Prof. Prem Kumar Dhumal is the only non-Congress Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh going to complete his full second term of five years. He completes 40 months of his present term this April. Under his leadership the State achieved many firsts and has been at the top in many aspects. Through his strenuous efforts and personal rapport he has been able to get many schemes and projects for development of the State launched during his tenure despite a Congress-led UPA government at the Centre,.
For Organiser weekly, Amba Charan Vashishth interviewed him last week during his visit to Delhi. Excerpts:
You are the only non-Congress Chief Minister in Himachal to have withstood all odds to complete your first five year term. In the second term you have already entered the fourth year. How do you feel at this moment?
It is a mixed feeling of humility and happiness to have got an opportunity to serve the people for all these years. It is only their love, affection and unstinted support that has given me the strength to serve them. The Party and the people are the two pillars of my strength.
Main achievements of your Government this time?
We have fulfilled almost all the promises made on the eve of last Assembly Elections. In fact we have not stuck to what we promised. We have done much more beyond that. During the remaining period of my second term, my government plans to establish many more milestones of service to the people. By ensuring speedy and all-round development, Himachal Pradesh has emerged as a pioneer State in many fields. Nationwide surveys conducted by various prestigious agencies stand testimony to this fact. HP has been adjudged the ‘Best State’ by India Today survey last year in ‘State of the States’ awards. We topped in overall performance, education, micro economy and investment. Outlook and IBN-7 electronic channel conferred Diamond State Award adjudging Himachal as the best State in overall performance, poverty alleviation and education. Agriculture Today magazine has conferred State Agriculture Leadership Award-2010 for outstanding policy initiatives and performance in agricultural development. In implementation of the 20-Point Programme the State has been on the top. It is an indication of how anxious our Government is towards betterment of the life of the poor and the downtrodden.
Your plans for the remaining two years of your present term?
To consolidate the fruits of our achievements and to further accelerate the pace of development. My government is keen to ensure welfare and betterment of every section of the people by laying a sound foundation for Himachal. By providing ample opportunities of employment and self-employment, I am determined to give the people of the State a life of self-sufficiency and self-respect.
Can you claim to have done anything unique?
Many things. We have launched a ‘ 353 crore Pandit Deen Dayal Kisan Bagwan Samridhi Yojana to give impetus to cash crop production by adopting precision farming practices with 80 per cent subsidy. A Rs 321 crore Crop Diversification Promotion project funded through Japan International Cooperation Agency is being launched this year. For integrated development of villages with more than 40 per cent scheduled castes and scheduled tribes population, a new Mukhya Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana to create infrastructural facilities, like road network, water supply, sanitation and street lights in a coordinated manner in 136 villages has been started. Students who have to cover a distance of 5-8 km by bus to reach their school are being given a monthly stipend of Rs 200 and those beyond are given Rs 300. The Asian Development Bank has approved a financial assistance of about Rs 428 crore for developing tourism related infrastructure.
E-Samadhan has been launched to promote transparency and accountability in administration, Facility for online payment of various Government charges and dues has already commenced. AGRISNET portal has been developed to provide online expert advisories to agriculturists.
We are in the process of enacting “Himachal Pradesh Public Services Act” to ensure delivery of certain key public services to citizens within a prescribed time frame.
Where does your ambitious Manali-Leh Railway Project stand today?
This project is very vital for the defence and security of the country. Additionally, it will give a boost to tourism in the State. I have taken up this matter at the highest level i.e. with the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister, stressing its importance in view of the threatening postures adopted by China which has taken rail, road and air force stations right on our border with Tibet. I will go on pursuing this project with the Union Government till we succeed. I have done my duty to apprise the Union Government about the essentiality of this vital rail link for nation’s security. The ball is now in the court of the Union Government.
Himachal is no longer a backward State. It is rubbing shoulders with big states in the matter of development. Where does your State stand today in the country?
You are right. We have taken Himachal to the top in many spheres of development. It is today a role model not only for hill states but for others too. State’s per capita income has gone up to Rs 58,493 and State’s Gross Domestic Product to Rs 52,428 crore. The literacy percentage has touched 86 which is more than the national average. This is just a small reflection of the work done by the present government.
It is generally felt that when a party is in power, there is a clash between organisation and the Government. What is the position in Himachal?
We are fortunate that this is not so in Himachal Pradesh. The organisation and the government enjoy perfect understanding and coordination. The party organisation and workers are the very strength of our government. It is with their support that we have been able to achieve so much and so fast.
How adequately are women and youth represented in the Government and the party?
Women have been given proper representation in every part of Government. Immediately on coming to power, we reserved 50 per cent seats to women in Panchayati Raj institutions and urban local bodies. You will be glad to know that more than 58 per cent women have been elected to these institutions in the elections held last year.
The Urban Local Body and Panchayat elections have just been completed. What was the outcome?
More than 60 per cent BJP supported candidates have been elected in these elections.
Since the Government at the Centre is different from the party ruling in the State, do you feel handicapped in any way?
We have been trying our best to get State’s legitimate share from the Centre. To a great extent I have succeeded too. There are some issues like discontinuance of the industrial package granted to the State by the NDA Government headed by Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee, Manali-Leh Railway line, liberal assistance for the State which have been ignored by the UPA Government. These issues are agitating the minds of the people.
How far has the curtailment of the special industrial package granted by Atal Behari Government affected the industrial development in the State?
The package had given a big boost to the pace of State’s industrial development. Almost every leading company and MNC established their units here. Youth got employment. But now its discontinuance has, to some extent, affected the State. On our part the Government is doing everything not to let the pace of industrial progress decelerate. We continue to provide the best industrial environment to entrepreneurs by ensuring basic infrastructure, speedy clearance of projects, cheaper power in plenty, plus transparent and responsive administration. This has stood us in good stead.