Pre-poll campaign stresses self-sufficiency

Kosmos Biswokarma

Gangtok, March 23:

Even as the analysts here portray the coming parliamentary elections as the personal battle between the two political heavyweights, some issues have attracted concern from all the quarters.

The major issue that has come up in the pre-election campaign is the issue of self-sufficiency in the hill state of Sikkim. Sikkim gets a major chunk of its annual budget from the Centre as part of the agreement reached during its merger with India. This year, the Central government provided the grant of around Rs 3,000 crore.

"We received Rs 3,000 crore this year from the Centre but the present government has not been able to properly utilise the money to help make the state self-sustaining,” says Biraj Adhikari, spokesperson for Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee and its candidate for a lone seat for Lok Sabha. "We have an industrial policy but its implementation can not be seen on the ground."But spokesman for the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front and ex-Lok Sabha member Bhim Dahal claimed that the government was doing its best to make the State self-sustaining. "We have cut down on expenditure and promoted tourism," he said. "There are new power projects, tourism is booming and we have been trying to generate revenue from international sources." However, the major industries are few. Big industries are not viable here due to lack of raw material and proper infrastructures, argues R. K. Pradhan, who retired a few days ago as the chairman of Sikkim Public Service Commission. "We still have to depend outside the State for most of the products."Pradhan feels that the growing rate of unemployment could become a serious problem in the coming years. Pradhan adds, "There are so many schemes to fulfil the job demand but the implementation part is lacking."

According to Dahal, the government has a self-employment scheme which provides Rs 100,000 to the graduates and half that amount to those who have passed the high school to work on their own. But this money too has not been utilised properly. Without providing them what to do with the money has raised a questions on its effective use.