2; SIKKIM NOW!

08 April, 2011
TENZIN C. TASHI ain has always cleansed. And hail has always pep pered. And yet, a largecross section of Sikkimese society braved the rain and the hailstorm on the 6th April evening of the world premiere of Satyajit Ray’s ‘Sikkim’. More than fog, Vajra Cinema was shrouded with a barely contained excitement that was as palpable as my own quickened breathing. A trio of kho-clad musicians playing traditional instrumental music on stage set the tempo for the evening. There were traditional choktses on stage for the principal dignitaries, and practically everyone was in khos in honour of the occasion. It was easy to believe, if only ephemerally, that we had been transported back to the Sikkim of yore that was shortly going to unveil itself under the maestro’s baton. After a brief and dignified function that incredibly included six addresses in about half an hour, the much-awaited moment arrived-the screening of ‘Sikkim’. There has been so much hype and hoopla over this film. People claim that ‘Sikkim’ was ‘banned’, that the Chogyal was shown in bad light, and of course, we had the court step in to stay the proposed screening at a film festival in Kolkata recently. Also, there has been a lot of build-up around this film as the last unseen work of that brooding genius, Satyajit Ray. Reams of newsprint and megawatts of verbal horsepower have been exhausted over what ‘Sikkim’ is and what it is not. If anyone expected fireworks, they were restricted to outside of this tiny gem of a film. The rolling of the simple title ‘Sikkim’ evoked a spontaneous roar from the lucky multitude in Vajra, there ‘By invitation only’ while others gate crashed, albeit electronically, by smsing and ‘facebooking’ those inside for real time updates. The movie, we must remember, was shot over 40 years ago when technology was not as evolved. Factor in on-location shooting problems in remote Sikkim. Another imperative, it not only remained hidden from the world all these many years, it also deteriorated and necessitated restoration. Most restoration work is about salvaging what one can, and trashing what cannot be salvaged. Yet, in spite of all these drawbacks, technical and otherwise, the film has managed to retain the most essential element- it is as relevant for today’s audience as the audience it was originally intended for. I would go so far as to

EXPRESSIONS

R

What Sikkim Was
jottings moved by Satyajit Ray’s “Sikkim”
say it has become even more relevant after all the water that has flown under Bayul Demajong’s bridge since the time it was commissioned and the time it was finally aired. Here, I must make a small aside to thank Ugyen Chopel and the Art and Culture Trust of Sikkim for making it possible for us to watch this historic film, Sumendu Roy and Tinnu Anand for taking the trouble of joining us in Sikkim and the Governor of Sikkim for making an impeccable Chief Guest- His Excellency arrived right on time and gave a crisp but apt address. The movie is a virtual walk through history, a visual re-introduction to our past. It is one thing to hear our gyenbos or elders reminisce about what Sikkim was, read about what it was like and quite another to see for ourselves what they were talking about. Add to that Ray’s cultured voice that made for a compelling narrative that augmented the visuals unspooling onscreen. The film opens with visuals of what we still have in Sikkim- waterfalls, rivers, mountains, tharchoks and people. There is no voiceover in the initial frames. Yet the caress of the camera, for all its abrupt movement, gives it an almost lyrical quality... one can hear the waterfall roar, the rivers gurgle, the mountains reverberate with the honour of being the abode of the gods and the tharchoks flutter. It helped that the hall was full of strangely mute people, just feeling, not talking, mobiles mercifully ignored. The colour of the film reflected Sikkim herself, it was not really black and white, not really sepia and not really colour as we have come to demand it... it is all of these, and none of it. Sikkim’s history has, to quote my father-inlaw, always been a victim of its geography. So while we ostensibly enjoy the fruits of democracy, which enshrines parity for one and all, we simultaneously clamour for old laws that recognise our unique history and jostle to be included as Sikkim Subjects of a king who is no longer there. ‘Sikkim’ captures the fundamental simplicity and relative innocence of the times, a simplicity that pervades every visual, be it the clothes the people wear, the hard manual labour they cheerfully undertake, the school kids skipping along merrily, the Pemayangtse monks leading prayers in Tsuklakhang, the Chogyal himself, the simple, wooden Gangtok bazaar, the Nepalese lady imperturbably puffing a beedi while hawking her wares in the bazaar. Life was probably hard, but there is a obtumes used during religious dances at Tsuklakhang. As the Shanag and Pangtoed warriors swirl in the courtyard of Tsuklakhang, the film captures the extraordinary detail and finesse of their resplendent costumes. Personally, the footage of the band marching up the Palace gates and the Chogyal walking up towards Tsuklakhang to take the salute from the Sikkim Guards forms the most compelling segment, as poignant as it is powerful. Probably ineffective, both in terms of numbers as well as the kilt-like uniform, the Sikkim Guards may have been largely ceremonial but they remain an undeniable part of the Sikkim saga as the king’s own men, answerable only to him. In another segment, villagers are depicted making offerings – jheshu - of the first bounty of their harvest to the late Chogyal in front of the Palace and prostrating the Buddhist way before him. The jheshu was offered to the gods in Tsuklakhang by the Chogyal on behalf of the people. If this is one of the ‘controversial’ portions, the adjective is misplaced. The Chogyal is the king who rules with righteousness; Chogyal Phuntsog Namgyal, the first Chogyal was anointed with two-fold powers- spiritual and temporal. The audience was transported back in time in the little under an hour running time of the film. In that brief interval, we literally re-lived the times with increasingly vicarious awe. All thought of the usual tea/ coffee, popcorn, chips etc were dispelled with as we soaked in what Sikkim was. There was an almost voyeuristic thrill in this flashback to the past. This is about as close to our past we will ever get. Today, the ladies are too busy haggling over escalating vegetable prices to smoke beedis, we wear branded clothes, tippers unload stones once passed on hand to hand, the historic Gangtok town is coming apart, wooden row by wooden

