Uttarakhand

Introduction

Uttarakhand is a state in Northern India. It shares international borders with China and Nepal and internal borders with the states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. A state well known for its temples, Uttarakhand is home to the Kedarnath temple.

The state of Uttarakhand was carved out of the larger state of Uttar Pradesh in the year 2000, along with the creation of the new states of Chattisgarh from Madhya Pradesh and Jharkahand from Bihar. The creation of Uttarakhand, (which was formerly called Uttaranchal at the time of it’s creation), was the culmination of a long movement for the recognition of Uttarakhand as a separate state. The capital of Uttarakhand is Dehradun.

Notable towns and cities within the state include Nainital, Haridwar, Almora, Rishikesh and Mussoorie. Most of these places are well-known tourist spots and Uttarakhand is replete with other tourist destinations such as the Jim Corbett National Park as well.

Demographics

As of the 2011 Census, Uttarakhand had a population exceeding 10 million folks, with 30.5% of the population living in urban areas and the remaining 60.5% residing in rural areas. There were a total of 963 females for every 1000 males, with the census indicating that rural areas had an even sex ratio. The overall literacy rate for the state was 79.6%, with the male literacy rate standing at 88.3% and the female literacy rate standing at 70.7%.

The state’s population consisted of 72.12% Hindus and 10.12% Muslims as of 2014. Meanwhile, scheduled castes made up 18.93% of the population and scheduled tribes, 2.92% of the population. Languages spoken in the state include Hindi, English, Garhwali and Kumaoni. Meanwhile, Sanskrit is also considered an official language of the state.

Government

Like the national system, the people of Uttarakhand vote for their representatives, who then form a (unicameral) Parliament, known as the Vidhan Sabha, or the Uttarakhand Legislative Assembly. There is only one house, equivalent to a House of Representatives, in this Parliament. The Uttarakhand Vidhan Sabha consists of 70 seats for each of the states representatives.

The states governor is the de jure and constitutional head of the state, but the Chief Minister, is the one who exercises true power as he is the head of the state government, and is usually the leader of the party with the most members in the Vidhan Sabha. The state governor invites the leading party to form their government and the term last a maximum of 5 years, or sooner if the Vidhan Sabha loses confidence in the Chief Minister.

The current chief minister of Uttarakhand is Harish Rawat, a member of the Indian National Congress (INC). The INC had won the most recent elections in the state in 2012, with then state party leader Vijay Bahuguna becoming Chief Minister. However, he was told by the INC to resign as Chief Minister in 2013 and so in early 2014 and Harish Rawat would take charge. Uttarakhand was also under President’s Rule, after a dispute over the state’s budget bill would result in the matter going to the Supreme Court.

Elections are scheduled to be held in Uttarakhand in early January next year. Although the state was formed in 2000 itself, the first elections were actually held in 2002. The party currently in power within the national government, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), held power prior to the 2002 elections but were ousted after an electoral defeat with the INC taking the victory in the first elections of 2002. They would lose the elections in 2007 however, with the BJP entering power once again. 2012 would then see the INC winning again. As such, there has been an anti-incumbent streak in Uttarakhand’s elections. Also, unlike many other Indian states, there haven’t been any regional/state level political parties who have held much sway in the state.

Geography

Uttarakhand is a state that is mostly covered in hills and mountains. The Himalayan range covers a large part of the state. The Ganga and Yamuna rivers, of prime importance for a multitude of reasons to India, both originate from glaciers in Uttarakhand. Uttarakhand is also covered in forests, with a coverage of around 61%, and the state also plays host to the tourist location of the Jim Corbett National Park.

Economy

According to the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), Uttarakhand has been one of the fastest growing Indian states. Its gross state domestic product was estimated to be $23 billion while its net state domestic product was estimated to be at $20 billion in 2014/15, both rising by $3 billion since the previous year. Furthermore, given the abundance of tourist locations, the tourism industry, along with the hydropower and agriculture industries are strong sectors for the Uttarakhand economy.