Not too long after Himachal had burst out in jubilation for two of its representatives at the Center being made cabinet ministers, the honeymoon for the state now seems over. And that too with a rude shock of no mention of the state in the Central railway budget, that was today in the Parliament yesterday.
Were the people expecting too much as for the first time the state had two leaders as Central ministers – Anand Sharma and five-time former CM Virbhadra Singh? Or as Chief Minister of Himachal Prem Kumar Dhumal put it, “Is the state facing neglect because of being a peaceful state?”
Big disappointment met people of the state when the railway budget unfolds on their TV sets. So what was the state expecting? After many years the hopes of railway extension and development in the state had started to take off and projects like Mandi-Manali-Leh railway line, which is of strategic importance (the PM having given his consent in principle earlier), Bilaspur-Bhanupalli railway line and Chandigarh-Baddi link to boost and back up industry, were awaiting budget allotment. Alas! Nothing happened. Not even a mention.
A question that comes to minds of many residents of Himachal is that why does the Centre feel we are insignificant? A small state with population over 70 lakh has a record and history of significant contributions to the nation.
The hard fact remains that if it were not for Himachal’s hydro power wealth and developmental strides in the sector for which people of the state had to sacrifice their land and homes, many states of north-India would not have been able to get electricity. Had people of Himachal not sacrificed their natural rights on the forests that give them essential wood to repair their homes and fodder for the cattle, the catchments of many rivers and tributaries that cater water to many neighboring states would not have been preserved.
When it came to projects of national importance like the Bhakra Dam, Pong Dam and now Renuka Dam that would feed water to national capital Delhi, local people were asked to sacrifice their agricultural lands. Does this contribution of the state in national interest seem less in any manner?
In his sharp reaction to the budget, the CM today said, “Was Himachal being ignored because it was a peaceful state and on the other hand states like Jammu and Kashmir and North-East, where law and order situation was not good were being given special package or special railway corridors, which was incorrect”. He said that people of the state had been hurt with this attitude of the Centre.
Strong reactions have also come in from BJP president Jai Ram Thakur who has questioned why the two cabinet ministers from the state could not plead for the state’s interests.