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Himachal Assembly Polls: A Look At 5 Core Issues Facing The Hill State

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From unemployment and apple farm protests to the Agnipath plan, road links and old pension schemes, some of the crucial issues were at the center of the run-up to the election

The hill state of Himachal Pradesh goes to the polls on November 12.

By Tirtho Banerjee: The hill state of Himachal Pradesh goes to the polls on November 12. The state has a tradition of firing the party in power every five years. This time, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress are in a neck-and-neck battle for the 68 seats, while the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Communist Party of India Marxist (CPI-M) have also joined . the battle. All parties tackle different issues during their election campaigns to attract the attention of the electorate.

There are numerous problems facing the state. Since the polls are only a week away, let’s take a look at 5 of the most important:


This is the biggest and most dominant problem this time. The statistics reflect a very worrying situation.

The unemployment rate in Himachal stood at 9.2 percent and 8.6 percent in September and October 2022, respectively, against the national average of 7.6 percent, the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) has revealed.

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According to another study, Himachal has about 15 lakh unemployed, 8.77 lakh of whom have registered for labor exchange jobs across the state. Experts attribute this to a lack of jobs and a slash in government vacancies.

Old pension scheme

The old pension scheme (OPS) was abolished in 2003. In 2021, the state government set up a committee to look into the requirements of employees covered by the new pension scheme.

In February, a government workers’ union expressed fear and called for OPS to be reinstated in the state. In October, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra pledged during a poll campaign to restore the OPS if Congress gets a mandate. The AAP also said it would bring OPS back.

Kangara resident S Gopal Puri, who is the president of Himachal Dharamshala Press Club, said: “Unemployment has become a decisive issue in the elections in Himachal because the government employees are hyped for OPS. People come out and say that as the government employees cannot survive without OPS, which will then be the fate of unemployed youth.

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“OPS needs to be restored in Himachal. MLAs and ministers get countless benefits to secure their future at the expense of ordinary people. Why can’t other people take advantage of OPS? It’s not a favor or subsidy,” said Govind Chatranta, a retired government official and social activist from Jubbal.

The fate of apple farmers

The apple industry is in ruins and reeling under an acute crisis. There are protests from apple farmers and they are angry about the raw deal they got. Rising input costs – including fertilizers and fungicides – and low yields, a spike in fuel costs and weather fluctuations combined with a boost to major agro-industries have left apple farmers no choice but to take the protest path.

The final nail in the coffin is the increase in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from 12% to 18% on boxes. Business biggies dictate the terms and small farmers have to bear the brunt. These giants only buy apples that meet their standard of ‘good quality’, which is unfair. There is no minimum purchase rate for apples in Himachal and as a result, much of the juicy fruit is given away at throw-away prices, much to the chagrin of the farmers.

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“Apple cultivation provides employment to thousands of people in Himachal. The government has not recognized its industrial value and no value has been added. Apple growers barely get the cost recovery and get no profit,” says NK Bali, an apple grower from the city of Kumarsain.

Connection by road

The hill state has villages and regions that remain completely cut off and inaccessible because there are no roads to reach them. Most of the state has land that falls under the “forest area.” Road construction requires a nod from the Supreme Court in Himachal.

Reportedly, only 10,899 of the state’s 17,882 villages have good road networks, meaning 39 percent of the villages are not connected by road. The upgrading of 3,125 km of rural roads in the state has been started by the BJP.

Road transport is a big problem because it is the way people can move from one place to another to use services. In addition, tourism provides income for the state and a good road network forms its backbone.

Most treacherous terrains cut through ecologically sensitive zones in the state. The challenge is to mandatorily follow an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and pave a path without disturbing wildlife.

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“Development is synonymous with roads in a hilly state like Himachal. Even after 75 years of independence, our area remains inaccessible because there are no roads. Ministers and CMs take a trip in helicopters and are not aware of the ground reality. We have to travel almost 8 km on foot to reach hospitals or other facilities,” said Bimla Devi, a resident of Ladot in Rohru.

Agnipath Scheme

There was public outcry across the state when the Agnipath scheme was announced. A majority of Himachal youth aspire to join the Indian Army. And because the government made defense recruitment a contractual matter, they were annoyed. Since there are many unemployed young people in the state, the issue takes on significance.

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Sanjeev Ratan Singh, the editor of The Newz Radar in Dharamshala, the headquarters of the Kangra district from which many war heroes come, pointed out: “Whatever the Union government or the military might say in defense of the Agniveer plan, personally I feel that if the aim of the Center is to save money by avoiding paying pensions, the existing Short Service Commission (SSC) is good enough.Those who join the SSC serve as non-commissioned officers for 10 years.After that they can go for a permanent position or opt for a 4 year extension. If they opt out after 10 years they will not get a pension/benefit. India does not have to imitate what others do and instead stick to its tried and true SSC.”

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