Gangtok: Former Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling voices opposition to the privatization of Sikkim Organic University, emphasizing the significance of organic farming as Sikkim’s intellectual property. The Education Minister, Kunga Nima Lepcha, introduced the Sikkim Organic Agriculture University Bill during the budget session of the Sikkim Legislative Assembly, but Chamling vehemently objected to its passing.
In defense of his stance, Chamling, credited with initiating the organic revolution in Sikkim during his tenure, highlighted the uniqueness of organic farming as the state’s intellectual property. He expressed concerns over the sale of this property to a private university, stating, “Why is our property being sold to a private university now?”
Referring to Sikkim’s global recognition as a brand for organic farming, Chamling asserted that organic farming and tourism should be practiced exclusively by the people of Sikkim. He cited instances where Sikkim’s Agriculture Minister was praised for the state’s organic farming practices during visits to the United States and Delhi, even by the current King of England, King Charles III, when he was the Prince.
Chamling appealed to the government not to pass the Sikkim Organic Agriculture University Bill if it intends to hand it over to a private university. He implored, “Do not sell the University.”
In response to the opposition, Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay defended the bill, emphasizing the benefits of expanding organic farming beyond the state’s borders. He argued that having students from outside Sikkim learn about their organic practices would provide significant publicity for the state’s organic farming initiatives. Golay stated, “We are ready to encourage our students towards organic cultivation.”
Golay further clarified that the current government has not discontinued organic farming or any other schemes introduced by the previous administration. He emphasized that the arrival of an Organic University in Sikkim would enhance the state’s revenue, benefit farmers, generate employment opportunities for PhD scholars, and boost various sectors such as hospitality and transportation.
During the budget session, two other university bills—the Sikkim National Law University (Amendment) Bill and the Sikkim Global Technical University Bill—were also passed with unanimous approval. However, Chamling and BJP legislator DR Thapa raised concerns about the increasing number of private universities in Sikkim.
Chamling questioned the rationale behind allowing multiple private universities, the potential influx of students, and the credibility of these institutions. Thapa also expressed concerns about the high number of universities in relation to the relatively small student population in Sikkim. Both legislators emphasized the importance of verifying the UGC approval and credentials of these universities to ensure their quality.
In response, Education Minister Kunga Nima Lepcha defended the new universities, assuring that they were disciplined institutions approved by the UGC, similar to those functioning in other states. He emphasized that the purpose was to provide educational opportunities for local students while also attracting students from outside Sikkim, thereby generating revenue and employment opportunities for the locals.
The debate surrounding the Sikkim Organic Agriculture University Bill reflects the differing perspectives on privatization and the potential impact on Sikkim’s organic farming heritage. While Chamling champions the preservation of organic farming as Sikkim’s intellectual property, Chief Minister Golay advocates for its expansion through educational institutions. The decision ultimately lies in the hands of the Sikkim Legislative Assembly, where the bill will be further deliberated upon.
Gangtokian Web Team, 20/05/23