Gangtok: A day after his effigy was burned in Namchi, South Sikkim, Indian football team’s former captain and working president of the Hamro Sikkim Party, Bhaichung Bhutia, on Thursday said the ruling SKM government was trying to silence the voice of the common man and accused the government of bringing in people from “outside” to spread fear.

Earlier this week, Bhutia had questioned the SKM government over its decision to spend Rs 500 crore on a 300-bed hospital in Namchi by razing the lone playground in the district.

Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay had laid the foundation stone for the project on June 5, to which Bhutia had reacted by saying: “No hospital at the cost of a playground,” as the hospital compromises Namchi’s famous ‘veterinary playground’.

In a video message from Mumbai, where Bhutia is part of a TV panel for the upcoming EURO 2020 football tournament, the Padmashri awardee said: “The CM said he already sanctioned Rs 80 crore for the project. If you used only Rs 20 crore from that sanctioned fund and devoted it to the existing hospitals, PHCs, dispensaries and increased the workforce, then Sikkim’s COVID 19 scenario would not have so bad. So many people would not have died of COVID-19. Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay is well versed with the fact that 280 people have died of COVID-19 in Sikkim in the past one year. Even now, Sikkim tops the death rate in the country in terms of its population and percentage.”

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Bhutia said his Hamro Sikkim Party has been writing to the government for the last year now to announce an economic package for taxi drivers and farmers among the poor population.

“If Rs 10 crore was used from the sanctioned fund and you gave Rs 20,000, almost 500 taxi drivers would have been covered and their families would be the beneficiaries. Same number of farmers would also benefit,” Bhutia said.

The football legend clarified that it is not the building of a hospital that he is opposed to.

“We are only suggesting that when the pandemic is controlled, when life is normal, then you make the hospital. I suggested taking the hospital to a better location, as the CM said the hospital would cater to patients from South and West Sikkim districts. The location from Jorethang to Melli or Reshi, Nandu Gaon, Golitar and Karfectar would be ideal both logistically and transportation wise. It would be better for South and West Sikkim. Alongside, it would be also be convenient for the people of Rangpo, Singtam in East Sikkim.”

Highlighting the intolerance exhibited by the SKM government and comparing them with the previous Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) party government, Bhutia said: “We raised the issue of Bhaichung Stadium many times. In the previous election, unemployment was a major concern. We protested about the issue at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. But then the SDF government came forth and gave 20,000 jobs under ‘one family, one job’ scheme. They didn’t burn my effigy. But as an opposition party, alongside your party’s Krantikari youth, we collectively fought for parivartan (change). Now we are questioning if we brought the right parivartan or the wrong parivartan.”

RELATED | Sikkim: No hospital at the cost of playground, says Bhaichung Bhutia

On the incident in Namchi, Bhaichung said, “When there is a curfew imposed under the Disaster Management Act, people coming out in town protesting in the middle of the market area, while administration and government is not able to do anything. I want to request the Chief Minister and the state government to catch and punish the people who protested and violated the curfew.”

Bhutia once again requested the government to not go ahead with the Namchi hospital project.

“It can be made when the pandemic situation in Sikkim improves. Location wise as well, the play ground is not the place to construct a hospital. Find and shift the location to a better place.”

Bhaichung also urged the people of Sikkim to speak up when they see corruption and injustice around. “If you do not speak up, Sikkim will degrade into a bad situation. Have courage and speak up so that the future generations of Sikkim can be better. Please come forward and make your voice heard. Don’t be scared.”

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