August 15 is a momentous day for all the citizens of India, as it was on this day in 1947 that India attained freedom from British rule. As our great Nation celebrates 66 years of Independence, I extend my heartiest greetings to the countrymen, especially the people of Himachal Pradesh. This is a day of hallowed remembrance of freedom struggle waged by our freedom fighters and re-dedicating ourselves to the great cause they lived and made supreme sacrifices for, i.e. free and strong India. We pay our respectful homage to the great patriots who fought for freedom and also those who defended and extended it.



The People of Himachal Pradesh have remained at forefront in the struggle for freedom and thereafter in maintaining unity and integrity of the country.  Valiant sons of this hill State played a vital role in freedom struggle. Incidents such as ‘Dhami Goli Kand’, ‘Pajhota Andolan’, ‘Suket Satyagrah' etc. in the State proved to be a turning point in our struggle for freedom.

Independence is the natural instinct of every living being, complete freedom always remains a faraway objective though. Ever since attaining independence on 15th August, 1947, the fight for freedom from hunger, poverty, misery, disease, illiteracy etc. has continued unabated. We have moved in the direction of realizing the essence of independence constantly crossing from one level of freedom to another and upgrading our lives in the process. Although, the quest for absolute freedom from all ills and evils is unending, Himachal Pradesh has made indelible mark as one of the leading States of the country in overall development, upliftment of poor and weaker sections and socio-economic justice to all.

Although, a small hill State, Himachal Pradesh has made a big name as a model of hill development, a land of peace and social harmony and the Apple State of the country. The State Gross Domestic Product has increased to Rs 72,076 crore from a meager Rs 26 crore during the year 1948. The per capita income at current prices in the State has gone up from Rs 240 in 1948 to Rs 82,611 during the year 2012-13. Literacy percentage has gone up from 7 per cent in 1948 to 82.80 per cent. This has mainly been possible due to Congress Governments in the State, which have remained obvious choice of the people for most of the time.

The present Congress Government in the State assumed office on 25th December, 2012. During this short period of seven and a half months, the State Government has taken a string of initiatives and important decisions aimed at welfare of all cross–sections of people and uniform development of all parts of the State. The thrust of the Government ever since has been on complete development, clean administration and effective governance.

Congress means commitment and credibility. Our poll promises are our commitments and Congress Governments have earned the credibility of fulfilling their commitments. As a matter of fact, the practice and precedence of making election manifesto of the ruling party, the policy document of the Government was started by me way back in 1993. We have included most of our poll promises in this year's budget to fulfill our major commitments in the very first year and many of these have already been realised. Enhancement in social security pension from Rs. 450 to Rs. 500 per month and clearing of all pending cases , increase in the amount of War Jagir from Rs. 2000 to Rs. 5000, Skill Development Scheme for the educated unemployed youth, Food security, enhancement in support price of various fruits under Market Intervention Scheme, mechanism for time- bound clearance of industrial units within 90 days, decision to restore State Administrative Tribunal at Shimla with benches at Mandi and Dharamsala, free travel facility to school students, free travel facility in deluxe and ordinary HRTC buses to Gallantry Award Winners are some of the prominent among these.

A multi-pronged strategy has been evolved to eradicate poverty, unemployment, hunger and misery. MNREGA is being implemented in an effective manner to ensure at least hundred day's employment in a year to every working hand. Addressing the problem of unemployment, the State Government has launched an innovative scheme called 'Skill Upgradation Scheme' with a provision of an allowance of Rs. 1000 per month to the educated unemployed youth who choose to undergo skill upgradation programme. The allowance is Rs 1500 for persons with disabilities. The scheme aims at upgrading the skill of the youth to enable them to an honourable livelihood at the same time allowing them a respectable monthly allowance to meet their day to day needs. The scheme has an added and attractive provision of loan facility on low rate of interest for pursuing self employment venture after the completion of training. The obvious objective is to open up avenues of employment and self employment for youth by promoting talent and skills.

National Food Security Ordinance, 2013 brought by the UPA Government is a historic step enabling people's right to food. The State Government has decided to implement it in letter and spirit to provide food security to all BPL families. Moving a step forward, we would continue providing subsidized food grains to all families irrespective of the fact whether they are covered under the ambit of the Ordinance or not.

Himachal Pradesh takes pride in bringing its entire population under the Targeted Public Distribution System. All the 16.31 lakh ration card holders are being provided three types of pulses, two edible oils and salt at subsidized rates through a network of 4,634 fair price shops under the Food Subsidy Scheme which was started during my earlier tenure in 2007. A provision of Rs 175 crore has been made under the scheme this year.

