A State on the move

Print edition : February 10, 2006

At Kaza in the Spiti valley. Realising the potential that tourism offers, the State government has striven to develop this sector as a major source of employment generation, without disturbing the ecology and the environment. - PICTURES: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

A committed State government has helped Himachal Pradesh achieve all-round development.

FOR a State that is still comparatively young, Himachal Pradesh has made great strides in all areas of development - industrial, social and human. It came into existence on April 15, 1948, but was declared a full-fledged State of the Indian Union, with Shimla as its capital, only on January 25, 1971. Nestled in the verdant Himalayas, the State, which was always known as a great tourist destination thanks to its breath-taking beauty, has now emerged as a major industrial hub.

The State ranks second in the country in providing basic infrastructure facilities to the people. Thanks to its tremendous potential for generating hydel power, Himachal Pradesh could attain 100 per cent electrification of its villages way back in 1987-88.

The State is ranked second only to Kerala in providing primary health services. It has earmarked Rs.923 lakhs, to be spent in the next five years, under its Integrated Disease Surveillance Project; 13 diseases will be covered under this project.

Education has always been given top priority in the State; not surprisingly, the State government has earmarked Rs.1,060 crores for education in the current financial year.

Himachal Pradesh is known as a tourists' paradise endowed as it is with lush green forests, undulating landscape, lakes, rivers, the majestic Himalayas, sacred shrines, historic monuments and a hospitable and friendly people. Realising the potential that tourism offers, the State government has striven to develop this sector as a major source of employment generation, involving the private sector but without disturbing the ecology and the environment. The State government seeks to transform the State into a "destination for all seasons and all reasons".

Special emphasis has been laid on developing infrastructure and promoting tourism in the countryside and lesser-known areas. Newer concepts like religious tourism, history-related tourism, eco-tourism, cultural tourism, adventure tourism and village tourism have been made popular and the results are there for everyone to see. The number of tourists has gone up from 46.81 lakhs in 2000 to 65.49 lakhs in 2004. The promising aspect is that it is not just domestic tourism that has gone up; foreign tourist arrival has also seen a rise. It has actually doubled since 2000, from 1.11 lakhs in 2000 to 2.04 lakhs in 2004.

Historical tourism, a post-Independence phenomenon as far as Shimla is concerned, has many takers all over the world. As the summer capital of the British, Shimla evokes memories of the British era in Indian history and draws a great number of tourists. The historic Vice Regal Lodge, now housing the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, is a fine sample of the architectural grandeur that the British were known for. Himachal Pradesh has many historic forts. The Government of India has recommended to the United Nations Educational, Scienfitic and Cultural Fund (UNESCO) that the historic Kalka-Shimla railway line be declared a World Heritage Site.

Village tourism is another interesting concept that the State government is promoting. It not only helps disperse tourist activity to larger areas, but also helps provide employment to people in villages. The Himachal government has taken steps to ensure that the infrastructure has kept pace with the increase in the number of tourists. The Government of India has provided Rs.21 crores to develop infrastructure in Shimla, Kangra and Sirmaur circuits and the State government is constructing toilets, parking areas and parks, and upgrading road/rail access with this money. The Central government is also helping the Himachal government develop infrastructure in Naggar, Kalpa and Pragpur villages, besides improving the heritage properties of Chail Palace and Naggar Castle.

The State government has sanctioned Rs.135 crores under the Accelerated Power Development and Reform Programme to improve the transmission and distribution network.-

The Buddhist Circuit, covering the routes Lahaul via Manali and Kinnaur and Spiti via Shimla , are also being developed by the State government with help from the Union Government. The State government is encouraging private sector participation in developing infrastructure on a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis. The loss-making units with the State Tourism Department are being disinvested so that the private sector can develop them. In addition to eco- and pilgrimage tourism, the State offers tremendous opportunities for adventure tourism. Sporting activities like paragliding, rafting, angling, trekking, mountaineering, skiing, and motor sports are being promoted with a great zeal and have made Himachal Pradesh a favourite destination for those seeking adventure tourism.

Himachal Pradesh offers great scope for religious tourism, since the State is home to many world-renowned religious shrines. The Shri Mata Balasundari temple is one such shrine. The temple trust, in Trilokpur, in Sirmaur district, has been providing excellent infrastructural facilities to tourists. An inn with 75 rooms, 17 of them air-conditioned, is available for tourists.

THE State government's new industrial policy has the twin objective of providing employment to the local people and generating revenue for the State exchequer. In order to aid industrial development, a single window clearance and monitoring authority has been set up under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister. In the past two years, 6,012 units with an investment of Rs. 17,500 crores and an employment potential of around 2.25 lakh people had been cleared. An export promotion industrial park is being set up at Baddi and an Industrial Growth Centre at Sansarpur Terrace. A software technology park is also being set up in Shimla.

The State has made great strides in e-governance. A Rs.3.25-crore video conferencing project has been launched. All districts, including the four tribal sub-divisions of Bharmour, Pangi, Pooh and Kaza are inter-connected through DAMA video conferencing network. The government is also taking the initiative to set up IT hardware and software parks on the Shimla-Kalka national highway. With IT being one of the major thrust areas in the State, an IT university has been set up in the private sector at Vaknaghat, Solan.

