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Hill folk skeptical about Uttarakhand formation

By R P Nailwal
The Times of India News Service
14 July 2000

DEHRA DUN: Though at the end of the summer session of Parliament, the Centre had announced that the UP Reorganisation Bill, 2000, for the creation of a separate hill state, would be introduced on the first day of the monsoon session on July 24, people here by and large doubt the government’s intentions.

Over the past few months, the government has been promising early formation of Uttarakhand, but it has not introduced the Bill in Parliament despite continued pressure from the people.

As soon as the Vajpayee government took over, it had made a commitment that the three states of Uttaranchal, Vananchal and Chattisgarh would be formed at the earliest. The three state assemblies concerned – UP, Bihar and MP – had subsequently endorsed the move.

“Like the summer session, this time also the government may not introduce the Bill in Parliament,” says S.S. Pangtey, a retired IAS officer, adding: “The government has lost its credibility.”

The Union government had hinted that the Bills for creation of the states would be introduced either during the winter session or the summer session. People, particularly from the 12 hill districts of western UP, were hopeful that the BJP-led government would fulfil its pre-poll promise. In fact, as far back as 1996, Prime Minister Vajpayee had made a public announcement that Uttarkahand would come into existence within 90 days of his party coming to power at the Centre.

The demand for the formation of a separate hill state dates back to the 30s. In recent years, the Uttarakhand movement had grown due to the acts of omission and commission of the state government and political leaders. The movement was sought to be built on the premise that the state government had repeatedly given a raw deal to the backward hilly region. This had assumed serious proportions in 1994 when the agitation for a separate state had turned violent resulting in several deaths.

The BJP’s strong pro-Uttaranchal stance had given the people hope that the formation of a separate state was no longer a distant dream. Senior BJP leaders on their part had left no stone unturned in convincing the hill folk that the state would be formed within a definite time-frame.

However, the Centre has failed to fulfil the promise, angering some sections of the people. Opposition parties such as Congress and Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD) are taking advantage of the situation, alleging that the BJP’s promise was only an eyewash and a trick to garner people’s votes.

When Union home minister Advani failed to introduce the Bill on the last day of Parliament’s summer session, opposition parties in the state had raised a hue and cry. Congress leaders such as Vijay Bahuguna, Harish Rawat and Satpal Maharaj had gone all out to defame the BJP calling it totally insincere to the people. Similarly, UKD chief Kashi Singh Aeri had toured the hilly area “exposing” the real face of the ruling party.