Uttarakhand : Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

By R S Tolia • Others • 2 Mar 2012

When I was asked to share my few thoughts on how do I see which way our state is headed it took me some time to reflect on the aspects which I should be mainly concentrating on. As the State is like a going concern, which has a past, is passing through a ‘present’ and is going to have a future, it is only natural, that we must glance back, pause a bit and then give a hard look to the possibilities which seem to be presenting themselves.

It is nearly two decades ( January 1994 ) since I was part of  a Cabinet Sub-Committee which was constituted by then Socialist Party Government, the Kaushik Committee, to examine the financial viability of a “pahari  state” ( refer,  The Making of a Small State by Anup Kumar, 2011 ). When asked for assistance I requisitioned the services of Prof B.K. Joshi, presently Director of our Doon Library & research Centre, and I served as its Convenor Secretary, being the Secretary of Uttarakhand Vikas Vibhag. Prof. Joshi did the chapter on its financial viability and I tried my best to provide a synoptic historical justification as to how Uttarakhand has always been a socio-cultural entity and destined to remain as one, for ever. All I recommend for reading, to the Cassandras foretelling a financial catastrophe for this merging state, to just compare the resources which have since been generated by a sovereign state vis a vis an apology of a chapter on financial viability, put together with great difficulty by Prof Joshi in Volume I of the Kaushik Committee Report. I strongly believe that given our Forest, Industries, Tourism, Education and FRDC Branch departments, made to do some hard work our collective efforts can easily give the advancing states like Himachal Pradesh a run for their money. Permit me to share a few secrets here. The Questionnaire that we sent to the fabled, highly visible, multi-talented diaspora of Uttarakhand, making waves all over the country, which doesn’t get tired shouting hoarse, bemoaning the fate of ‘the hill districts’, did not bother to oblige by a single suggestion. So much for the contribution of the then Uttarakhandi diaspora. Just before signing the Final Report the Chairman asked me a question as to how in such a short time the Report could be finalised reflecting a consensus, across the board ? My simple reply was, ‘we have decided neither to add a single square inch to the existing area of the eight hill districts, nor have we suggested surrendering one, in turn.’ That was the secret of consensus, as it was historically validated. Only time will now tell if the latter changes, and addition in area, has added to the viability of this state or is it going to prove to be the proverbial stone-mill around its neck ?

Eleven years down the line, my memories are still fresh when I arrived at the then Vikas Bhawan of Dehradun, being upgraded into the Vidhan Sabha Bhawan. I straight away inspected the woks late in the night on my arrival from Naini Tal on the 24th October 2000, as In Charge Rajdhani, responsible for the issues related to transition from a sleepy town of erstwhile Uttar Pradesh into the new ‘provisional’ capital of the 27th State of the Republic of India. When asked for assistance this time I opted for the services of the then CDO of Almora, present Garhwal Commissioner, Mr Nabial. Next 15 days were spent in demonstrating to every one the real meaning of a 24 x 7 Day schedule, and inspecting all work-sites daily and devising a ‘4 –shifts- schedule’, if there was any !

Let me count first, the blessings. Both the major parties, have had a complete 5 years of term, of elected regimes. So while the people may or may not complain about who did what for the state and its people, both the parties have none, as each of them have had a full 5 year term of governance. People can only give the political parties a full term at governance but they can be held responsible for their internal instability. Over all, political stability has been there as far the state is concerned but ‘stability of internal party discipline’ remains to be still addressed. Undeniably fullest use has been made of the ‘Tax Concessional Industrial package ( 2003 )’, which was reflected in plus 12 percent GDP in 2005 and the consistent double digit growth ever since is mainly linked to the impetus provided by the industrial surge of pre-2005 years. How this surge was viewed by many well established States of the country, right from Congress ruled Punjab to Tamil Nadu down south, is evidenced by the fact this writer as Chief Secretary, accompanied by the then Industries Secretary, Sanjiv Chopra, were made to appear, accompanied by the representatives of our Industries Associations, before a Parliamentary Enquiry Committee, as if a ‘faster growth’ was a crime which had been committed by this new State. Today, when one looks around one wonders whether our state has already been plagued by a ‘Growth Fatigue’ ? It has taken me as many as three books, all published by M/s Bishen Singh MP Singh, a local publisher, to recount our experiences, which I fondly call were, as Marc Twain said, ‘The Best of Times, The Worst of Times’.

