Sikkim’s very own airport in Pakyong will be its road to development

Come November 30, Sikkim will get its first public air base, a greenfield airport at Pakyong in east Sikkim, 35 km from capital Gangtok.

In the absence of rail and air linkages, roads have been the lifeline for the people in Sikkim. However, with the state having to share 30 kilometres of NH10 with West Bengal, any unrest in the Darjeeling Hills has a fallout on trade and transport in the smaller state. As happened with the indefinite call for a bandh in June against the West Bengal government which brought life to a halt in Sikkim.

Come November 30, and some of that inconvenience could well become a thing of the past. On that day, Sikkim will get its first public air base, a greenfield airport at Pakyong in east Sikkim, 35 km from capital Gangtok. So far, the state had to rely on the airport at Bagdogra, 124 km away in Jalpaiguri district. The new airport has been built at a cost of Rs 300 crore and is situated at 4,700 feet.

Efforts are also on to connect the 40 km stretch between Rangpo and Siliguri with a railway line. Meanwhile, the state has also ensured that the 1,795 km of village roads, 894 border roads and 184 km of the state highways are properly maintained and in excellent condition.

“Maintenance of roads is of utmost importance and the Sikkim government does not compromise on quality when it comes to building new roads or repairing old ones,” says G.P. Upadhyaya, secretary in-charge, human resource development, Sikkim. As a result, a ride through Sikkim is smooth and the traffic disciplined despite there being no traffic signals or traffic police.

Elaborating on the state’s focus on infrastructure, Upadhyaya adds that whether it is building roads, bridges, houses or dams, “we follow safeconstruction practices, and contracts are awarded only to those companies that promise to adhere to the basic specifications.”

Another aspect on which Sikkim prides itself is rural and urban electrification. A majority of the households in the state already have an electricity connection and mega hydel power projects generating 2,000 megawatts of power coming up in North Sikkim promises to light up the remotest corners of the state. This is besides the 24 hydel power projects that have been commissioned under public-private partnership with the objective of producing 5,500 MW of power. Sikkim has a peak hydel capacity of 8,000 MW with a 3,000 MW base for potential development.

The state has also been successful on the housing front. The chief minister’s Rural Housing Mission has been able to deliver 25,000 kutcha house-free abodes to more than 100,000 people. The houses have an area of 800 sq. feet and come with a living cum bedroom, kitchen, toilet and one balcony. The government is spending Rs 5 lakh on each house, and the individual is required to give his labour free. The cost of labour is covered under MNREGA or the Mahatma Gandhi National rural Employment Guarantee, allowing the beneficiary additional income along with a new house. The government is spending Rs 300 crore in all on the project. In case an individual does not possess land, the government provides it free of cost. “By converging several centrally sponsored schemes with the Rural Housing Mission, we have recovered 50 per cent of the cost of the project from the Government of India,” says a housing department secretary.

The latest feather in Sikkim’s cap is a 1,000-bed multi-speciality hospital which will also have a medical college attached to it. It is being built at Sichey, five kilometres from Gangtok.

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