New Delhi, August 17: As Sikkim joined the rest of the nation today to celebrate India’s 77th Independence Day with much grandeur across the State, Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang, during his speech at the State-level celebration held here at Paljor Stadium, announced the establishment of a wellness park here at the Old STNM Hospital premises in Gangtok.

The Chief Minister said, “The lack of recreational space is heavily felt in Gangtok. Hence, the Old STNM Hospital complex will be transformed into a wellness park and recreational spot, especially for the elderly. The park will offer yoga facilities, treatment options and provide a space for the elderly to spend their leisure time.”

The Chief Minister also announced a new initiative to present the ‘Shravan Kumar’ award to sons and daughters who demonstrate exemplary care for their parents and selflessly serve them.

“In this modern age, parents are sometimes compelled to reside in elder care facilities by their children, however, this concept is not within our cultural norms. Therefore, to preserve our traditional values we are introducing the Shravan Kumar Purashkar to be presented annually on Independence Day”, said the Chief Minister.

The Chief Minister further declared a significant policy change by introducing a sabbatical leave period of three years for regular and temporary government employees. Under this policy, an employee may apply to take sabbatical leave for a period of three years at 50% pay.

“I am pleased to announce a significant step forward in our commitment to the well-being of our employees. Recognizing the importance of work-life balance and personal growth, we are introducing a sabbatical leave of 3 years for all government employees. This initiative aims to provide our dedicated workforce with the opportunity to pursue further education, skill development, or personal endeavours, ultimately enhancing their overall quality of life,” the Chief Minister said.

Extending his greetings to the people of Sikkim and the nation on the occasion of the 77th Independence Day, the Chief Minister took a moment to reflect upon the invaluable contributions of the freedom fighters who dedicated their lives to securing India’s independence from colonial rule.

He paid homage to their legacy and reinforced the idea that the path to a brighter future is paved with the lessons of the past and the collective efforts of the present.

Providing an overview of his government’s accomplishments over the past four and a half years, the Chief Minister shared that Sikkim has made remarkable strides in various sectors, be it education, healthcare, infrastructure, or agriculture.

“Our commitment to the welfare of our citizens remains steadfast. We will continue to focus on initiatives that promote sustainable growth, provide quality education, and ensure accessible healthcare for all,” said the Chief Minister.

Reflecting on Sikkim’s response during the days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chief Minister said that the State demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of the pandemic with unwavering determination. He praised and extended gratitude for the collective efforts of the people, the government, and various stakeholders in confronting the challenges brought forth by the global health crisis.

“From early lockdowns and stringent health protocols to ramping up healthcare infrastructure and facilitating vaccination drives, our government embarked upon a coordinated and resolute approach,” said the Chief Minister, while highlighting how the State government prioritised providing support to those in need, distributing essential supplies, offering financial assistance, and ensuring that healthcare services remained accessible to all, even in the face of unprecedented challenges.

He stated that the State government has been consistently upgrading and expanding the public healthcare infrastructure across the State. With the upcoming establishment of the Mangan District Hospital by November 2023 and the state-of-the art district hospitals, equipped with modern facilities, in Namchi and Singtam, besides a 100-bedded hospital in Soreng, under progress, the State government has swiftly implemented strategic measures to ensure the safety and well-being of its citizens, he added.

Furthermore, the State government also launched the Mobile Village Clinic programme and officially began its operations on October 10, 2022 with the primary objective of providing quality healthcare services directly to the doorsteps of remote communities. Currently active in eight different locations, the clinics have conducted 1,305 camps, serving a total of 40,451 patients and conducting 15,863 medical tests since its inception.

Despite the economic setbacks caused by the pandemic, the Chief Minister highlighted that the State had managed to achieve a remarkable revenue enhancement in recent years, which is a testament to the resilience of Sikkim’s strong economic performance and the visionary approach and diverse range of steps taken by his administration to boost revenue generation.

The total revenue collection for the fiscal year 2022-23 has shown a remarkable growth of 67.40%. In FY 2019-20, the total revenue collected was Rs. 4,841 crore, while in the financial year 2022-23, it increased significantly to Rs. 8,104 crore, he added.

The Chief Minister informed that the State’s per capita income has also witnessed a notable growth of 32.22% during the period from 2019-20 to 2022-23. It has surged to Rs. 6,23,268 crore in the financial year 2022-23, thus reflecting a positive trend in the economic well-being of the people of Sikkim.

