The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Centre sounds Sikkim on house size

Gangtok, May 9: The Union ministry of home affairs (MHA) has asked the Sikkim government to justify its proposal to increase the size of the state Assembly.

The letter from the home ministry has once again brought to the fore the issue of seat reservation for the Limbus and Tamangs.

Issued by A.K. Srivastava, the joint secretary in the MHA, the letter mentions that two questions still remain to be decided: First, whether and why it is necessary to expand the house from the existing 32 seats to 40 to accommodate the Limbus and Tamangs. Second, whether the existing ratio of seats for Lepchas and Bhutias in the expanded house should remain the same or be proportionately increased.

Ever since the Limbus and Tamangs were accorded Scheduled Tribes status in 2003, there have been several communications between the MHA and the state government on the issue of seat reservation for the two communities.

The state government, which had even mulled on increasing the number of seats to 60, finally settled for 40. Last year, a delegation SDF legislators led by chief minister Pawan Chamling had even met the Prime Minister with the request to expand the house.

In the latest address to the chief secretary N.D. Chingapa, the MHA official has asked for specific and convincing justification for the proposed increase in the size of the Assembly.

The department has also mentioned that the state government specifically indicate as to why seats cannot be reserved from the existing 17 unreserved seats in the present 32-member house.

According to the Union government, since the Limbus and Tamangs constitute about 15 to 16 percent of the total population in the state, a proportionate reservation would mean only around five seats. This, the department said, could be reserved from the 17 unreserved seats. 'This does not seem to be a difficult proposition as it would still leave 12 seats open for all sections,' the letter states.

At present, 12 of the 32 seats are reserved for the Bhutias and Lepchas. Two others are for the Scheduled Castes and one for the Sangha (monks body).

The MHA has also sought the state government's opinion on whether seats for Bhutias and Lepchas should be proportionately increased if the Assembly is expanded from 32 to 40 seats. 'If not why not,' the MHA has asked.

The MHA has also cited the demand of Siblac, the Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee.

Siblac had stated that in case the size of the Assembly was increased, proportionate increase of B-L seats may also be considered to honour the provisions of Article 371 (f) and the agreement of May 8, 1973. The special provision in the Constitution provides that no single section of the population should acquire a dominant position because of its ethnic origins.

Yesterday, the state cabinet which met at Mintokgang, discussed the letter at a three-hour meet. The discussion was also attended by Sanchaman Limbu and B.B. Gooroong, the two advisers to the chief minister.

According to Gooroong, the MHA had in a belated move shown concerns to resolve the issue. The issue, he said, would be discussed threadbare at the legislators' meet to be convened shortly.

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