today, is one of the leading states in the country, when it
comes to the literacy rate, per capita income, primary health,
infant mortality rate, electrification, drinking water facility
and banking coverage. Pratibha Chauhan
looks at the giant strides in development made by this small and
once-backward hill state
a fledgling centrally administered territory comprising 30
princely states in 1948 to its current numero uno status in the
country on several parameters of development, the hill state of
Himachal Pradesh has crossed many milestones in less than 60
years. The actual period of development is even lesser
considering that the growth momentum picked up only after
Himachal Pradesh attained full statehood in 1971.
Minister Virbhadra Singh on the state’s progress:
Starting from scratch, the state has emerged as a
leading state in several fields like education, health
and infrastructure. What is more important is to
maintain that numero uno position and further improve on
Besides power, tourism and industry, there is
immense potential for growing off-season vegetables,
floriculture and mushroom cultivation that can
considerably enhance the earning capacity of people in
One area where the state could have done better
is in realising its vast potential in hydro-power
The laudable progress that the hill state has made
in 60 years of its existence is no less a tribute to its
political stability and efficacy of administrative
delivery in ensuring continuity of programmes and
Long regarded as
the poor cousin of its more illustrious neighbours — Punjab
and Haryana — the metamorphosis of Himachal Pradesh from a
backward hill state to one of the most developed states in the
country has been truly remarkable.
Even in the worst
of times, people inhabiting the Land of Gods would, perhaps,
have scored highly on the happiness index. Nature's bounty
manifest in mighty mountains and enchanting valleys has
traditionally been more uplifting for the hill people than the
lure of the lucre.
That the hill
state has matched or bettered the best administered states in
the country in terms of life expectancy, literacy rate, per
capita income, per capita GDP growth, health, infrastructure and
education is proof of its development in material terms too.
different things to different people across the world. Despite
adding the human element for measuring development by creating
the Human Development Index (HDI) scale, renowned economist
Amartya Sen was still not satisfied and termed it a "vulgar
measure" owing to its limitations.
For want of a
better yardstick, the HDI scale nonetheless remains an important
signifier of human development. A recent survey by a reputed
news magazine placed Himachal Pradesh as the number one state in
the country on the HDI scale as far as the life expectancy at
birth, literacy and per capita GDP are concerned.
The state recorded
a growth rate of 9.3 per cent in the last financial year - a
little above the national rate, and ranks among the leading
states with the highest per capita income (Rs 36,783 according
to 2001 census). Recently, the state has been officially
declared as having 100 per cent banking coverage. Despite the
mountainous terrain, Himachal Pradesh has achieved the highest
per capita tele-density in the country.
Literacy is one
parameter where the hill state can be truly proud. From a mere
seven per cent recorded at the inception of Himachal Pradesh in
1948, the state has achieved a literacy rate of 77.13 per cent
(2001 census) with the female literacy pegged at 67.4, which is
much higher than the national figure. A concerted effort to
ensure universalisation of primary education in the state has
brought down the dropout rate at primary stage of education to
0.89 per cent.
enrolment and reduce the dropout rate, various scholarships are
being given to practically all sections, including girls, wards
of army personnel, OBCs, SCs, STs and the poor.
In the area of
primary health, the country's leading state Kerala lost its top
position to HP. Health indicators like infant mortality rate,
male to female infant mortality, percentage of homes with tap
water, doctors per lakh people, sex ratio and health spending
have been amongst the best in the country.
The fact that the
state had achieved cent per cent electrification and drinking
water facility way back in 1987 and 1994, respectively,
underscores the inclusive nature of development.
One of the most
heartening aspects of Himachal's growth story has been public
spending in the social welfare sector. Nearly 44 per cent of the
expenditure in the current annual plan has been dedicated to the
social sector. Social security cover has been provided to 2.12
lakh beneficiaries by way of old age and widow pensions and
rehabilitation allowance to the physically challenged. Some of
the new schemes launched for the welfare of the underprivileged
and needy, especially women, include Mother Teresa Asahay Matri
Sambal Yojna , Mukhya Mantri Kanyadan Yojna, and Indira Gandhi
Balika Suraksha Yojna.
The state took the
lead in the country by enacting a landmark legislation, making
it mandatory for children to take care of their parents in the
twilight of their life. "It is only after enactment of the
HP Parents Maintenance Act 2001 that other states took similar
steps. In that respect the hill state has shown the way to rest
of the country", says Anuradha Thakur, Director, Department
of Social Justice and Empowerment.
has shown a remarkable upturn even as its neighbours Punjab and
Haryana cry themselves hoarse over the grant of concessions to
the industry by the Centre. A clean and green environment
coupled with uninterrupted power supply and industrial-friendly
climate have beckoned big names like Ranbaxy, Proctor and Gamble
and Wipro to the state. The state has made spectacular progress
in the last four years by attracting an investment of Rs 21,821
crore and providing employment to over three lakh persons.
One of the
indicators of progress in any society is the proactive role of
civil society. In Himachal, the self-help group (SHG) movement
has spread across the state and is now firmly established. There
are 29,000 SHGs functioning in the state with help from the
Department of Social Justice and Empowerment and other agencies.
The SHG movement
was initiated by the Chinmaya Tapovan Trust, mainly in Kangra
district in 1994. Within five years, the movement grew by leaps
and bounds with NABARD requesting the Chinmaya Tapovan Trust to
function as a resource centre for training bankers, volunteers
and government functionaries from North India.
Tapovan Trust has been functioning as a resource centre for
Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal,
"The single largest factor which gave a fillip to SHGs
among women was the existing network of mahila mandals, which
lapped up the opportunity for their economic empowerment,"
says Dr Shama Maitri, National Director of the Chinmaya
Organisation for Rural Development (CORD).
credit the state's development story partly to its reasonably
stable polity - the state has had only five chief ministers
since gaining full statehood. The successive Congress and BJP
governments have ensured uniform development of the state.
However, all is
not hunky-dory. Unemployment is becoming a major social and
political issue. In a state of 65 lakh inhabitants, nearly 10
lakh youth are unemployed and this is a major challenge for the
policy-makers. The government's thrust is on promoting industry
and tourism for not just resource generation but also for
Fed on liberal
central aid over the years and supplemented by dose of populist
politics, that have fought shy of taxing services, the state has
run up a massive debt of Rs 18,000 crore. Nearly Rs 1800 crore
goes every year towards debt servicing.
Minister Virbhadra Singh feels that Himachal Pradesh is no
exception in this regard as all states manage on huge
borrowings. "The income of the state is increasing year by
year and I am confident that we will be able to not only write
off these borrowings but will be able to generate substantial
resources," he says optimistically.
industrialisation of the state, which has so far remained
confined to the fringes, has brought only limited benefits. Not
all units are adhering to the mandatory condition of giving 70
per cent of the jobs to Himachalis.
"Now we have
a follow-up mechanism to ensure that the condition of giving 70
per cent of the jobs to youth from within the state is adhered
to. There will be random checks even after the unit comes into
production and has been granted permanent registration,"
says Anil Khachi, Director, Industries. He says the initial
momentum is good and now efforts are being made towards
providing the best infrastructure so that those who have made
investments stay on to reap good returns.