New Delhi: Himachal Pradesh has demanded Rs.1426 crore for expansion of Kullu, Kangra and Shimla airports. Education Minister Suresh Bhardwaj, in the meetings of State Finance Ministers as well as GST Council at New Delhi yesterday, demanded Rs. 500 crore each for expansion and upgradation of Kullu and Kangra airports besides Rs. 426 crore for Shimla airport.

Bhardwaj said that an investment of Rs. 2500 crore was required for construction of new green field airport fit for landing wide bodied aircrafts in Mandi district, which would allow better connectivity within the state as well as for tourist destinations.

The Education Minister requested to bring GST on components and materials used in construction of hydro power projects to be brought at par with Wind and Solar power projects as they have also been classified as renewable energy.

He urged the Centre for construction of proposed Bhanupali-Bilaspur-Manali-Leh rail line besides converting Pathankot-Joginder rail line to broad gauge and linking both with cent percent Central sharing. He requested to declare these as defence projects of national importance. He demanded sufficient funds for rail network in Union budget for the state and demanded that expansion of rail network in Himalayan states may be considered in core schemes and may form part of national development agenda and sharing pattern of construction of rail lines may be kept in the ratio of 90:10 for Centre and state.

Suresh Bhardwaj also demanded to raise the import duty of apples at least two times to protect the interests of local growers as Himachal apple is facing threat due to imported apple in the national market.

He said that ropeways were effective alternative for addressing connectivity as well as traffic congestion issues in the state and requested for approving ropeways for connecting 283 left out villages under PMSGY-1 with 250 plus population which could not be connected by roads due to thick forest cover and environmental issues. He said that liberal funding may be provided to state by bringing it under Parvatmala Scheme being conceived by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways so that easy connectivity could be provided to remote areas and tourist destinations in eco-friendly manner.

While discussing about Aspirational districts (Chamba) which NITI AAYOG is monitoring, He said that GoI should consider funding the projects for roads, irrigation and health sectors for backward districts so that basic developmental needs of these districts are met immediately and they are able to come out of the backward category.

Principal Secretary Excise and Taxation Jagdish Sharma accompanied the Minister during the meeting.

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Rahul Bhandari is Editor of TheNewsHimachal and has been part of the digital world for last 15 years.