Congress is working to transform the ‘derailed’ system in Himachal Pradesh, says CM Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu 

The Himachal Pradesh CM says to bring swift investments to the State, a new ‘open industrial policy’ will be soon in place, which will also help to create job opportunities

February 05, 2023 10:25 am | Updated 12:12 pm IST - CHANDIGARH

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu addresses employees after announcing the implementation of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS), in Shimla, on Jan. 13, 2023.

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu addresses employees after announcing the implementation of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS), in Shimla, on Jan. 13, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

Close to two months into power after the Congress formed its government in Himachal Pradesh, the first-time Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, in an interview asserts that the current government was swiftly working towards “transforming the system” (Vyavastha Parivartan), which, he says, was derailed by the previous BJP in the past five years. Despite the State’s financial crunch, the government has started to fulfill its promises by restoring the old pension scheme. Mr. Sukhu says to bring swift investments to the State, a new ‘open industrial policy’ will be soon in place, which will also help to create job opportunities. Excerpts:

What have been the achievements of the new Congress government led by you in Himachal Pradesh so far, and what are the immediate priorities?

After assuming power, we have started delivering on our promises, action against corruption, and working towards transforming the ‘derailed’ system of the previous BJP government has begun. We restored the old pension scheme for government employees even though it was tough. The previous BJP government had left a liability on us (the present government) of paying the arrears of around ₹4,500 crore to the employees, ₹5,500 crore (approximately) of the pensioners, and around ₹1,000 crore Dearness Allowance of both. The economic health of the State is poor due to the exuberant spending by the previous government, resulting in a debt of around ₹75,000 crore. As far as priorities go, we want to bring this government within the reach of the common man. Soon after becoming the Chief Minister, I visited an orphanage, the sole aim was to deliver a wider message that our government would take care of its people, even though they may not be in a position to approach the government. We have constituted a fund ‘Sukh-Ashraya Sahayata Kosh’ for funding the higher education of destitute children. Among other immediate priorities, we have fixed a target to make Himachal Pradesh a ‘green energy State’ by the end of the year 2025, by harnessing hydro, hydrogen, and solar energy and switching to green products. The State Transport department will be very soon equipped with electric vehicles replacing the existing ones in a phased manner. All government vehicles would be replaced by electric vehicles within the next year and no diesel vehicles would be purchased by government departments.

You said Himachal Pradesh is facing a financial crunch, how do you plan to bring the State out of the debt crises?

No doubt the financial situation of the State is not good, but I firmly believe that in the next four years if we adhere to fiscal discipline and take decisions after due diligence the economic situation would certainly improve. We are working and deliberating on all possibilities for increasing revenue. Some tough decisions will be required to be taken.

What’s the road map of your government to provide jobs to unemployed youth? Do you intend to introduce new industrial/tourism policies?

We have promised to give employment opportunities in the government and other sectors and we have already started work in this direction. The government is soon coming out with an ‘open industrial policy’. Under this policy, if any industrialist wants to come to Himachal Pradesh for setting up the industry, they only need to deposit an ‘upfront’ premium amount, and the State government will take care of giving all the necessary permissions, be permission surrounding Section 118 of the Himachal Pradesh, Tenancy and Land Reforms Act, 1972, or water-electricity connections, etc. The industrialist will not have to wait anymore, they can come with their Detailed Project Report, show their project cost, and deposit 2% of the cost as the upfront premium with the government and start working. The purpose is to bring swift investments to the State. Also, in a bid to promote the tourism sector, Kangra district would be developed as the ‘tourism capital’ of the State by developing infrastructure.

When you were in Opposition, you favoured bringing legislation in which all legislators would be compulsorily asked to place their income and source of their income in the public domain. Now, you are in the government will you be enacting such a law soon?

We have zero tolerance for corruption. Certainly, we will bring the legislation. I call this legislation ‘The Transparency Act’. This law envisages that any elected representative, be it the Chief Minister, Minister, or MLA, they should compulsorily be asked to provide details of their income and more importantly the source of that income and place it in public domain. This will help in bringing transparency. I believe that leaders, who are in public life should have a clean image and for this, it’s important that there should be complete transparency in their conduct.

You have blamed the previous BJP government for derailing the State’s system. What do you mean by it and how do you plan to improve the system?

The previous BJP government failed to deliver because they lacked efficient governance. The previous government had negligible command over the administration due to which development across the State came to a standstill, thus derailing the entire system. We have started working towards revamping the derailed system. We are here to transform the system (Vyavastha Parivartan) for the public benefit by ensuring good governance. We are taking decisive actions. The Himachal Pradesh Staff Selection Commission had become the hub of corruption in the BJP regime, we suspended the functioning of the Commission, this was the first step in the direction against corruption. Now the selection will be ensured purely on the basis of merit, in a fair and transparent manner.

Drug menace is a serious problem that is gripping Himachal Pradesh. What’s your blueprint to tackle the problem?

There will be no leniency in dealing with the drug mafia. We will soon bring required changes in the law, to add provisions of confiscating the properties of anyone found involved in the narcotic drug trade. I have already directed for strictly dealing with drug mafia in the districts having inter-State borders, besides conducting special raids adjoining the State boundary with Punjab and other States.

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