The Himayalan state of Sikkim has initiated an award to recognise the contributions made by journalists to bring Sikkim on the larger national, and international, canvas. On its 43rd State Day on 16 May, Sikkim conferred the ‘Kashiraj Pradhan Lifetime Journalism Award’ on four senior journalists.

Governor Srinivas Patil and Chief Minister Pawan Chamling honoured veteran journalists CD Rai, Samiran Chhetri Priyadarshi, Santosh Nirash and Amalendu Kundu at a function held at Chintan Bhawan in Gangtok. All four journalists have been active for over half a century now.

On the occasion of State Day, Sikkim honours various people from all walks of life who have played a pivotal role in shaping up the state. Among those who were honoured on 16 May were farmers, young entrepreneurs, former bureaucrats and educators among others.

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Chief Minister Pawan Chamling congratulated every winner but specifically mentioning the farmers. He called farming the “number one profession”. As many as 68 farmers were honoured for taking forward the state’s “organic mission”.

The state also recognised young entrepreneurs and those who have made it to civil services from Sikkim.

Addressing the gathering, Chamling said the youth of Sikkim was yet to understand how important Sikkim was in the national picture. “Sikkim has been playing a great role since 1975 towards building the India that we see today. And we as Sikkimese (people) need to think about this on our State Day,” he said, adding: “It’s been 43 years that we are part of India. We have the same rights and duties as any other citizen of this country. But I see many youth distant from this thought. The Sikkim that we want to build will depend upon what our youth is thinking, and thus engaging oneself with the national cause is very important.”

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Chamling said it was such a pride for Sikkim that it achieved 99% literacy rate, became a fully organic state, made rapid progress in tourism and increased forest area coverage by 4% (the only example in the world). “Even the Prime Minister cites Sikkim’s example while talking about India’s progress while addressing dignitaries abroad. So, there is so much for us to be proud of,” the CM added.

The chief minister also urged government officials to take ownership of their responsibilities. He especially stressed on dealing with senior citizens with respect and care. “Our government is especially sensitive about the needs of senior citizens. At this age, people are lonely, sick and in need of constant support. We all have to attain that age — it’s an age where we sit the accounts and tally the ledger balance of life. Please assist anyone who comes to pick up their pension or anything related to it,” said the 68-year-old who is the longest-serving chief minister of any state. Chamling completed 24 uninterrupted years in office last month, breaking the record of former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu who held office for 23 years.

At the State Day function, it was also announced that the airport in Pakyong (26 km from Gangtok) should operational from mid-June, with SpiceJet starting its operation in three sectors — Delhi, Kolkata and Guwahati — with 78-seater Bombardiers.

The writer is a Delhi-based independent contributor to print and online publications