Tuesday, 28 June, 2022
HomePoliticsHimachal Pradesh Elections 2017‘Booster dose’ promised by politicians continues to elude Himachal pharma hub

‘Booster dose’ promised by politicians continues to elude Himachal pharma hub

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Doon and Nalagarh assembly segments face infrastructure woes such as lack of rail link and four-laning of highway as well as non-functional container depot.

Baddi/Nalagarh (Himachal Pradesh): Doon and Nalagarh are by far the two most important assembly seats in Himachal Pradesh. Spread across the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh industrial belt are almost 2,000 pharmaceutical units, clocking an annual turnover of Rs 2 lakh crore, something no other town of the state can take pride in.

Even as candidates dole out impossible promises in the run-up to the assembly polls due next month, the industrial belt continues to face infrastructure woes with old promises remaining unfulfilled.

“The industry has major long-standing demands which have not been met despite our flagging these at every forum,” said Shailesh Aggarwal, president of the Baddi-Barootiwala-Nalagarh Industries’ Association.

Baddi (in Doon constituency) is ranked third among global pharmaceutical hubs, manufacturing more than 150 bulk drugs, exporting to over 200 countries. Barely 30 km from Chandigarh, the town was promised a rail link to the union territory, a project which is hanging fire for years affecting exports.

“Since there is no rail connectivity, the container depot made for the industry here is virtually non-functional. The containers loaded here are transported to Ludhiana first and from there, these are sent to ports. The cost of transportation makes our exports non-competitive,” said Aggarwal.

The two constituencies, abutting one another were also promised four-laning of the Pinjore-Nalagarh highway, but the project is yet to be implemented.

“Apart from the road, the bridges on this part of the national highway are almost 25 years old. Last monsoon, a pillar of a bridge fell and it led to traffic jams extending into several kilometres,” added Aggarwal.

The entire road, in fact, is broken at several places and long traffic jams are common sights. Lining both sides of the road are hundreds of trucks.

The pharmaceutical industry is also in constant conflict with truck unions which abound here. Apart from the main union whose president commands large local following and power, there are smaller ones, some of which are named after the make of the vehicle they are running such as Mahindra Jeep, Tata 407 Union, among others.

Industries claim that the unions gang up and fix rates, which are 40 per cent higher than what is charged at other places. This increases their transportation cost and make their products uncompetitive, they say. No politician, however, is ready to rein in these unions because of their clout.

BJP candidate from Baddi, Paramjeet Singh’s father was union president for two decades.

Currently held by Congress MLA Ram Kumar Chaudhary, who is seeking re-election, Baddi (Doon) saw an interesting clash between BJP rebel Darshan Singh and Congress rebel Paramjeet Singh, both of whom stood as independents, in 2012.

BJP had fielded Vinod Kumari who came in fourth in the four-cornered contest. Both Darshan and Paramjeet secured over 10,000 votes. This time Paramjeet is the BJP candidate and claims support from Darshan.

“He is not just supporting us but also campaigning with us. We have promised the people of Baddi that we will rid them of the sand and liquor mafia,” said Paramjeet.

Nalagarh was a traditionally Congress seat, which went to the BJP at the turn of the century. Represented five times since 1982 by Raja Vijender Singh, the scion of the Nalagarh royal family, the seat was lost to Hari Narayan Singh of the BJP in 1998.

Hari Narayan won the seat again in 2003 and 2007. His death necessitated a bypoll in 2011, which his widow Gurnam Kaur lost to Congress’ Lakhvinder Singh Rana. In the last polls, Rana lost the seat again to BJP’s Krishan Lal Thakur. This time Thakur will fight Rana again.

It’s not just the industries alone, even residents rue the lack of basic facilities.

“Market streets have not been re-carpeted for such a long time,” said Raghbir Singh, a cloth shop owner in the town. “The reasons this town is neglected is that the MLA who is chosen here is always belongs to the party, which is not in power in the state.”

Ranjit Singh Rana, sewadar at the famous Barmani temple in the town, is worried about the condition of the government hospital.

“It is the only government hospital in Nalagarh. People come all the way here for treatment and find there are no doctors,” he claimed.

Doon MLA Ram Kumar Chaudhary, however, tried to play down the allegations.

“There were some issues regarding the acquisition of land for the rail project, which have been sorted out. However, for the portion that passes through Haryana, the process of land acquisition is stuck. Regarding four-laning of the road till Nalagarh, land is acquired and compensation has been paid to land owners. Construction will begin in the next six months,” he said.

BJP MLA from Nalagarh, Krishan Lal Thakur, was unavailable for comments despite multiple attempts to reach him on phone. The article will be updated once his quote is received.

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