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Sikkim’s small size and the status as a landlocked state have worked against it. What happens in this quiet little place, tucked among the Himalayas in the northeastern corner hardly interests this country where the big-boys are competing to make themselves heard. Indian politics is all about the number game and Sikkim, with just one Lok Sabha MP, does not measure up to the expectations of the number-hungry politicians who control national politics. The media and all the platforms of national significance are bursting at the seams with the ear-splitting clamour of those who represent larger states or larger political parties.

But it is time for India to accept that size is hardly a measure of potential and listen to the sound of Sikkim’s silence. Sikkim, the second smallest state and the youngest state by virtue of being the last one to join the union has emerged as a leading state on several fronts. It is in that sense that it is apt to borrow the expression of Balkrishna Sama, (often regarded as the “Shakespeare” of Nepal) and employ it to our case – “What Sikkim thinks today, the rest of India thinks tomorrow”. India may find it hard to accept but here is a list of seven cases where Sikkim’s farsightedness stands out far too clearly to miss:

Social Justice: The BJP government has come up with the 124th Constitution Amendment Bill, 2019 bill which will provide 10 per cent reservation for the upper caste poor. This was a smart move and even the arch-rival congress party had nothing much to say against the bill apart from questioning the timing. The move, “coinciding” with the 2019 general election would obviously irk the Congress party that feels rankled by several moves of the BJP. However, the Centre’s quota bill that is going to provide a 10 per cent reservation in jobs and educational institutions to economically backward sections in the general category is not new to Sikkim. The Pawan Chamling led state government had long ago anticipated the reverse discrimination that would occur after the implementation of Mandal Commission recommendations (OBCs) and immediately demanded the inclusion of the left out communities (Bahun, Chettri, Newar) in the list of Other Backward Classes. When a repeated plea fell on deaf ears, the state government granted OBC status to these three communities under the state list. In Sikkim the Bahun, Chettri Newar who come under general category as per the central reservation structure have been given 20 per cent reservation in government service and educational institutions. Such an inclusive framework adopted by Sikkim was premised on the conviction that weaker sections do exist even among so called upper castes. The country seems to have realized it now - better late than never.

Moreover, the Sikkim Government has notified a 2 per cent seat reservation for Weaker Sections of Society (Kami, Damai, Sarki not categorized as Scheduled Castes). Given the mood of national politics in general, the India Government may not awaken to this realization any time soon. But Sikkim has led the way.

Free Education: Sikkim is arguably the only state in the country where education is provided free of cost right up to the college level. The state government decision to provide free courses in ATTC Bardang and CCCT Chisopani is a significant step. What is more, the government announced the provision of free education in the upcoming State Medical College, Pharmacy College and National Law University, making Sikkim a dream state for education enthusiasts. The rest of India may never emulate Sikkim on this front.

Jiwan Rai

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