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Will strive to remove urban, rural disparities: Chamling

By Marcus Dam

KOLKATA, MAY 21. "The new Sikkim Government will adopt programmes of economic and social reform that provide a human face and will strive to remove the disparities that exist between urban and rural societies, between town and village," Pawan Kumar Chamling, who was sworn-in as the State's Chief Minister for the third time in a row, said today.

In an exclusive interview to The Hindu over telephone from Gangtok shortly after he and 11of his Ministers were administered the oath of office by the Governor, V. Rama Rao, Mr. Chamling said his Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), a partner in the National Democratic Alliance, "will support the Congress-led coalition to be set up at the Centre from the outside. We are a regional party and will keep the interests of both Sikkim and the country at large in mind in our relations with the Centre."

Mr. Chamling, who had earlier expressed displeasure at the functioning of some of the Ministers of his previous Government, said: "The four new faces in my new Cabinet, which includes a woman, give a different look to the Government with the induction of fresh blood. We have stepped into the 21st century and thus my emphasis on youth to whom the century belongs," he said.

"My Government, while continuing to implement pending schemes, will aim at removing unemployment and our programmes will be directed towards the youth and be action and development oriented. Hydel power projects will be expanded, eco-tourism developed and emphasis will be laid on the agriculture sector and on horticulture." And the task of greater devolution of power to the people through the panchayati raj would continue, Mr. Chamling said.

As for the re-opening of the Nathu La trade route, which he had hoped would happen at least symbolically in July, he said that with a new government at the Centre "we will be waiting for its views on the matter."

"My Government, however, will give high priority to the re-opening of Nathu La as the resumption of trade between India and China will be of immense benefit to the State, opening up self-employment opportunities, promoting tourism and giving an added impetus to Sikkim's economy."

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