Monday, June 18, 2007

Sikkim fears loss of identity

Gangtok, June 17: The Sikkimese people are losing their identity to the onslaught of unplanned development projects in the state, says Congress leader Tseten Lepcha.
“The indigenous Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepalese feel strangers in their own land,” Lepcha said at a meeting on the Look East Policy in Shillong yesterday. “Their land is being forcibly taken away by the Sikkim government for private companies using the most draconian laws where even the right to appeal or file objection to the acquisition has been done away with,” he added, referring to various hydro-electric projects coming up in the state.
Even the protected region of Dzongu has not been spared, said the Congress leader, who is the chief coordinator of the Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT), an umbrella organisation of residents of North Sikkim opposed to the hydel power projects coming up in the district.
Lepcha also spoke about how Border Roads Organisation and the armed forces had allegedly taken over most of the cultivable land and were bringing in labourers from outside Sikkim, threatening the Sikkimese people’s habitat and way of life.
External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee was the chief guest at the meet. Lepcha urged his department to ensure that trade through Nathu-la became profitable rather than remain just a symbolic gesture.