Departments Should Step Out of the Way
and allow rural folk to streamline their own development
It is rare for auditors from the CAG office to record praise for constituents of the State machinery, their job after all is to help streamline financial propriety and this they do by needling out examples of embezzlement and misappropriation. Yet, hidden in the data and figures of a Technical Inspection Report conducted by the office of the Accountant General of Sikkim, is strong praise for the LunchokKamarey Gram Panchayat of South Sikkim. In a section highlighting how gram panchayats in Sikkim have not levied taxes, rates and fees even though they are authorised to do so, the Auditors mention Lunchok-Kamarey GP which had levied such fees and taxes “and realised revenue meriting appreciation”. Interestingly, the failure of the remaining GPs was not due to their failing, but because the control mechanism for levy and its collection by the Panchayati Raj Institutions was not prescribed despite the accepted recommendation of the Second State Finance Commission. Also ignored was the commitment to transfer 1% of tax revenue to PRIs. The Audit also discovered that release of funds by various departments to the panchayats was “not based on sound rationale” but as per their own discretion. Given this whimsical release of funds, it only follows that planning by the panchayats is crippled with ad-hocism. The draft development plans for the districts are also handicapped by preponderance of bureaucratic presence and hence lacks the priority commitment it requires. The Audit also highlights gram panchayats were slack in preparing budget estimates and he District Planning Officers accommodating in that they did not insist for one, perhaps in acceptance that projecting budget estimates in the absence of clear indications of available funds is impossible. The governmental support required to keep MGNREGA works on track and adequately monitored have been slow as was the deputation of expert support for the PRIs. When it comes to MGNREGA works, between 2006-09, 75,000 households received employment on execution of 1,869 works involving funds to the tune of Rs. 56.23 crore. Despite the scale of funds involved, the number of households touched and sheer ambition of the scheme, the concerned officials did not even meet conditions included in the operational guidelines to inspect works in progress. It only follows then that some of the works were mismanaged and funds wasted. What is significant in the matter is that despite slack support from government departments, panchayats in Sikkim have performed exceptionally well. They regularly win accolades at the national level and figure prominently in award ceremonies for panchayati raj institutions. Their successes become even more significance in the light of general departmental lethargy towards grassroots rural development. Recently, the Ministry of Rural Development, impressed by the State’s success in implementing MGNREGA, has lavished a 33% hike in the outlay for this sector. As per the Rural Management & Development Department, individual GPUs stand to receive an average of Rs. 70 lakh exclusively for MGNREGA works. That is huge. One hopes that the entire fund is secured for Sikkim’s villages and job-card holders, something which is possible only if the schemes are flawlessly executed since the allocation is to be released in instalments based on performance. The Technical Inspection Report of the AG illustrates that what is holding back panchayati raj institutions from delivering on the potential of the Acts and empowerment devolved to them, is not their own failings or limitations, but the resistance/ disinterest of the departments to extend them the support system require to plan and deliver more effectively. The policy commitment to do so has been clearly communicated, what should be ensured now is that the departments and its officers respect the policy commitments and learn to share and assist. The Department head-office driven model of development planning stands exposed as being too short-sighted, and village-level planning for rural development offers itself as the obvious alternative. It needs to be reinforced and streamlined.

