Mussoorie: Himachal Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur while addressing the conclave of the Himalayan States at Mussoorie in Uttarakhand on Sunday advocated for formulating a holistic, inclusive and consistent development policy for sustainable development of Himalayan states so that despite all bottleneck because of tough topographical conditions, these states could progress at par with other states of the country.
Thakur said that about 66 per cent geographical area of Himachal Pradesh is covered by forests and if ecologically viable and scientific silviculture practices are allowed, the state can earn additional annual revenue of about Rs 4000 crore. However, due to national laws and orders of courts, the state is not neither able to get full revenue from its forest wealth, nor undertaking developmental activities on larger geographical area. Therefore, Himachal Pradesh should be suitably compensated for being deprived of revenue worth crores of rupees for being denied harnessing its forest wealth. He urged the Finance Commission and the union government to provide adequate grant to revenue deficit states so that after overcoming post devolution deficit, they have adequate funds for capital investment.
He said that Himachal has witnessed huge fall in income from GST and urged the Finance Commission for proper evacuation of GST for remaining 33 months for the state. Jai Ram Thakur said that the state has immense tourism potential but due to non-availability of rail and air connectivity, a big airport must be constructed. He said that construction of roads in Himalayan states was very expensive and rail network was almost negligible. Besides, being hilly, the Himalayan states are prone to several natural calamities and it is the need of the hour that the Union government ensures adequate allocation of funds under SDRF for the Himalayan states. He added that Article 275 and 280 of Indian Constitution makes provision of adequate grant of economically weak and revenue deficit states. Jai Ram Thakur said that most of the rivers in the country originate from the Himalayas and the Himalayan states are playing the most significant role in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s water conservation initiative.
Speaking on the occasion, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the Himalayan States have a major role to play being the custodian for saving the pristine environment of the Himalayas. She said that long term strategies need to be prepared to protect the fragile Himalayan ecology. The proper infrastructure must be created in border areas of these states to check migration of people from these areas which makes the border areas vulnerable. Vice Chairman NITI Ayog Dr Rajiv Kumar said that the Himalayan region has immense potential having about 18 per cent of the total geographical area of the country. Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said that principal agenda for the conclave is to ensure conserving the rivers, glaciers, lakes and water bodies besides reviving water resources.