-Prof. Prem Kumar Dhumal**

** Article on himachal pradesh day **

April 15 has a special significance for the people of Himachal Pradesh. It is on this day in 1948 that Himachal Pradesh came into being after the merger of 30 princely states. I extend my heartiest felicitations to all sisters and brethren of the State on this auspicious day, and wish them a bright and prosperous future. Himachal Pradesh has not only come a long way but has emerged as a pioneer in many fields, thanks to the persistent efforts made by the hard working, sincere and honest people of the State.

Having attained the distinction of being the Apple State, Himachal is now being recognized as the Fruit Bowl of the country. Besides, it is well on way to becoming the Power State and first Carbon Neutral State of the country. Moving fast on the road to all-round development, it has emerged as a role model for others. Being adjudged first in seven indicators of development in the “State of the States” survey, conducted by a prestigious weekly; and on three indicators by another prestigious weekly and an electronic channel, speaks volume about the rapid strides Himachal Pradesh has made.

This can be gauged from the fact that the per capita income of the State has zoomed from Rs 240 in 1948 to more than Rs 49,211 in 2010. The literacy percentage which was only eight in 1948, has gone up to 83 per cent, and is likely to top the table in the country next year. Similarly, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which was Rs. 27 crores in 1948, has also soared to Rs. 42788 crores at present.

In the ‘State of the States’ survey, conducted by “India Today”, Himachal Pradesh has been adjudged the Best State in Education, Health, Investment, Macro Economy and Fastest Mover State in overall performance, Capital Investment and Macro Economy. And the IBN-7 and Outlook magazine surveys have awarded ‘Diamond State’ award to Himachal for Women’s Empowerment, Employment Generation and Environment Conservation.

I got the opportunity to serve the people as Chief Minister, first from 1998 to 2002, and now from December, 30, 2007 onwards. It has been the earnest endeavour of my Government to not only accelerate the pace of development, but also to ensure that such growth is inclusive. We have taken policy decisions to ensure socio-economic justice to the poor, the downtrodden and the weaker sections of the society. Ever since the present Government took over on December 30, 2007, the State has witnessed speedy all-round development, and steps have been taken to ensure that the common man benefits from its policies and programmes. It is with this end in view that Government has initiated several ambitious schemes which have been implemented in letter and spirit. Our vision is ‘Sadak’, ‘Shiksha’, ‘Swasthya’, ‘Swarojgar’, ‘Swablamban’ and ‘Swabhiman’. The welfare of the people in general, and uplifting the socio-economic status of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and all vulnerable sections of the society in particular, is our aim. Women’s empowerment and youth welfare are other thrust areas for my Government.

Agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry are source of livelihood for about 70 per cent of population, the state government has launched several ambitious schemes for the benefit of farmers. ‘Pandit Deen Dayal Kisan Bagwan Samridhi Yojna’, a flagship programme, aims at improving the socio-economic condition of the farmers. They are being given 80 per cent subsidy on poly houses as well as micro irrigation. The target of bringing 4.9 lakh square meters under poly houses, and 8,000 hectares under micro irrigation, fixed for 2009-2010, has already been met. In fact, the government has gone one step further, from this year; we will give a subsidy of 90 per cent to BPL families on the construction of bamboo poly houses.

With a view to facilitate marketing of the produce, the State Government has decided to strengthen and equip the post-harvest marketing infrastructure. For promotion of organic farming, 1.5 lakh Vermi Compost Units have been set up and more than 10,000 farmers have been registered for organic farming. An ambitious scheme of Rs. 372 crore has been proposed for external funding for promoting diversification of crops with special focus on organic farming and water harvesting.

Determined to help the small and marginal farmers, the State Government has written off the ‘Taccavi’ and Land Improvement Loans and interest to the tune of Rs 4.96 crore, benefiting 4,32,854 farmers. They have also been exempted from Stamp Duty on bank loans of up to Rs.10 lakh. Providing social security to the farmers, the tomato crop in Solan district and potato crop in Kangra and Una districts, have been brought under the Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme.

Effective steps are being taken to strengthen the horticultural economy of the State to benefit fruit growers. A Rs 85-crore ‘Apple Rejuvenation Project’ has been prepared to replace the old and low-yield variety plantation with productive varieties of apple rootstocks over 12,500 acres in the next five years. Apple and mango have been brought under the Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme on a pilot basis, under which the government pays 50 per cent of the premium.

The Government has also enhanced the support prices of apple, mango and citrus fruits being procured under the Market Intervention Scheme. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) has been signed by the Himachal Pradesh Horticulture Produce and Marketing Corporation (HPMC) with Patanjali Ayurved Ltd, Haridwar, for the sale of apple juice concentrate and other products, benefiting the fruit growers of the State.

With a view to strengthen the economy of the people in the rural areas, the State Government has launched Rs 300-crore ‘Doodh Ganga Project’. Initially it was started in Mandi, Solan and Sirmaur districts but now it will be extended to other districts this year. About 50,000 families would stand to gain from the scheme through 10,000 Self-Help Groups, by taking up milk-related activities to supplement their income. They will be provided loan of up to Rs 3 lakh for the purpose, out of which 50 per cent is being given interest-free; and the remaining 50 per cent is being subsidized for timely payment.