The UPA Government in the Centre has initiated several schemes which have made a huge impact on the lives of the people of the country. MNREGA, RTI, Right to Education and AADHAAR are some of the significant and historic decisions taken by the UPA government which would go down in the annals of the country as major milestones. Right to Information has proved to be a boon in providing responsive, transparent and accountable administration to the people, whereas the RTE scheme envisages to fulfill the objective of 'Literate India' by providing free and compulsory education to all the students up to elementary level. Similarly, by providing Aadhaar Cards to the citizens of India, the UPA Government has empowered the poor and underprivileged in getting direct cash benefits under various schemes.

We have always laid special emphasis on providing a strong social security cover to the poor, needy and weaker sections. As a result social services in the State are amongst the best in the country. Welfare and empowerment of women is one of the topmost priorities of the Government. A high powered Mahila Kalyan Board is being set-up in the State. The financial assistance being provided under the Mukhyamantri Kanayadan Yojana has been enhanced from Rs 21,000 to Rs 25,000. Free traveling facility is being provided to the mothers and new born baby from hospital to their residence under Janani Suraksha Yojana.

The State Government is giving special thrust to the development of under privileged and weaker sections of the society are getting special attention in the State. The allocation under the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan has been enhanced from Rs. 914.64 crore in 2012-13 to Rs 1014 crore in 2013-14. Besides, Rs 369 crore has been earmarked under the Tribal Sub Plan for development of the tribal areas.

Even amongst the poor, the focus of the Government is on the most disadvantageous and deserving people first. The income limit for determining the creamy layer amongst the Other Backward Classes has been enhanced from Rs 4.5 lakh to Rs 5 lakh per annum. In order to provide shelter to the poor in the State, as many as 10,000 houses would be constructed for the houseless poor during the current year. The housing grant under Rajiv Awas Yojana and other State housing schemes has been enhanced from Rs. 48,500 to Rs. 75,000 per year.

Over 90 percent population of the State lives in rural areas and Agriculture, Horticulture and Animal Husbandry are the backbone of livelihood activities for the people, living in these areas. Keeping this in view special stress is being laid on strengthening rural economy by giving priority to Agriculture Sector. Integrated Crop Diversification Programme has been started in the State to bring additional 3000 hectare area under vegetable production. Mukhyamantri Adarsh Krishi Gaon Yojana is being launched under which Agriculture Development Plans would be prepared for one panchayat each in all the 68 assembly constituencies. To save the fruit crops from hailstorms, anti-hail nets are being provided to the fruit growers on 80 percent subsidy. In order to ensure remunerative prices to fruit growers, Market Intervention Scheme is being implemented for all the major fruit crops and the procurement price of Apple, Mango, Kinnow, Malta and Galgal has been increased by 50 paise per kg.

Himachal Pradesh is swiftly moving towards becoming the education hub of the country with the advent of prestigious institutions and ventures. The State Government is according top most priority to education. An amount of Rs 3836 core is being spent on this vital sector during the current financial year, which is 17.6 per cent of the total State budget. Five thousand meritorious students of 10th and 12th class would be provided Net Books free of cost under 'Rajiv Gandhi Digital Student Yojana'. One time Incentive/award of Rs 75,000 would be provided to all those students of the State who are selected and had taken admission in degree courses in any Indian Institute of Technology or All India Institute of Medical Sciences and in Post Graduate/Diploma course in any Indian Institute of Management.

We have fulfilled our commitment to Para, PTA and PAT teachers. The services of more than 6300 PTA teachers would be converted on contract basis after completion of continuous eight years of service. Similarly, services of about 2100 Para Teachers would be regularized after completion of continuous 10 years of service. The State Government has also decided to enhance the honorarium of more than 3500 Primary Assistant Teachers to Rs. 8900 per month.

Ensuring best health care facilities to its people is one of the prime objectives of our Government. The State Government has launched 'Iron Folic Acid Supplement Programme' in order to improve the health of the adolescent population in the reproductive age group. The State Government has decided to provide free treatment to all school children diagnosed with critical or congenital illness under 'Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram'. National Ambulance Service has been expanded by adding 50 additional Ambulances to the existing fleet. Free travel facilities are being provided to the patients suffering from cancer and spinal injuries and those on dialysis, along with one attendant in State Transport buses. The State Government has also decided to appoint 7750 ASHA workers under the National Rural Health Mission on honorarium basis.

As a result of sustained efforts of our Government, IGMC has been included under Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojna. Rs 150 crore would be provided under the scheme for upgradation of Indira Gandhi Medical College Shimla and to start second campus of IGMC at Gharog near Shimla where 100 bedded Hospital with Dental and Nursing colleges would be constructed.

