Himachal Worries In A Prosperous State

On a cold spring morning, if one looks up from the wide mountain highway that leads up from Kalka, the bright sunshine, striking the smoke billowing from thousands of coal fired heaters in government offices, creates the illusion that Shimla Town is on fire. The impact is dramatic and at the same time threatening. It is prosperity that allows the government to heavily subsidize the use of coal, yet its use turns the stagnant morning air into a choking brew, which does enormous harm to the residents of this state capital and hill resort.

The conflicting impression of promise and threat also describes the condition of Himachal Pradesh in general. The state has the highest living standard in the Himalayan region, belying the myth that mountain regions by their very geography must be poverty-stricken. Himachal provides its people with a higher income, better employment, superior social services and more efficient government than the adjoining regions of Uttar Pradesh or the Nepali hills beyond. According to D.S. Thakur, a researcher at the H.P. Vishva Vidyalaya in Palampur, the state has created "a new concept for the development of hill economies" through the scientific transformation of agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry and other areas. And, "The development experience of Himachal offers pertinent lessons for the integrated mountain development of the entire Great Himalayan Hill Region," he says.

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Himal Southasian