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'Industry not at the cost of nature'

February 22, 2010 17:00 IST
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Uttarakhand Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' tells Sanjay Jog he wants the special industrial package to be extended till 2020.

It seems the Centre wants to go ahead with its plan to withdraw tax holidays for industries (in hill states) from April 2010. What's the state government's stand?

I recently led a high-level all-party delegation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and appealed against the withdrawal of tax holidays for industries. Under the package, industries that start commercial production before March 31, 2010, enjoy 100 per cent excise exemption.

The period of the exemption starts from the date of commercial production. The exemption is available for 10 years. Also, there is 100 per cent income-tax exemption for the first five years, which tapers off over the next five years. There is also an investment subsidy that manufacturers enjoy at the rate of 15 per cent of the total investment, plus a 1 per cent exemption on central sales tax.

We want the package to be extended till 2020. The Congress has sought an extension up to 2013. However, the package should be available till 2020, as 2013 was the deadline in the original package sanctioned by the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Besides, the state government is serious about attracting investments. Apart from the Centre's package, the state government gives a slew of incentives to boost investments.

However, there are limitations to industrial growth, especially when the state government has to strike a balance between environment protection and industrial development.

The state government is committed to protecting the environment. Close to 45 per cent of Uttarakhand's land is under forest and the state has undertaken a special programme to protect and preserve the Ganga river. Non-polluting industries with good employment potential will be provided all necessary help. Pharmaceuticals, horticulture and information technology are some of the sectors that have tremendous potential here.

The government is pro-development but has also resolved to preserve nature. It will promote private investments in hydro power projects. The thrust will be on mini projects that can be developed in a short period. The state government's investor-friendly policy for the hydel power sector is already in place. Coal-based power projects are important to increase the country's power generation, but have no scope in the state.

However, Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh does not share your views on development of hydel projects on the Ganga.

I have taken up the issue of more projects on the Ganga upstream of Uttarkashi with the prime minister. I strongly believe that there is scope for developing more hydel projects on the Ganga without compromising its flow and sanctity. My government is clear that the flow of Ganga should not be disturbed and its sanctity should be maintained.

Apart from hydel projects, what are the other options the state government is exploring to add power generation capacity?

The government is keen to encourage gas-based power projects in the state. We have held meetings with GAIL India to assess the possibility of developing gas-based projects. These will help meet the demand for power in the state. GAIL India will come up with a detailed project to lay the pipeline that will pass through Garhwal and Kumaon regions.

What are the government's plans to promote the tourism industry in the state?

The government is not keen to promote tourism at the cost of flora and fauna. We will launch a novel project under which global tourists will be encouraged to ride a chopper to five-six tourist spots in Valley of Flowers. Helipads will be built for this. However, tourists will have to pay Rs 5-6 lakh per trip. The private sector will organise these trips. The government will also promote winter sports.

Uttarakhand has several pilgrim spots and rivers. It's known for the Kumbh Mela. What is the government doing to attract more pilgrims?

Uttarakhand has Badrinath, Kedarnath, Haridwar and Gangotri. My government is committed to providing all possible amenities to pligrims at these holy places and rivers. We want to develop meditation centres for those looking for peace and harmony. The state is host to many pilgrim centres and sites of historical importance and incurs significant expenditure on pligrimage-related tourism.

What is the government doing to convert the state into an ayurveda hub?

My government has held initial discussions in this regard. The state is rich in medicinal trees and rare species of plants. Species required for ayurvedic treatment will be protected. The government is quite confident that the state can become an ayurveda hub. Baba Ramdev has already entered into a Rs 1,000-crore-per-annum contract with the state government for exploitation of the potential and the use of medicinal plants, especially those used in ayurvedic treatments.

Your government was among the first few to ban Bt brinjal

My government decided to ban Bt brinjal due to the sensitive nature of the state's ecology.

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