To take up common problems faced by the hill states, Uttrakhand, Jammu & Kashmir, Aurnachal Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh today thread bare thrashed out issues that confront them and drew up plans to come together so as to be heard by the central government.
Speaking at a one day conference on horticulture development in the hill states, chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said that thesel states had been demanding establishment of a seperate Himalayan Development Authority so that region specific issues related to agriculture, horticulture, roads, railways, marketing, connectivity, forestry environment, hydropower generation and other infrastructure related matters could be resolved.
He said that smaller states had shown that the benefits of development percolated more effectively to the people but the Himalayan states were constantly faced by a resource crunch that needed to be addressed.
He said that the parameters evolved for plain areas could not be applied to the hills and new parameters for the hilly areas needed to be considered.
The Himalayan states were the guardians of the countries borders and contributed largely to conservation of its environment as well as water security. Where developed nations were compensating the lesser polluting nations through the carbon credit mechanism, of which India too would be a beneficiary, the nation too should give carbon credit to those states that had conserved their forest wealth at a great cost, said Dhumal.
To strengthen the security network in the Western Himalayas, there was a need for a rail line to Leh-Ladhak. Such a rail network would not only benefit the states through which it passes in terms of economy and tourism but would facilitate fast movement of men and material in times of natural calamity and meet defense needs, said Dhumal.
He said that norms laid out for road development under PMGSY had not taken into account hill topography and were disadvantageous to the hill states. Likewise the natural calamity fund and fruit crops not being included under crop insurance schemes were discriminatory towards the hill poeple, said Dhumal.
“We intend to take up such issues through a joint forum for which we are seeking to ask other states to join in,” he said.
Jammu and Kashmir minister Mohammad Dilawar Meer claimed that the farmer loan waiver scheme announced in the central budget had kept horticulture sector out of its purview.
â€œBy including horticulture in the agriculture allied activities the benefit, for the hill farmers of Himachal, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttrakhand would not be more than Rs 1,000 crore, which is not much when the total relief being provided is as much as Rs 71,000 crore, said Mir.
â€œOur fruit crops, mainly apple, is not competing with produce from other states but with that of international produce that is imported into the country,â€ said Mir.
To address interstate and state-center issues a ministerial and bureaucratic committee were constituted. The ministers committee is to headed by Narinder Bragta, the horticulture minister from Himachal.
Bragta on the occasion said “cutting across party lines, the forum would take up the issue of commission being charged form hill farmers by fruit merchants in Delhi market with the state government there. There is nothing political about it. We demand enforcement of an Act that makes it mandatory that the commission be charged from the buyer and not the farmer, he said.
The ministers also sought inclusion of apple and other fruits in the crop insurance scheme and extending the term of the horticulture technology mission.
Trivinder Rawat, agriculture minister Uttrakhand said that hill states should be given separate representation when polices are formulated by the central government because the variable parameters for hilly regions are never taken into consideration.
He said that efforts would be made to expand the forum of four Himalayan states to include all the North Eastern and North Western Himalayan states on one platform.
Rawat added that yields of fruit crops in the zone were low. From planting material to growing techniques, packaging and marketing methods needed to be improvised.
Tsering Gurne principal secretary horticulture Aurnanchal Pradesh said that though the horticulture practices in North East were different from the North Western Himalayan region but there were many issue of common interest between the two regions.
He said that import duty and VAT were proving a hindrance to develop horticulture and agriculture in Aruanchal Pradesh.
Accessibility was another problem which Aurnachal Pradesh faced as to go from one district to another one had to pass through the militancy infested areas in Assam.
The four states also expressed the need for having a common infrastructure to transport and market temperate fruit produces and products.