New Delhi, April 13 (IANS) The Planning Commission Friday approved a marginal hike in the annual plan outlay for Sikkim at Rs.1,500 crore to help the state step up funds for areas like health, social welfare and rural development.
The plan panel also agreed to release additional Rs.377 crore under the Prime Minister's Relief Fund to help the state rebuild its infrastructural that was damaged in the major earthquake that rocked the region in September last year.
The allocation was approved during a meeting between Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling, during which the state drew praise for logging an 8.95-percent growth during the past five years, against the national average of 7.9 percent.
Chamling said the poverty level in Sikkim had also reduced from 30.9 percent in 2004-05 to 13.1 percent in 2009-10 due to intensive alleviation programmes adding the state had an ambitious plans to completely eradicate poverty soon.
Among other areas, the chief minister also listed the state's progress in agriculture.
"Sikkim will be a totally organic state by 2013. Out of total cultivable land of 58,168 hactares, 8,168 hectares has already been certified as organic. Another 50,000 hactares will be taken up in phased manner, of which 39,000 hectares is under conversion."
As regards power, Chamling said the state has 8,000 MW of hydro electric potential out of which as much as 5,000 MW capacity had already been allocated to the central sector and private sector.
"National Hydro-Electric Power Corporation has recently completed 510 MW capacity Teesta Stage-V Project, in addition to 60 MW Rangit State-III hydro power station," the chief minister told the meeting.
According to him, tourism had emerged as largest service industries in the state and a target had now been fixed to attract five million tourist by 2015 by better planning, aggressive publicity and world class tourism infrastructure.
The picturesque state, which shares its borders with Nepal to the west, China to the north and east, Bhutan to the southeast, and West Bengal to the south, attracted one million tourist last year, which had doubled in last years.
"I would like to say that the Char Dham complex, known as Siddheswara Dham, has been conferred the national award as the most innovative and unique tourism project in 2010-11 by the Union government," Chamling said.
On an average, the Char Dham in the state receives 2,000-3,000 visitors every day that increases to 20,000 tourist on special days.
The state government has sought funding from the Planning Commission for the Budha park at Ravangla, statue of Chen Regiz in Peling and statue of Reclining Budha for developing the tourism infrastructure in the state.
In education, the state government launched a scheme in 2010 under which village children are fully funded to study in prestigious public and convent schools such as the Scindia School in Gwalior, Springdales in Dehradun and Pinegrove in Dharampur.
The state government provides full scholarship with a budget of around Rs.7 crore for the current fiscal. A target has been fixed to sponsor 1,000 Sikkim students to global reputed schools during this year.
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