The Words of the Chamling Family

Acceptance Speech, Leadership and Good Governance Award

Pawan Chamling
July 6, 2009
Hon. Chief Minister of Sikkim, India

UPF Leadership and Good Governance Award Ceremony Chintan Bhawan

I express my deep sense of gratitude to the Universal Peace Federation fraternity for having considered me for this noble award for Leadership and Good Governance. I cannot at this stage forget the feelings and good thoughts of my fellow Sikkimese who have always given me their mandate. They are also to be thanked for giving me this opportunity to serve them. I dedicate this award to my Sikkimese fellow citizens for whom I am the first servant.

I am equally very proud to be associated with this world initiative and this global recognition is indicative of something worthwhile happening in Sikkim to advance the cause of peace and greater peace in the region, country, and the world. We know this day does not come too often and too easily. Humbled by the honor so bestowed and the enormity of tasks that lie ahead, I rise to accept the award in all humility and in all sincerity. I once again thank the Universal Peace Federation, founder Chairman Dr. Moon, Regional Chairman of UPF-Asia Dr. Yong and all the Ambassadors of Peace for choosing me for this prestigious award.

In the present world, we are privileged to be living a life made more comfortable by the advent of science and technology, advanced knowledge, and natural wealth. But the irony is that with these advancements by men, contradiction, conflict, and war are also created. We are living in a world made complicated by our own irresponsible acts at different levels. There is unrest and conflict all around. In fact, philosophers and statesmen have always expressed their reservation about the changes taking place in the overall sociocultural milieu of India. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan wrote, “Everywhere around us we hear the sounds of things breaking, of changes in the social, political and economic situations, in the dominant beliefs and ideas, in the fundamental categories of the human mind.

Men of intelligence, sensitivity and enterprise are convinced that there is something radically wrong with the present arrangements and institutions in regard to politics, economics and industry, and that we must get rid of them if we are to save humanity.” During the debate on the adoption of the Indian Constitution, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar expressed his apprehension and asked, “... what would happen to her independence? Will she maintain her independence or will she lose it again?” It may be pertinent to think that in the Indian context, some of our people are still placing caste, creed and personal ends above the country and are creating new waves of discord and divisions.

Therefore, the question is how we can overcome from this syndrome. I may point out that the Sikkimese people are inherently peace lovers who live in harmony with Nature and have thus contributed to the general peace in the State and act as an example in the whole country.

Peace by definition is more abstract in nature. Some say that peace is, first of all, the absence of war between states. On a broader sense, peace is also the absence of suppression and injustice and of hunger. According to Oriental understanding, peace has more of a spiritual substance that permeates the inner life of human being. We firmly believe that in the absence of inner happiness, there is no peace. When we invoke shanti, it is more than absence of war. It is the realization of heavenly order, an emergence of perfect union among different elements of nature in the cosmos thereby shaping the very attitude of people as being peaceful or peace loving.

We the Sikkimese people are living in perfect peace and in relative plenty. Over the years, factors have combined together to facilitate establishment of this condition in the State where we provide leadership in many sectors in the country.

We are living in the Himalayan range and in close proximity with Nature. We believe that nature over the centuries has molded our way of life. Many of us, by faith, are nature worshipers in essence. As part of our local creed, we consider environmental security as our highest obligation. This argument is relevant in the context of the global warming that has seriously disrupted the natural cycle. In our State of Sikkim, also, there have been increasing signs of changes induced by global warming manifested in erratic monsoons, floods and landslides, unusually warmer winters, less volume of snowfall, etc. This will likely upset the mountain ecology and the local economy too. There are serious deliberations and actions plan proposed both under UN initiatives and other initiatives by different NGOs and civil society bodies across the world. Therefore, for sustainable peace, the world community needs to start acting to cut down the greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the harm done to the world's environment.

We have very humbly undertaken host of conservation measures during the last one and a half decades in the State of Sikkim. We initiated our journey on a very conscious note in 1995 when we observed the year as Harit Kranti Varsha generating mass awareness about the environment and about agents likely to bring about negative impacts on our environment. Some of the historical initiatives have been the introduction of compulsory environmental education in schools, launching of the Smriti Van program and Green Mission plan, the creation of the State Biodiversity Park, distribution of free LPG connections for people below poverty line, Eco-Club, Green Funds in schools and colleges, establishing a Climate Change Commission, a ban on the use of plastic, a ban on green felling in forests, a ban on grazing, a ban on killing of wildlife, etc. As a result, there has been palpable improvement manifesting in the increase in forest cover from 43.95 percent in 1993-94 to 46.28 percent now. There has been an increase in the number of wild animals and regeneration in the endangered species of flora and fauna among other results.

Climate change issues have also become interlinked with issues of energy security and food security. You are aware that in the wake of the adverse effects of global warming, many countries across the continent swiftly altered their policy of exporting food grains in order to feed their own citizens. It is for this reason that the world community should come together to address this urgent issue by carefully formulating strategies for sustainable development which ensure that our economic growth proceeds in an ecologically sustainable manner. The Apostle of Peace, Mahatma Gandhi, has said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” I am very happy to say that the Sikkimese people have wholeheartedly supported us in changing in the way we tend to exploit nature and in many of our initiatives which were out of ordinary and at times rather unpleasant.

The overarching concern and the work undertaken by the Universal Peace Federation is really a great service to humanity. For the last 15 years, we have also been consistently working to establish social and political conditions in which all human beings can enjoy freedom and the fullest measures of happiness. The best thing happening in Sikkim has been continuous peace and harmony and secondly political stability. This has enabled us to plan our socioeconomic interventions on both short-term and long-term basis. As a result, we have been able to bring about socioeconomic advancement which is comparatively better off.

