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April issue

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There could be several reasons behind this intense interest in politics. 

One - the post-merger Sikkimese identity is so inextricably linked to politics which has induced a kind of caution in the Sikkimese mind. The Sikkimese destiny in the Republic of India, to a large extent, has been shaped by the political events that transpired around the time of the merger. Today, we have the luxury of hindsight and say, ‘If our leaders had done this, we would have benefited this way or that move would have given us this advantage’ and so on. With such a political history behind us, for better or for worse, politics continues to rule the roost in our conscience. Moreover, the local political narratives across the board have inculcated into our conscience a notion that it is only politics that can protect our Sikkimese distinctiveness which is so vital to Sikkimese identity in the larger national context. This explains the conscious distancing of Sikkim from national parties.

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India achieved a historic feat on 27 March 2019 when it successfully shot down a low-earth orbit satellite using its anti-satellite (ASAT) missile. The test named Mission Shakti was jointly carried out by the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in the Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Island in Odisha to verify whether India possesses the capability to safeguard its assets in the space. With this accomplishment, India has officially entered a select group of countries – United States of America, Russia and China who possess anti-satellite missile technology. In a televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasized that India does not intend to commence an arms race in outer space. According the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the test sends out a strong message of credible deterrence and does not target any particular country.

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National People’s Party Communication Cell 

The National People’s Party (NPP) has launched its social media campaign to enlighten the electorates across  Northeast on its agenda with the theme — “One Voice, One Northeast”. The party has prioritised rural economy, education, youth and employment, promoting Northeast, education, environment and health as its key focus in their campaign - “Agenda for Northeast 2019”. 

The three point agenda of the campaign — (a) to commit to the cause of indigenous people, minorities and the marginalised; (b) to ensure that the indigenous people and the minorities assert their ‘political say’; (c) to push for a strong political voice from the region to safeguard the interest of the people of Northeast. 

On rural economy, the party envisage on the potential that lies in the rural areas of the Northeast and would push for a holistic development of the rural economy with particular focus on agriculture, horticulture and allied sector. “There is a need to strengthen rural infrastructure in social sector including health and education and the party would continue to focus on the core priority and would work to create an enabling atmosphere to promote education and health care facilities in the rural areas of the region,” the campaign states. 

On youth and employment, the party states that it would encourage investment in private sector in tourism, hospitality, agriculture and IT. It also says that the party will formulate an ambitious policy to empower youth with different business and livelihood opportunities linked to rich resources of the region. The priority of the party will be to engage educated youth and professionals to harness on the opportunities, which is ample in the region. “There is a need to push and leverage our youth with a positive mindset, so that they can look beyond government sector and engage in activities, which will make them employable as well as make them entrepreneurs by way of which they would create jobs for many others as well,” the campaign states. 

On promoting Northeast, the party says that North East India is a kaleidoscope of cultural and linguistic diversity. Each state of the region has its distinctive heritage and tradition. It is a melting pot of indigenous communities and their faith. NPP envisages to promote and safeguard the interest of the indigenous people. To curb the economic disparity in the region with synergistic focus on development. The region shares its proximity with South East Asia and NPP envisages to promote cultural, business and economic ties. 

On agriculture and logistics, the party would lay its importance and thrust on the indigenous agricultural practices, which are climate friendly and also replicate ideas and scientific interventions to boost agriculture. There is huge advancement in agriculture sector, however, a lot of intervention is required to link our producers and farmers of different agri-horti and allied sectors to the market.b In most North Eastern states, the agricultural produces are organic by nature and are sold in the nearest market directly from the farm. There is a need to create hope amongst our farmers, so that they are able to innovate their agriculture products and add value, which will result in better returns.  There is also a need to tag and brand our farm produces, which would create stories of our products regionally, nationally and globally. Our commitment is very clear that agriculture sector would be an important area to propel development and ensure economic stability and food security. The core area of intervention will be – (a) Agriculture and Environment; (b) Animal Husbandry and Fishery; (c) Food Technology and Balancing Agricultural outputs; and (d) Marketing linkage and Economic Stability.

On education, the party said in its campaign that quality of education has posed a major hurdle for development. For want of better education many communities, particularly the indigenous people are left behind. NPP embarks upon a responsibility to touch the lives of the indigenous people in particular and the minorities of the country. If a nation has to grow, the education sector needs to be strengthened. There are several initiatives and intervention to improve the education scenario of the country. However, most of these schemes have not percolate down to the vulnerable and marginalized section of the society. NPP has taken up education as a core priority to reach out to the unreached and ensure an equitable opportunity for educating the indigenous people along with other communities.   The party underlines the principle of ensuring holistic development of the society with emphasis on elementary, secondary to higher education vis-à-vis professional and vocational education system. Education is crucial for helping the indigenous people cope with national integration. Education will determine their prosperity, success and security in life.

On environment, the campaign says that climate change poses a real challenge to our society, our economy and our national security. We are committed to combat climate change, which affect our children, our future and us. We are committed to promote clean and sustainable energy and provide alternative livelihood opportunities to our people, particular those dependent on jhum and other forms of traditional agricultural practices, which poses threat to our ecosystem. Our endeavour will be to mitigate climate change and protect the rich natural resources, and ensure that the quality of our air, water, and land for current and future generations. From investing in clean energy to protecting our ecosystems, NPP as a party is working to address the biggest environmental challenges, paving the way to a sustainable India.

On healthcare, The prevailing scenario of healthcare facilities in India is a major challenge for the people, especially those living below the poverty line and the marginalized section. For want of medical attention many people in rural areas and unreached hilly region of our country die due to different life threatening diseases. We as party are very much concerned and aware of the issues that affects everyone. We believe that by putting our thrust on this very important subject, we will be able to address the concern of our people, particularly those who are not able to afford high cost of medical treatment.

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The Star Cement Limited which is operating from Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya is in the news, this time precisely for wrong reason. The company which is extracting 9 lakh tons of limestone annually is proposing to raise it to 25 lakh tons per year. For this purpose a public hearing was conducted by Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board and East Jaintia Hills Administrators in collaboration with Star Cement which was opposed by the Village, Headman and school children. Floating all the rules, the public hearing was held at campus of Star Cement at Lumshnong where it was difficult for the people to raise their concern about environmental degradation with such large scale extraction of limestone.

 

It may be noted that in Jaintia Hills, there are large number of caves which took thousands of years to form are already destroyed by various cement companies because of its location at the close proximity to caves in the region.

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Mystery has thrill. Mystery has attraction. And so is the case with Kalinjar Fort in Banda district of Uttar Pradesh. After a lot of hearsay from people of various walks of life, I along with my wife decided to visit this unique fort. ‘Unique’ because the fort has not only a thrilling battle history, but is related also with the mythological story of ‘Samudra manthan’ (churning of the sea) and drinking of poison, so produced due to ‘Samudra manthan’, by Shiva. This place was also one of the very important sacred places of worship and meditation by ‘Kaul- Kapalik’ sect of tantric rituals in medieval period of our history.

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