Staff Correspondent

`For a self sustaining economic development in rural areas of backward hill economies like Himachal'

SHIMLA: The PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry has suggested a large network creation of Rural Business Hubs in the countryside for backward hill economies like Himachal Pradesh. The growth of rural market has been dampened due to widespread poverty, no infrastructure and variations in the living standards in a State with its more than 90 percent population living in villages. Developing business hubs in rural areas is the need of the hour and they can be created by public-private-panchayat partnership initiatives by involving industrial skills with rural resources.

The PHDCCI floating the idea of rural hubs says that, it is a market driven scheme unlike the earlier subsidy driven schemes and it would be backed by two major government initiatives of guaranteed rural employment and development of backward areas. "This would trigger a self sustaining economic development in rural areas", says Yashwinder Dogra, Assistant Regional Director of the Chamber.

He suggests that in rural Himachal Pradesh, besides, the promotion of cottage industries and handicrafts, a good network of engineering and foundry industries, agro-based and livestock based industries can be created in Una, Hamirpur, Kangra, Bilaspur, Sirmaur and Solan districts. The districts of Kullu, Shimla, Chamba, Mandi, Bilaspur and Solan are suitable for horticulture and forest-based industries. The tribal areas of Kinnaur, Lahaul-Spiti and Chamba, besides Kullu and Shimla, are suitable for handicraft units.

Himachal Pradesh due to its unique environment has immense potential in horticulture, off seasonal vegetables, mushroom cultivation, beekeeping, medicinal and aromatic plants, floriculture, organic farming, sericulture and fish production.

Himachal Pradesh has an unprecedented scope for export of handicrafts and agro based products. There is an ever increasing demand, particularly, in the western world, for handicraft items and organic agro products. However, the rural and village industry needs greater exposure.

The PHDCCI has suggested setting up of "rural haats" in collaboration with private sector and promote these through ITDC, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India and State Tourism Departments for souvenir industry development.

The Union Ministry of Tourism has already launched an initiative to develop rural tourism hubs which need to be integrated with PRIs for effective functioning and monitoring of the projects. It can set up design-cum-development centres, mechanization and skill up gradation focusing upon value addition and also set up a professionalised marketing agency for the goods from the State.