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Future Challenge

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Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami has been impressive in his almost four months in office. He has not just represented gen-next in Uttarakhand politics with humility and aplomb, but also approached the responsibilities of his job with obvious sincerity. Even before he could get settled in the saddle, he was faced with the statewide disaster caused by unseasonal heavy rains. His ‘on-the-spot’ approach to dealing with the crisis has been widely appreciated. It may be noted that all this has been done in the looming shadow of the coming assembly elections, requiring considerable dexterity in approach. After all, his primary assignment is to lead the state BJP in the approaching contest as an acceptable face for all party factions. This, it can be comfortably said, he has achieved.

Even in the brief period as Chief Minister, he will have got a close understanding of the difficulties that face the state. He should use this, first, in ensuring the party’s manifesto addresses the political requirements of winning an election. Second, however, he must prepare his own plan that goes beyond popular appeal to fix the real problems, which are many. It is not just about delivery of welfare and social programmes but hard core administrative, economic and financial solutions. The recent natural disaster has underlined once again the many deficiencies in the system when it comes to providing services to the last person in the diverse topography of the state.

Despite even the most sincere efforts since Uttarakhand’s formation, the reluctance to serve in the hills among all sections of government servants continues. The CM and the BJP need to develop an innovative approach to correcting this deficiency. It will require multi-disciplinary inputs from experts in a rapidly changing economic environment. Even the many initiatives taken in the past such as developing a new employment model for the hills based on an eclectic mix of village based activities has faltered because of implementation issues. Every time a group of trekkers gets killed because of poor regulations, unprofessional management and bad planning, it hits future business negatively. Home-stays, ‘green and organic’ products, absolutely essential power, road and internet connectivity require ‘standardisation’. It is not possible to sell a half-baked product.

The problems of the plains are entirely different. Urban development has become a major challenge as settlers continue to pour in not just from the hills but also other states. It has been seen that town-planners have been increasingly side-lined under political pressure to relax regulations. All of these challenges will require some painful and swift decisions, post-elections. For this, the CM must prepare his plan, now.