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Conclave Spirit

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The conclave for Chief Ministers of Himalayan States proposed to be held in Mussoorie will hopefully help evolve policies favourable to the region and its people. Uttarakhand is the youngest member of this grouping and has much to learn from the experience of others, particularly in the field of participative governance. Living in the mountains requires a number of skills, which are inherent in the culture. For instance, there has to be much greater cooperation and community spirit among mountain dwellers, without which survival is difficult. This means they are more amenable to accepting the positive initiatives that can make their lives even marginally better. They are closer to nature and respect its boundaries, even as they depend greatly on it for their livelihood. In many ways, the social structure is also different from that in the plains, with fewer distinctions between communities. As such, the political culture has proved to be healthier, quite in contrast with that which exists in the plains. Even as the older states have made significant advances in improving the quality of people’s lives, each in its particular way, Uttarakhand still struggles with several issues. People’s participation in efforts such as environmental friendly lifestyles, sustainable livelihoods, balanced development, etc. is greater, for instance, in Sikkim and the North-Eastern states. Himachal Pradesh has a solid history of taking civic amenities to its villages, in horticulture and managing tourism. In exchange, Uttarakhand with its exceptional human resources and educational institutions can provide inputs in several areas. The successful growth of some excellent private universities is one. The presence of the Niti Aayog Vice Chairman should, expectedly, distill this experience into a rack of policies calibrated to serve the interests of the region and each of its states. These should not only nudge the states into a particular direction, but also integrate development initiatives with the rest of the country. This will, of course, require better articulation of the various development philosophies than just regurgitation of bureaucratic drafts, regulations and statistics. Time should not be wasted on formalities and ceremony – the focus should be on success stories and first- hand experience. If the exercise is conducted properly and with sincerity, there can be no doubt that it will prove beneficial to all. If nothing else, it will certainly give an idea to each other of the problems being faced, and their commonality, promoting a spirit of togetherness. This should prove an incentive to make the Conclave an annual or biennial affair.