Himachal floods: former Dy Mayor Tikender demands ‘Commission of Inquiry
Shimla, July 20
In the wake of the recent devastating floods that have wreaked havoc in Himachal Pradesh, Tikender Singh Panwar, former deputy Mayor of Shimla has written an open letter addressed to HP CM Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, urging the state government to initiate a “Commission of Inquiry” (CoI). The letter highlights the need to investigate the systemic failures in the state’s developmental trajectory and emphasizes the importance of embracing a new, sustainable model of development.
The writer begins by acknowledging the efforts made by the current government in mitigating the challenges posed by the floods. However, they emphasize that the response should not be limited to immediate relief but must also focus on addressing the underlying issues contributing to such disasters.
The proposed CoI is suggested to be headed by a retired Supreme Court judge, preferably someone with roots in Himachal Pradesh. The commission’s primary aim would be to explore the reasons for the failures in the state’s developmental policies, including areas such as hydropower, tourism, and infrastructure projects like highways. Panwar believes that these failures stem from a development model alien to the mountain etiquettes, aesthetics, and realities, causing colossal damage to both assets and people.
The letter argues that Himachal Pradesh has experienced two distinct development models in its history. The first, spearheaded by Dr. Y S Parmar in the 1970s, lasted for about two decades. However, since the mid-90s, the state has embraced a liberalization model of development, which the writer contends has led to nightmares in economic, ecological, environmental, and geographical aspects. As the current model appears untenable, the Panwar commends Sukhu Bhai’s slogan of “systemic change” and calls for a major disruption in the planning models to ensure a brighter, resilient, and secure future for the people and the state.
The CoI is seen as an opportunity to involve the largest stakeholders—the people—directly in the planning process. By engaging the public in a meaningful dialogue, the government can explore newer models of development aligned with the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Though the government’s willingness to implement the CoI’s findings remains uncertain, Panwar stated that this exercise would be a crucial step towards fulfilling the constitutional vision of “We the People.”
The letter concludes with an impassioned plea for Himachal Pradesh to embrace a new paradigm of development. The proposed CoI, in the former deputy Mayor’s view, can lay the foundation for a new beginning, guiding the state towards a sustainable and secure future. The fate of this demand now rests in the hands of the state government and its commitment to bringing about the much-needed systemic change.
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