Chief minister Virbhadra Singh on Friday met Union finance minister Arun Jaitley in New Delhi and held talks on several issues pertaining to growth and development of the state. He demanded that Bilaspur-Leh via Manali, Joginder Nagar-Pathankot and Bhanupalli-Bilaspur-Beri line should be declared as national projects, keeping in view their strategic importance. Chief minister's demand for the expansion of railways came just at a time when the Bharatiya Janata Party parliamentarians from Himachal had decided to jointly meet the Prime Minister, finance minister and railway minister to push through the Manali-Leh rail line.
Former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal during his tenure had repeatedly peddled the Manali-Leh rail line project.
The chief minister reminded the finance minister of tough geographical conditions of the state and demanded special assistance and incentives for speedy development of the hill state.
He urged the finance minister to revive special industrial package for Himachal Pradesh as it was necessary to accelerate the pace of development in the state. “Income Tax, Central Excise Duty exemption to industrial units should be at least provided upto 2020,” said Virbhadra Singh.
He requested uniform funding pattern for all central-sponsored schemes, especially SSA, Mid-Day Meal, Indira Awas Yojana, National Ambulance Service and other small schemes, adding that as a special category state, it should be funded with 90 % Centre's assistance and 10% state share basis.
The chief minister also highlighted the importance of extension of railway network in the state. He requested the union minister to release arrears for the damages caused by heavy rains in 2013 amounting to Rs144.36 crore at the earliest. Out of Rs 240 crore approved by the Centre, only Rs 95.40 crore was released to the state government whereas the damage to public property on account of natural calamities was assessed at Rs 2575 crore.