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Enabling Role

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The Uttarakhand Government has organised a slew of programmes involving various sectors in the run up to the State Formation Day celebrations on 9 November. Twenty years have passed since the state was formed and a number of discussions have been held on various platforms on how well it has developed (or not) since separating from Uttar Pradesh. Opinions have differed depending on which section the comments have come from, but there is considerable agreement that Uttarakhand has not done as well as it could have. Those involved in the statehood movement feel that its progress has diverged greatly from what had been originally envisaged. If anything, Uttarakhand has suffered because of its embarrassment of riches in terms of potential. There are so many sectors that can be developed for economic advantage that the biggest challenge is to set the correct priority, because the funds are naturally limited. Pilgrimage has to be given top priority as it is a necessity for a vast number of Indian citizens – hence the effort that went into redeveloping Kedarnath after it was hit by natural disaster. It can be said that this has been successfully done. Tourism comes next because of its enormous reach and variety, and its ability to provide a livelihood to the most number of people. Both these sectors require infrastructure, particularly a road network. Considerable work has been done on this. Then there has been the question of services government is required to provide, such as connectivity, schools, hospitals, water and electricity supply, etc. This has certainly been a priority with all governments, thus far. Despite all this, there has been a problem with migration and emptying villages in the hills. Although critics allege that this process accelerated since the state was formed, the fact is it would have been even higher if Uttarakhand had not come into being. Earlier, when people left, they went to other states; today the development in the plains of the state has acted as a check dam, restricting flow beyond Dehradun, US Nagar and Haridwar. The challenge for the government is not to try and do everything by itself. It should act as enabler by, first, recognising the countless livelihood opportunities and, then, forming policies that encourage start-ups in all of these spheres. The conferences and seminars that are being held should hopefully open the eyes of young people to the opportunities, and it is their energy that should be unleashed. The problem has been the poor regulatory regime that has often led to undoing of entrepreneurs’ efforts when the NGT or the courts begin passing corrective verdicts. Establish forward looking rules and then let there be no encumbrances when the economy approaches criticality. A lot has been done, but a lot more needs to be done!