Dependence on government services for growth of Himachal not sustainable – Ashwani Kumar

Shimla: With government services constituting ninety percent of the gross domestic product, Ashwani Kumar, union minister for state planning cautioned that Himachal would need to expand economic services like eco friendly industries, hydro power and tourism to sustain growth.

CM greeting Ashwani Kumar at Shimla

Speaking to the media after holding consultations with senior state officials here on Monday, the central minister said that beyond a few popular places like Shimla, Manali and Dharamsala tourism still held vast potential that needed to be tapped.

Responding to a query about poor rail and air connectivity affecting growth of high end tourism, he said that the proposal about subsidizing heli-taxi services would be considered by planners.

Rejecting the states demand for revival of the tax holiday, the minister said that the hill state had one of the best demographic parameters in the country but conditions differed in north eastern states or J&K. “It is the duty of the nation to look after the weakest state,” he said.

To attract private investment in sectors like pharma, IT, biotechnology, finished textile products and other eco-friendly industries, the state could consider opening of SEZ.

“All know that it is not possible to sustain the 90% GDP on government services as is the case with Himachal and economic services can only be the future drivers of growth,” he said.

Reviewing the bottlenecks in executing hydropower projects, he said that the planning ministry would take up with the ministry of environment and forest (MOEF), where about 80 hydro project were held up for want of mandatory permissions.

Competitive advantage of hill agriculture could only be optimized if more than the current 23 percent cultivable lands are brought under irrigation, he said.

Of the 124 irrigation project approved DPRs of only 30 have been received and the others are also held up because of MOEF clearances. The ministry would look into it, he added.

About the recommendations of 13th Finance Commission have adversely impacted the states finances, the minister said that the states liabilities were not properly estimated by the commission and the matter would be taken up with the finance ministry.

About expansion of rail network, he said a note from the chief minister had been sought about the Bilaspur Bhanupali rail line that would be taken up at the central level.

The states demand of increasing project execution time from 2 to 3 years had been acceded because of the difficult topography involved.

To combat climate changes, the demand for a green bonus to states protecting forest covers was a genuine one and had been considered, said Ashwani Kumar.

About the Rs 3700 annual plan for 2012-13, the minister said that most of it was for specific projects and some component was under untied grants.

Chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal who was present on the occasion asked the minister to get the centre to secure the arrears from BBMB projects which had been decreed by the Supreme Court.

He also said that excise holiday withdrawal had adversely impact industrialization in the state and the centers policy of creating separate categories among the special category states were to the disadvantage of Himachal and Uttarakhand.

Dhumal said that it was the first time in the current tenure that a central minister had interacted with state officials and taken account of the problems being faced.

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