Monsoon Session of Parliament: Govt contemplates policy on hill region to promote development

New Delhi: The government is contemplating to bring a national policy on mountain hill region for its development, Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan said in the Rajya Sabha on Friday dismissing the need for a council for Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

He said establishing a council was not the solution for development and listed many schemes and programmes as well as projects in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttrakhand to prove his point.

Vardhan was replying to a debate on a private members' bill which provided for the creation of a Central Himalayan States Development Council.

He said a comparison of human development index data showed that despite 40 years of the creation of North Eastern Council, eight states — Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura lagged much behind as compared to Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

File image of environment minister Harsh Vardhan. PTI

File image of environment minister Harsh Vardhan. PTI

"Even without council, we are paying proper attention to the development of hilly states. If more need to be done, we will do it," the minister said.

He listed a number of schemes for the holistic development of the three states while mentioning that NITI Aaayog has also submitted a report on 12 states.

Pradeep Tamta of the Congress later withdrew his bill.

In his reply, the minister said these three states were, not only much ahead in human development index, but the government has announced several special packages for them that includes a Rs 80,000 crore package for Jammu & Kashmir.

He said that in terms of GDP too, Uttarakhand was far ahead.

Road and rail networks too were better in the three states for which a Council was being demanded.

Presenting a comparision, the minister said Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir have national highways network of 1,991 km, 1,208 km and 1,245 km, respectively, in comparison to barely a few hundred kms in North Eastern States.

Regarding the railway lines network, he said while Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal and Uttarakhand had networks of 96 kms, 269 kms and 356 kms, the North Eastern states barely had a few kms.

He said in 2015, a special package was announced for Jammu and Kashmir that includes Rs 42,611 crore for rail and highway network. Besides, a Rs 12,000 crore Char Dham project is being implemented in Uttarakhand for building 900 km of highways after Kedarnath tragedy in 2013.

The minister said Uttarakhand also figured among seven most developed states and that 119 research papers were awarded on these hill states.

Vardhan said he would also call a meeting of the members for their suggestions.

He said the country is providing leadership to the world on the climate change issue and members should rest assured.

Earlier, Jairam Ramesh (Cong) urged the government to review the policy of hydel projects in the upper regions of Ganga, Bahagirathi and other rivers.

"I urge you to relook at policy on hydel progamme", he said. Others who particiapted in the discussion included V Reddy (YSR Congress), BK Hariprasad (Congress), Mahendra Singh Mahra (Congress) and Subbarami Reddy.

The reply later saw frequent interruptions by the Congress members who urged the minister to cut short his reply, saying they were convinced and he should conclude.

Rajeev Shukla of Congress quipped that members would fall ill due to his long reply, triggering laughter in the House.

"The long reply is leading to development of fatigue," he added.

Pramod Tiwari of Congress then made another remark in a lighter vein directed at Vardhan. "You already prescribe allopathy. Now, please prescribe homoeopathy," Tiwari told Vardhan who is an ENT doctor.

The minister then promised to cut short his reply. "Because of the homoeopathy dose, I have to cut short my reply," he said.

Later, the House was adjourned till Tuesday as Monday will be a holiday on account of Raksha Bandhan.

Updated Date: Aug 04, 2017 19:13 PM

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