Skip to main content

Why AAP's anti-Congress rhetoric 'isn't cutting much ice' with Himachal voters

By Bharat Dogra* 

As people go to vote in the state, people of Himachal Pradesh are more inclined to recall the more impressive achievements of the long era of Congress rule. In 2017-18 among human development indicators Himachal was at 7th place and in Gender Development indicators Himachal was at number 2 place ( compared to rank number 16 of neighboring state Haryana) among 36 states and union territories.
This was achieved by the cooperation of all sections of people but the strong foundation for this was undoubtedly laid by the freedom movement leaders, led by Dr YS Parmar (former Chief Minister who dominated the political scene till 1977). These leaders of Congress, helped in important ways by the Union Government, helped this hill state to overcome heavy odds to emerge among the top states in development indicators.
This is why when AAP leaders started their Himachal election campaign by being highly critical of the past development record, ignoring strong data base to the contrary, this did not go well with the people. AAP was particularly critical of the Himachal record in education, but the available statistics indicate a very different picture of Himachal having been one of the top achievers in education at the national level.
Himachal Pradesh has villages spread over very remote areas in the middle of tough hilly terrain. Spread of educational and other development facilities in such conditions can be much more costly compared to plains.
With a literacy rate of about 88 per cent now, Himachal Pradesh may still be slightly behind a few states like Kerala, but in terms of the rise from 8 per cent ( at the time of independence) to 88 per cent now in difficult conditions it is perhaps the most inspiring example among all states in education.
A literacy rate of 87 or 88 per cent is also remarkable compared to the all-India average of around 78 per cent, or when compared to what has been achieved by some neighboring states ( 73 per cent by Uttar Pradesh, 77 per cent by Jammu and Kashmir, 81 per cent by Haryana and 84 per cent by Punjab).
Unlike Kerala, moreover, there was no exceptionally encouraging or significant background of educational work in Himachal Pradesh from pre-independence days. In this sense, Himachal Pradesh did not have a head start compared to states like Kerala where some pioneering educational work had taken place earlier.
Himachal Pradesh’s performance is all the more credible keeping in view the much higher percentage of its people living in rural areas. In fact if we only look at rural areas then the comparative performance of Himachal Pradesh is even more impressive. 
The literacy rate of rural Himachal Pradesh at 85.6 per cent is significantly higher than that of the rural areas of its neighbors -- 70 per cent in the case of Uttar Pradesh, 75 per cent in the case of Jammu and Kashmir, 77 per cent for Haryana and 80 per cent for Punjab.
Even if we leave aside sheer literacy and look at indicators of more advanced progress in education, Himachal Pradesh has done well. Its percentage of population which has completed secondary education is among the best in the country.
What is no less impressive is that economically and social weaker sections have also recorded significant improvements in literacy and education in Himachal Pradesh education. 
The latest available data on comparative performance in this context tells us that in the case of scheduled castes the literacy rate of Himachal Pradesh at 78 per cent is significantly better than the all-India achievement of 63 per cent. It is also much better than several neighboring states including Uttar Pradesh with 60 per cent literacy, 64 per cent for Punjab and 66 per cent for Haryana.
If we consider the data for only scheduled caste women, then Himachal Pradesh is even more ahead with a literacy rate of 71 per cent, compared to the all-India attainment of only 52 per cent. Himachal is also way ahead of its neighbors Uttar Pradesh with a rate of 46 per cent, Haryana with 53 per cent and Punjab with 56 per cent.
This indicates the adoption of a more inclusive development path by Himachal Pradesh, a fact confirmed also by data for its Scheduled Tribes which have a literacy rate of 72 per cent, compared to the all-India attainment of 62 per cent. In the case of neighboring states the literacy rate for scheduled tribes is 36 per cent in Jammu and Kashmir and 44 per cent in Uttar Pradesh. 
If only women from scheduled tribes are considered, then the achievement of Himachal Pradesh appears in even more favorable light, as this state has a literacy rate in this context of 61 per cent, compared to only 19 for Jammu and Kashmir and 39 for Uttar Pradesh.
While this data confirms the more inclusive development of Himachal Pradesh, this does not imply that there is no injustice against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes here. The reality is that discriminative practices exist here also against scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes in addition face increasing threats of displacement and denial of proper implementation of protective laws like PESA ( for decentralization) and FRA (forest rights). 
This threat has increased further during the last five years of BJP rule in which displacement caused by dams, highways and other projects has become a very big issue. On the whole, however, development here has been more inclusive than in several other parts of India.
This has also created more conducive conditions for mobilization of communities for development initiatives. In the context of education, the better support from rural communities and the more active functioning of parents groups have contributed much to improvement of school education.
However the rapid spread of liquor abuse and the related violence against women as well as increased disruption of communities by too many instances of displacement have been harmful for community life as well as health and education. Political rivalries are worsening and corruption is increasing, These worrying trends should be checked to protect and improve achievements recorded earlier.
*Honorary convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now; recent books include ‘When the Two Streams Met', ‘Man over Machine’ and 'A Day in 2071’



A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

WHO move can 'enable' India to detain citizens, restrict freedom, control media

Counterview Desk  In an an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with copies to concerned Cabinet ministers, bureaucrats and MPs,  health rights network  People’s Alliance for Public Health (PAPH alias JanSwasthya Morcha), has urged that India should not be a signatory to the World Health Organization ( WHO) Pandemic Agreement and Amendments to the  International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005  to be adopted at the 77th World Health Assembly in Geneva from 27th May to 1st June, 2024.

'Enough evidence': Covid vaccines impacted women's reproductive health

By Deepika*  In 2024, the news outlets have suddenly started reporting about covid vaccine side effects in a very extensive manner. Sadly, the damage is already done.

Can scientists believe in God, yet explore nature 'abandoning' belief?

By Dr TV Sajeev*  In August 2023, India celebrated the successful soft-landing of Chandrayan on the south pole of the moon. That mission too led to some questioning about whether scientists could believe in God. The culture of temple visits and poojas before the launch of rockets with or without payload had been a mocking point for a long while. 

Growing stream of pollution infecting homes, bodies in US, Vietnam

By Erica Cirino*  Louisiana’s “River Parishes,” located along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, shoulder some of the worst industry impacts in the United States. As a result, this region has acquired a grim reputation as “ Cancer Alley .” 

'Uncertainty in Iran': Raisi brokered crucial Chabahar Port deal with India

By Pranjal Pandey*  Ebrahim Raisi, the Iranian President, and the country’s foreign minister were tragically found deceased on May 20, 2024, shortly after their helicopter crashed in foggy conditions. In response, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei swiftly appointed a relatively unknown vice president as the interim leader.

Informal, outdoor workers 'excluded': Govt of India's excessive heat policies

Counterview Desk  Top civil rights network, National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), has demanded urgent government action to protect millions of outdoor workers from extreme heat and heatwaves, insisting declaration of heatwaves as climatic disaster.