States' demand for 'green bonus' legitimate: Ashwani Kumar
Shimla, April 9 (IANS) Acknowledging Himachal Pradesh's demand for special incentives to preserve its ecology, Union Minister of State for Planning Ashwani Kumar Monday favoured grant of "green bonus" to the state.
"The demand for 'green bonus' by the states to give some incentive in lieu of conserving environment is legitimate," Ashwani Kumar told reporters here.
Ashwani Kumar, who was here to chair a meeting with Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal on implementation of annual plan outlay of Rs.3,700 crore for this fiscal, said he would pursue the matter with the central government.
He also favoured setting up of environment-friendly special economic zones (SEZs) in the state.
"The state should develop SEZ infrastructure for promoting non-polluting industries like information technology, food processing, pharmaceuticals, textile finishing products and biotech. Even the central and state governments could work together," Kumar said.
The union minister was, however, not satisfied with the tourism infrastructure in the state. "There is a lot of scope for tourism development. This needs to be focused."
He said investment in research and development was not focused in many states, including Himachal Pradesh. "This could be one area which the state could look in to."
On tapping hydropower, Kumar said "there is need to optimise revenue from hydropower". He asked the state to prepare a note on hydro projects that are awaiting clearances from the central government and assured to get these cleared from the ministry concerned in a time bound manner.
Kumar appreciated the state for performing well in health and education sectors.
"The state has brought down infant mortality rate significantly. The sex ratio has also improved. These are the parameters that decide the progress of a state," he said.
He complimented Dhumal, who was sitting beside him, for setting up a regulatory commission to regulate private educational institutions and universities.
"There are some shortcomings, which need to be tackled," Kumar said about meeting on the state's plan outlay.
Meanwhile, Dhumal has urged Kumar at the meeting to provide a special package of Rs.2,000 crore to the state to meet the committed liabilities.
Kumar assured the state government for taking up the issue of extension of railways in the state with the Ministry of Railways, especially with reference to the Bhanupalli-Bilaspur-Beri rail project.
He said the annual plan of the state for 2012-13 had increased by Rs.400 crore over the previous plan. He asked the state to bring a larger area under irrigation and develop cold-chain infrastructure to boost agricultural productivity.
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