Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sikkim Chief Minister Chamling bows, finally

GANGTOK, October 19: Chief minister Mr Pawan Chamling has finally agreed to look into the grievances of the Lepchas agitating against proposed hydroelectric power projects at Dzongu in North Sikkim, a place considered sacred by the Lepchas.Following a meeting with the agitators yesterday Mr Chamling said: "No development will come at the cost of the culture, tradition and identity of the Lepchas. The state government has stopped work on all the five hydel power projects till the review committee appointed in the matter completes its report." Urging the Joint Action Committee, which is supporting the Lepchas' agitation, to view the issue rationally and suggest necessary steps to find reasonable solution Mr Chamling said: "Now the Affected Citizens of Teesta should participate in the review process so that the government can find an appropriate solution and can fulfill the wishes of the Lepchas without having to face legal and other complications." The Opposition is viewing Mr Chamling's "about turn" on the issue as a result of mounting political pressure.They are also inclined to view it as the chief minister's move to appease the Lepcha community before the forthcoming panchayat polls in the state. Various Lepcha associations including the Affected Citizens of Teesta, Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association, Rong Ong Prongzom, Darjeeling Lepcha Youth Wings, Concern Lepchas of Sikkim and various other associations are agitating against the power projects.According them, the Lepchas are primarily nature worshippers and so the mountains, lakes, rivers, hills, trees in Dzongu are sacred to the Lepcha community.