The year 2018 turned out to be awfully auspicious for the tiny state of Sikkim. From winning FAO’s Future Policy Gold Award to making it possible for an aircraft to land at Pakyong airport, has made every Sikkimese hoi-polloi proud.
Wedged between Bhutan and Nepal in the Eastern Himalayas, Sikkim added an important icon to the Buddhist travel circuit by unveiling the world’s tallest statue of Buddhist deity Chenrezig at Pelling.
The state which always produced finest footballers like Baichung Bhutia, Nirmal Chetri and Sanju Pradhan, also earned the distinction as a Ranji Trophy playing team. In the first ever Ranji Trophy bout, Sikkim defeated Manipur by an inning and 27 runs.
Winning the Future Policy Gold Award has definitely been Sikkim’s biggest achievement in 2018. The award acknowledged the state’s unique organic farming initiative in the global theatre. In fact, the FAO’s award is the recognition for the world’s best policies promoting agro-ecological approach.
The FAO award 2018 was selected from 51 entries from 25 countries. The other short listed contestants were Brazil’s National Policy for Agro-ecology and Organic Production, Organic Action Plan for Denmark, From Arms to Farms Programme in Philippines and Los Angeles’ Good Food Purchasing Policy.
The Future Policy Award was announced on October 12 during the World Food Week in a ceremony at the FAO headquarters in Rome. The Future Policy Award 2018 was co-organised by the FAO, the World Future Council and IFOAM Organics International, with the support of Green Cross International, DO-IT Dutch Organic International Trade and Sekem Group, Egypt.
It took almost 15 years for Sikkim to earn the global organic tag. Much ahead of other mainland states in India, Sikkim was the first state to officially announce adoption of Organic Farming in 2003. Sikkim produced about 80,000 metric tonne of various organic vegetables in 2016-17 after it became a fully organic state.
Chief Minister Pawan Chamling had decided to go organic to ensure long term sustenance of soil fertility, good health of people and protection of environment. In 2003, Sikkim stopped imports of chemical fertilizers. More than 24,000 farmers from 28 farmers’ organisations located 41 clusters produce different crops through organic method in Sikkim.
Two weeks before winning the Future Policy Gold Award, Sikkim had created another history – inaugurating the first airport of the state. Pakyong is a green-field airport, located 35 kms south of Gangtok. It is the 100th operational airport in India.
The airport was inaugurated by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 24, and the first commercial flight operations from the airport began on October 4 between Guwahati and Pakyong.
Now, Druk Air also plans to launch flights between Pakyong and Paro. Before inauguration of Pakyong, Sikkim was the only state in India with no functional airport. People had to travel by road to Bagdogra in North Bengal to board a flight.
On November 2, a 98-feet statue of Chenrezig, one of the three Buddhist deities, was unveiled at Pelling in West Sikkim. It is the tallest statue of Chenrezig in the world, and the total height from the base of the pedestal is 135feet. Sikkim already has statues of Lord Buddha, at Rabongla, and Guru Padmasambhava, at Namchi. Both places are in South Sikkim.
The Chenrezig Singkham Riwo Potala is spread over 8.5 acres, with the Chenrezig statue perched on a hillock at an altitude of 9,200 feet, about 1.5km from Pelling town. It took nine years to complete statue, and the cost of the project is about Rs 70 crore.
Sikkim again became the first state in India to have an advance warning system against landslides. The system has been conceptualised by the Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham and co-funded by the Ministry of Earth Sciences. The technology targets the Sikkim-Darjeeling belt, which is among the world’s most prominent landslide hotspots.
The system consists of over 200 sensors which can measure geophysical and hydrological parameters like rainfall, pore pressure and seismic activity. The system collects real-time, continuous data from the sensors performs basic analysis at the Field Management Center (FMC) in Sikkim and relays it to the Data Management Center (DMC) at the university centre in Kollam district in Kerala.
Despite a lot of challenges, Sikkim is the smartest state in the northeast, and has mastered the art of promoting itself in mainland and abroad. It was a master stroke when it appointed renowned music composer and Academy Award winner AR Rahman as the Brand Ambassador of Sikkim.
As the brand ambassador, Rahman will promote and highlight the state’s achievements globally. The musician was earlier made the Brand Ambassador of tourism and business at the onset of ‘The Red Panda Winter Carnival 2018’, which was aimed at increasing the flow of tourists.
The state also nominated Bollywood singer Mohit Chauhan as the Green Ambassador of Sikkim. The singer will be promoting Sikkim as a Green Destination on voluntary basis.
A melting pot of different cultures, Sikkim is also proud of its most beautiful people. Everyone in the state were thrilled when 14-year old Sikkim girl Drishya Chettri was crowned Miss Teen India Continent on November 15 at Mumbai. The 14-year-old will now represent India at an international beauty pageant in Thailand.
Though branded as politically lacklustre, the political theatre is likely to heat up during the run up to the elections as internationally acclaimed footballer has joined politics, and is set to put up a tough challenge against Pawan Chamling. The tiny Himalayan state is scheduled to go for election in April 2019.
Baichung floated his new political party, ‘Hamro Sikkim Party’ (HSP), and announced that it would be based on youth strength and aims to overthrow the country’s longest serving Chief Minister and the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF).
Whether Pawan Chamling continues in power, or Baichung Bhutia and Sikkim Krantikari Morcha succeed in ousting him is secondary for people of Sikkim. But, they want the campaign of development to continue.
Meanwhile, the tiny state has set its target to emerge as India’s first poverty-free state. Hope add another colourful feather on its hat in 2019.