Sikkim is normally in the news because we win accolades for our Organic Mission and our cleanliness drive. Not today. There is tension in the border with China flexing its military and rhetoric muscle in the North and East. And then there is West Bengal to our South.
What is Sikkim staring at right now? Empty hotels. No takers for our taxis. Food running short in ration shops. Petrol scarcity scare. Thanks to the buffer stock at the Indian Oil Corporation Limited we are still managing with diesel and petrol and LPG cylinders. Thanks to money circulation there is cash in the ATMs. I am told it is also running out as cash vehicles are not being ‘allowed’ to come.
As recent as a couple of weeks back, a major seminar on Non-Communicable Diseases convened by the DG of Indian Council Medical Research, had to be cancelled due to the unrest.
Does the Centre know what’s going on? Sure, they do but they have yet to take a stand. I have written to Home Minister Rajnath Singh and personally briefed minsiter of state for home Kiren Rijiju and Darjeeling MP SS Ahluwalia about our concerns. Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling has apprised all the central leaders as well. Sikkim is part of the We are part of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) and we have informed its convener, the powerful Assamese leader Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Just a day before West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee left Darjeeling in June, Sikkim’s economy was buzzing away. Our hotel rooms were at full capacity; many tourists had to be accommodated in make-shift shelters. Locals had started complaining that taxis were in short supply. The state government was busy with regulating high prices being charged by service providers, like hotels etc. In short, we were dealing with the travails of a vibrant tourism-led economy.
Fast forward to today. After the shut down in the Gorkhaland hills, for well over 20 days, even RBI Gangtok is talking about possible shortage of cash. All hotel rooms are empty.
Yesterday in Namchi, an exasperated Chief Minister directly accused the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress of putting in place an unofficial embargo on all goods and other essential commodities from reaching Gangtok. He also spoke of the huge losses that Sikkim and the Sikkimese people have had to bear in the last three decades of the strife taking an ugly turn. He has pegged the figure at Rs. 60,000 Crores.
Why has Ms Banerjee done this? Just because we chose to write to the Union Home Minister supporting a just and reasonable settlement to the Gorkhaland issue? This has been festering for over three decades. Sikkim has been at the receiving end of the stick. We have said as much in our letters. We had written about this earlier as well and so our position is not a new one. This must be understood.
Sikkim is sandwiched between a tenuous border with Tibet (China) which has flared up on the one hand and the active non-cooperation of the West Bengal authorities on the other.
Talk to anyone and the opinion is clear: West Bengal is bullying a small Himalayan State. This kind of unofficial and administration-driven strong arm tactics is just not how this great country of ours is supposed to run. Many truckers have been turned away by plain clothed policemen in full view of uniformed personnel. These actions are being taken in Siliguri and along the highway. One of our Ministers has gone on record to say that we are being taken for granted by our neighbouring state.
We will knock at every door of the Union government and go to the Supreme Court to seek justice. In a 21st century India, which is looking for a place in the high table of the comity of nations, this kind of local bullying must not happen.
This is not the way a mature democracy works.
I am not preaching democracy to anyone but some things should be told as they are.