Uttarakhand assembly speaker GS Kunjwal has said it is time the issue of the mountain state’s permanent capital was resolved so that development gets a boost in the hills. “For that Gairsain, a centrally located hilly area, would be the ideal choice,” he said.
“If those at the helm run the government from a hilly area, development is sure to get a boost in the long-neglected hills,” Kunjwal said. “So, it would be nice if the state government declares Gairsain as the permanent capital in the state assembly’s coming winter session,” Kunjwal told HT on Tuesday.
Significantly, chief minister Harish Rawat recently declared that his government had planned to develop Gairsain as the state’s summer capital. The Speaker though sounded dismissive about the CM’s announcement.
“That (summer capital) is not the real issue…The real issue has been and still is the issue of the permanent capital,” he said clarifying in the same vein that “for that, no area in the Himalayan state is as ideally suited as Gairsain.”
“For one, it is equidistant from the twin administrative divisions of Kumaon and Garhwal the mountain state consists of,” said the Speaker adding, besides being centrally located, Gairsain is also a hilly area.
According to him, a permanent capital in a hilly area would mean planners would’ve to stay there and therefore would also have the firsthand experience of the problems facing the Paharis (highlanders) in their day-today-life, thanks to lack of development in the hills. “As a result, the decision makers would feel compelled to reorient their policies to suit the requirements of the highlanders, which would give a boost to development in the hills,” the Speaker said. “That is not possible when planners run the government sitting in the provisional capital (Dehradun) which is a plain area.”
Development eluding the hills was the reason behind the long drawn statehood movement, he said. “So, to give a boost to development in the hills, Gairsain should’ve been made the permanent capital when the hill state came into existence in 2000,” the Speaker said blaming the political leadership for its indecisiveness on the issue. “No wonder, if development continues to elude the hills in the past 14 years,” he said.
The political leadership’s indecisiveness had its roots in the hill-plain divide, the Speaker said. “At the root of that socio-political divide was the Paharis’ strong preference for Gairsain as the hill state’s permanent capital.”
The people in the plain districts though wanted the permanent capital to be set up in a plain area, he said adding, that the hill-plain divide left the politicians indecisive and they chose Dehradun as the provisional capital.
Kunjwal, however, claimed that “all hard feelings” on the contentious issue of Gairsain had diluted with the passage of time. In that connection, he cited the case of the opposition Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
“Recently, I read the BJP’s opposition leader Ajay Bhatt’s statement in which he had openly supported Gairsain as the state’s permanent capital,” the Speaker said. Incidentally, Bhatt corroborated his (speaker) statement. “We have no problems at all. Let them set up a permanent capital wherever they wish to but, unfortunately, they are only posturing,” he replied when asked if the BJP would object if Gairsain was commissioned as the state’s permanent capital.
“This (Congress) government though is wasting money like water by either holding the assembly sessions or the cabinet meetings at Gairsain,” he alleged.