Want separate union ministry for mountain states: Arunachal CM

Itanagar, Oct 7 (IANS) Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki on Wednesday called for the creation of a separate union ministry for India’s mountain states, and lamented the Centre’s move to do away with the special category status states.

“Due to geographical and historical reasons, the resources of the mountains, both natural and human, are either under-utilised or ill-utilised,” Tuki said while inaugurating the fourth edition of the Sustainable Mountain Development Summit (SMDS) here.

“Therefore, policy decisions to protect and sustainably harness these resources must be put in place. The role of the union government is paramount in providing an umbrella for all the mountain states, preferably in the form of a separate ministry,” he said.

The chief minister lamented the central government’s decision to do away with the tag of special category states.

“Issues and challenges emerging from two very important policy changes — replacement of Planning Commission with NITI Aayog and recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission — need to be discussed and over-viewed specifically with regard to the mountain states,” Tuki said.

“I may point out, the major fallout is the doing away with the tag of the special category states which have been a late starter in the development journey and the stoppage of the block grants in the form of NCA (normal central assistance), SPA (special plan assistance) and SCA (special central assistance).

“This has its direct impact on the special category states, most of which are mountain states.”

Sponsored by the Integrated Mountain Initiative (IMI) and GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) India, this edition of the SMDS, the fourth since 2011, is being hosted by the Sustainable Mountain Development Forum Arunachal Pradesh (SMDFA).

The IMI is a collective initiative for recognising the value of mountain regions and enabling people to realise its potential by integrating the knowledge and experiences of the multiple stakeholders.

Tuki also emphasised on the crucial role played by the Himalayas in cooling down of Earth.

“The Himalayas are the basic reason for the monsoon that has made the Indian peninsula one of the greatest and richest agricultural area in the world sustaining one-seventh of the human population,” he said.

He, however, regretted the fact that the mountains and its people faced a fragile relation with the majority of the people.

“The mountain people, comprising about 50 million, who are the custodians of the mountains, live a marginalised life in the remote and inaccessible world devoid of all the luxuries of modern development and progress,” the chief minister said.

“Their plight hardly comes within the radar of policy makers, who mostly have their attention on the never ending problems of the teeming millions in the plains, who are, in fact, sustained by the mountains.”

Tuki said mountain people of India were poorly represented in parliament.

“We have only 47 members in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha from the total of about 790 members,” he said.

Lok Sabha member from Sikkim and IMI councillor P.D. Rai lamented that the country’s mountain states were falling behind on every human development indicator.

“The ground level credit (GLC) for the eight northeastern states is only half a percent, which is seven times lower than the national average. If the three other mountain states are added, then the GLC for these 11 states is still only 1.8 percent,” he said.

According to NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand, mountain ecology was important for the global ecosystem.

Stating that the future of the mountains was not different from that of the plains, he said: “Please bring people from the plains to such summits and sensitise them to the problems of the mountain people.”

This year’s SMDS, a three-day event, is seeing the participation of 235 delegates from outside Arunachal Pradesh. Twenty legislators are representing the 12 other mountain states. There are also representatives from Bhutan and Nepal.

(Aroonim Bhuyan can be contacted at aroonim.b@ians.in)

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