By Arun Pratap Singh
New Delhi, 13 Dec: Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Parliament House, here, today. During the meeting, the CM sought the guidance of the Prime Minister while sharing the roadmap of the state government in order to make the concept of Uttarakhand@25 a reality. The Chief Minister also invited the Prime Minister to visit the Mayawati Ashram at Lohaghat.
He informed the Prime Minister about the reconstruction work being done in Kedarnath and the progress of the Badrinath Master Plan.
Besides briefing the PM about various ongoing projects as well as upcoming plans for the state, some major demands were also raised by Dhami during the meeting. Among them included the Centre’s help in restarting 44 Hydropower projects in the state that have been stranded due to various reasons. Dhami stressed that these stranded hydropower projects are very crucial for Uttarakhand not only to meet its requirements but also towards strengthening its economy. He apprised the PM that at the time of state formation, hydropower projects were considered to be the key area of focus for the state. However, many proposed projects could not make progress either due to intervention by the Supreme Court or the High Court, or due to approval remaining pending at the level of one or the other Central ministries. Dhami urged that these projects get due consideration and approval at the level of the PMO so that they could be revived. He reminded that the Ministry of Forests and Environment, Ministry of Jal Shakti (Water Resources) and Power Ministries were the ministries that had to approve the hydropower projects at the Central level.
The CM further urged the PM to consider extending the All Weather Road project beyond the Char Dham route up to the border areas for strategic reasons.
In view of the negative rate of return in case of Tanakpur-Bageshwar Line, he asked that the Centre consider granting greater relaxation for the state and bear a larger share of the project cost. At present, the state is bearing more than 50 percent of the project cost, but it has limited resources and the project is sensitive from a strategic perspective. He also reminded the PM that expansion of the Jolly Grant and Pantnagar Airports is necessary for the promotion of tourism and increasing connectivity. For promoting rural tourism in the hills, it is also necessary to expand Naini Saini, Gauchar and Chinyalisaur airstrips and, for this also, the Centre’s help is necessary.
The Chief Minister also pointed out that it would be necessary from the economic and social point of view to establish a new airport/airstrip in the Chaukhutia area located near the summer capital, Gairsain. In view of disasters, landslides, heavy rains, forest fires, glacial melts, etc., there is a great need for a strong weather forecasting system, including Doppler Radars.
Reminding that minimum infrastructure facilities are essential for the floating population in the state (which is around 4-5 crores every year due to the Chardham Yatra and other religious pilgrimages including Kanwad Yatra in Haridwar), Dhami drew attention of the PM to the fact that increase in the revenue of the state through pilgrims is not very high. He asked the PM that the Centre keep this in mind while allocating financial resources to Uttarakhand.
In addition to raising demands on behalf of the state, Dhami also briefed the PM on the progress of ongoing projects as well as plans for the Uttarakhand@25 concept.
The Chief Minister added that, to encourage investment in solar energy and small hydropower projects in the state, a renewable energy/small hydropower policy is being formulated. Work on preparing a family identity card is being started in the state, in which it is proposed to link all types of beneficiary schemes in a way that the selection of beneficiary from any family is done on the basis of prescribed standards and qualifications.
Dhami further informed the Prime Minister that a Chintan Shivir had been organised at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, on the theme of Strong Uttarakhand @ 25, in which all senior officials of the state including ministers participated. In the Shivir, discussions were held on preparing short, medium and long term roadmaps for the development of the state. The Chief Minister added that work on setting up a State Institute for Empowering & Transforming Uttarakhand (SETU) has been started on the lines of NITI Aayog.
He also informed Modi that after his (PM’s) last visit to Uttarakhand, the state government had included in its agenda an appeal to the tourists to spend at least five percent of their tour expenditure on purchase of local products. The Chief Minister revealed that 15 places have been identified in the hill and plains districts to develop green field cities in the state.
The Chief Minister added that the State Millet Mission is being launched to end malnutrition in the state and to promote the cultivation of traditional coarse grains. High value agriculture/horticulture is being promoted in the form of cluster farming approach and, to begin with, 6624 clusters have already been identified.
The Chief Minister told the PM that 35 ropeways have been identified under the Parvatmala Yojana, on which a strategy is being prepared to start and complete the work in the stipulated period.
Home stay development is being done to connect local citizens with tourism activity in the state.
The Chief Minister said that a strategy is being prepared on developing and establishing new industrial clusters and growth centres to create employment and self employment. A logistics policy, service sector policy, private industrial policy and new MSME policy are being formulated in the state to encourage investment in industries. The compliance burden has been reduced by strengthening the single window system under Ease of Doing Business.
The Chief Minister said that, if rain-fed rivers are linked with glacier-based rivers in the state of Uttarakhand, not only the state but the entire North India can get the benefit of this innovative experiment.