Gangtok, September 3: A meeting with NITI Aayog was held at Samman Bhawan, today, under the chairmanship of Hon’ble Chief Minister Shri Prem Singh Tamang in presence of the Hon’ble Member NITI Ayaog-Professor Ramesh Chand, Advisor NITI Aayog Dr Prem Singh, Chief Secretary Shri S. C. Gupta, Addl. Chief Secretary cum Development Commissioner Shri V. B. Pathak, Additional Chief Secretaries, Principal Secretaries, Secretaries, HoDs and other officials of Government of Sikkim.
At the outset, the Hon’ble Chief Minister extended his warm greetings and welcomed the dignitaries. He mentioned the recent Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) rankings of all the 120 districts of the North-Eastern states, where Sikkim performed exceptionally well and the East district ranked 1st among all the districts. He also reiterated the recent decision of the central government to grant an Independent BSNL Telecom Circle for Sikkim and thanked the Hon’ble Prime Minister and the Hon’ble Union Minister of Communications, Electronics and Information Technology- Shri Ashwini Vaishnav and the Government of India.
Speaking on the agendas of the meeting, the Hon’ble Chief Minister placed the development strategy, goals and challenges of Sikkim requiring immediate attention. In terms of finance, he stated that Sikkim came under tremendous stress in 2019-20 due to a sharp decline in central tax transfer and flow of resources through grants, seeing a decline of 18% in the revenue receipts amounting to Rs 1080 crores as a result of the pandemic.
To augment the finances, he mentioned that the state government had proposed for levy of cess on pharma companies, hydroelectricity corporations and after consideration by the Group of Ministers, had recommended a Special package of assistance and sought their support in this matter. Similarly, to combat the decline in revenue due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, he also requested the Government of India for a special one-time grant of Rs 700 crores.
Acknowledging the pandemic, he highlighted the efforts of the state government to strengthen the health sector in the state. He briefed the gathering regarding major changes brought to this sector including the increase in the budgetary allocations for medicines and consumables, recruitment of Medical Officers, upgrading of Oncology department, Establishment of Medical College, Dialysis Centres in District Hospitals, Intensive Care Units, Super Speciality Outreach Programme in Districts, upscaling of Namchi Hospital in South District to a three hundred bedded hospital among others.
Similarly, in the area of Education, he stated that the state government stands firm in its resolve to transform Sikkim into the “Education Hub of the Country” and briefly spoke about the “Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose University of Excellence” being established at Chakung, West Sikkim.
Likewise, in the agriculture and allied sectors, he re-emphasised the State Government’s commitment to make Sikkim self-sustainable, self-reliant and to realise the goal of doubling farmers’ income as envisaged by the Hon’ble Prime Minister.
Further, the Hon’ble Chief Minister stated that the State Government has introduced historic price support in the scheme Mukhya Mantri Krishi Atma-Nirbhar Yojana for twelve crops, vegetables and fruits like large cardamom, ginger, turmeric, buckwheat, kiwi, orange, etc. He mentioned the state government’s initiative of Milk Production Incentive Scheme for the organized sector and the first Piggery Production Incentive Scheme with an incentive of Rs 5,000 per pig for a maximum of three breeding stock.
He also requested for support from the NITI Aayog and the Central government regarding the Skilled Youth Start-up Schemes in terms of financing from the nationalised banks.
Highlighting the need for an export-oriented industry, empowered Organic Food Park-cum-Free Trade Warehousing zone, Special Economic Zone offering common third-party logistics and supply chain infrastructure such as organics only processing and warehousing, he proposed for these facilities to be set up and lay the foundation for transformational sector growth. He mentioned the State government’s policy to cultivate year-round agriculture, horticulture crops and sought support for creating water sources and water harvesting structures for irrigation, stating that it will help in reducing the difficulties of the local farmers.
The Hon’ble Chief Minister looked forward to continued cooperation from the NITI Aayog in achieving the common goal of higher progress and sustainability.
In the powerpoint presentation, the detailed status of progress, outcome, losses, dividend, comparison, remarks and future plans in addition to many other points were presented. They deliberated on ways to enhance opportunities for the people in the state by exploring various avenues like agriculture, eco-tourism, floriculture, adventure tourism, medium and micro scale industries and many more.
During the discussion, Development of infrastructure like Cable Car Projects, Sevoke-Rangpo Railway project, the extension of railway line up to Gangtok and onward, Organic farming, subsidies for organic farmers, the release of balance, Special Plan Assistance (SPA) were also discussed. It was also appealed to the NITI Aayog and the Central Government that in some situations, population and area ratio may not fit with the criteria of NITI Aayog, hence in accord to the region, he requested special consideration for the benefit of the people. The representatives of NITI Aayog responding to the appeals have assured to render support and put forward the matter to the Ministry of DONER and the Union Government wherever necessary.