The Himachal Pradesh State Industrial Development Corporation has emerged as a major institution promoting industrial development. It has transformed the State into a major destination for industries in cement, steel, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, food, agro-farming, horticulture and textiles. The Corporation is the major agency in the State promoting the setting up of small, medium and large industrial units. Since its inception in 1966, it has provided financial assistance to about 212 companies to set up units in various fields. The Corporation, in collaboration with the Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI) and the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), follows the modern techniques of project appraisal and financing. Before considering the loan applications, the Corporation considers aspects like viability and marketing at various levels. The Corporation has advanced a total term loan of about Rs.124.30 crores as on March 31, 2005 and has assisted 49 companies by way of equity contribution; an amount of Rs.8.75 crores had been sanctioned to these companies as equity against which major amounts stand recovered with good returns.

A cement factory at Darlaghat in Solan distrct. The State is now a major destination for industries in the areas of cement, steel, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and so on.-

The Corporation also acts as an infrastructure development agency and has developed a number of industrial areas for and on behalf of the department of industries. The engineering wing of the Corporation is executing projects worth Rs. 2,686.50 lakhs in different parts of the State in the current financial year. It has been instrumental in the setting up of the Agriculture University, Palampur; tea factory at Baijnath; fruit processing plant of the HPMC at Parwanoo; a fruit processing plant of the HIMPROCESS at Jabli; and industrial sheds for small-scale industries and export corporations. In the past 15 years, the Corporation has earned an income of Rs.16.50 crores approximately. In 1995, the Union government had approved the setting up of an export promotional industrial park at Baddi at a total cost of Rs.24 crores, for which the Corporation was the implementing agency. Phase One of the project has been implemented and plots have been allotted by the Department of Industries.

The Himachal Pradesh State Civil Supplies Corporation has played a major role in the State attaining the top ranking for human development. The Corporation was established in September 1980 and the number of its godowns has gone up from 28 in 1980-81 to 108 godowns. Each wholesale godown feeds 38 fair-price shops on an average. Today the Corporation runs 127 fair-price shops.

The Corporation is also running 37 cooking gas agencies in places where they were not economically viable. It also undertakes the supply of medicines and runs 28 retail shops of medicines at cheaper rates to the general public. The Corporation also handles supplies through the targeted public distribution system (PDS) under the Annapurna Yojana, the Antyodaya Anna Yojana, schemes for Below Poverty Line (BPL) and Above Poverty Line (APL) families, the mid-day meal scheme, the Applied Nutrition programme of the welfare department and so on. It also supplies cement, and allopathic and Ayurvedic medicines to the State government hospitals and health institutions.

In a recent survey the Planning Commission adjudged Himachal Pradesh as one of the most successful States in preventing diversion of supplies through PDS; the leakage in Himachal Pradesh is a mere 0.41 per cent as against the national average of 17 per cent.

The Corporation's annual sales have risen from Rs.14.28 crores in 1981-82 to Rs.418.63 crores in 2004-05. Of its profit of Rs.446.75 lakhs, a record Rs.70.30 lakhs was paid to the State government as dividend at 20 per cent - an all-time high rate of dividend paid by the Corporation to the government. The Corporation's turnover was Rs.526 crores in 2004-05, an increase of Rs.37 crores over the previous year's turnover.

THE total identified hydel power potential of the State is 21,000 MW. Till date, 6,067 MW hydel power stands harnessed and projects that would yield 7,602 MW are likely to be completed in a couple of years. The State government, in a revolutionary step, has decided to allocate mini and micro hydel projects up to 5 MW to local cooperative societies, 6 MW to 100 MW projects through memoranda of understanding (MoU) and those above 100 MW through global competitive bidding. It has ensured 70 per cent employment to local people at all levels in all the power projects being executed in the State.

The State government has sanctioned Rs.135 crores under the Accelerated Power Development and Reform Programme to improve the transmission and distribution network. The 1,500-MW Nathpa Jhakri project is the biggest ever power-generating project commissioned in the State. The State government gets 25 per cent equity participation besides 12 per cent free power out of the project.

The State has achieved 100 per cent enrolment up to the elementary school level, and is also seeking to contain the dropout rate among girls.-

A PROGRESSIVE State, Himachal Pradesh has a high literacy rate of 86.02 per cent for males and 68.08 per cent for females, both above the national average.

The Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) programme is a major effort to improve the school system. Launched in 2001-02, the programme envisages bridging gender and social disparities at the elementary level of education; hence it focusses on the education of girls, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and economically underprivileged children. The primary aim of the SSA is to enrol and retain all children in the 6-14 age group in formal schools or their alternatives by 2010. The overall budget for the SSA is Rs.503.68 crores. The State was able to utilise 92.24 per cent of the released funds (Rs.90.57crores) during 2004-05; the expenditure had crossed Rs.40 crores as of August 31, 2005.

The seriousness with which the government is pursuing the programme is evident from the fact that the State has already achieved 100 per cent enrolment up to the elementary level. The government is also undertaking a fresh exercise to ascertain the number of children out of school. The government has managed to bring down the dropout rate among boys to 3 per cent; extra efforts are being made to contain the dropout rate among girls by opening schools in areas that had so far not been covered by the scheme.

The government is also implementing the National Programme for Education of Girls at the elementary level; five blocks in Chamba district and one block each in Shimla and Mandi districts have been covered under the scheme. The scheme targets educationally backward blocks where female literacy is below the national average. Residential schools for girls belonging to S.C./S.T., Other Backward Classes and minorities are being set up under the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya Yojana.

As part of the government efforts to improve the quality of education, computer education is being given high priority and teachers are being given special in-service training.

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