Pawan Chamling: Man behind 'The Land of Flowers' for nearly 22 years

He was in the national capital recently to receive the 'Sustainable Development Leadership Award' by President Pranab Mukherjee in recognition of his leadership in making the northeastern state the first and only organic state in the country

Pawan Chamling: Man behind

Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling is a man of few words and would rather focus on actions. It is this factor that made him achieve his state the pride distinction of being designated as country's first organic state.

He was in the national capital recently to receive the 'Sustainable Development Leadership Award' by President Pranab Mukherjee in recognition of his leadership in making the northeastern state the first and only organic state in the country.

The award was presented to Chamling for his vision and leadership in environment and sustainable development leading to the establishment of Sikkim as the first organic state in the country. The award was conferred during 'World Sustainable Development Summit' organised by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi.

In an interview with Naradanews, he said his government was taking major steps to boost tourism. Sikkim will showcase iconic Mount Kanchenjunga and the Kanchenjunga National Park, which has recently been declared a World Heritage Site, to promote eco-tourism in the Himalayan State, he said.

"The state government has formulated plans in association with the Indian Mountaineering Federation to start tours in the periphery of India’s highest mountain peak -Mt Kanchenjunga, located about 28,000 feet above sea level," Chamling said and maintained that the state government will also start 15 days’ long trekking trails in the 1,784 km Kanchenjunga National Park (KNP).

In fact, Sikkim has become the most favoured destination among domestic and foreign tourists in the last five years in the entire North East region. It created a record when around 7.50 lakh domestic tourists visited the state whose entire population is only 6.5 lakh.

The Chief Minister said the state has set a target to attract 15 lakh tourist per annum by the end of 2020 and to double the revenues from tourism at the end of this period by strengthening the tourism infrastructure and other facilities of the state. "Around 60 per cent of the total population is directly or indirectly connected with the tourism industry in my state," Chamling said.

On the political plane, Chamling is candid and despite his party Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) being a constituent of the ruling NDA, says, in terms of central help towards smaller states, he has not found much change under the new Narendra Modi-led dispensation.

"Actually in the last 15-20 years, there has been no change," Chamling said adding the state is yet to get air link and railway link.

"Roads are our only lifeline but roads are not good. In 2009 Mamata Banerjee as Railway Minister laid a foundation stone for a rail link. We presumed that it was a big move. But nothing much has happened since. We are also waiting for air link and the proposed airport is still under construction," he said.

"Perhaps the fact that we are a small state is making things move at that pace," he said

Asked what he thought of New Delhi's bureaucracy, he said, "All are good, all Prime Ministers are good. I will say the present Prime Minister is better".

Chamling has been Chief Minister of Sikkim since December 12, 1994, and so far seen all regimes in Delhi under different Prime Ministers - starting from PV Narasimha Rao to the incumbent Narendra Modi.

Chamling's Sikkim Democratic Front is now supporting NDA government as it did the same with the erstwhile Manmohan Singh government. It also played a supportive role to the Vajpayee government and the United Front regime before that.

Chamling said 10 years back, he had submitted a request with the centre for "peace bonus" as Sikkim is a very peaceful state devoid of insurgency and unlike other northeastern states. "But nothing has happened on this front too," he said.

Sikkim, under the leadership of Chief Minister Chamling, has "built an impressive track record of achievements in areas of organic farming, environment conservation and sustainable development", the state government said in a statement here.

Around 75,000 hectares of land has been converted into certified organic farms over the years following the guidelines prescribed by the National Programme for Organic Production. The state is also popularly known as the Land of Flowers.
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