Also geopolitics is important, as shown by the maps. Sikkim sits north of the Siliguri corridor (also known as the chicken’s neck), a narrow 22km strip of land which is the only connection between the north eastern states and the rest of India. Wedged between Bangladesh to the south and west and China to the north, the region has no access to the sea closer than Kolkata, on the other side of the corridor. Between Sikkim and Bhutan lies the Chumbi Valley, a dagger-like slice of Tibetan territory. A Chinese military advance of less than 130 kilometres (81 mi) would cut off Bhutan, part of West Bengal and all of North-East India, an area containing almost 50 million people. This situation arose during the war between India and China in 1962.
Such strategic importance means that foreigners need a security permit to enter Sikkim, and additional permissions to travel to the north, inhibiting tourism.
How does that affect the people of Sikkim? Wealth is concentrated in the few towns (Gangtok, Mangan, Geyzing, Namchi). Outside of these many exist on subsistence agriculture or labouring. Although state education is free, bad transport links make travelling to school impracticable, and poor families cannot afford to pay for their children to live away from home.
Sikkim Himalayan Academy was set up in 2003 as a residential and day school for the children of these rural families. This was followed by the setting up of the trust, the object of which is to support individual young people through to secondary and higher education. These young people mostly come from four of the tribal ethnicities of Sikkim: Sherpa, Lepcha, Gurung and Bhutia. They are also mostly Buddhist, although various Christian denominations are present in Sikkim.