The Government of Uttarakhand headed by Chief Minister Shri B.C. Khanduri has completed one year in the office. In one year, the Chief Minister says, the government has done more than what had been promised. Shri Khanduri spoke to Organiser representative Ravindra Saini in Dehradun on various initiatives taken by him. Excerpts:
How has been one year of your government and what are the major initiatives?
People of the state are the better judge to evaluate what the government has done in one year. We have attempted to do whatever we said in our Election Manifesto and whatever I said as a Chief Minister. However, there are many achievements. The accountability of the government to the people and the faith of the people in the governance have improved. In one year, we have employed more than one lakh people and in the coming four years, through the industries, a very large number of youth will be given jobs. We have ensured that the industrialists implement their agreement with the government.
The result of Pauri Lok Sabha by-election shows that people are not happy with the performance of the government. What do you think? Why the victory margin reduced from over 50,000 to 4000 votes?
Elections in this case, I think do not really express the opinion of the people about the government, because at the same time one of the most prestigious news magazines had carried out a survey which reveals that 44 per cent people say that the functioning of the government is ?excellent?, 54 per cent say it ?very good? and some percentage say ?good? and only 2 per cent say it ?bad?. This survey was not through mobile phones, e-mails and other communication means but through direct contact (man-to-man). May be there were some deficiencies on our going across the people, may be there was some problem in our organisational set up which we were not able to communicate with the people and there may be other reasons too. I do not think the result of this by-election reflects the failure of the government.
When will Uttarakhand get its permanent capital?
This is a very tricky question. The justice Dixit Commission is there. We have recently tried to find out from them the state of this issue. He told me that there is some important information about the ground and soil data, which has not been provided by the Central agency. We have tried to find out about the delay and the possibility how faster it can be done. After the Commission'srecommendations we have to examine and consult everybody so that we can evolve one particular place. At this time it is difficult to say when it will be found out.
The government has reportedly sanctioned about 45 hydro-power projects over the River Ganga, which will stop the free-flow of the holy river. The saints are agitated over it. What do you say?
First of all, since this government has come, we have not sanctioned any project. We are trying to execute some of the old ones. Some of the contracts have already been awarded. The work is now going on there.
Will the government enact anti-conversion law in the state, as it is the most pressing demand of the people?
We want to do it. We are trying to find suitable time and suitable environment for it. Enacting anti-conversion law is one of the most important priorities of my government.
What steps have you taken to curb the corruption?
Since the day I have assumed the office, there has not been any report of corruption from anywhere. My government is totally corruption-free. Government appointments have been made bribe-free. I have told that corruption will not be tolerated at all. If there is any allegation of corruption, it will thoroughly be investigated. This message has gone and it has worked. That is why not a single case of corruption has been found yet and the things are going on well with transparency.
There were reports that the development funds for MLAs have not been released?
There has been slow utilisation of funds by some MLAs. Some MLAs are new and this was their first year. I am sure they will improve with the passage of time and experience.
The industrial development in the state appears very slow. Why?
There is a lot of misunderstanding. Industrial development is not slow. We are encouraging industrialists but we have to see what type of land they try. Agricultural land should not be given to them. We are careful about this. Owing to the excise and income tax exemption and other incentives, a large number of investments in the industrial sector have been made.
But the government has not been successful in attracting investments in the hill and remote areas of the state. What have you done in this regard?
We have announced an Integrated Industrial Development Policy for remote and hilly regions of the state. Under it, attractive package of incentives will be provided to non-polluting manufacturing and identified service sector activities. The minimum requirement of land for development of industrial estates in private sector has been fixed as 2 acres instead of 30 acre as in plain areas.
Uttarakhand is said to be the Urja Pradesh (Power State). What is your new power policy?
For the first time, renewable energy has been incorporated in the policy and exempted from royalty. Projects up to 25 MW would be allotted to the local entrepreneurs. Hydro power projects below 5 MW would be exempted from royalty. Projects above 5 MW will be exempted from royalty up to 15 years and from 16th year 18 per cent royalty will be charged. Rs. 5 lakh per MW premium has been reduced to Rs. 5000 per application and process fee of Rs. 25,000 will be taken. Priority will be accorded to make projects of 100 KW available to local people instead of connecting it to Grid.