Light at End of Tun­nel

India Today - - THE STATE OF THE STATES - by Asit Jolly

Hi­machal Pradesh is the best place to do busi­ness in the coun­try,” de­clares Ra­jen­der Gu­le­ria, pres­i­dent of the Baddi-based BBN In­dus­tries As­so­ci­a­tion. His en­dorse­ment echoes the sen­ti­ments of many out-of-state en­trepreneurs. The once sleepy hill state is buzzing with de­vel­op­ment, driven by poli­cies that tar­get pri­vate sec­tor in­vest­ments in power, mu­nic­i­pal up­grade, tourism and an un­be­liev­able net­work of roads that will con­nect each and ev­ery pan­chayat in the re­motest of moun­tain vil­lages by 2015.

Anil Kapil, 50, the man driv­ing many of the ini­tia­tives as gen­eral man­ager, Hi­machal Pradesh In­fra­struc­ture De­vel­op­ment Board, says “a great deal of road work is un­der­way to shorten dis­tances”. Three ma­jor tun­nel projects in Hamir­pur, Chamba and Kullu, con­sul­tancy for which has been farmed out to Bernard En­gi­neers of Aus­tria, will re­duce dis­tances by nearly 300 km. Ac­cess to most parts of the state is also pos­si­ble with pri­vate he­li­copter­taxi ser­vices that started this year.

In­dus­tri­al­ists like Gu­le­ria set up shop in the early 2000s to take ad­van­tage of a 10- year tax hol­i­day. Though many other states have also cut du­ties, he says, “there is still a sig­nif­i­cant ad­van­tage in the state given

as­sured avail­abil­ity of low- cost power, good road con­nec­tiv­ity and re­spon­sive gov­er­nance”. Kapil cred­its the en­act­ment of the pub­licpri­vate par­tic­i­pa­tion leg­is­la­tion as far back as 2001 for the state’s con­tin­ued ap­peal. “Recog­nis­ing that govern­ment would never have the re­sources to fi­nance ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture projects like tun­nels or big power projects, we de­cided to bring in pri­vate play­ers,” he says.

Deepak Sanan, 54, prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary, power, says gen­er­a­tion has gone up from 6,428 MW in 2008 to 8,700 MW. The tar­get is 10,000 MW by 2013. “We have farmed out fresh projects for an additional 1,300 MW to com­pa­nies like L&T and Re­liance,” he says. Hi­machal Pradesh has also seen im­prove­ments in tourism in­fra­struc­ture. Har Ghar Kuch Ke­hta Hai and Har Gaon Ki Kahani, launched in 2010, are key schemes that in­volve pri­vate par­tic­i­pa­tion. Home stays have been hugely suc­cess­ful in tra­di­tional tourist hubs such as the Kullu Val­ley and Kan­gra. The multi-level park­ing lot at Shimla’s new bus ter­mi­nus, opened in Au­gust, has room for 1,500 ve­hi­cles to cope with the sum­mer tourist rush. Kapil says the state tourism and civil avi­a­tion depart­ment is in­stalling sev­eral rope­ways across the state through the pub­lic-pri­vate par­tic­i­pa­tion mode. “There are plans to con­nect dif­fer­ent parts of Shimla through a sys­tem of rope­ways for lo­cal tran­sits,” he says.

Both Sanan and Kapil say most pol­icy ini­tia­tives would never have suc­ceeded with­out Chief Min­is­ter Prem Ku­mar Dhu­mal’s back­ing. Many of his sub­or­di­nates be­lieve that in his sec­ond term, Dhu­mal has taken a cue from Gu­jarat Chief Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi in re­ceiv­ing and trans­lat­ing fresh ideas.

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