February 7, 2017 1:56:23 am
In the last few days, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat, his party, and the BJP have respectively released their resolutions, manifesto and vision document. A comparison of these three documents about what they offer to the state and its people:
Migration from hills
Of the state’s 53,483 sq km area, 86 per cent or 46,035 sq km is hilly. The state was formed to bridge the hills-plains divide but that has remained. Rawat’s resolutions are silent on migration, while the Congress promises to end migration by 2022 although it does not spell out specific plans. The BJP acknowledges it is a “grave problem” and promises “serious attempts to curb it”.
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Education and jobs
The Congress is silent on education and has promised 50,000 jobs to youths in the next five years, Rawat individually has promised a job to one member of every family by 2020, and an unemployment allowance of Rs 2,500 for a youth of every family, besides coaching institutes for SC, ST and OBC students for competitive exams. The BJP promises to “encourage research and teaching of Sanskrit, vastu shastra, astrology and karm kand (rituals)”, introduce computer and modern education in madrasas and a new “policy for youths”, besides free education up to postgraduation for girl students of economically weaker sections and free WiFi in universities. It also promises to simplify environment and other conditions for investment.
The ecologically fragile, flood and earthquake-prone state has frequently seen natural disasters. Both Rawat and the Congress talk about the appointment of five aapda mitra (disaster relief workers) in every village, but neither spells out details of training, relief equipment and how they would help during a disaster — especially in hilly villages, where villages and hamlets are scattered across large distances. The BJP promises a new relief and rehab policy, besides enhancing the existing infrastructure of the disaster management machinery; it gives no other details.
A mere14 per cent of state’s land is under agriculture. Wild animals, especially monkeys and wild pigs, have posed the biggest threat to agriculture in the last few years. The BJP promises “immediate and long-term schemes” to tackle this. The party also promises loan waiver of all small and marginal farmers, and interest-free loans. It promises “job-oriented agriculture by encouraging modern and scientific techniques”. The Congress and Rawat are silent on agriculture.
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All three documents are silent on irrigation. Almost 80-90 per cent of the state’s agriculture is rain-fed or through small ponds, which have mostly dried up in the last decade. A series of dams on the Bhagirathi, for instance, has ensured that during the lean season the river becomes a tiny stream at several places. The Yamuna-Gangetic and Kosi basins that originate from Uttarakhand feed almost all of north India’s plains, yet the state has not been able to supply water to its farmers.
Every fifth home in the state, it is said, has at least one relative in the defence services in the present or the preceding generation. Army chief Bipin Rawat and DGMO A K Bhatt are from Garhwal region. Former BJP chief minister B C Khanduri is a retired major general. The state is also home to army regiments Kumaon (Ranikhet) and Garhwal (Lansdowne). Rawat promises a separate ministry for their welfare by March. The BJP promises employment for retired personnel, and enhancement of the amount for welfare schemes meant for retired personnel and those dependent on them.
Rawat promises to triple the tourist footfall in five years, but does not elaborate a plan of action to achieve this. The BJP promises a new tourism policy, identification of new tourist circuits on the basis of Kumaon heritage and tribal identities, development of infrastructure, and conversion of abandoned homes in the hills into “home-stay” units.
Before Uttarakhand was created, its leaders had decided to make Gairsain, a hilly town on the border of Garhwal and Kumaon, as its capital. Dehradun was to be a “temporary capital”. In its 17th year, despite many promises and assembly resolutions by both parties, the promise remains. The BJP says it “will consider making Gairsain the summer capital by everyone’s consent”. The Congress and Rawat, who held a symbolic session at the under-construction assembly building in Gairsain last November, are silent on this.
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