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ISSUE OF MARCH 2002
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Donning A NEW HAT

Despite the previous UP governments’ laissez-faire approach, the new Uttaranchal government has charted out a blueprint for Dehradun’s growth, unearths Savio Rodrigues

The usual tourist visiting the ‘Queen of the Hills’ comes away with romantic images of snow-capped mountains, scenic surroundings, skiing slopes and salubrious climate. But the once-outlying colonies, settlements and villages are now being absorbed into the burgeoning metropolis of the Doon. Having been rechristened as the capital of the newly-formed state of Uttaranchal, this popular hill station is whirling towards westernisation and visitors will be bemused at the pace of development.

People of Dehradun have long felt that their home has never been given the recognition it deserves as one of India’s top tourist destinations and a promising new business hub that is slowly, but surely scaling new heights. According to Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, state finance minister, “Dehradun has always had the potential to emerge as a prominent business haven, but while it was part of Uttar Pradesh, the respective government did not pay heed to the city’s business potential.”

But despite the previous UP government’s laissez-faire approach, the present regime has charted out a blueprint for its growth and is working aggressively to establish an irrepressible mark. “Recently, the state government has earmarked a budget of Rs 2,192 crore for the current fiscal year for plan expenditure on agriculture, infrastructural development, tourism and varied industries, and Rs 1,499 crore for non-plan expenditure in the state,” reveals Nishank.

With enormous amounts being spent on new developments, it seems that the is poised to change for good. The centre too has expressed its commitment to the development of the state and emphasised on initiating attractive schemes for augmenting foreign investment.

In order to highlight Dehradun as a competitive business destination, the government is working on improving its current infrastructure that is well below the standard of most other capitals. In fact, the government has already set the ball rolling for upgrading the Dehradun airport to international standards.

Realising that tourism is the mainstay of the economy, the government is reinventing the capital and its surrounding tourist areas. Emphasises N N Prasad, secretary, Department of Tourism, Culture, Sports and Youth Welfare, “Tourism is a bustling industry and the state has all the right ingredients to make it a numero uno tourist haven. Every opportunity is being explored to showcase its various facets - eco-tourism, adventure and heritage.” Racing to compete in India’s tourist scene, the government has already sanctioned over Rs 35 crore for the development of tourism-related infrastructure.

The hospitality sector too has not escaped this frenzy. The government is working towards providing considerable tax exemption and incentives to domestic and international hotel brands in an attempt to attract investment in this sector. Not wanting to be left out of the boom, many developers have expressed keen interest in setting up properties in the city. A major business convention centre is also in the pipeline and the ministry of tourism has initiated talks with major Indian hospitality players for the same.

While it is still possible to catch glimpses of Dehradun’s old world charm, nothing will halt the march of modernisation in this traditional tourist hub. But fear not, as there will always be serene lakes, snow-capped mountains and exciting adventure to contrast commercialisation.

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