State Formation Day Special
By ARUN PRATAP SINGH
DEHRADUN, 8 Nov: As Uttarakhand observes its formation day tomorrow, it is perhaps time to have a relook at what has been achieved and not achieved during all these years since the formation of a separate state on 9 November, 2000, nineteen years ago. Uttarakhand was carved out of undivided Uttar Pradesh (UP) 19 years ago giving in to the long pending demand of the people from this region by the then NDA Government led by PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The struggle that led to creation of Uttarakhand was born out of a persistent feeling that under UP, the hill districts were neglected and deprived of development. It was also felt that since in this part of UP, the majority of the population belonged to two higher castes, Brahmins and Rajputs, as such reservations for the OBCs proposed Smriti Irani stresses on multilingual content creation by the Mandal Commission would badly affect the job prospects for the people from Uttarakhand. At the time of its formation, Uttarakhand (then called Uttaranchal) inherited several advantages as well as disadvantages and problems from the mother state, Uttar Pradesh. To begin with, the pace of development in Uttar Pradesh was very slow for the past several decades and the economy of the hill region which now forms Uttarakhand depended on subsidies and special grants and funds earmarked for it. Residents of the hill region in Uttar Pradesh long felt neglected, particularly in view of the fact that there were no industries in this part of the state and the business and self employment opportunities were rather limited. In addition, senior and mid-level officials posted in this region during the UP state took this posting as a punishment meant basically to pass their time here till they were transferred back to the plains of UP. This led to neglect and lack of proper planning for the region and it remained backward subsisting on the money order economy. Therefore, the expectations of the people were very high from the new state. However, successive governments in Uttarakhand have fallen way short of people’s expectations. When the state was formed, it was expected that the government would consist of local leaders who would earnestly and selflessly work hard to take the state ahead! However, political problems started on day 1 itself when the first chief minister selected by the then NDA Government at the Centre, Nityanand Swami was not accepted by his own party leaders as well as a large section of people merely because he was not a pahari, though he was educated and his political karmabhoomi had always been Uttarakhand in general and Dehradun in particular! Ironically, so much has changed since then and now even in the parliamentary constituencies not considered ‘pahari’, it is the ‘pahari’ candidates who have managed tickets from both Congress and BJP and won. For example, all the 5 BJP MPs elected in the last general elections are Paharis and that was the case in the 2014 general elections, too. Even in the year 2009, all the 5 Congress MPs were Paharis including from Haridwar which is clearly a plains seat! At least forty percent of the population is non-pahari but it is not reflected by the elected representatives. This, however, is a minor issue. There are other major issues that are affecting the state in a much bigger way than this. Political instability in the state has continued ever since its formation and has dominated the governance here. This is the reason that in the 19 years of its existence, Uttarakhand has already seen 9 chief ministers if we count BC Khanduri’s term as two since he served twice within the same assembly. Because of this political instability, there has been greater focus by the incumbent chief ministers on warding off dissidence than on governance. Currently, the BJP has a brute majority and there is no apparent threat or danger to the throne of CM Trivendra Singh Rawat. Yet, he has not been able to fill even his cabinet vacancies for reasons best known to him. As far as development is concerned, statistics do not bring out the facts and the real picture! Figures can easily be quoted to indicate that Uttarakhand is progressing rapidly. Annual per capita income of the state has grown from Rs 20,000 to around Rs 190,000 now. The GDP which stood at less than Rs 70,0000 crores is standing at Rs 2.63 lakh crores now. However, there is a very high rate of unemployment and migration since there are few jobs, highly inadequate health facilities and not enough education facilities in the hills. In addition, the inequality in income distribution also continues to be high. Uttarakhand claims to be growing at 9.5 percent, now, whereas it had touched the peak of 16 percent in 2008-09. Of course, when compared to most states, this rate of growth of GSDP can be considered satisfactory currently standing at Rs 2,63,000 crores. According to the experts, this high rate of growth can be attributed to the fact that before the formation of the state, Uttarakhand was nearly devoid of any large scale industry. Due to special status granted by the then NDA government to Uttarakhand, it had managed to attract close to Rs 40,000 crores of investment in