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One year of Uttarakhand CM: Strong will to fight graft, not enough to set up Lokayukta

It has been a mixed year for Trivendra Singh Rawat, who took oath as ninth chief minister of Uttarakhand on March 18

dehradun Updated: Mar 11, 2018 22:07 IST
Deep Joshi
Deep Joshi
Hindustan Times
CM TS Rawat initiated several development schemes, but hill migration, health and Gairsain issues are yet to be solved.(HT Photo)

It has been a mixed year for Trivendra Singh Rawat, who took oath as ninth chief minister of Uttarakhand on March 18. Heading a government formed with a brute majority of 57 MLAs, in a House of 70, Rawat, a former Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) pracharak, had started by sending out the right signals.

Having come to power riding on the twin poll planks of graft-free governance and fast-paced delivery, Rawat made his intentions clear when days into the office, he wrote to the Centre seeking a CBI probe into the alleged Rs 300-crore scam in land acquisition for the NH-74. He also announced that the Kandi road would be opened for better coordination between the Kumaon and Garhwal regions.

He also started a special campaign to check illegal mining and initiated negotiations with the Uttar Pradesh government for settlement of assets and liabilities between the two states, an issue that had been pending for 17 years.

These steps were taken by Rawat even before his government could complete a month in the office. Now, with his government set to complete a year on March 18, analysts stand divided on his performance.

Modi magic endures

They, however, appreciate the way Prime Minister Narendra Modi pushed for three projects for Uttarakhand that he had promised during his 2014 poll campaign. The projects are the Chardham all-weather road, Rishikesh-Karnprayag railway line, and the Kedarnath reconstruction project, foundation stone of which was laid by Modi in October. The shrine town was struck by cataclysmic floods in 2013. “These projects once completed will help boost the state’s tourism based economy. The declining farm sector too will get a boost as road and railway networks will make it easy for hill farmers to market their produce,” said Prof M M Semwal of HNB Garhwal (Central) University).

Brickbats & Bouquets

His initiatives earned Rawat the tag of a pro-development CM even as some political analysts feel he hasn’t done enough to boost key health and farm sectors to check forced migration from the hills. Semwal, for instance, doesn’t seem much impressed by the Rawat regime’s move to have some 55 state-run hospitals “equipped” with online facilities to ensure registration of patients and their access to blood banks and medicines or provide 35 main state-run hospitals tele-radiology facility. “One can imagine the level of health facilities in a state where a ruling party legislator recently died of swine flu in absence of timely detection,” he says referring to the late BJP MLA Magan Lal Shah.

Semwal’s colleague Prof Y P Sundriayal doesn’t seem much convinced about Rawat’s claim to have initiated a series of schemes to boost horticulture and organic farming to check migration. “Such steps may have been initiated but unless something is visible on the ground it would be naïve for people to believe such claims,” he says. “We can’t believe this (BJP) regime because all the previous governments too led the hill farmers up the garden path.” Semwal seems to concur. “China has brought its roads right to our borders but our leaders continue groping for a solution to wild animals raiding crops forcing desperate hill farmers to migrate.”

Growth related Initiatives

But there are those who give the thumbs-up to Rawat for his development initiatives. “This (Rawat) government’s performance has been appreciable during its first year,” says M C Sati of HNB Garhwal (Central) University. He is “appreciative” of the way 15,066 local youth got either self-employment or secured jobs in some 2663 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) established in the past one year. “The youth are being imparted skill training and jobs are also being ensured for them,” said the economist referring to a survey he recently conducted in Haridwar.

Sati opines that the farm and cooperative sectors got a boost owing to the BJP regime’s move to double the farmers’ income. “Farmers in as many as 50 villages in Uttarkashi are making profits by selling off-season vegetables online to Delhi’s Azadpur wholesale market,” he said.

Graft and rebels

Politically, Rawat remained “well entrenched” as the party brass that had nominated him as the chief minister continued to stand solidly behind him. As a result, the rumblings of rebellion that started with BJP MLA Kunwar Pranab Singh Champion’s revolt against the chief minister ended with a whimper following the latter’s apology. Rawat also “effectively used the three-fourth majority his party enjoys in the House to walk the talk against” corruption. “Most officials involved in land fraud relating to the Rs 300-crore NH-74 scam are in jail, for which he shares full credit,” says Sundriyal who also credits him with taking prompt action against officials involved in the Rs 600-crore public distribution system scam. “Such initiatives helped Rawat as his image suffered no dent despite his failure to keep the BJP’s poll promise to pass the Lokayukta (anti-graft) law within 100 days of coming to power.”

Permanent capital issue

The year though saw Rawat skirting the contentious Gairsain issue despite the growing demand for naming the hill town as a permanent capital. “Like the previous Congress regime this (BJP) regime too (BJP) skirted the issue fearing that a decision on a permanent capital may evoke a backlash from the plain districts”, says Prof A R Nautiyal of HNB Garhwal University. State BJP chief Ajay Bhatt says his government’s first priority is to set up the infrastructure required at Gairsain. “Then only we can think of naming it a summer or permanent capital.”

First Published: Mar 11, 2018 22:06 IST