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Sikkim - Economy

The persistence of poverty in this hill State is in stark contrast to its relatively high achievement in the social sectors as compared to the national average. However, this could be explained by considering that Sikkim remained marginalized from the development activities that characterized mainstream India. Prior to its merger with India, its very political economy did not, in fact, permit Sikkim to entertain development interventions of a democratic variety.

Sikkim Distilleries was one of the first modern industries in Sikkim to be set up in 1954. In order to ensure quality liquor for his subjects at a reasonable price, the then Chogyal agreed to give the Company absolute monopoly for the manufacture of alcoholic drinks in Sikkim on condition that the Durbar (the government) was given about 47 per cent of its shares. The annual turnover has recorded a quantum leap forward; Rs 13.3 million in 1975 to Rs 192.9 million in 1998. The product line has also undergone a drastic diversification. Though the share of this units products in the local market has been over 80 per cent, its share in the rest of India is minuscule. Within the local segment also, the most demanding market segment has been the armed forces.

Agriculture is the main source of occupation of the state. However, the state has only about 12 percent of its land under cultivation. Major food crops are Maize, rice, wheat, potato etc. Cash crops are ginger, cardamom, orange, tea and off-season vegetables. This state has a monopoly in the big variety of cardamom production. Emphasis, at present, is being made on development of commercial and horticulture crops and floriculture. Animal husbandry is very important in this state.

More than 64% of the population of Sikkim depends on agriculture for their livelihood, directly or indirectly cultivating 1,09,963 hectares which is only 15% of the total land area of Sikkim. The hill slopes have been converted into farmlands using terrace-farming techniques and is used for cultivation. Cardamom is the main cash crop in the district, which makes a premier part of economy (19 percent of the cropped area grows cardmom). Besides this other crops like rice (13^ of the land area), millet, corn etc. also grow in limited quantity.

Cabbage and Potato are produced in large quantity in Lachung Valley and are exported out of state. Radish too is exported from this area. Besides this other normal vegetables of daily consumption like, peas, cauliflower, green leaves are found all over the district. A large quantity of fruits that is grown in the district is apple, which is found in the Lachung Valley. Other fruits like peach, guava, orange, plum, phunsay grow in plenty.

However, cultivation in Sikkim faces several problems which limits the scope of agriculture in Sikkim to a great extent. Firstly, Sikkim is a tiny state and most of the regions are hilly and at high altitudes, unfit for cultivation. Out of the total, dry land and waste land constitute 58 percent and 10 percent of the total area respectively. Whatever land is left for cultivation is besieged by variable agro-climatic conditions, difficult terrain, steep slope, acidic soil and prolonged dry spell.

In a predominantly rural economy such as Sikkim, animal husbandry activities form an extremely important element in the effort to bring about substantial improvements in living standards. Livestock provide not only the much needed support to the rural families but also meets the demand of protein requirment hrough the supply of milk, egg, and meat. Adequate number of livestock like cattle, buffaloes, pigs, sheep's, goats, yaks and few others are reared in Sikkim. Yaks are reared in north eastern ranges bordering Tibet, Bhutan and western region bordering Nepal.

Sikkim is a industrially backward state. In order to develop industrial climate the state has been formulated new industrial policy from 10th April 1996. Department of Industries launched different promotional schemes. Sikkim Industrial Corporation was established in March 1977 with twin objectives of State Financial Corporation and Small Industries Development Corporation.Main industries of the state are handloom and handicrafts, tea, juices and jams, biscuits and other bakery products, beer, matches, washing soap, electric cables, watches, leather goods and industrial jewels. Sikkim Time Corporation (SITCO) owned by Sikkim government in collaboration with IIMT assembles watches, manufactures digital watches and M.I.C. chips.

With the general improvement in infrastructure, tourism is slated to be the mainstay of the Sikkims economy. Gangtok the state capital, is the main tourist attraction. Besides, there are important tourists places like Buddhist temple at Yumthang, natural garden at Bankhim, the monastery at Dubdi, Changu Lake, Rumtek monastery, Tsomgo and Phodong monastery, Dzongri, Varsey, Tashiding etc. The state has much more potential for the development of tourism and efforts are also being made in that direction.

Located at Namchi in South Sikkim, Siddheshwar Dhaam makes Sikkim as one of the most spectacular pilgrimage destinations to practise and promote religious tourism. Built in the form of replicas of most revered religious pilgrimage sites in India, Chaar Dhaam offers a unique concept of bringing all four Dhams in India under one roof. Located amidst the breadth- taking surroundings of Solophok Hill, the four illustrious Dhaams Jagannaath Puree (Odisha), Dwaarakaa Puree (Gujarat), Raameshawaram (Tamil Nadu), Badreenaath (Uttarakhand) have been replicated in this religious complex. The place also hosts a 108 ft tall statue of Lord Shiva and a 18-feet statue of Kiraateshwar the hunter incarnation of Lord Shiva. The Siddheshwar Dham was inaugurated on 8th November 2011 by Sri Jagadguru Sankaracharya Swami Swarupananda Saraswati. The project conceptualized by Shri Pawan Chamling was awarded the Most Innovative & Unique Tourism Project -2010-11 by the Ministry of Tourism.

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