|Tuesday, May 16, 2000,
US Nagar issue
NEW DELHI, May 15 — Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, today donned two caps — one as the President of the Shiromani Akali Dal and other as a member of the committee on Udham Singh Nagar — while making his stand known on the inclusion of the district in the proposed Uttaranchal State.
As President of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Badal demanded the setting up of a Boundary Commission, comprising Supreme Court judges, to determine the future of Udham Singh Nagar.
Reiterating his party’s strong and principled opposition to the Centre’s move to include the plains district into the new hill State, Mr Badal said a final decision on the subject must await the report of this commission.
However, speaking as a member of the three-member committee on Udham Singh Nagar, which includes apart from Punjab Chief Minister, the Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes and the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr Ram Prakash Gupta, Mr Badal disclosed that the committee would visit the Udham Singh Nagar district to ascertain the wishes and aspirations of the people there regarding the proposed inclusion of the plains area into the hill State of Uttaranchal. Mr Badal, said after a meeting of the committee here, that the committee would submit its report before the final enactment of the Bill on the formation of the new State. “The final shape of the Bill will be guided by the report of the committee”, he added.
The Punjab Chief Minister, during the day, received a delegation of the members of Parliament from UP, including Mr Bhuvan Chand Khanduri (Garhwal), Mr Manoharkant Dhiani (Rishikesh) and Mr Manvender Shah Teehri (Garhwal) and senior Akali leader and Union Cabinet Minister, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa. The Chief Minister also met the Minister of State for Science and Technology, Mr Bachi Singh Rawat, the Vice-Chairman of Minority Commission, Mr Tarlochan Singh and UP SAD President, Mr H.S. Chima.
Participating in the committee meeting, the Punjab Chief Minister put forward the views of his party in a written note.
Mr Badal said the SAD had gone into the issue and studied it from all angles and gave eight reasons for opposing the inclusion of Udham Singh Nagar in the proposed Uttaranchal.
The reasons are geographical, cultural, national precedents, economic, demographic, historical, administrative and popular sentiment.
On the geographical front, Mr Badal said all 12 districts of Uttaranchal, with the solitary exception of Udham Singh Nagar, were ahilly tract and their climate and other geographical conditions differed from the plains of UP. The entire Udham Singh Nagar was situated in the plains and was part of the fertile Terai area in Western UP.
He said that while there was definite cultural homogeneity amongst the people of all the 12 hilly districts, they were distinct from that of rest of UP, including Udham Singh Nagar. The panorama of Udham Singh Nagar presents a cultural picture composed of the Tharus, Buxas, Bengali refugees, Haryanavis and Sikhs and other Punjabis uprooted by partition in 1947.
He said it was well known that linguistic and cultural affinity as well as geographical contiguity have been used as the predominant, if not the sole determinators in reorganisation of states all over the country. This practice was being given the go-by in the case of Udham Singh Nagar and the decision to include the district in Uttaranchal would “fly in the face of tried, tested and trusted practice used in such cases ever since 1947”.
On the economic front, Mr Badal said the Udham Singh Nagar belt was the hub of trade, agriculture and industry and has economic connectivity only with the adjoining plains which serve as its lone commercial catchment or command area. Since trade and industry here has to depend on the raw material provided by the neighbouring plains districts of the Western UP, any artificial division of these districts into two separate states would play havoc with the economy of the region.
Mr Badal said the composition of Udham Singh Nagar was vastly different from that of the other 12 districts of the proposed new State. While people from the hill area were locals and have their ancient local heritage, the people of Udham Singh Nagar are basically settlers.
Citing historical reasons, he said the 12 districts of the proposed new state have been lying in the mountains of Himalayas for hundreds of years, the Terai plains of Udham Singh Nagar have been made habitable during the past half century by a heterogeneous population from different part of the country. There was also a great variation in altitude from the sea-level in the two regions, he said.
He said due to the entirely different geographical conditions prevailing there, the administrative structure of the hill districts of Uttarakhand was quite different from that of Udham Singh Nagar.
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