Under the Shepherd Insurance Scheme, as many as 8,993 shepherds have been extended cover so far. In order to strengthen the veterinary services in rural areas, the “Mukhya Mantri Arogya Pashudhan” Scheme is being launched this year under which veterinary dispensaries will be opened in all such panchayats in the next three years that have no such facility at present. As many as 1,150 veterinary dispensaries will be opened in the first phase. Efforts are being made to improve the economic condition of fishermen; 6,560 of them have been extended insurance cover for which they have not to pay any premium. The limit of insurance cover has been increased from Rs 50,000 to Rs. one lakh.

One of the priorities of the government is to develop the rural areas at a faster pace. Himachal Pradesh has emerged as a pioneer in strengthening the Panchayat Raj Institutions. We are the first state in the country to have reserved 50 per cent seats for women in the Panchayati Raj Institutions and local bodies in 2008. A sum of Rs 6 crore was released for the construction of 238 new panchayat ghars last year; and financial assistance for the purpose has been enhanced from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 3.4 lakh per unit. Besides, Rs 7.3 crore has been sanctioned for upgradation of 730 panchayat ghars. The target of constructing 8,212 houses under the “Indira Awas Yojna” and 5,175 houses under the “Atal Awas Yojna” has been fixed.

A sum of Rs 525 crore will be spent under MNREGA during the current financial year, generating employment for about 4.5 lakh households. Expanding the ambit of the permissible works under this scheme, the small and marginal farmers will now be allowed to take up irrigation, land development and horticulture development works on their lands. The state has been doing excellent work in implementation of MNREGA and Kangra district has been conferred the National Award for doing good work.

Focus has been laid on generating self-employment opportunities for the youth. With a view to equipping the BPL youth with marketable skills, and enhancing their capacity to secure employment in the private sectors and set up micro-enterprises for self-employment, they are being imparted training. Two skill development projects under the ‘Swaran Jayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojna’ have been approved. About 3,700 rural BPL youth would be given training at the cost of Rs 3.5 crore under these projects.

Solving the housing problem of poor remains our primary concern. More than 13,000 houses have been constructed in the last financial year. Under the Atal Awas Yojna and Indira Awas Yojna, financial assistance for construction of new houses has been increased from Rs 38,500 to Rs 48,500 per unit from this financial year.

Special attention is being given to providing clean drinking water and extension of irrigation facilities. As many as 1,124 habitations have been provided drinking water since the present government took over. Besides, 2,500 hand pumps have been installed in various parts of the State. Under the Watershed Development Programme, a perspective and strategic Rs 4,668-crore plan has been sent to the Central Government for covering 31 lakh hectares. 36 projects worth Rs 306 crore for the development of more than two lakh hectares have been approved.

Highest priority of the State Government remains roads, education and health. During the last two years, 2103 kms of road length and 121 bridges have been constructed; 1,655 kms of road length has been tarred; and annual surfacing done on another 3,091 kms. The state government has taken up the matter of declaring seven more roads with a total length of 890 kms, as National Highways. The Government has also decided to construct tunnels to reduce distances and cut down on the travel time. Detailed Projects Reports (DPRs) are being prepared for the construction of three tunnels viz. Holi-Utrala, Karsehar-Telong (Bhabu Jot) and Bangana-Dhaneta, at an estimated cost of Rs 270 crore.

We are keen on making Himachal Pradesh a Knowledge Hub. Approval has been given for the opening of 16 Universities of global standard in the private sector. One Technical University is being set up in the government sector and a Central University is likely to come up soon in Kangra district. Atal Shiksha Kunj has been established in Solan district where reputed educational institutions are coming up. Technical education has also been given special emphasis. Classes in IIT Mandi started from IIT Roorkee last year, and efforts are being made to start them at Mandi from this academic session. Work on the National Institute of Fashion Technology in Kangra District has also come up.

Consistent and concerted efforts are being taken to provide better healthcare facilities to the people, and ensure that the poor get proper medical treatment. Insurance cover of Rs 30,000 has been provided to all families living below the poverty line under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna. The State Government has also decided to provide extended insurance cover of up to Rs 1.75 lakh to each BPL family having critical health problem.

Infrastructure and specialized services are being ensured in the two medical colleges and other hospitals of the State. An ESI hospital is coming up in Mandi, and the State Government proposes to set up more medical colleges in Hamirpur, Sirmaur and Una districts, with private sector participation. More than 400 doctors and hundreds of para-medical staff, including nurses, have been appointed in Health and Ayurvedic Departments during the last two years. They have been posted in the far-flung areas of the State to ensure that people do not have to travel distances for getting the treatment.

Effective steps have been taken in last two years to pace up the State’s march on the road to self-employment, self-reliance and self-respect. An ambitious plan has been formulated to operationlise 17,000 MW power generation by the end of the 12th Plan from the present 6480 MW. The Government is pursuing the policy of judicious mix of public and private sector participation in harnessing the hydel potential. Himachalis are being given preference in the allotment of mini and micro hydel projects. Work on 26 such projects, having generation capacity of 100 MW, has commenced.

