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Shaping Development

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With Uttarakhand having completed 22 years of existence as a separate state, its development model, thus far, has been one of obtaining funds from the government, irrespective of the actual prioritised requirements.

Except for the fact that the occasional dole of Rs 1000 crores or more allows the state not to raise taxes or even spend too much energy on exacting them, this stratagem has not been very effective in improving conditions overall. Too much of the money, as has been seen already, goes into non-productive expenditure, and here one does not mean paying salaries, etc. It must not be forgotten how, in the early years, the government splurged on new cars, doing up offices, installing air conditioners, etc.

It would be so much better if Uttarakhand gets its house in order and then seeks funds for specific, well-delineated tasks. This would make sense of the two-engine concept articulated by Prime Minister Modi. This does not necessarily mean cutting costs just for the sake of doing so, but undertaking an audit to ascertain how the money is actually being spent and whether this is in a productive manner. This would also require an understanding of the developmental philosophy the state must have. So far, it was only during the time of ND Tiwari and somewhat differently during BC Khanduri’s tenures that an overall philosophy of governance could be clearly seen.

Simultaneously, there needs to be an academic exercise into the level of autonomy the state really has in shaping its development process. As compared to the UP years, there has definitely been an enormous change, but there is also no doubt that too often policies and priorities of the Centre come in the way of state-specific planning. Funding comes with strings attached, be it provided by the Centre or external agencies. The Smart City concept, for instance, has forced Uttarakhand to visualise Dehradun’s development in a manner quite artificially, merely for the sake of some funding. The state must identify its core concerns and then seek the necessary funds, if required. In many cases, it would be discovered – if the effort were made – that financial resources are the least of the problem!

Basically, Uttarakhand has reached a stage where much greater sophistication is required in its management. Practices more akin to those of the corporate sector need to be introduced, keeping in mind the bottom line. Except that, instead of profits, results should be calculated in terms of people’s quality of life, generation of wealth and jobs, as well as protection of the environment. The old ways will not work anymore, no matter how sincere the intent.