Mr Sudripta Roy
 Chief Secretary, Government of Himachal Pradesh

“Making Himachal investment friendly”

Mr Sudripta Roy, Chief Secretary, Government of Himachal Pradesh, spoke to India Empire’s Sayantan Chakravarty and Sanjay Sharma on a range of issues at his office in Shimla

Mr Sudripta Roy, Chief Secretary Himachal Pradesh

Let me ask you about the steps that the Government of Himachal Pradesh has taken to bring in investments into the state…
Well, an investment package rolled out by the Government of India has been phased out now. It was supposed to carry on till 2013, but had to be phased out in 2010 itself because other states were asking for a level playing field in terms of Government packages. As a result, we’ve had to envision, plan out and go in for internal reforms. One of the major reforms has been in the rationalization of power tariff. There was an imbalance in the sense it was exorbitant for large scale manufacturing industries and highly concessional for the smaller ones. Now, overall, power has become cheaper and more affordable.
We have regular investor meets to promote Himachal Pradesh as a green hub. We are encouraging more green industries. The CII, FICCI and other chambers of commerce keep meeting with us regularly. We take up space at the India International Trade Fair as well as in fairs overseas. We were present in Czechoslovakia recently. Foreign investors are showing more interest and with norms for FDI relaxed slightly we see more investors showing interest in Himachal Pradesh in coming months.

The state has turned into a green destination. What does it entail…
The Central Pollution Control Board, Ministry of Environment and Forests in the Government of India have funded a major CETP. On the basis of that success we are attracting industries to this green destination. Besides, there is a World Bank project for sustainable green development. We are encouraging industries to move from red to yellow and from yellow to green. We will be punitive towards those that move towards red.

What kind of industries are you encouraging?
Our main thrust is on pharmaceuticals. All the top names are based in Himachal Pradesh such as Ranbaxy, Cipla and others. The ITC Group and Procter and Gamble have a sizeable presence in the state. Some of the largest textile mills in terms of spindleage, weaving area, finishing machines are present here. Oswal and Vardhaman groups are present here. We are a textile hub. We are also looking at SMEs that are manufacturing machine tools. As I mentioned, the focus is more on cleaner, green industry.

Are you adding to employment figures with all these measures?
Local employment has picked up. Industry has employed over 6 lakh persons in the last three years. Given that the state’s population size is 70 lakh, this is a significant employment figure. The momentum in the new Government will be carried forward in a bigger way. We have also made it compulsory for factories to engage 70 per cent local people. Also we have a large number of capacity building exercises such as polytechnics and engineering colleges that can employ local people. Earlier people had to migrate or look for other opportunities, say in the Army. But now that has significantly come down with alternative employment opportunities.

The Government has made Shimla a smoke-free city, perhaps the country’s first capital city to have this tag…
We are glad this has happened. We had a lot of support from civil society, else this would not have happened. As it is, smoking is becoming less popular. The main challenge is from tourists, though. The local population understands the importance of keeping Shimla plastic-free or smoke-free. But those who come from outside the state may not easily get used to the idea, or even accept it. We have been a little punitive even at the cost of losing a few tourists. We do a lot of publicity, advertising, street plays to keep this initiative going.

What are key areas of growth that you see for industries?
Food processing is a great area. As you know, plenty of apples are grown in Himachal Pradesh. Fruit and vegetable production has gone up tremendously. Around Rs 1,200 crore of vegetables are being grown and large cold chains are being created. This is important as it will reduce wastage in the case of both vegetables as well as in the area of floriculture. Also, since discoms have gone broke, neighbouring states such as Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan prefer load shedding than paying us even the cost of manufacturing power (Rs 2.50 per unit). So we have decided that there must be greater internal use of power and that can happen through industrialization.

Himachal Pradesh has been a forerunner in tourism but there are other states that must be weaning tourists away through aggressive marketing…
You are right. Both J and K and Uttarakhand are big challenges. Over the years the focus has shifted from periodic tourism—summer or autumn destination—to round-the-year tourism. Himachal is a very pretty state. Not just our cities, but the countryside is very pretty. We now have a rural tourism project in place, it is called Har Gaon Ki Kahani (the tale of every village) woven around legends. We are trying to sell the countryside more. We are trying to make travel and stay across the state more pleasurable. A very large number of Pilgrims come to Manikaran, Paonta Sahib. For them we are creating better hotel infrastructure, roads and better risk management. We are ensuring that they are not fleeced at these points.

How about adventure tourism?
We are moving towards adventure tourism in a major way as this is a demand created by western tourists. We are offering river rafting, trekking, hang-gliding. We have more trained guides to accompany tourists. Dharamshala has got a big boost because of the exposure it has received as a result of the IPL cricket. Some leading international cricketers have amazed at the beauty all around and have spoken excitedly about it on television.

Can outsiders invest in the rural tourism projects?
They are only for local people. We are encouraging village entrepreneurs to come up with clean accommodation. We are trying to keep them at a distance of 20 km from main towns such that tourism infrastructure at the main centres—Shimla, Kullu and Manali, Dharamshala, Dalhousie—do not suffer. We have given these entrepreneurs tax exemptions. Also a large number of local people are receiving training as guides. They can be useful for both local trips and distant trips since we have some of the highest mountain ranges in the country.

What is the position on the tunnel between Manali and Ladakh?
The tunnel was to come up by 2012 but due to certain geological factors the completion is now delayed until 2015. As it is road traffic on the Manali-Ladakh stretch has gone up, even though for six months a year it remains closed. Once the tunnel comes up, it will be a different story. We’ll add hugely to those who want to cross this stretch. Tourism department will take the initiative and private enterprises will automatically come up on this stretch. Even Lahaul will have good tourism places.


January 2013

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