder is committed purpously or out of sheer ignorance about the existence of a small, beautiful, clean & happening state but the fact remains that the Babus or their IAS or the CSS bosses simply consider it below their dignity to read, cross-check and verify. They are mostly in a hurry. For the Central Government Dons, U.T’s, the small States, their burning issues, their sensitivities and their historical negligence etc. do not matter at all as long as their own ‘Happiness’ index is up and kicking. It may not be a bad idea to give them a CRASH COURSE in the Contemporary History & Geography of the country at
this stage. Another issue to be noted is that there is tremendous shortage of IAS officers in the Centre for the reasons best known to the people who matter and in view of humiliation meted out to some of them, obviously there are very few applicants or takers. Empanelment ‘tamasha’ adds further to the crisis.
It needs to be stressed upon that regular circulation of AIS officers as per tenure between the States and the Centre is supposed to benefit both and in the ultimate analysis, it is good for the unity and integration of the country.
It is worth mentioning that in the past, errors have been committed at the level of Central Government in regard to the N.E. states. Whenever these are pointed out,same is first ignored,then corrected or modified after a long lapse of time. At times, unless ‘Reminders’ go in quick succession, requisite remedy is not possible.
Also one should not be saying but one has to say in the interest of the Nation that the problem around NE states is not lack of money but too much of money that comes from Centre based on ‘national’ parameters which may not be always relevant to the 8 Special Category States. Idea behind all this is to meet your targets either by hook or crook. One should see the speed at which so called inspections by GoI officers are carried out in the region. Such an approach or attitude must come to an end before it is too late.
REGRETS BUT NO APOLOGY
In respect of Sikkim being ‘declared’ as a country after 45 long years of its joining the mainstream of the Nation as the 22nd State, the usual ‘sophisticated feelings’ of ‘regret’ have been expressed but no verbal or written APOLOGY has been offered either by the LG or the CM of Delhi ,given the fact that both of them happen to be ex-IAS and IRS officers respectively. Only a person who wears a shoe knows as to where it pinches.
Coming to ‘action’, the usual oft-repeated path that has been chosen is of ‘suspension’ pending an Inquiry, that too against a non- descript SSO Publication & Co-ordination by the name of Sri Rahul Sudan. It may be ‘unfair’, since he may have been part & parcel of a ‘Team’. While fixing responsibility prior to Inquiry it would be advisable to put the entire team on ‘HOLD’ to ensure proper & time-bound justice to the people of Sikkim. Unless the guilty officers & staff are compulsorily retired or dismissed or discharged after a ‘fast track Inquiry’, the malaise is going to perpetuate further.
One should not point out but I am pained and impelled to say THAT “Prosperous populace ultimately end up in being paid by their own coins, in their own territory by a ‘check’ (Malthusian expression) termed Corona’.”
Needless to say, the heart, mind & national perspective of people of Sikkim is neat and clean like Ganga Jal nowadays. No wonder, we had no case of Corona till 24th May and that the first positive case has outside origin.
NOT THE FIRST TIME
It is not the first time that fair name of Sikkim has been sullied. For instance, without written consent of the State Govt. orders were issued in August 2019 to open about 10 sacred peaks of the State for mountaineering and that too by the foreigners. Owing to strong protest by the present CM, Sikkim and personal intervention by the former Chief Secretary, the cotroversial MHA order was withdrawn.
Further, Sikkim was included as a 8th Member of North East Council in December-end, 2002. However, for many months, if not years, in the official communications from the FEDERAL Centre, only 7 ‘Sisters’ would figure. Much later, the expression ‘N.E. States and Sikkim’ picked up momentum. Is it not demeaning in respect of a faithful & loyal partner of the Union, wherein, all the national functions, days, anniversaries, campaigns & mega events, such as, World Yoga Day are observed and celebrated with more gaity, enthusiasm, vigour and vitality than even ‘mainline’ states, such as, U.P, M.P, Maharastra, T.N, A.P. or Bihar. Also due to strong vigil & caution, no untoward incidents or skirmishes ever take place along its three long and tough International borders.
In view of the fact that India is still a NATION IN MAKING, ironically, after 73 years of Independence and that many challenges have been faced & resolved and threats to a greater degree may emanate in the days to come also, each part of our vibrant Federation has to come forward and contribute.
Irrespective of its size, population and its being land-locked, Sikkim emerged as the first Polythene-free, Clean, Nirmal, ODF and Organic State/ entity in the World. We Sikkimese are fully dedicated to the unity and diversity of the country. That should not mean that the TINY STATE WITH A LARGE HEART should be taken for granted, time and again.
By Aalok Shrivastava
(The writer is IAS (Rtd.) Ex-C.S, Govt. of Sikkim)