23. SIKKIM is a small hilly state, bounded by vast stretches of Tibetan Plateaux in the North, the Chumbi Valley of Tibet and the Kingdom of Bhutan in the East, the Kingdom of Nepal in the West, and Darjeeling (West Bengal) in the South. The State has a total area of 7,096 sq km, and is stretched over 112 km from North to South, and 64 km from East to West. It lies in the North-Eastern Himalayas between 27 degree 00'46'' to 28 degree 07'48'' North Latitude, and 88 degree 00'58'' to 88 degree 55'25'' East Longitude.Its total population is 540,493. Gangtok is the capital city and the principal languages of the state include Lepcha, Bhutia, Limbu and Nepali
History and Geography
The early history of Sikkim starts in the 13th century with the signing of a blood-brotherhood treaty between the Lepcha Chief Thekong Tek and Tibetan prince Khye-Bumsa at Kabi Lungtsok in North Sikkim. This follows the historical visit of three revered Lamas to Yuksam in 1641 in West Sikkim, where they consecrated Phuntsog Namgyal, a sixth generation descendent of Khye-Humsa as the first Chogyal of Sikkim, thus heralding the beginning of the Namgyal dynasty in Sikkim. With the the passage time Sikkim saw the state pass through the process of democratisation and became an integral part of the Indian Union in 1975. The world's third highest mountain, Kanchenjunga, regarded as the guardian deity of Sikkim, dominates the tiny Himalayan State . Sikkim is one of the 18 biodiversity hotspots in the world. The Sikkim Himalayas show tremendous biological diversity. More than 5000 species of angiosperms are found in the State, which is nearly one third of the total species of angiosperm found in the country. There are 4,000 species of flowering plants, 300 species of ferns and allies, 450 to 500 species of orchids, 36 species of Rhododendrons, 40 species of oaks, 30 to 40 species of Primulas and bamboos, 144 species of mammals, 500 to 600 species of birds, over 400 species of butterflies and moths, and many species of reptiles in the State. Rare Blue Sheep, Tibetan Mastiff, Yaks and Red Pandas are found here.
The State's economy is basically agrarian. More than 64 per cent of the population is employed in agriculture. Agricultural land in Sikkim is about 15.36% of the total geographical area. Farmers commonly follow mixed farming. Maize, rice, wheat, potato, large cardamom, ginger and orange are the principal crops. Sikkim has the largest area and highest production of large brown cardamom in India. Ginger, potato, organge and off-season vegetables are other cash crops.
Sikkim has craftsmanship based traditional Sikkimese cottage industries . Lepcha's skill in bamboo-craft, woodwork, spinning of yarn and carpet weaving in traditional textures, Bhutia's excellence in ancient Tibetan practice of carpet and rug weaving and Nepali's celebrated craftsmanship of their metalwork, silverware and woodwork are very exclusive. The Department of Commerce and Industries lays emphasis on the promotion and development of various small-scale industries. New Industrial Policy, which was extended in the year 2003, provides special package for development of industries in the state on the lines of northeast industries policy. This includes excise and income tax exemption to all new industries as well as expansion of existing units for a period of ten years from the date of commencement of commercial production. In addition, the policy also entails granting of financial concessions to 12 identified thrust areas in industries irrespective of where they are located in the state. Sikkim Jewels limited is one of the sophisticated and precision oriented industries for the manufacture of jewel bearings for electric meters, water meters and other measuring instruments like watches and clocks. Ten ancillary units have been set up to manufacture watch jewels. The Sikkim Industrial Development and Investment Corporation Ltd., (SIDICO) was set up as the state level principal financial institution engaged in the promotion and financing of development in this sector. It provides long-term loans for cottage, tiny, small and medium scale industrial units, hotels, hospitals, nursing homes and taxis .
A new Information Technology Department has been created in the State to prepare extensive projects to give top priority to this department. The newly created department has already launched a number of Web sites on Sikkim, and is now aiming for e-governance through the use of information tools. The official Web site of Sikkim, hosted and maintained by the Department of Information Technology, Government of Sikkim, is www.sikkimgovt.org
Irrigation and Power
Many new irrigation schemes for providing assured water both for Kharif and Rabi cropping are taken up and to prevent damages to open channels owing to landslides and to ensure regular flow of water concrete hume pipes and HDPE pipes are used extensively in problem areas. Total installed capacity of power in the State is 36 MW that is hydro based with transformation capacity of 123 MVA. Rangeet hydel project has installed capacity of 560 MW. The total power potential of the state is estimated at 8,000 MW. Though only 0.2 per cent capacity was installed by the year 2001, four hydro projects with the total of 804 MW power are nearing completion in the state. More initiatives are being taken by the government to tap the full potential of the power in the state. The State is also open to private investment in power sector. The Teesta V Project now under construction is run of the river scheme located in the East District and the proposed installed capacity of this project is 510 MW. .
Sikkim is famous for its lush green vegetation, forest, scenic valleys and majestic mountains, and a range of rich and magnificent cultural heritage . The State Government supports eco-friendly and pilgrim tourism and accordingly, has provided facilities to enable visitors to enjoy a first-hand experience of the rich heritage and lifestyle of Sikkim. Recognising the potential of adventure tourism, the State government is setting up a Himalayan Centre for Adventure Tourism at Chemchey Village in South Sikkim. The premier monastery of Sikkim is Pemayantshe in Pelling. Apart from this, there is Tashiding Monastery in West Sikkim, which is considered the holiest of all the monasteries in Sikkim. The most ancient monastery of Sikkim is in Yuksom, called the Drubdi monastery. It was the personal hermitage of Lhatsun Chenpo (Patron Saint of Sikkim), and was possibly built in 1700 AD. Some of the other monasteries are Phodong, Phensang, Rumtek, Ngadak, Tolung, Ahlay, Tsuklakhand, Ralong, Lachen, Enchey and others. Of the Hindu temples, the best known is the Thakurbari, in the heart of Gangtok. There is also a holy cave in South district, which has a Shiva Lingam that irradiates the cave where no other light finds its way.