Dehradun: Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat today said stopping migration from the hills was a priority for him and a number of steps were being taken to address the problem.
The chief minister was speaking at a programme to mark the 17th anniversary of the state's creation.
He said compulsive migration from hills would stop only when the existing resources there, though limited, were utilised for the benefit of the local population.
Rawat said the measures to stop migration included encouraging entrepreneurship among small and marginal farmers by providing them low interest loans, appointing doctors on a large scale in remote areas and commercial utilisation of dry pine leaves.
On the occasion, he distributed co-operative bank loans of Rs 1 lakh to over two dozen farmers at the rate of 2 per cent interest. He said farmers should do some value addition to make agriculture a commercially viable activity and advised them to use improved and hybrid variety of apple and walnut seeds as growing them could be very lucrative.
He said they would soon be spared the pain of coming all the way to Dehradun to register complaints. "Arrangements are being made for a direct communication via video conferencing at the block level which will enable farmers to share their problems directly with the officials concerned at the block and district levels besides the chief minster," Rawat said.
Noting that the contribution of agriculture to the state's GDP had fallen in recent years, he asked farmers to ensure that it increases and promised them support from the state government.
He also highlighted the steps underway to increase the presence of doctors in hill areas as poor health facilities were one of the main causes of migration and said 2,700 doctors were needed to address the problem.
"We have received applications from 2,000 medical practitioners from Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra who are willing to offer their services in remote areas. A test will be held and the process of their appointment will begin soon," he said.
The chief minister said the state government was also working on the commercial utilisation of dry pine leaves, a major cause of forest fires.
"We have evolved a method to extract turpentine oil and bio-fuel out of dry pine leaves which will make it commercially profitable," he said.
"It will save pine forests from catching fire during summer besides conserving Uttarakhand's rich flora and fauna.
It will also generate revenue for the state government and employment opportunities for locals," Rawat said.
He also stressed on the state government's commitment to revive the Rispana river in Dehradun and strengthen the Kosi river in the Kumaon region. "We have to recharge the rivulets and streams which fed the Rispana and Kosi rivers by cleaning them and conducting a massive tree plantation drive along their banks. But we require the cooperation of people as no such programme can be successful without public participation," he said.
The chief minister also released a book published by the state Information and Public Relations Department chronicling the state's growth in different sectors over the past seven months of the BJP government.
He conferred Ekta Bisht, a member of the Indian women's cricket team, with Uttarakhand Khel Ratna and her coach Liyaquat Ali with the Dronacharya award. Bisht who hails from Almora is the first international woman cricketer from the state. The chief minister also honoured widows of the Uttarakhand eco taskforce personnel who died in the line of duty.
He said 670 Nyay Panchayats in Uttarakhand would be developed as growth centres and the locals given jobs. The scheme would be launched in 25 Nyay Panchayats initially and later be extended.
Tele-medicine and tele-radiology services would be launched tomorrow to give a boost to health facilities and from January mobile connectivity would be provided in remote hill areas through balloon technology. "It will be started from the remote hill areas of Chamoli district," the chief minister said.
Countering the charge of the opposition that Narendra Modi's double engine government failed in Uttarakhand, Rawat said the Centre had already released Rs 4,000 crore out of a total of Rs 12,000 crore to be sanctioned for the implementation of the all weather roads project for Char Dham.
"Work on the Rs 17,000 crore Rishikesh-Karnaprayag rail link project has also started," Rawat said adding the projects, together worth Rs 29,000 crore, would give an unprecedented boost to infrastructure and employment generation.