vious dignity in the way people carried themselves. There are so many little vignettes that pepper the film and make for light interludes. The camera pans in on scenes that evoked spontaneous laughter from the audience- a young boy pulling two recalcitrant goats that are about as big as him, if not bigger; two ladies fighting conflicting emotions of politeness and bashfulness as the lens trains on them; a chubby child caught happily gorging; a gauche youth gawking as a glib-tongued orator holds sway in town; a row of smiling children and suddenly, a petulant child in focus... that is where the real magic of ‘Sikkim’ lies, in its ability to capture the quintessence of Sikkim in an uncontrived way. The film succeeds largely because it does not try too hard. Also on record is the hard work put in by Maharani Kunzang Dechhen, the Gyalyum of Sikkim, in creating the chamgoe or cos-

row, school children do not scamper anymore, grimly escorted as they are by over-ambitious parents straight from school to tuition. We are sadly not only losing our simplicity as a people, we are actually losing that human connect so visible in the film. ‘Sikkim’ also revealed the real intermingling of the many cultures that weave the tapestry called Sikkim. Nowhere in the film do we feel, this is a Rong, this is a Lhopo, this is a Tsong, this is a Nepalese... everybody is Sikkimese. There are no intergroups, no intra-groups... there is only our Sikkim. When ‘The End’ rolled, the general consensus was that it was a sweet, simple movie, utterly non-controversial. It probably did not live up to the hype but to be fair, it probably transcended it. Reactions outside the hall where we waited for our vehicles to arrive in the downpour were mixed. While the old-timers greeted each other with great alacrity and were generally nostalgic, some of the younger people were saying that the movie was different; it had such fleeting footage of the royal family. But that is again people’s own assumptions at play. The film is about Sikkim, not the royal family. Were it to focus on the royal family alone, it would be called ‘The Namgyal Dynasty’, not ‘Sikkim’. Most importantly, it is a still-surviving graphic archive of what Sikkim was. I think that is what we should all celebrate, that it was made, that it survived, that it saw the light of day. “I was very moved to see my beloved father, the Chogyal, once again,” shared Princess Hope Leezumla, “I am so grateful to the Art and Culture Trust for having been given an opportunity to glimpse back to ‘the old days’ with the premiere of Sikkim. I am so honoured we, as a family, were able to contribute so much to our homeland and look forward to Sikkim’s bright future. Both the movie and the land.” In the front row of the box was an earnest 20-something young man. At the end of the film, he was glad to have seen a moving image of his grandfather, in more ways than one. Tenzing Abrahams, the US-based son of Princess Yangchen, had just had a vivid connect with the Sikkimese part of his ancestry. Rain has always cleansed. And sometimes, it sanitises. Hopefully, ‘Sikkim’ has sanitised several misconceptions especially amongst the youth of today about what Sikkim was.

Slack in planning, eager to compromise, disinterested about final delivery
Contd from pg1 vious pilferage. The Roads & Bridges Department has dipped into NEC funding to commission bridges which remain works in progress three years past their scheduled completion and has even planted on in North Sikkim at a place with no road connectivity [detailed in a previous edition]. If the residents of Kaluk and Rinchenpong are still left to their own devices to source water, they can blame the Water Security and Public Health Engineering Department for having wasted Rs. 3.71 crore received from the NEC for “Augmentation of KalukRinchenpong Water Supply Scheme”. The project was designed to serve the projected population of the area for 25 years. Water was to be sourced from Hee Khola 17 kms away. The project included a filteration component as well, but when completed in June 2007, it could supply only untreated raw water, that too only for a few weeks. The

supply lines were damaged and the villages treated the most expensive water supply which ran only for a few weeks after have consumed Rs. 3.71 crore. As mentioned earlier, the Audit performance review is of the DPERNECAD although the cases cited are of individual departments. What the CAG Report discovered is that the DPERNECAD, despite being the nodal department through which projects are forwarded for approval by NEC, it is kept in the dark about release of funds by NEC through the Finance Department to the implementing departments. It only follows then that it cannot undertake effective monitoring. It has also shied away from field inspections on the excuse of shortage of staff and has never bothered to carry out an impact study about the status of implementation. The Audit has recommended that the DPERNECAD now insist on survey and investigation while scrutinising proposals and actively involve itself in the planning of schemes instead of remaining merely the transmitting agency.

