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Looking Ahead

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The Budget Session of the Uttarakhand Assembly will begin on 14 June. The government claims it will bring a budget that includes good suggestions from the general public. Politically, too, it will be significant following Chief Minister Dhami’s thumping electoral victory and consolidation of power. The Congress has to take back some ground and will try to do so with protests on the ED summons to the Gandhi family, price rise, the ongoing Nupur Sharma controversy, and the management of the Char Dham Yatra. Unfortunately, going by past practice, there is likely to be more drama than debate.

An attempt will obviously be made by government to try and mix pragmatism with some populist measures in the budget. It will be important, however, that some of the glitches that keep getting reported in the media almost on a daily basis are addressed, even though they may not seem so significant. So, the drop in the number of RTE admissions in schools of the hills, the unwillingness of an increasing number of hospitals to provide medical treatment under the Atal Ayushman Scheme, and such like will get due attention and allocations. Pressure groups within the administrative structure almost always manage to obtain benefits at the cost of the common person. It will be interesting to see how the Dhami Government navigates its way around such shortcomings.

Migration in the state is not just to other states, but also within – from the hills to the plains. This is putting enormous pressure in many ways on the cities, making planned urban development a major priority. The budget should give an indication of what the government has to offer in this regard. A good start now, with an effective plan, will ensure the living conditions get better for the people.

It is expected that the bounce-back of the tourism and pilgrimage sectors will give a boost to the economy, but there is also a capacity limitation. Planners must work out how this can be expanded, and the benefits spread across the state instead of being confined to a few traditional destinations. The classes of visitors need to be identified so that services can be provided specific to their needs. All of this will become possible if financial allocations are made more intelligently. Projects implemented without thought will result in the kind of failures represented by the ill-fated ice rink in Dehradun, which intelligent management could have turned into a money-spinner. Hopefully, the budget will not disappoint.