Nestled in the eastern Himalayas, Mount Kanchenjunga, Sikkim’s Guardian Deity has been overseeing the development of the state and ensuring people’s security from time immemorial. This peaceful prosperous Himalayan state, which is now lauded for its great strides in achieving economic and social advancements, was not always so. The Sikkim of today, the only reality that millennials have known, was not always this hopeful. Ever since the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) government, led by our Chief Minister, Shri Pawan Chamling, came to power in 1994, Sikkim has constantly been exposed to the winds of change. 12th December marks the completion of 24 years of SDF government and as we move into the 25th year of SDF governance,it is important to recount our history, to better understand our present.
Sikkim joined the Indian Union in 1975 becoming the 22nd state of India looking forward to walking the path towards transformation and development. However, twenty years after 1975 there were no signs of this happening. The basic human development indices showed no signs of improvement. Therefore, just when Sikkim was craving to taste development and true democracy transformation came in the form of Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) led by the visionary Shri Pawan Chamling.
Two decades ago, poverty was endemic in Sikkim, with 41.43 percent of people living below the poverty line (BPL) in 1993. In fact, it was the highest among all north-eastern states. Compare that number to the 8.19% BPL population in 2011-12, when Sikkim was among the five best performing states of the country.This was only due to the pro-poor vision of the SDF government, who right from the start initiated a series of poverty-reduction schemes and measures in the state. Sikkim is now on track to becoming India’s first poverty-free state by 2020.
In the 24 years of governance of Sikkim, the state has transformed into open-defecation free and the cleanest state, with a highly literate populace. Investments have been made by the Government in housing and other personal benefits to the people of Sikkim to boot up the people so that they can get going with their lives. Whether it is the pucca houses we talk of or the way the society can progress through the social engineering and investments in social causes. Sikkim became a fully organic state in 2016, spearheaded by the Organic Mission which was a State led entrepreneurial Mission. In October 2018, Sikkim was awarded the Future Policy Gold Award by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization for being the first fully organic state in the world.
To address the problem of growing unemployment in the state, the CM’s Self-employment Scheme was launched which has helped in generating employment in the state and empowering the youth to be their own bosses. Additional, Sikkim Industrial Development and Investment Corporation (SIDICO) has also been very important in as a State Level Financial Institution which is engaged in promotion, financing and development of industries in tiny, cottage and small sector in the state of Sikkim. SIDICO has been playing a lead role in providing credit to the potential entrepreneur. There has been rapid urbanization, proper road connectivity, poets and writers have been flourishing, youth are finding their feet in Sikkim and in other parts of India.
Today, in 2018, Sikkim has tasted true democracy. Today, we can proudly say that we are the 22nd state of India and we have the freedom to choose our Government which is democratically elected. And if we do not like them then we can discard them in the next election to the State Assembly. Likewise, we can retain any leader we have trust in and this is what has happened with Pawan Chamling who has won five successive terms from 1994 and is poised to fight the sixth one in 2019. He is not just the longest serving chief minister of India, but also someone who has led his party towards delivering economic, social and socio-economic justice, and hence an exemplary leader leading an exemplary party.
Yes, it is true that everything can be better, but everything could also have been worse. Us millennials are fortunate that we have only ever known the greener pastures that have come with developed Sikkim. We could have had a completely different trajectory in 1994, and perhaps the millennials of today would have been living in conditions akin to Sikkim in the early 1990s, as many of our peers in other states of India are in today. 24 years of continued peace, security and prosperity that the SDF government has brought can be easily taken for granted, but as we move into the 25th year we need to remind ourselves of our past, to better understand our present and to accurately gauge the vision of the future that we want.