Narendra Modi visited Himachal Pradesh for the first time after becoming the Prime Minister and aroused the hopes for fast growth of inftrastructural development in the state. As is his wont, he could not help check himself from taking a dig at the state government “Do I need to tell you about his identity?”, alluding to the corruption charges against the Chief Minister. It is the sixth term for Virbhadra Singh as the Chief Minister of the state which means 30 years’ time which is almost 50 per cent period after independence. The government claims many laurels to the state on the education front, healthcare, road network, wildlife, forest growth, horticulture, hydro-power generation and many other parameters which would have made the state self-dependent by now.
A simple reality check will prove that the state needs to be done more on every front to achieve that status of prosperity. The education standards started falling after the impact of Partap Singh Kairon era started diminishing. Today schools are ill-quipped with lots of regular vacancies, and trained teachers are outsourced through contracts. With the dwindling strentgh of students, who are joining the private schools, has put a question mark on the government’s credibility. More or less there is good infrastructure in the government schools, and English has been introduced at the primary level but parents still send their wards to private schools.
So far the healthcare is concerned, patients in critical condition are referred to PGIMER, Chandigarh. Though there are medical colleges and hospitals in Shimla and Kangra but these seem to be ill-equipped of advanced machinery and expertise. If we talk of road network, then the state government will recount its development in the length of roads since its earlier time after independence, which any governance can develop with the passage of time in a routine.
The Central roads are far better than the state roads which are narrow, ill-maintained and dangerous. The frequent road accidents in the state are obvious fallouts of such roads. The governemt even in this tenure purchased a number of costly buses with crores of rupees and did not bother to improve or repair roads in the state. Horticulture and fruit productions have seen better days in the state where apple belt has been lucky for getting better share of subsidies but on the other hand, the citrus production in the lower belt of the state has been ignored.
Hydro-power genration has seen the hay days in the state and is one of the means of state’s income but the state government could not get its amount for its share from the BBMB. Tourism is the most neglected area in the state. The Congress governments in the past did not raise this issue with the Centre for fearing of losing the clout in the high command. Shanta Kumar became the Chief Minister twice in the state but could not complete his tenures; first when Janata Party broke over the RSS issue and secondly during the demolition of Babari structure when the state government was sacked by the Centre. But what the Shanta Kumar government had done during its two and half-year-tenure for the state, is a feat in itself. When he took over as Chief Minister, out of the 18,000 village, only 4,500 villages had tap-water but he succeeded in providing tap-water to over 16,000 villages. He is known as the Paani Wale Mukhyamantri. Similarly Prem Kumar Dhumal spread a network of roads in difficult terrains in the state during his tenure as the Chief Minister and is known as Sadak wale Mukhyamantri.
The praise may seem to be in excess but truth can’t be denied. Modi during his tour to Mandi in the state had remembered ‘Shanta Kumar ji as ‘Paani Wale CM’ and P K Dhumal ji (Prem Kumar Dhumal) as ‘Grameen Sadak Wale CM’.” “This is the difference. The BJP CMs dedicated themselves to providing water and roads.” he added. Talking about Koldam hydro power plant, Modi said: “The project was signed with Russia to build Koldam Dam Hydropower Project in 1962 on Satluj river. When Atal ji (Atal Bihari Vajpayee) became the Prime Minister, he gave a push to the project.” He also described Himachal Pradesh as “Devbhoomi” (land of gods) and “Veerbhoomi” (land of the brave). The prime Minister raised the issue of Railway line of Bhanupalli to Sundernagar and Mandi and the Nagal dam railway line, but the most improtant one from Pathankot to Jogindernagar is waiting to be boradened to make Kangra valley easily accessible to tourists. Shanta Kumar had mooted a network of ropeways and heli-service in the state but after him no one had the innovative ideas to strengthen economy through tourism.