the primary and secondary sectors and therefore there was a significant jump in the GSDP growth rate. It was also lacking in infrastructure and has now been attracting good central funds for infrastructure growth. This is bound to go down and flatten out in years to come unless the rest of the country starts seeing faster development and higher growth and the state too manages to keep pace. This increased growth rate however failed to bring in an equivalent job creation and hence unemployment remains the most pressing problem of the state! Compared to its neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh, the poverty level stands much higher. In Himachal, 22 percent of population is stated to be below the poverty line whereas, in Uttarakhand, the figure stands at around 32 percent. Large scale unemployment has also led to large scale migration of youth from the hills to Dehradun, Haldwani, Rishikesh and Rudrapur and to other states! Large scale investment by the private sector too has remained restricted to places like Haridwar, Roorkee, US Nagar, Haldwani (Nainital district) and Dehradun. Renewed efforts were made to attract fresh investment by this government and for this, an investors meet was also organised in Dehradun which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The government claims that projects worth Rs 40,000 crores are on the verge of taking off and that MoUs worth more than Rs 1 lakh crores have been signed. It however remains to be seen, how many of these claimed projects actually take off. When the state was formed, it was touted that it would become self-sufficient solely on account of its hydropower generation and tourism development potential! None of this actually fructified! From a power surplus state, Uttarakhand has become highly deficient in power while its tourism potential has remained largely untapped! The power demand has more than trebled while the generation has increased merely by 40 percent during this period. Due to several reasons, including many self- inflicted ones, hydropower generation has lingered much below the potential even as the governments failed to come up with a policy for small, mini and micro hydropower projects which ought to have been the major focus area in the power sector! Though two gas powered plants were announced but they have not seen any progress on the ground and there has been no effort to tap the potential of alternate power sources like wind and solar power! The government has now taken some baby steps towards wind and solar energy projects allocation. Smaller hydropower projects of capacity less than 50 MW remain neglected although they hold maximum potential. The IT sector had great potential since it is a green sector but beyond the setting up of an IT Park in 2006, nothing has happened. Not much effort has been made to attract investment though a large number of youth from the state who are IT professionals and are currently working in Hyderabad, Pune, Bangalore and Gurgaon. Tourism remains largely untapped, relying mainly on religious tourism by virtue of Char Dhams. There is no clear policy to promote tourism and most tourism projects announced by various governments from time to time remain incomplete! There is huge potential for adventure tourism, nature tourism and eco-tourism, forestry tourism but not realised at all! Modi Government had announced construction of all- weather roads to the Char Dham as well as rail network up to Karnaprayag in district Chamoli. This is bound to bring more pilgrims as well as tourists to the hills, but is the government ready with necessary plans to take full advantage of the better infrastructure? No! Char Dham pilgrimage is back to normal after the Kedarnath tragedy of 2013 but in general the tourism sector is not picking up despite the huge potential. All the state governments including the current one led by Trivendra Singh Rawat have claimed that horticulture and cultivation of herbs have a tremendous potential in the state. But this potential remains largely on paper. Horticulture growth is projected higher on the basis of unproven statistics and the growth potential for herbal sector remains totally untapped. In order to tap the real potential of the horticulture sector, it is necessary to set up more food processing and fruit & vegetable processing units in the hills, as well as small scale cold storages and to improve all weather access to the areas of horticulture production. In addition, agriculture and horticulture in the hills are totally dependent on rains now. More and more natural water sources are drying up and not much is being done towards their rejuvenation. In fact, many minor irrigation projects are existing and functioning on paper only. Urban development too is lacking. Funds available from most of the central schemes like the Amrit Yojana now or JNNURM of the past remained unutilised since the state failed to even submit projects on time. As and when projects were submitted, they were found to be not complying with the norms. It has been more than 2 years that the smart city project was approved for Dehradun and a metro project was also announced. The state government has failed to ensure take off of these projects so far.