Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat, who heads a coalition government, says he is in a better position to implement his vision of development for Uttarakhand after the Congress' clean sweep in bypolls in three assembly segments.
He, however, is cautious because the ruling party is still one seat short of a simple majority in the House. "So, the simple majority would still be needed for me to take hard decisions so as to bring about an economic turnaround in the state," he told HT in an interview.
Would it be easier for you to implement your decisions without bothering about the pressures of coalition politics now that the Congress is just one seat short in the assembly from a simple majority?
Well, there had been no such pressure on us from our coalition partner (Progressive Democratic Front) in the past. However, the way our party swept the assembly bypolls came as a booster for me. Yes, I am better placed to implement my agenda of development. However, to bring about an economic turnaround in the resource-crunched state, I will have to take some hard decisions. For that we need to have simple majority in the House.
Could you elaborate on the hard decisions you want to take?
There are as many as seven areas where we will have to take some unpleasant decisions. Those decisions will be like the bitter pill. Administering the bitter pill is absolutely necessary to bring about an economic turnaround in the state. But we can't take such decisions until our party (Congress) has sufficient numbers in the house.
Please tell us about the seven areas you want to focus on…
We can't really disclose that. You will have to wait till the right time.
You say you are better placed to implement your vision for the state's development after the Congress swept the assembly bypolls. Please share your roadmap for development.
We want to speed up governance…Our government also aims to provide the people hassle-free services. We also want to take a number of development initiatives to check forced migration from the hills especially from the border areas.
We plan to introduce a localised recruitment policy for the youth in the border areas. The idea is to ensure that they get employment where they live. Besides, tourist towns equipped with modern facilities will also be set up in such areas. In short, we want the locals not to leave the border areas and live there comfortably.
What are your other development plans?
We also aim at generating employment in the tourism sector. For that, we will have to go beyond traditional tourism. For instance, there are a number of areas in the hills where a variety of birds are found. Such areas would be developed as bird sanctuaries. The aim is to attract high-end tourism. To achieve that objective, we will also popularise 'zero pollution, zero noise' areas. There are a plenty of such areas in the hills. Then we are also going to popularise the areas in the state ideal for river rafting. We've not been able to take white river rafting beyond Shivpuri (Rishikesh) despite a number of streams ideal for river rafting dotting the Himalayan state.
Do you have any other plans?
We will encourage investors to set up their environment friendly units in the state's low altitude hill areas. The move will help generate employment also for the youth.
Do you also foresee problems in implementing your development agenda?
Well, implementing the development agenda shouldn't be a problem barring one constraint. Most of our IAS cadre officers are leaving the state to take up different assignments, which has created a shortage of officers. We plan to sort out the problem by promoting good, talented officers from the middle-level bureaucracy. Discussions are on.
You also referred to the government's plan to provide hassle-free services to the people.
Well, that's a part of our agenda of bringing in transparency and speed up governance. For that, we've set up a commission under the Right to Services Act that had long been enforced in the state. We are the first state in the country to have introduced such a panel. Its mandate is to monitor whether people are getting hassle free services or not.
The Congress government is accused of scrapping the 'transparent transfer policy' introduced by the erstwhile Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government headed by chief minister BC Khanduri. Please comment.
Well, we want to bring in a transfer policy that will be transparent. The aim is to ensure that those posted in the remote hill areas do not feel discouraged. As part of the proposed transfer policy, they will also get better remuneration, allowances etc. Besides, it will be clearly mentioned in their transfer orders how much time they would've to spend in remote areas and where they would be transferred next.