Himachal bets big on IT, Pharma to trigger inclusive growth

Himachal Pradesh has planned to make the State a hub of Information Technology and pharma to give a much needed push to inclusive development. Replying to a wide range of  questions, Himachal CM Jai Ram Thakur observed that the proposed Pharma Park would bring investment between Rs 40,000 crores to Rs 50,000 crores. Also the blueprint for an IT hub to woo environmental friendly investments would propel growth. 

Himachal Pradesh has been a leader in drug manufacturing. More than one-fourth of India’s formulation drugs are produced and supplied from Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh (BBN) having over 700 pharma units like Dr. Reddy, Ranbaxy, Cipla, Morepan, Cadila etc.  The government has earmarked 1400 acres of land in Una district for a dedicated Bulk Drugs Park.

The Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers has favourably considered the revised proposal sent by the state government for the bulk drugs park which is the key ingredient of a drug or medicine.

Aggressive bidding for Pharma Park

During an exclusive interview, the Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Jai Ram Thakur informed that the State has done an aggressive bidding for the proposed Pharma Park and was likely to get the same. He said that in all three such Parks are to be set up by the Centre across the country and Himachal Pradesh is positive to get the same. He added that in fact “approval in principal has been accorded for the proposed Park”. The proposed Park would generate close to 20,000 direct jobs besides indirect creating employment opportunities. The State would offer special concessional power and water tariff to investors.

Himachal Pradesh is one of the fastest growing regions in the pharmaceutical industry in India. In financial year 2020, exports of drug formulations and biologicals from the state stood at US$ 822.0 million and have reached US$ 814.39 million in financial year 2021.  The IT Parks which are proposed to be set up at 106 acres land between Shimla and Solan and at Gaggal in Kangra coupled with the Pharma Park would generate jobs for the youths in the state and would be a boon for development. The CM agreed that the government should have lapped up the IT potential early. He, however, said that IT initiatives coupled with Pharma Park would help the state rebound.

At present over 50 per cent ingredients are imported from China alone. Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur who met the union minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers D V Sadananda Gowda observed that this would be a game-changer for the hill state.  He said that bio-tech and pharma sectors would do wonders for the State. He accepted that some pharma units may have closed units after the special concessions accorded to them had ended, but hastened to add that these units were those which were making consistent losses.

The CM said that along with making Himachal Pradesh a preferred destination for investment, the government had launched several social welfare schemes. These include Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana which was launched by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to distribute 50 million LPG connections to women of Below Poverty Line families. The state provided 1.36 lakh LPG connections as per the provisions of the scheme. However, as entire households were not covered, it provided another 3.25 lakh LPG connections subsequently.  He claimed that his concept of “Janman” had proved quite popular as the concept means taking government to the doorsteps of masses. The three-tier solution to problems works at the deputy commissioner level, at the level of ministers and finally at the level of Cabinet if the problem needs such a solution. About the Ayushman Bharat Scheme, he claimed that initially about 22 lakh people had been covered under the scheme but now the entire population had been covered. Disabled persons and male population above 70 and women above 65 were getting pension as a social security measure while CM’s Shagun scheme was implemented to help marriage of girls.

Transportation an issue

About obstacles in attracting investment, he said that there were some issues like transportation, connectivity and infrastructure, but the government was working on getting an Airport functional in near future at Mandi, four laning of various roads and providing more conducive atmosphere for the growth of industry in the state.  He said that there was some issue concerning Transport Unions but things are getting back to normal after a PIL was filed in the High Court. He clarified that his government had involved each and every section of the society and had not worked on vendetta politics. He claimed that his biggest achievement was ensuring more inclusive development in the state in less than four years than what the previous government had done in its full term of five years.

Himachal Pradesh has potential to generate 27,000 MW of hydro power but the full potential has not been exploited. To this, he observed that so far only 26 per cent potential has been utilized. He agreed that power policy needs to be more flexible. A 210 MW Luhri Stage-I hydropower project worth Rs. 1,810 crore (US$ 245.41 million) was approved in November 2020 by the Union Cabinet to strengthen the power infrastructure in Himachal Pradesh.  Horticulture and agriculture play a significant role in the state’s economy. Himachal Pradesh has a robust food processing sector.

The CM said that tourism had huge potential because of the scenic beauty of the State. However, the state government was keen to develop destinations other than only Shimla or Manali. Already the world’s longest tunnel  — the Rohtang Tunnel — at such a height was attracting hordes of tourists. Water sports were being operationalized in the near future besides adventure sports. Lahaul was also emerging as a popular destination. Also the Shiv Dham at Mandi being developed at a cost of Rs 200 crore was likely to become a major tourist attraction.

Already after the Global Investors Meet, despite the pandemic, the State was able to attract investment proposals worth Rs 96,000 crores of which already investment worth Rs 13,500 crore has been fructified. The state had achieved the distinction of 100 per cent vaccination with first dose to the entire population by June itself to emerge as the top state in the country to achieve this feat. He said that the state was aiming to achieve the distinction of 100 per cent full vaccination by November end itself. He said that Himachal Pradesh is a power surplus state with a peaceful environment and provides a good atmosphere for investment. He said that the State might bring down the power tariff further so that it is less than what neighbouring states like Uttarakhand, Punjab and Haryana provide to industry.

Disparity in growth

However, one notices that growth of the industrial sector in the state has improved after the economic reforms and especially after the announcement of a special package by the Government of India to Himachal Pradesh. The growth pattern of different industries shows that, over the period, highest growth has been observed in the Food Processing Industry followed by miscellaneous Engineering, Pharma Products, Plastics, Packaging’s, Electricals and Electronics, whereas, the lowest growth has been recorded in the industries like Footwears, Aromatic/Medical Herbs Based Shop, Chemicals and Automobiles. Apart from this, disparity in the growth of the industrial sector has widened across the districts over the time. Advanced districts like Solan, Sirmour and Una have become more industrialized as compared to backwards districts because of their location and availability of better infrastructure facilities.