He further added that in recent years, Sikkim’s GSDP has exhibited a positive trend with a remarkable growth of 28.56% during the fiscal year 2022-23 in comparison to the fiscal year 2019-20.

“The State’s GSDP has surged to Rs. 40,420 crore in the FY 2022-23. This substantial growth can be attributed to a combination of factors, including government policies, investments, industrial activities, and contributions from sectors such as agriculture, tourism, services, and manufacturing,” the Chief Minister said.

He also mentioned that the first India Multidimensional Poverty Index Report published by NITI Aayog declared that Sikkim with 3.82% has the third lowest percentage of the population who are multidimensionally poor in India.

The Chief Minister reiterated the sincere efforts of the State government to transform Sikkim into an education hub in the coming years. To achieve this goal, world-class educational institutes like Netaji Subash Chandra Bose University of

Excellence, Khanchendzonga State University, Medhavi Skills University and

Sikkim Alpine University among others are being set up in the State.

In a bid to enrich the educational journey of students attending government schools, the Chief Minister shared that the State government has undertaken comprehensive measures to improve the overall learning environment and educational outcomes. A total of 36,374 units of 32″ Smart TVs were distributed to students from classes 8 and above, enabling them to access educational content more effectively, he stated.

The Chief Minister also spoke about the Sikkim Adhoc Teachers Regularisation Policy, 2021 under which services of 897 probationary teachers have been regularised. He added that more than 2700 probationary teachers have been recruited under this policy this year. He also touched upon the three-year policy of the State government to regularise adhoc teachers appointed under the land donor scheme.

In an effort to foster and promote research conducted in local languages, scholars pursuing Ph.D in local languages are awarded financial grant under the APATAN scheme. For the F.Y 2022-23, a total amount of Rs. 3.3 lakhs have been sanctioned to eight applicants, the Chief Minister added.

He also touched upon the State government’s efforts to enhance students’ understanding of various subjects and broaden their perspectives by launching College Exposure Trips for college students selected on a merit basis.

The Chief Minister highlighted several flagship programmes of the State government like the Sikkim Aama Sashaktikaran Yojana, Vatsalya Scheme, Bahini Scheme, SGAY, Mega Homestay Project, Sikkim Garib Aawas Yojana (SGAY), Sikkim Urban Garib Aawas Yojana, etc., that have been undertaken to drive progress and uplift the lives of its citizens while addressing key developmental challenges and improving various sectors within the State.

He provided full assurance that the concerns surrounding LT seat reservation in Sikkim Legislative Assembly, ST status for 12 left-out communities, and bringing the 17th Karmapa Ugyen Trinley Dorje to Sikkim would be effectively addressed. He further mentioned that the State government is actively advocating with the Central government to include the Lepcha, Bhutia and Limboo languages in the eighth schedule of the Constitution.

The Chief Minister stated that the State government is committed to safeguarding employees covered under the “One Family , One Job” scheme, and further mentioned that their regularisation will be undertaken prior to the upcoming elections.

He further mentioned that the State government has already constituted a committee headed by Padma Shri Sanu Lama for restoring the original names of various places of Sikkim. This initiative holds deep cultural and historical significance, honouring our heritage and traditions, he added.

The Chief Minister, in his concluding remarks, appealed to vote for three sons of Sikkim who have reached the finals of renowned dance and singing reality shows in Kathmandu, Nepal. They are Mero Dance Universe, Nepal finalist, Shri Mingma D. Lepcha, and Mero Voice Universe, Nepal finalists, Shri Sishir Thatal and Shri Preetam Rai.

Earlier, the 77th Independence Day celebration commenced with the unfurling of the national flag by Chief Minister Shri Prem Singh Tamang.

The Chief Minister, after receiving the national salute, reviewed the Independence Day parade, comprising of contingents from ITBP, SSB, Bihar Special Armed Police, SAP, 2nd IRBn, 3rd IRBn, Sikkim Police (Male Platoon), Sikkim Police (Female Platoon), Home Guards & Civil Defence, NCC, TNSSS, Enchey SSS, PNGSSS, Tadong SSS, West Point SSS, Modern SSS, Deorali Girls’ SSS, Sikkim Police Pipe Band and Sikkim Police Brass Band. The parade was led by Parade Commander, Smt. Tshering Yangzom Bhutia (Additional Superintendent of Police, Home Guards & Civil Defence) with Police Inspector Shri Narayan Kumar Rai as the Parade 2 IC.

