You often talk of women empowerment, but there is only one woman in the state Cabinet.
Everything follows its own course. Political appointments are moderated by several factors. When our government was formed way back in 2012, there were two women Cabinet Ministers. The situation changed, one decided to leave the party and the strength came down to one. However, that doesn’t mean that women’s participation in governance has reduced. They are holding several important positions in the government and making their worthy contribution.
In search of Sanjeevani Booti, is a programme launched by your government? How serious is the programme to search for the mythical herb?
Many empires have risen and fallen since Lord Hanuman came to Uttarakhand in search of life-giving herb, as has been mentioned in our epic Ramayana. From centuries, Himalayas has been the treasure-trove of magical herbs. If the Himalayas exist today, so would Sanjeevani Booti. So we can’t rule out the possibility.
In your opinion, what are the achievements of Uttarakhand state and where have we lagged behind since the formation of this state on November 9, 2000?
The state governments have worked hard in different fields to increase the home GDP and per capita income. My government is contributing by ensuring all round development; by taking effective decisions and their timely implementation. In the “Ease of doing business” category, we are at the top. The state’s growth rate is around 13 percent in this financial year. The industrial growth rate is 16 percent, while 12 percent is in the service sector. All these are indicators of growth.
The problem of migration is acute in some districts and is posing a threat as some villages fall in the border region. The imbalance in growth between hill villages and plains is also a growing concern. Inclusive growth is our utmost priority from the past two years.
Defection by your party MLAs on Assembly floor on March 18 last, then sting operation, and finally imposition of President’s Rule on March 27, you saw the worst phase of your political career. What are the lessons you learnt from these incidents?
Defection was engineered by the Opposition to grab power with ulterior motives and undemocratic means. But the judiciary strengthened our democratic values and restored the faith of the common man in state machinery. Yes, I suffered a lot personally but not more than the harassment which my party cadres and people of the state had to face. We presented a popular tax-free budget for 2016-17 for ensuring overall development and inclusive growth. But the development and growth remained in cold storage for four months.
You have talked about introducing mono-rail and metro projects in Uttarakhand. Does the government have a map for the same?
Modern means of commuting are no longer at the mercy of winds and waves. We are working on both models of public transport project. We are planning to introduce metro rail project on two routes -- Roorkee-Haridwar-Rishikesh-Dehradun in Garhwal foothills and Jaspur-Kashipur-Kichha-Gadarpur-Rampur in Kumaun terai. The Uttarakhand Metro Rail Corporation has been formed, and soon its managing director (MD) will be appointed.Whether we develop this mega project on PPP model or any other will be decided later. We will also seek investments from Central government and major private players (indigenous/exotic) for completing this mega project.
Even after more than four decades in politics, you look active both mentally and physically. What is the secret of your agility?
I believe in action-oriented work. The adverse situations make me stronger and wiser. I am well aware of the problems of this small Himalayan state. I want to work more, but two years are not enough. If opportunities come again in future, I can assure that the state will touch new horizons of development. My work and tight schedule keep me going.
A high alert has been sounded in all states, especially after the surgical operations carried out by Indian army in PoK. Uttarakhand also shares international border with Nepal and China. How vigilant is state government?
We are fully prepared at our level and constantly review security situation after the surgical strike on terror launch pads across the LoC. Danger can erupt even when everything seems fine. All security forces and local intelligence units are on high alert in sensitive areas of the border. We are constantly updating and monitoring the situation as per intelligence input from Central agencies. And I am also concerned about the well-being of a large number of people from Uttarakhand, who form the rank and file of the Indian army.
(Sandeep Bankhwal is Uttarakhand correspondent with Millennium Post.)