8000 Crore Dreams and the Sikkimese People

Deepak Tiwari is a former Assistant General Manager at Sikkim State Cooperative Bank Ltd, and an alumnus of Tashi Namgyal Senior Secondary School. This piece first appeared as a Facebook post, and it makes a very interesting point or two. We believe it deserves wider attention.

Mr Piyush Goyal, the sharp union minister, during his visit to Sikkim recently set a target of 8000 crores worth of organic produce by Sikkim by 2030, that is seven years from now.

He did not just come up with a random number, he is intelligent. A qualified chartered accountant with deep exposure in areas of commerce and finance. He derived this 8000 crore as a decent export volume target considering the States ‘organic hulla’ (noise), demand of such produce worldwide and other factors, including Govt of India support available to the states. He also assumed good governance at the State level.

Now, where does the current export volume stand? I would say at about Rs. 8 Crores, which means that our exports have to multiply a thousand times in a span of 7 short years. Doable? That’s unrealistic.

It is unrealistic not because Goyal ji came up with a random number. It is unrealistic because our system of governance over the years has turned the Sikkimese people into consumers, mere consumers.

Any improvement in areas of agri- production, value addition and exports would benefit the original Sikkimese since most cultivable land is still owned by the category. However, no attention has been paid here. Nothing could be derived out of the organic name yet.

Sikkimese over the years have not improved a bit from surrendering their oranges, cardamom, broomsticks, ginger etc to middlemen in bazaars like Singtam, Reshi, Nayabazaar etc. They sell the produce to these vendors at throw away prices, sometimes not even enough to cover the cost of production. With the sale proceeds they head back home with consumables bought from the same vendors at twice the cost. Every day farmers are looted. The Governments have failed to protect our ‘Kisan’.

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Farm mechanization is a distant dream for Sikkim farmers. A few tillers etc got from Government of India funded programs are handed over to persons selected by the political wing of the party in power. Day long’ bhasaan’ (speeches) culminating with hand over of about 10 tillers. That’s a standard agriculture development program we have been seeing for ages.

Dairy farming, the mainstay of Sikkim has been killed. I, a herder myself have time and again been crying about the death of Sikkim dairy industry on account of factors beyond farmers control. Farmers are left to the mercy of the cruel traders to meet their farm input requirements. Today milk production in Sikkim will be down by more than 50 percent of what it was about a year back.

Do we remember, Mr. Amit Shah’s recent visit to a dairy programme? The 2 lakh litre- per- day ‘jumla’ widely publicized to impress him? False narrative. The agency engaged in Milk aggregation in Sikkim that was on media every second day launching ice-creams and declaring Sikkim a milk surplus State until a year back has suddenly gone silent. I wonder what is going on?

Our media should try and find out today’s aggregation figures. Where have we reached from two lakh litres a day? The numbers I am sure will surprise everyone and Piyush Goyal’s Target will seem like joke to all.

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A nonagenarian farmer of ours has been declared as the Padma Shri recipient for the current year. A legend in his own right. A crusader of the Himalayan way of life, natural farming and lifestyle complimenting nature. The State will do it’s best to share the credit of his sole achievement, but all that the governance has done is kill the way of life advocated by Mr Upreti.

A few days back we also learnt that Sikkimese citizens are the highest per capita GST payers in the country. Backroom efforts must be on to translate the fact to frame statements that will earn brownie points for the people in power.

I but have a slightly different take on that. Sikkim citizens pay the highest GST per head than any other person in India but we have the worst public infrastructure. Roads, electricity, public transport – we are lacking in all of them.

Payment of highest GST will also be a testimony to the fact that we are serious consumers. We buy the most. We are nothing but just a market for the traders. We only pay and consume. That is what Sikkimese have been reduced to.

With the regular flow of central ministers to Sikkim, we may find it difficult to camouflage the sorry state of affairs any more.
Are the flower pots hung around MG Marg enough to speak of Sikkim’s progress and prosperity?