NITI Aayog’s major initiative: Himalayan Council for 12 States

Saraswat to head; CSs, Central Secys to be members

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, Nov 16: In a major initiative to boost development in 12 Himalayan States of the country including Jammu and Kashmir, the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog today constituted the ‘Himalayan State Regional Council’, which will review and implement identified action points based on the reports of five Working Groups.
The Council will be chaired by Dr VK Saraswat, Member, NITI Aayog and will comprise the Chief Secretaries of all 12 Himalayan States as well as the Secretaries of key Central Ministers, senior officers of NITI Aayog as well as special invitees. Official sources told the Excelsior.
“The Council will ensure sustainable development of the Indian Himalayan region. The Council has been constituted to review and implement identified action points based on the reports of five Working Groups, which were established along thematic areas to prepare a roadmap for action to develop the States,” sources said, adding the studies had revealed that the majority of Himalayan States were badly lacking in development in some of the areas.
The Himalayan States Regional Council will be the nodal agency for sustainable development in the Himalayan region which consists of 12 States namely Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, two districts of Assam namely Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong and Darjeeling and Kalimpong in West Bengal.
The NITI Aayog had constituted five Working Groups for recognizing uniqueness of the Himalayas and challenges for their sustainable development on June 2, 2017.
These Working Groups were tasked with preparing a roadmap for action across five thematic areas including Inventory and Revival of Springs in Himalayas for Water Security, Sustainable Tourism in Indian Himalayan Region, Shifting Cultivation: Towards Transformation Approach, Strengthening Skill & Entrepreneurship (E&S) Landscape in Himalayas, and Data/Information for Informed Decision Making.
The five thematic reports were released by the NITI Aayog in August, 2018, which had framed the action points for the terms of reference of the Council constituted.
The terms of reference of the Council stated that it will monitor the implementation of action points for Central Ministries, Institutions and 12 Himalayan State Governments in Indian Himalayan Region which include river basin development and regional cooperation, spring mapping and revival across Himalayas in phased manner for water security; develop, implement and monitor tourism sector standards as well as bring policy coherence, strengthen skill & entrepreneurship with focus on identified priority sectors, among other action points.
Some Parliament members from the Himalayan States had also taken an initiative aimed at securing benefits from the Central Government and enhance cooperation among them by proposing to form united front to project their demands before the Central Government collectively and have coordination among them on variety of issues including trade, tourism and development as all of them shared some common problems as well as the potential to help each other.
Initial initiative to this effect were taken by Romesh Pokhriyal `Nishank’, former Chief Minister of Uttarakhand and presently Lok Sabha member from the State, who had convened meeting of some of the Parliamentarians of the Himalayan States including Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Dr Jitendra Singh, who represents Udhampur-Doda Lok Sabha seat from J&K.
Members of Parliament from the Himalayan States had attended first meeting while representatives from all 11 States had agreed to join the next meeting, which would be convened shortly.
Sources said representatives of the Himalayan States felt that they have many problems in common as all of them hailed from hilly States, which have limited working season, less connectivity and other issues, which required constant focus of the Central Government although they were unanimous that present Narendra Modi Government has done a lot for all Himalayan States in terms of Central grants and sanction of projects.
Nearly dozen Members of Parliament from Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha had attended the meeting, who also included Ajay Tamta and PD Rai.