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‘Himalayan States deserve ‘Green Bonus’ for their enormous contribution to environment’

Shishir Sinha Mussoorie (Uttarakhand) | Updated on July 30, 2019 Published on July 30, 2019

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat   -  Rajeev Bhatt

The Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Trivendra Singh Rawat, has said that his State being a manufacturing State suffered revenue losses post-implementation of GST. Rawat recently led 11 Himalayan region States to seek ‘Green Bonus’ and a dedicated Central Ministry for the development of the region. BusinessLine caught up with him on the sidelines of the ‘Conclave of Himalayan States’ held here to understand the road ahead. Excerpts:

What is ‘Green Bonus’?

We formed an expert committee under the chairmanship of Madhu Verma from Bhopal. The committee estimated the services the Himalayan States have been providing for environment conservation and protection and said that even on a conservative basis Uttarakhand alone is giving services worth ₹95,000 crore which could go up to three times if we include some more contributions.

The committee has submitted its report to the Uttarakhand government. Now, we need to see how the Himalayan States are getting affected by services they render towards the environmental cause. We conserved forests and rivers. Today, Uttarakhand has 71.3 per cent forest area. There, even if a water tap is to be installed we are required to take permission and this is affecting our development needs. Road construction takes years and that too amid strong criticism and protests. Despite this , State governments prepared plans and allocated fund, butwe cannot do more work because of the National Green Tribunal’s order. All this meant fewer employment opportunities. Not just Uttarakhand, but all Himalayan States are suffering. Meghalaya has 86 per cent forest area, some have 82 per cent. Himalayan States are contributing towards environmental cause. These States have more than 12,000 cusec metres of glaciers. All the big rivers from Sindhu to Brahamputra originate from this region and provide potable water to the nation. We are seeking ‘Green Bonus’ for these contributions.

How different this would be from the present system?

This should be over and above devolution, grant and assistance. You need to understand that it is not easy to set up industry here. There are green and red categories. One can set up industry in the green category, but not in the red. We have difficulty providing a base for industrial development. Even if we have to cut a tree for building a dwelling unit, it is not allowed. There are issues and be it the Finance Ministry or NITI Aayog or even the Finance Commission, all of them have acknowledged the fact that there are difficulties.

Himachal Pradesh has talked about challenges in implementing GST, especially for smaller States. What is your view?

Uttarakhand has suffered losses after introduction of the GST. No doubt, the Central government has assured 100 per cent compensation to revenue losses for the first five years. Now, what will happen after five years. What we are seeking is that the compensation should be extended till 2025, the year till which recommendations of 15th Finance Commission will be operational.

Do other hilly States have also similar demand?

Other States do not have problems like the ones we face. They are the consumer States and we are the manufacturing one. We being a manufacturing State is in in losses.

Since non-availibility of area-based exemption scheme for manufacturing units is setting on after July 2017, how are you working on alternative mechanism?

As an alternative, we are focussing on the services sector. In tourism, we are working on developing 13 new tourist destinations. They will be theme-based destinations. People are already coming here in large numbers, we want not just more tourists but also those who can spend more. Tourists come here mainly for religious tourism. Now, we want tourists who can benefit more for the State’s exchequer and also help in creating more job opportunities. We are focusing on wellness and adventure tourism. We have decided to set up a dedicated department to promote adventure activities. This department will be headed by an all-India service cadre officer also the officer should be visionary. It will have officers from the forest department.

Any specific plan for villages ?

We have planned to convert each panchayat into a growth centre. Our vision is to provide better processing, packaging, logistic and marketing support to traditional rural produces.

Similarly, we have lots of forest produces such as vegetations and they are much in demand. We need to cultivate these, but without destroying forest coverage area. We want to involve more villagers in such activities. State will provide financial support, expertise, marketing infrastructure and logistics support. What people earn, State will not ask for any share or not earn any revenue from it.

We have already sanctioned for 58 growth centres and around 40 are in the pipeline, which are expected to get sanctioned withine one-and-a-half months. We plan to have a growth centre dedicated to honey. These centres will cover 7-8 gram sabhas and villages under which we will have special plants to attract honey bees. We will keep bee boxes there and facilitate honey production. Earning will be for villagers only. We have also started Led lamps facility. We trained women for a week and now they are producing such beautiful lamps which can give a tough competition to big names in this sector. Now, we plan to provide training in each and every block. The government will purchase these Led lamps and tubelights. We want school dress, police uniforms, doctors’ uniforms to be prepared by rural women.

Our effort is to promote the concept of growth centre and women’s group in rural areas. We are providing interest free loans of up to ₹5 lakh for women’s group. There is also a scheme of interest-free loan of up to ₹1 lakh to individual woman for agro-based activities.

One success story is Kedarnath prasadam. Everything from growing ingredients being used for preparation of prasad to packaging and marketing, everything is being done by women. Last year, the total sales were to the tune of ₹2 crore. Uttarakhand has 625 prominent temples and this special prasad is already being prepared for temples.

Published on July 30, 2019
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