Environment friendly industries and those based on local raw material envisaging more employment to local people have been given utmost priority. We have planned to develop three new state of the art industrial areas in Una, Solan and Kangra districts of the State. To attract investments and facilitate entrepreneurs, we have put into practice a mechanism for granting clearances to industrial projects in a time-bound manner within 90 days of receiving the application. To boost industrialization in the State, we have strongly taken up the matter with the Union Government for restoring the special industrial package to the State till 2020.

The State Government has made efforts to break the seasonal factor and tourism has been diversified and made all-weather to attract tourists round the year. For promoting tourism in the State, 1000 youth are being trained by the Government and would be appointed at village level for promoting hill and village based tourism. As many as 3900 youth would be provided training in driving skills. The State Tourism Policy of 2005 is being reviewed to lay more emphasis on Sustainable Tourism Development in the State. A perspective tourism development plan would be prepared for growth of tourism in Lahaul & Spiti and Kinnaur districts.

Hydro Power is one of the key sectors which can be a major source of income generation for the State. Thus, the State Government is taking effective steps to harness the identified hydel potential available in the State. A perspective plan for harnessing maximum power potential out of the total available 27,436 MW in the coming five years has been drawn. About 1918 MW hydel potential would be exploited during the current financial year.

The State Government is committed to get its legitimate share in the BBMB Projects. We had approached the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the matter which had decided in favour of Himachal Pradesh. But, the award is yet to be finalized. Himachal Pradesh would adopt an action plan to contest its claim for release of arrears on account of 7.19 per cent share in Bhakra Nangal and Beas Projects in the Hon'ble Supreme Court to get its legitimate share from these projects.

With a view to provide electricity to domestic consumers at cheaper rates, a subsidy of Rs 270 crore is being given. In order to provide reliable and quality power to all consumers, the distribution network is being strengthened by spending Rs 363 crore.

Roads are an important and essential infrastructure component of rural economy and life lines of development in the State. Accordingly, the State Government has included construction of roads and bridges in its priority list and special emphasis is being laid on providing rural connectivity. Roads were in a bad shape throughout the State when the present Government took over. We have given special attention to repair and maintenance of roads. An amount of Rs 2291 crore would be spent during the current financial years for expansion and strengthening of road infrastructure in the State As many as 475 km motorable roads and 35 bridges would be constructed in the State during the current financial year. It is proposed to provide road connectivity to 80 villages during this period. We have taken up the matter with the Central Government for declaring nine roads as National Highways.

The welfare of youth has always found priority with the Government. The State Government is ensuring 70 percent jobs in all hydel projects, tourism ventures and industrial units to Himachali youth. The Government has constituted Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board for the welfare of the persons working in unorganized sector. An assistance of Rs 21,000 is being provided for marriage of two children of building and construction workers. Education assistance to two children of building and construction workers has been enhanced from Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000.

My Government recognizes the importance of employees in the development of the State. The State Government is maintaining cordial relations with its employees and addressing their genuine problems on priority. We have increased the Fixed Medical allowance of employees and pensioners from Rs 250 to Rs 350 per month. Services of all those contractual employees who have completed 6 years of service and daily wage employees who have completed 7 years of service as on 31st March 2013 have been regularized. The State Government has framed a comprehensive Transfer Policy to rationalize transfers of government employees.

Our freedom fighters and valiant soldiers are our heroes. We are implementing several steps to ensure that the freedom fighters and their dependents lead a respectable life in the society.

Incessant rains, cloudbursts and landslides have played havoc in the State recently. Himachal Pradesh suffered a loss of more than Rs. 2767 crore besides losing many precious human lives. Kinnaur and Sirmour districts had been worst affected. Kinnaur district alone had suffered a loss of over Rs. 1200 crore. State Government Departments and other organizations worked on war footing to bring normalcy and restore water, electricity and roads etc. at the earliest. I am grateful to the people who showed solidarity with their affected brethren in their hour of distress and made useful contribution in the Chief Minister's Relief Fund for speedy relief and rehabilitation measures. The State Government has also taken up the matter with the Government of India to provide maximum possible relief to mitigate the huge losses to both public and private property in the affected areas in a minimum possible time.

The State Government is committed to provide clean, transparent and responsive administration to the people of the State. The efforts of the government are directed on giving shape to a self-reliant, progressive and prosperous Himachal with socio-economic justice to the poor and weaker sections of the society.

Vikas, Vikas and Samproona Vikas is the motto of the present State Government, and with the co-operation and support of the people we shall achieve this objective. On the auspicious occasion of Independence Day, let us re-dedicate ourselves to work cohesively to attain the objective of 'Complete Freedom' and make Himachal Pradesh a 'Most Developed State' during the next five years.