Himachal Pracdesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on Friday said there was a good response to the Global Investors’ Meet but the real work would start now to translate the promised investment into reality. Edited excerpts from an interview with NAVJEEVAN GOPAL
It is nearly two years since you took over as Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister. What do you think is your biggest achievement?
The biggest thing is change in political scenario. There used to be an era of political victimisation which has ended now and we are focusing on work. People have welcomed that we are focusing on work and not on any other thing. Second, we have taken many new initiatives which helped in solving problems of the people and we have succeeded in winning people’s hearts to a large extent. Take, for example, Janmanch where people’s problems are addressed on the spot in the presence of the minister. In the entire country there is no such scheme where a person tells his problem on a mike and the entire district administration and minister sit and listen to that person and issue orders on the spot to address the problem. This is a different kind of initiative. And then to supplement Ujjwala Yojna, we introduced Himachal Grihini Suvidha Yojana. Against a target of new LPG gas connections to two lakh houses, we have already covered 1.5 lakh houses. In health sector where Ayushman Bharat Yojana covered 22 lakh, we covered the remaining 70 lakh population of the state under Himcare, which too has Rs 5 lakh health cover. We took such initiatives which benefited the residents of Himachal. Now we have taken a new initiative. We are doing whatever development using government resources. But we realised that we should also try to attract private sector investment when all are doing this. Ours is a hilly state and problems here are difficult, but despite that, we decided to go for it. It started in the form of Global Investors’ Meet and I am happy that such an event was the first in the history of Himachal Pradesh where Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) came for inauguration. It will prove to be a milestone for Himachal Pradesh in the times to come.
What is the major takeaway from the Global Investors’ Meet?
The biggest thing is that earlier there was no such projection that investment can be done in Himachal Pradesh, that investors can come and invest in different sectors. People of other states would come here for two to three days as tourists and then go back. But to work here, to make devbhoomi (land of gods) as karambhoomi (land of work), this concept was not there. We have been able to address all such things with the help of Global Investors’ Meet. Now there is a new projection of Himachal Pradesh that investment can be made here and work could be done here. This is a new addition in Himachal Pradesh.
Was the response of the investors as per your expectations?
I can say there was a good response and it was as per our expectations. But real work will start now. By adopting a focussed approach we have to translate the promised investment into reality. I hope things will go in the right direction.
Tourism sector is said to be attracting a lot of investment. But the existing tourism destinations are always congested. There are issues like traffic snarls, parking problems.
We are trying to develop new tourist destinations. Shimla, Manali, Dharamshala, Dalhousie — until now, these were the names which were on people’s mind. It is a fact that these are internationally known destinations of tourism. But new tourist destinations can be developed and we are working on this with a focused approach. As per the trends which are emerging, many investors have shown interest in new destinations. I hope there will be a sizeable investment in tourism in Himachal Pradesh.
A lot of emphasis is being laid on road connectivity. But there are environment concerns as well? How will you balance that?
See, we do not want to cause any damage to the environment. Due to our four-lane projects, there will be one-time damage, but simultaneously we are doing afforestation.
There had been haphazard development in industrial township of Baddi?
That was an unfortunate part. We will improve that.