www.indiaagainstcorruption.org he Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen’s Ombudsman Bill) is a draft anti-corruption bill drawn up by prominent civil society activists seeking the appointment of a Jan Lokpal, an independent body that would investigate corruption cases, complete the investigation within a year and envisages trial in the case getting over in the next one year. Drafted by Justice Santosh Hegde, Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal, the draft Bill envisages a system where a corrupt person found guilty would go to jail within two years of the complaint being made and his ill-gotten wealth being confiscated. It also seeks power to the Jan Lokpal to prosecute politicians and bureaucrats without govt permission. Retired IPS officer Kiran Bedi and other known people like Swami Agnivesh, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Anna Hazare and Mallika Sarabhai are also part of the movement, called India Against Corruption. Its website describes the movement as “an expression of collective anger of people of India against corruption. We have all come together to force/request/persuade/pressurize the Government to enact the Jan Lokpal Bill. We feel that if this Bill were enacted it would create an effective deterrence against corruption.” Anna Hazare, anti-corruption crusader, began a fast-unto-death today, demanding that this bill,

What is the Jan Lokpal Bill, Why it is Important and North grows desperate as monsoons approach and road conditions How it is Better than Union Govt’s Lokpal Bill... refuse to improve T
drafted by the civil society, be adopted. The website of the India Against Corruption movement calls the Lokpal Bill of the government an “eyewash” and has on it a critique of that government Bill. It also lists the difference between the Bills drafted by the government and civil society. A look at the salient features of Jan Lokpal Bill: 1. An institution called Lokpal at the centre and Lokayukta in each state will be set up 2. Like Supreme Court and Election Commission, they will be completely independent of the governments. No minister or bureaucrat will be able to influence their investigations. 3. Cases against corrupt people will not linger on for years anymore: Investigations in any case will have to be completed in one year. Trial should be completed in next one year so that the corrupt politician, officer or judge is sent to jail within two years. 4. The loss that a corrupt person caused to the government will be recovered at the time of conviction. 5. How will it help a common citizen: If any work of any citizen is not done in prescribed time in any government office, Lokpal will impose financial penalty on guilty officers, which will be given as compensation to the complainant. 6. So, you could approach Lokpal if your ration card or passport or voter card is not being made or if police is not registering your case or any other work is not being done in prescribed time. Lokpal will have to get it done in a month’s time. You could also report any case of corruption to Lokpal like ration being siphoned off, poor quality roads been constructed or panchayat funds being siphoned off. Lokpal will have to complete its investigations in a year, trial will be over in next one year and the guilty will go to jail within two years. 7. But won’t the government appoint corrupt and weak people as Lokpal members? That won’t be possible because its members will be selected by judges, citizens and constitutional authorities and not by politicians, through a completely transparent and participatory process. 8. What if some officer in Lokpal becomes corrupt? The entire functioning of Lokpal/ Lokayukta will be completely transparent. Any complaint against any officer of Lokpal shall be investigated and the officer dismissed within two months. 9. What will happen to existing anti-corruption agencies? CVC, departmental vigilance and anticorruption branch of CBI will be merged into Lokpal. Lokpal will have complete powers and machinery to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician. 10. It will be the duty of the Lokpal to provide protection to those who are being victimized for raising their voice against corruption. Contd from pg1 panchayat of Tibuk Lower Mangshila informed that the people of Lower Mangshilla are being inconvenienced extensively, because the lighter vehicles headed for Mangan no longer come through their area [since they are travelling via Dzongu]. Similarly, the GangtokMangan highway is also in poor condition at several places. In fact, the issue was also highlighted by the Kabi-Lungstok MLA, PHE Minister TT Bhutia with Judge SP Wangdi of the Sikkim High Court when the later

was in Kabi recently for a Legal Awareness programme. Driven to desperation, the Minister had appealed to Justice Wangdi to look into the connectivity woes of the people of the area. The people of Dikchu further highlight that the BRO had assured improvement of the road condition during the visit of DC East to Jang village last year. The black topping works which followed covered only 2 kms when BRO had in fact committed to complete the black topping from Dikchu to Thingchim Zero before the year 2010 ended.

NOTICE
This is to inform all associations, organizations and groups issuing Press releases for publication as news in Sikkim NOW! that such communication should include contact details (phone numbers) of the issuing authority/ official. This, particularly in the case of press releases issued over email. Press releases delivered without accompanying contact details will henceforth not be entertained.
Editor, Sikkim NOW!

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful