Gangtok Schools reopens Today after Earthquake and Puja Holidays
Gangtok, Oct. 10: Parts of North Sikkim still continue to be inaccessible though the administration and schools, crippled since the September 18 earthquake, are expected to function normally from tomorrow. Temporary arrangements have been made so that 779 government schools with their 1.18 lakh students can start functioning. “Classes will start from tomorrow. Whatever temporary arrangements were to be done, has been done,” said HRD secretary C.S. Rao over the phone from Ravangla in South Sikkim. Construction of temporary structures on campuses, hiring buildings near schools for classes and introducing shifts in schools with low enrolments are some of the options that have been worked out. Sikkim government spokesperson K.S. Topgay said aerial sorties to evacuate people stranded in North Sikkim and air-dropping of relief continued during the Puja break by the army choppers and the civilian Pawan Hans helicopters. Chungthang, Lachen and Lachung still remain cut off from Mangan because of landslides along the North Sikkim highway. Mangan is the administrative headquarters of the North district, 30km from Chungthang. Apart from multiple landslides, a 400 metre stretch of the highway had been washed away between Toong and Theeng near Chungthang. “We have managed to cut inside the rocky hillside to create a new road up to 350 metres. Now only 50 metres is left to be created,” said AK Das, the joint director of the Border Roads Organisation’s Project Swastik. “The spot is on a steep incline. Even the rock of the hillside is hard to break,” said Das. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who visited Sikkim on September 29 had directed the BRO to restore the North Sikkim highway to Chungthang by October 15. The highway is important as it is the sole link to the army and ITBP bases on the China border. “All our resources and manpower have been concentrated at this point and the BRO is committed to open the road as soon as possible,” said Das. Nearly Rs 16,000 crore has been released by the state government as ex-gratia for the 21,659 pucca and kutcha houses damaged in East Sikkim. This amount is in addition to the Rs 1.2 crore distributed earlier. The ex-gratia ranges from Rs 3,000 to Rs 50,000, depending on the intensity of the damage and the type of house. “We appeal to those, whose damaged houses have not be been recorded so far, to come to us by October 15. Our officials will survey these houses and we will release ex-gratia for the genuine claims. We don't want to leave out any genuine cases,” said district collector D. Anandan. Around 100 claims from owners of damaged houses were received at the district control room during the Puja break. The claims should be reported to the administrative centre in Sichey, Gangtok, where the district authorities will resume work from tomorrow. Anandan has been camping at the district control room at MG Marg since the earthquake. “We will be shifting to the district administrative centre from Monday and resume our normal functions along with relief work related with the earthquake,” said the district collector. According to officials of North Sikkim, 3,361 houses have suffered major and minor damage in the Mangan subdivision including Dzongu. Assessment of the damage is in progress at Lachung, Lachen and Chungthang.