Gangtok, Feb 23 (IANS) Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan K. Chamling said Saturday the state has changed the conventional perception about a strategic border state with nearly 19 years of peaceful progress and by not entering into any conflict with its three key neighbours - China, Bhutan and Nepal.
'The general idea has always been that how can a border state be peaceful, development oriented and progressive? People think that border states are traditionally troubled. But this is an example of a peaceful border state,' Chamling told the media in the picturesque capital of the Himalayan state late Saturday evening.
Addressing reporters from across the country at his residence to mark the opening of the International Flower Show 2013, Chamling said he 'attributed the peaceful border to good governance, positive mindset of the people of the state, good connectivity, infrastructure and a general sense of happiness that the government was delivering'.
The chief minister said he wanted a full-fledged trade route on the border so that sharing nations could benefit. 'It would also increase competition between local producers and traders. We must have competition. We cannot afford to remain defensive. We have to fight it out,' Chamling said.
Refuting allegations by a few quarters that cheap goods from China were coming to India though the northeastern states including Sikkim, the chief minister said: 'We feel that India is becoming dumping ground for China But the goods are coming from other routes as well not through Sikkim. Even America couldn't stop it. All the mementos sold at Times Square are made in China.'
Chamling who took over as the chief minister of the state Dec 12, 1995 is laying the Sikkim Democratic Front's groundwork for elections in 2014. 'I am confident of winning - in fact, more confident than before. I have virtually stopped being a politician. I am working on development all the time,' he said.
Environment, eco-friendly capacity building, education, rural-urban balance in development and tourism top his list of priorities, the chief minister said.
'I had made a rural development policy with a budget allocation of 70 percent when I took over as the chief minister. It is still on. As a result, development has been both rural centric and urban centric. I want Sikkim to become a eco-city state where every village must have a road. Sikkim is the first state that is fully sanitation covered (Nirmal) and has been first to implement social safety measures which provides five
percent reservation for the migrant business community in institutions of higher study,' Chamling said.
'By 2015, Sikkim will become a fully organic state. Even our flowers are grown in a natural environment. Our state does not have industrial potential. We have to use our natural resources to progress,' Chamling said, explaining the need for '18 hydro-power projects for which MoUs have been signed'.
'Work on 50 percent of the power projects have begun,' he said.
However, the state is still coping to rebuild infrastructure destroyed by the devastating 2011 earthquake, Chamling regretted.
He said 'of the Rs 1,200 crore promised by the centre, the state has received only Rs 400 crore. I want to teach children earthquake disaster management so that they are prepared. Sikkim is located in a seismic zone. It can be struck by an earthquake any time,' he said.