The maiden budget of Narendra Modi Government comes as a mixed bag of hopes and disappointments for Uttarakhand which is still struggling to recover from the effects of last year's natural calamity.
Even though not finding a mention in the budget of the proposed green bonus and additional financial assistance for carrying out reconstruction work in flood-hit areas of the state has been disappointing, people are happy about the plan to set up a centre for Himalayan Studies here.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley earmarked an initial outlay of Rs 100 crore in the union budget for setting up a National Centre for Himalayan Studies in Uttarakhand. Besides the inclusion of Kedarnath in the Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) has given a lift, as the move is expected to give a major boost to the tourism industry, the mainstay of the state's economy which suffered a blow in last June's tragedy. With an outlay of Rs 100 crore for the PRASAD mission, the state government is likely to get a booster dose from the Centre in its ongoing efforts to rebuild flood-hit areas around the Himalayan shrine, observers noted.
A National Centre for Himalayan Studies may pave the way for scripting a new growth story of the state which takes into account its vulnerability to landslides and earthquakes, they opined.
Observers also see a major role for the state in the 'Namami Gange' project with the sacred river originating from Gomukh in the state and several of its major towns including Haridwar and Rishikesh located along the river bank. Welcoming the project noted environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna said, "it is good that the budget makes provisions for maintaining the relentless flow of the Ganga." "But mere provisions are not enough. Concrete work will have to be done on the ground to ensure success of the mission," he added.
Hailing the inclusion of river Ganga in the budget, Yoga guru Ramdev said, "The attention paid to the Ganga in the budget is a welcome step. It shows the Modi government's sense of dedication to the ancient river."
Meanwhile, a host of Congress leaders including Chief Minister Harish Rawat described the budget as "a huge disappointment" as it makes no commitment about a green bonus of Rs 2,000 crore in recognition of steps taken by the state for environmental conservation nor does it say anything about an additional assistance of Rs 4,000 crore for reconstruction work in flood-hit areas. "The budget is a blow to Uttarakhand's development aspirations. Our demand for a green bonus to the state has been totally ignored in the budget, which also does not say anything about an additional assistance of Rs 4,000 crore for reconstruction in affected areas," Rawat said.
However, he hoped that the announcement in the budget about developing five tourist circuits across the country will include Uttarakhand as well.