Conscious of the fact that power saved is power generated, the State Government has successfully implemented the ‘Atal Bijli Bachat Yojna’. Four CFLs have been distributed free of cost to each domestic household in the State which has resulted in an annual saving of 270 million units. Besides, effective steps are being taken to harness solar energy. Shimla and Hamirpur are being developed as solar cities.

In the Tourism Sector focus has been to create employment opportunities and generate income. With a view to promote State as a tourist destination and bringing it on global tourism map, we have launched the brand ‘Unforgettable Himachal”. A master plan is being formulated to give a new direction and thrust to the tourism industry. Nature, historic, adventure and pilgrimage tourism are being given special emphasis by putting in place the required infrastructure.

The Tourism Department is formulating a scheme under which the local folklore of the villages in the form of “Har Gaon Ki Kahani” would be documented and published so as to attract the tourists towards the rich cultural heritage and historical folklore of the State throughout the year.

Industry is vital for the growth of State’s economy. With a view to accelerate the pace of industrial development, a land bank of 7,464 bighas has been created to make land readily available to prospective entrepreneurs. Implementation of the policy of 70 per cent employment to Himachalis is being ensured in all new units. In last two years, the State has attracted investment worth about Rs 11,000 crore by giving approval to 2,061 industrial units which will provide jobs to about 92,000 persons. The State Government is trying its best to create industry-friendly environment by providing reliable power supply at reasonable rates, quality infrastructure, pollution-free & peaceful atmosphere.

The State Government has given a very high priority to the social sector by allocating 33.69 per cent of the total Annual Plan outlay this year. Himachal remained No. 1 in implementation of the Twenty Point Programme up to November, 2009, and we are sure to maintain our position. Under the Scheduled Castes Sub Plan (SCSP), infrastructure facilities are being extended to villages with concentration of SC population of 40 per cent or more. A sum of Rs 742 crore will be spent under the plan this year.

The Social Security Pension Network has been expanded by bringing 15,234 additional beneficiaries under its ambit this year. The number of beneficiaries has gone up to over 2.62 lakh, and Rs 110 crore are being spent annually on Social Security Pension. The annual income ceiling for eligibility has been increased from Rs 6,000 to Rs 9,000 in case of individual beneficiary; and for those living in an extended family, to Rs 15,000 from Rs 11,000.

With a view to empowering the girls and eliminating the gender bias in the society, ‘Beti Hai Anmol’ yojna has been started for BPL families. Under this scheme, the government will deposit Rs 5,100 each in the name of up to two girls in a BPL family, at the time of birth. The Government has also decided to give annual scholarship of Rs 1500 to each BPL girl student in plus one and plus two classes. Earlier, this scholarship was being given up to Class 10 only.

The State Government is sensitive to maintain ecological balance through appropriate and innovative conservation measures. Concerted efforts are afoot to preserve the precious forest wealth of the State. We are moving fast towards making Himachal Pradesh a Carbon Neutral State by reducing the green house emission. I recently visited Costa Rica to study the steps they have taken so that we could replicate them in Himachal Pradesh. We also held meetings with the World Bank authorities in Washington to help the State achieve Carbon Neutral status. On our request, the World Bank has shown interest in extending the Mid-Himalayan Watershed Development Project being implemented in 602 panchayats, to other panchayats of the state, at a cost of Rs. 2,400 crore.

Himachal Pradesh was the first State in the Country to ban the use of re-cycled polythene. Since October 2, 2009, we have completely banned the use of plastic carry bags. Steps are afoot to ban the use of plastic packages also, by the end of this year. We have promoted eco-processing of plastic waste for use in road construction. The ‘Polythene Hatao Paryavaran Bachao Abhiyan’ has been implemented in the State which gave good results.

Our Government is committed to provide clean, transparent and efficient administration, to the people. Quick disposal of public grievances is being ensured and its mechanism has been beefed up. For facilitating online registration and prompt disposal of public grievances, web-based software has been made operational in every department. ‘Prashasan Janta Ke Dwar’ is being organized in every part of the State to solve the problem of the people at their doorsteps. I have attended many ‘Prashasan Janta Ke Dwar’camps.

Our vision for Himachal Pradesh is very clear. We are determined to put the State in the high-growth orbit, and create ample opportunities of employment and growth for the people, the State should be self-sufficient and its people should live with self-respect. On this auspicious Himachal Day, let us all join hands to achieve this objective.

Jai Hind ! Jai Himachal !

**[ Article ] ** Writer of this post   Prof. Prem Kumar Dhumal , He is the Chief Minister of himachal pradesh

Prof. Prem Kumar Dhumal, Chief Minister pays floral tributes to  Bharat Rattan Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar   on his 119th birth anniversary at Ambedkar  Chowk at Shimla today.
Prof. Prem Kumar Dhumal, Chief Minister pays floral tributes to Bharat Rattan Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar on his 119th birth anniversary at Ambedkar Chowk at Shimla today.


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