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Sikkim oppn parties decry veggie ban

Statesman News Service | Gangtok |

The opposition Sikkim National People’s party (SNPP) has demanded that the government roll back its decision to ban import of inorganic vegetables to the state.

Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, SNPP leaders said the local organic produce is insufficient to feed the state’s population and the huge number of tourists who visit the Himalayan state.

“If the ban stays, SNPP appeals to the people of Sikkim not to cooperate with such an order, which infringes on our constitutional right to choose, and which merely seems a sycophantic move to please the master,” Biraj Adhikari, the SNPP president, said.

He further demanded a thorough enquiry by an impartial and independent agency into the state’s Organic Mission, based on the findings of the CAG as documented in their annual reports.

In another press conference, another opposition party, the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM), said that the state government is under the illusion that all the 75,000 hectares of cultivable land in Sikkim, certified as organic, are engaged in vegetable production.

“The state government says that 75,000 hectares of cultivable land in Sikkim are certified as organic. But it does not mean that the entire 75,000 hectares of land are under vegetable cultivation,” SKM working president Navin Karki said.

According to him, some of the said plots of land are under cardamom cultivation, some are left fallow and some have sheds for cattle.

“Hence, the department is under the illusion that local productionof vegetables can meet the daily vegetable demand of the 8 lakh people of Sikkim,” Mr Karki said.

He added that the SKM understands that the department concerned and people are not prepared for the ban. “This is a dry season, and water sources are depleting across the state. In this season, not many varieties of vegetables can be produced. The state government should have waited for the monsoon season where the state is flush with locally grown green vegetables,” he said.

“If the state government can ban the sale of nonorganic vegetables, it must also be able to provide organic vegetables insufficient quantity,” Mr Karki said.

SKM spokesperson Jacob Khaling said the SKM supports organic farming, but the ban should not trouble the people of Sikkim and small vegetable traders.

“If proper process is not followed soon, a vegetable mafia could grow in the state,” he said.