As a landlocked State, Sikkim is surrounded by three international borders with China, Nepal, and Bhutan. Over the centuries, we have been enriched by these cross-border interactions. We are opening up more borders with our neighbors. We are building our infrastructure, creating more schools, health centers, roads, airports, and railways. This will ensure better access to quality health care, education, and better connectivity. Physical access and connectivity will be conducive for our people in attaining a higher level of life standard. It is said that any community of people will perish once their cultural heritage is destroyed. Sikkim has witnessed cultural revolution over the decade. The languages of the ethnic tribal communities have been revived and are being taught in the schools. Similarly, cultural festivals belonging to different communities have been duly recognized as state holidays. What we witness today is a cultural revival enriching the very contour of the social structure, brimming with life. It is said that man does not live by bread alone. Thus, the essential issue is to ensure human dignity and self-respect. is aptly concluded that poverty is a threat to peace.

Questioning the world’s income distribution, one Nobel Peace Prize winner has highlighted a very telling story. According to him, 94 percent of the world's income goes to 40 percent of the population while 60 percent of people live on only 6 percent of the world's income. The State Government in Sikkim, on its own initiative, earmarked 70 percent of development funds to bring about rural renaissance beginning back in 1995. This includes free housing, subsidized food grains and host of other incentives for family living below the poverty line. This policy of earmarking the lion’s share for rural upliftment continues, and we have been able to address rural poverty to a large extent. In fact, the number of BPL families in Sikkim has gone down to 20 percent from 40 percent in 1994. Education is free until the college level with provision for free distribution of textbooks, exercise books, school uniforms, school bags, rain coats and school shoes. Health care is free as well. Sikkim was the first State in the country to provide for free Hepatitis B vaccination for children. Compulsory annual health check-ups and free health insurance for poor households are some of the other incentives envisaged during this financial year.

Leadership and good governance is very vital for enrichment of democratic practices anywhere in the world. In an age where the per capita income is measured in terms of per capita happiness, the world is increasingly turning to the essence of pro-people governance, pro-jobs, pro-nature, with the highest priority to poverty reduction, productive employment, and environmental regeneration. Furthermore, good governance involves not only administrative or managerial capacities but also the social, political, intellectual, cultural, and moral capacities.

The focus on the family as the most fundamental institution of society impressed me very deeply. In fact, we need to revitalize the traditional warmth both with regard to human relationship at various levels, between man and nature and in relations to various natural elements.

If society is weak, power, rewards and opportunities go to the few and majority of people will remain powerless and without opportunity. Realizing this fact, we have to build a society strong enough so that every individual can enjoy his or her rights and privileges and that everyone has access to opportunities to live a more meaningful life.

There are many problems common to all humanity. Lack of peace and security, diseases like AIDS, Cancer, problems of water security, food security, environmental degradation, hunger etc. There are 100 million people who are homeless and landless. Some are living without identities of their own, without any Country that they can call their own. 148 millions children are orphans. They need love and care. They need families not only orphanage.

They are suffering from hunger, disease and human right violation. Suffering and sorrows are every where in the world but no one is serious enough to care for them and solve these common problems except the few like Universal Peace Federation. Let me salute you all.

Today I feel proud that the works we have done here in our humble way have been appreciated by the Universal Peace Federation of India. I am very encouraged to do more and more for Sikkim, my state and also my country, India. Wherever we live, we are faced with the same problems -- global community is faced with unrest, disputes, conflict -- lack of human security and water security. We are deprived of our natural right to live- and live with simplicity and dignity.

We do no longer look for someone to take us to the mountain-top and point the way to the Promised Land. We should no longer expect someone to lead us on by our fingers to enter a place of perfection. We must together make it happen through collective effort, joint commitment and common sacrifices. The Universal Peace Federation through its worldwide action and cooperative peace building efforts is leading a universal campaign to promote peace, family values, cultural exchanges, educational programs for a strong world order in which everyone can live in freedom, harmony and prosperity.

The miracle called Helen Keller once said, “I find life an exciting business, and most exciting when it is lived for others.” This moment has encouraged me once again to live the most exciting life and to live for others, always. I have no words to express my gratefulness to my people, my friends, and my well wishers who have voted me to be their Chief Minister for the fourth consecutive term, and I’m really thankful to you all. Again, I commit myself not to let you down till my last breath. I want to die for my state, and I really want to die for my people, this is my commitment. Over the years, I have tried to do my utmost to serve the interest of the Sikkimese people. We have together inked a sacred pledge to forever work for the collective welfare of the people so that the promises made are fulfilled in letter and spirit, so that the people continue to live in peace, harmony and greater prosperity. As the American poet would say I cannot certainly stop here. May I quote the immortal Robert Frost who said,

“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”

As Abraham Lincoln said, we "cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today." Amidst the gathering mist and the difficulties so imminent, we can ill afford to lose hope.

The Romantic poet P.B. Shelley famously sang -

“O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”

As the poet held out enduring hope for all the humanity, so does the Universal Peace Federation come out to rescue humanity from the clutches of hatred, discord, and cultural disintegration. And as part of the global initiative of the Universal Peace Federation, I consider myself privileged and blessed to work under the broad vision of Dr. Moon and all the Ambassadors for Peace, to bequeath to the coming generation a world that is better, safer, more secure, happy and peaceful. 

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