GANGTOK, Sept 24 - A team of the 15th Finance Commission headed by its Chairman NK Singh, other members and senior officials, today met Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang here. Tamang’s Cabinet colleagues and senior State Government officials were also present during the meeting.
The Commission observed that the Himalayan State has good potential in tourism, organic farming and horticulture. It may establish more cold storages and value chains, and develop food processing industries.
As Sikkim also has good potential in the hydropower sector, the State should speed up execution of ongoing hydel projects to earn more revenue.
The Commission was informed that there are 15 PSUs in the State, out of which seven are non-functional. Also, Sikkim is fully mountainous and hence, its structure is extremely fragile. It also lies in the seismic zone IV and is susceptible to earthquakes, flash floods and landslides during the monsoon season. Climate change poses a risk due to presence of glacial lakes in the Sikkim Himalayas. Sikkim also has to bear high costs in infrastructure building and maintenance, and has a limited working season due to heavy rainfall.
The State also faces difficulties in service delivery to a dispersed population living in hilly areas due to the low density of population.
The State Government has asked for separate grants for disaster management. Further, it has also called for a ‘peace bonus’ and a “value of the amount of carbon sequestered by Sikkim’s forests”. The State has also placed a demand for big projects to create capital assets, besides a State-specific grant of Rs 26,483 crore to bridge the resource gap. In all, the State Government has made a demand of Rs 71623.97 crore to the 15th Finance Commission.
The meeting also discussed in detail all State-specific queries raised by the Commission Chairman and its members. The State was assured that all issues would receive due attention of the Commission.
On the first day of its visit, the Commission also had a detailed meeting with representatives of all political parties in the State including the BJP, Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee, Sikkim Democratic Front and Sikkim Krantikari Morcha. All issues raised by the parties were noted down by the Commission for consideration at the time of framing recommendations.