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Sikkim gets Rs. 500 crores

By Marcus Dam

KOLKATA, JAN. 6. The size of the annual plan for Sikkim for 2005-06 has been fixed at Rs. 500 crores. This was decided at a meeting between Chief Minister, Pawan Kumar Chamling, and the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, in New Delhi.

Speaking to The Hindu over telephone today, Mr. Chamling said the outlay showed an increase of about 12 per cent over the current fiscal. "A major portion of the funds will be allotted for the setting up of the necessary infrastructure for future trade with China through the Nathu La Pass." He expects the Pass to re-open this year.

Re-opening of Nathu La

"The re-opening of the Nathu La Pass would be a major instrument in the overall development of Sikkim. Trade between India and China will not only boost the local economy but also open up immense tourism potentials in the State," he said. "My Government has set a target of 10 per cent growth rate in the gross domestic product of the State by the end of the Tenth Plan period. I have also committed to the Planning Commission that Sikkim will be a totally organic State by 2009."

Priority would be given to "natural resource-based development, augmenting hydro-power, setting up agro-based industries and development of horticulture and marketing facilities for medicinal plants," he said. "We are one of the few States to prepare a Human Development Report and Vision Document which have given Sikkim a road map and chalked out its priority areas for development."

Mr. Chamling informed the Planning Commission his Government's need for Rs. 339 crores for setting up the first airport in the State at Pakyong. "Land for the construction of the airport has been acquired and a detailed project report has been prepared by the Airports Authority of India," he said. "We also plan to set up a Central university in the State to impart hill and mountain studies, eco-tourism and bio-technology."

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