Centre committed to development of border villages to stop migration: FM

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addressing a post budget press conference, in New Delhi. [Representational Image]
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addressing a post budget press conference, in New Delhi. [Representational Image] File: ANI

Gangtok: Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, on her second day of Sikkim visit, has left for Lachen, a remote settlement in North Sikkim close to the Indo-China border. She is expected to reach the border village in the late afternoon hours.

Addressing a NABARD outreach programme at Gangtok in the morning before leaving for North Sikkim, Sitharaman said her visit to Lachen, falling under ‘Vibrant Village’ scheme, is to check the availability of connectivity services, infrastructure and other public facilities for the border populace.

Lachen is about 124 km away from Gangtok at an altitude of 9400 ft and normally takes about five hours to reach there. It is a premier tourism destination for its natural beauty and also as the route to sacred Gurudongmar lake (17,000 ft).

In her address at Gangtok, Sitharaman said there is a big emphasis by the Centre on development of border villages that are very close to the international borders under the ‘vibrant village’ policy. What we have done in this budget and more particularly in the last budget is to ensure that besides individual benefits, common facilities like roads, internet, proper schools and wellness centres should reach these vibrant villages, she said.

Sitharaman added that the objective is to ensure that youth of these remote border villages do not migrate elsewhere due to lack of connectivity and public facilities. Ministers have been very clearly told that each of us has to visit a border village which is a vibrant village and ensure that all facilities are not merely on paper but should be there on ground, she said.

“I have chosen to go to Lachen and I will definitely spend time there to see if the border village is getting all the facilities. I also realise that it won’t be achieved in one visit and therefore I will have to come again. Border villages should be better equipped and connected. Youth should not leave such villages just because there is lack of infrastructure and connectivity,” said Sitharaman.

At the programme also attended by Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang, the Union Finance Minister launched via video-conferencing the much-awaited ropeway connecting Dhapper to Bhaleydhunga cliff near Yangang town, South Sikkim.

Bhaleydhunga peak is located at an altitude of around 3,300 m and offers a 360 degree panoramic view of the Himalayan range. It takes around six hours of trekking to reach the cliff from the base.

Now with the 3.5 km long ropeway service, one can reach the peak top in just 13 minutes.

The passenger ropeway project, which started in 2016, was constructed at a cost of Rs 209.57 crore with a gap funding of Rs 57.82 crore from PM-DevINE. It is expected to boost tourism in the area.

Earlier in the morning, the Union Finance Minister visited an exhibition by NABARD at MG Marg featuring local entrepreneurs who are promoting local handicrafts and handlooms.

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