Despite SDF being an NDA government ally at the Centre, its leader and Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling said on Friday that not much has changed in terms of help to smaller states under the Modi government."Actually, in the last 15-20 years, there hasn't been much change," the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) leader Chamling told reporters here, adding the state is yet to get air and rail links."Roads are our only lifeline, but those are not good. In 2009, Mamata Banerjee as the Railway Minister laid a foundation stone for a rail link. We thought it was a big move. But not much has happened ever since. We are also awaiting an air link and the proposed airport is still under construction by the Airport Authority of India (AAI)," he said."Perhaps, the fact that we are a small state is making things move at that pace," he said.Asked whether he thought New Delhi's bureaucracy is creating hurdles in generous central help to Sikkim, he skirted a direct reply and said: "All are good, all Prime Ministers are good. I will say the present Prime Minister is better."
Chamling has been the Chief Minister of Sikkim since December 12, 1994, and has so far seen all regimes in Delhi under different Prime Ministers -- starting from P.V. Narasimha Rao to the incumbent Narendra Modi.Chamling's SDF is now supporting National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, as it did the same with the erstwhile Manmohan Singh government. It also played supportive role in the Vajpayee government and the United Front regime before that.The Chief Minister further said that 10 years back, he had submitted a request with the Centre for "peace bonus", as Sikkim is very peaceful state without insurgency, unlike most other northeastern states. "But, nothing has happened on that front, too."
Sikkim will showcase iconic Mount Kanchendzonga and the Kanchendzonga National Park (KNP), which has recently been declared a World Heritage Site, to promote eco-tourism in the Himalayan state, he said."The state government has formulated plans in association with the Indian Mountaineering Federation to start tours in the periphery of India's highest mountain peak -- Mount Kanchendzonga, located about 28,000 feet above sea level," Chamling said.
He went on to add that the state government will start 15-day trekking trails in the 1,784 sq km KNP.Principal Residential Commissioner Govind Mohan said that Sikkim has become the most favoured destination among domestic and foreign tourists in last five years in the entire Northeast region. "It created a record when around 7.5 lakh domestic tourists visited the state whose entire population is only 6.5 lakh."The Chief Minister said the state has set a target to attract 15 lakh tourists every year by the end of 2020, and to double the revenues from tourism at the end of this period, by strengthening the tourism infrastructure and other facilities in the state."Around 60 per cent of the total population is directly or indirectly connected with the tourism industry in my state," Chamling said.Chamling also said that his government has recently opened 14 pristine peaks having height of below 7,000 meters in north and west Sikkim with a view to promote nature and eco-tourism in the state.