The Industrial surge has been graphically recounted by the Man Who Made it Happen, Sanjeev Chopra, in as many as two books. So, the generation of officials who worked the machine has also taken the trouble to pen it down their experiences. We wonder if the lack of experience sharing has something to do with any thing which has impacted on the service conditions, infrastructural facilities, financial resources or what ? Time has come when public will demand to know our public service spends its time and how our political leadership is making them accountable, responsible and responsive to the public needs. I am sure our Industry friends must have read the ultimate certificate for industrial development that was given, and was widely publicised in all business and economic newspapers, by no less than the MD of Tata Motors when the Tatas were facing the heat of industrial trouble in Singur, West Bengal. The MD had said that the states must learn from Uttarakhand how Industrial development is organized as while Singur was burning Nanos were being rolled out from Pantnagar II Estate. Wonder how many of us thought of complimenting Sanjeev & Team for what they had given to the new state ? Let us all learn to be grateful to those to whom it is really due and be bold enough to strongly reprimand the “Time Passers” amongst us. Such certificates could have multiplied, in a more conducive working environment. Let us all appreciate that development is always “ incremental”, there is no such thing as “ quantum jump in the field of governance ”.

As I write about the future the 6th of March is only a few days away. My stock reply to all political questions is that this state deserves to be blessed with continued “political stability”. Which ever way the political die has been cast by our all-knowing mature electorate their votes must add up to a government which has a clear political mandate, for full five years of governance. Both the major parties have had a full term each, have hopefully learned their lessons and remember that now “good governance is good politics”, nothing less, nothing more. Political stability is a necessary condition, but it is not sufficient. I have recently brought out a publication ‘ A Planning Framework for the Mountain States of India’ courtesy Doon University. Without re-iterating what I have suggested in this Framework let me briefly say that Uttarakhand, besides Himachal Pradesh, is the only mountain state, which has foodgrains self-sufficiency, which contributes to the Central Pool, which has the first Agriculture University set up in the country, which has several Centres of Excellence in the various fields and above all, a very high order and quantity of human resource capital, an acknowledged brand-equity in the secondary education, now a strong industrial base and huge resource of natural endowments. What we lack is no due diligence in managing all these resources, no use of the human resource for  harnessing these very resources we are blessed with.

I certainly do not mean a routine Planning Commission type of institution which has been converted to park elected representatives who cannot be accommodated elsewhere but  a Planning Commission, and other institutions meant for providing direction to various development streams, manned by persons with acknowledged experience and dedication. In the Planning Framework I have listed some two dozen items, out of which many would be applicable to the state, which could provide suitable direction, for the future years. Further, the base-work for the 12th Plan is already nearing completion and so, there is no dearth of new concepts and ideas, which the state could choose from and give a push. Just to illustrate, in passing, let me refer to the Interim Report on ‘Low Carbon Strategies for Inclusive Growth’, by the Planning Commission, which dwells at great length on the future course which our Power, Transport, Industry, Buildings and Forestry sectors must follow. But, do we have the experts and the appropriate institutions who would have time and necessary expertise to read such documents and relate that to our own medium and long term plans ? For me, the ‘institutional – deficit’, the ‘due diligence – deficit’ and the ‘commitment –deficit’ are  a few major cause of worry and I only hope that we all have voted for overcoming these very deficits and the very first act of the new Government that is formed after the results are out is how to provide the state a government which has a clear plan of governance and a commitment to serve the people.  


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