It may be mentioned here, Woman Naik Sangita Gurung, who led the Sikkim Police Pipe Band in the Independence Day parade today, broke new grounds in the history of Sikkim by becoming the first woman band master and setting a precedent for gender diversity in this field.

The Sikkim Police (Female) Platoon took the ‘All Round Best Platoon Award’ for their exceptional performance demonstrated during the Independence Day parade while PNGSSS bagged the Best School Contingent Award. Guest platoon, Bihar Special Armed Police, was also felicitated for their dedicated participation in the State-level Independence Day celebration.

On the occasion of Independence Day 2023, a significant announcement was made, marking a moment of pride for the State. Shri Avichal, Additional Director General of Police, Armed Police & Training, Sikkim has been conferred with the prestigious President’s Police Medal (PPM) for Distinguished Service, 2023 and Shri Sonam Gyatso Bhutia, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Reserved Lines, Sikkim Police with the Police Medal for Meritorious Service, 2023, as declared by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.

The Union Home Minister’s Medal for Excellence in Investigation for the year 2023 has been conferred to Shri Sher Bahadur Manager, Police Inspector, Singtam Police Station.

Additionally, the Fire Service Medal for Meritorious Service this year has been awarded to Shri Raj Kumar Pradhan, Assistant Sub Fire Officer, Namchi Fire and Emergency Service and the Home Guards and Civil Defence Medal for Meritorious Service to Shri Buddha Kumar Gurung, Assistant Sub Inspector (HG), Home Guard and Civil Defence, Gangtok.

This special announcement was followed by the presentation of various awards and honours that commenced with the pinning up of the Police Medals for Meritorious Service to six Sikkim Police and Fire personnel, received from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India in 2021 and 2022.

Thereafter, 14 employees of the state Government were conferred with the Sikkim State Meritorious Service Award in recognition of their dedicated services to the State in their respective fields. The Commercial Tax Division, Government of Sikkim was also honoured with the State Commendation Award for its exemplary performance.

On the occasion, cash incentives were distributed to the recipients of Gallantry Awards and the family members of Battle Causality.

On the occasion, students who have secured top positions in the State in Class X & XII CBSE Board Examinations 2022-2023 were presented with the State Meritorious Award.

This was followed by the presentation of the Nar Bahadur Bhandari Fellowship Awards of Rs. 50 lakh each to Shri Vedanth Sharma (M.Sc. in Aeronautics and Astronautics, Stanford University, United States), Shri Yash Raj Rai (M.Sc. in Financial Technology, Imperial College, London) and Ms. Kursongkit Lepcha (M.Phil in Education, Cambridge University, United Kingdom).

Subsequently, the State Sports Award 2023 (Gold) for Outstanding Sportsperson was presented to two sportspersons from the field of athletics and football.

In recognition of his journalistic endeavours and unwavering dedication, senior journalist Anand Oberoi was conferred with the 1st Teesta Rangeet Aviral Kalam Purashkar on the occasion of the 77th Independence Day celebration.

The programme also featured the launch of Sikkim Supreme’s new Millet Drink to commemorate the International year of Millet.

Taking the programme forward, a band display was presented by Bihar Band Armed Police. This was followed by a heart warming performance by Special School for Speech & Hearing Impaired, Sichey.

It was then followed by pipe band displays that were presented by Modern Senior Secondary School and Tashi Namgyal Academy.

For the first time in Sikkim, a Khukuri Dance was performed by Ex Servicemen with great enthusiasm. The programme continued with a Brass Band Display by West Point Senior Secondary School, Gangtok.

The event also featured a Short Skit presented by ‘Sikkim Ensemble Theatre’ on Drug Abuse Awareness and performances by a Cultural Troupe from Uttar Pradesh and the Culture Department, Government of Sikkim.

The main highlight of the programme was the demonstration of the SSB Dog show being presented for the first time in the State.

The dog show, a tribute to the dedication and training put in by the army personnel, was a unique spectacle that highlighted the talents of both the dogs and their handlers. The event marked a fresh perspective on the capabilities of these specially trained animals. The dog breeds featured German Shepherds, Labradors, and Belgian Shepherds.

The event emphasised the vital role that military canines play in various tasks, including obedience show, tracking of criminals, agility performances and detection of explosives.

The dog show underlined the valuable contributions of these four-legged soldiers in enhancing the capabilities of our armed forces.

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