Go for multi-polar economy in state: says Himachalis

“While forming the public policies, government should look out for people with experience, education and vision. There is a need to have a broad vision for all options rather than a tunnel vision. If industries related to software, health, education, service sectors could be a better choice then the projects related to these fields should be preferred over cement or tourism industries. There was also an urgent need for a long term strategic planning which we in state were not doing.”

These were the conclusions summed up in a debate organized over ‘what is better for Himachal’s improvement’ by MyHimachal.

The participants in debate felt that unfortunately, the people who form policies lack the desired qualification for that. When the time comes to write policy or a piece of legislation they don’t form but copy it from somewhere else. The Himachal Ferries act was one good example of it. Instead writing their own piece of legislation somebody get their hand on a copy from Bombay and made it Himachal Ferries act. They want to apply conditions of Bombay (Sea Conditions) to Himachal (River Conditions). Moreover the state was till using central Factories act of 1948 to regulate all factories in state.

The participants opined that the quality and quantity job creation should go hand in hand to provide maximum number of jobs to people in the state. We have limited number of people qualified for quality jobs in state. However on the other hand we have a large number of populations which was eligible for quantity jobs and need these jobs to make both ends meet.

That was where dilemma starts. That was where politics of vote bank comes in. The question becomes – Do you want to worry about 30,000 people vs. 300,000 people? In order of priority especially when one person counts for one vote it tips in favour of “quantity”. Both were equally important but quantity takes precedence over quality when it comes to bread and butter.”

A participant in debate suggested that to make sure that the state remains a beautiful place, we should go for multi-polar economy. A bi-polar or tri-polar economy risks “cycles” much more than a multi-polar one. The new “poles” that we add to the economy should be environment friendly. There should be a “tax” on polluting industries and a “tax-rebate” on eco-friendly industry and services. The quality of jobs created and net-value added to be economy should be a “factor” in approved projects. The education, especially higher education and institutes that impart it should be the key part of any development program. The high value jobs in service sector and software should be encouraged by explicit government policies and last but not the least the government should concentrate on the business of governing only.

“The country has gone from 70% government-controlled economy to 30%. However the state is still majority government controlled. Most jobs are low-paying – some as low as Rs. 1,500 per month. I would challenge anyone to travel on the HRTC flagship – VOLVO buses (mostly leased because of lack of capital) and tell me if they were happy with the service, dared the participants in debate. When this service was started it was a “decent” service. Today it is abysmal. The leaking roofs, canceled services, poor-maintenance, non-working equipment are the norms.”

The problem with the state economy is that for a long time a bi-polar economy was being encouraged i.e. tourism and horticulture, pointed out a participant. Both have subsidies that were not available to other industries. Now, this was somewhat different. There were some central government subsidies and a tri-polar economy – Hydel Power as 3rd pole was being encouraged. A good economy was multi-polar. We need more prongs to these 3 that we have. We would prefer those new “poles” to be software, education and services.”

Tourism also did spoil or create significant environmental pollution, pointed out another participant. Both Tourism and Agriculture – including Horticulture – were among the most polluting industries. Many ecologically sensitive areas (for example, in the US, Europe, Latin America and Bhutan!) now offer limited tourism. In US there was a strict limit on the number of permits for overnight stays in National Parks and other wildlife areas, he maintained.

About the only non-polluting (not quite but close)sector that we know of was education, software and services, such as financial, travel, banking related etc. We have been pleading to successive HP governments from a long time that these should be the priority areas, but political compulsions and ground-reality dictates otherwise, lamented most of participants.

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