UCC has nothing to do with upcoming LS polls: Uttarakhand Minister

Uttarakhand witnessed a record of more than 6 crore tourist footfalls in 2023. With its numerous religious places, especially the Chardham pilgrimage, the hill state is turning out to be a crowd-puller.

UCC has nothing to do with upcoming LS polls: Uttarakhand Minister

Tourism Minister Satpal Maharaj (Photo:IANS)

Uttarakhand witnessed a record of more than 6 crore tourist footfalls in 2023. With its numerous religious places, especially the Chardham pilgrimage, the hill state is turning out to be a crowd-puller. Tourism Minister Satpal Maharaj gets candid in an interview with P R Singh of The Statesman on his government’s development work, people-centric decisions and efforts to develop non-religious tourist destinations.

Q: Uttarakhand has become the first state to make a law on the Uniform Civil Code (UCC). What changes do you foresee?

A: We are the first state in the country to create history by passing the UCC bill in the Assembly. It is a big leap towards ushering in an era of uniformity in civil rights and abolishing certain traditional ill practices among communities cutting across religious lines. UCC will have a longterm impact in bringing justice and well-being, especially to Muslim women. They will find it much easier and comfortable with the passage of time.


In fact, it will lead to parity in civil rights among women of all communities. Uttarakhand is also the first state to uphold the nation’s constitutional obligation on UCC as it will be implemented no sooner the President of India gives her assent. Several other states have now demanded our draft to legislate UCC for their people.

Q: Muslim leaders allege the UCC is an interference in their personal law and aimed at garnering votes in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

A: UCC does not acknowledge or differentiate among Hindus, Muslims or other communities on religious lines. Negative reports about the proposed law are initiated by people who are against the growth and development of women. They do not want women to progress and get out of their ghettos. Some people, on the other hand, continue their tirade against the BJP government.

They do not want the people to know what good was being done for them. UCC law and its implementation has always been our party’s national agenda. It was a commitment made to the people as an electoral promise in the 2022 state Assembly elections. UCC has nothing to do with the 2024 general elections.

Q: Although Uttarakhand is a favourite destination for religious tourism, non-religious tourism is yet to flourish in the state as compared to other Himalayan states. What steps are the state government and the tourism department taking in this regard?

A: We witnessed a record of more than 6 crore tourist footfalls in 2023. Although a majority of them visited Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath, Kedarnath and Hemkunt Sahib shrines, non-religious tourist destinations were also big attractions last season. However, we are committed to develop new non-religious destinations in the coming days. Work is on to develop 13 new unexplored tourist destinations, one each in all 13 districts. Apart from this, several least explored destinations are being upgraded with more services and facilities.

Massive investment is planned for the upgradation of renowned destinations like Tehri Lake. Our government is developing huge road and air connectivity infrastructure with a large network of cable cars for creating access to remote hill areas. The tourism department has also embarked upon the Manaskhand Mandir Mala Mission project to create a circuit of temples for promoting tourism in Kumaon hills.

In addition, the state’s tourism policy 2023 entails massive concessional schemes offering subsidies for investors. The government’s homestay scheme has also resulted in massive improvisation of lodging infrastructure for tourism. We are also trying to make eco and wildlife tourism more attractive and service-oriented.

Q: Investors Summit 2023 resulted in more than Rs 3,000 crore of MoUs in the tourism sector.

A:Yes. These are mainly for developing tourism infrastructure, especially setting up cable cars and services for high hill tourists. Work will also be started for creating ideal wedding destinations in the state, also known as ‘devbhoomi’. Besides this, investment is also expected in wellness tourism, yoga and other service-oriented sectors.

Q: The much-awaited demand for a separate land law is still hanging in the balance in the state. What is the progress on this?

A: A separate land law is needed for the natives of Uttarakhand to protect their land holdings from outside buyers. As promised by the chief minister himself, the law is also needed to save agricultural lands in the hills of Uttarakhand. Several parts of the state have witnessed demographic shifts due to large-scale land purchase and settlements in the hills by the outsiders.

The special committee report submitted to the state government is being studied. Its recommendations are being examined. The government will take all necessary legal measures on separate land law after that. Meanwhile, contrary to earlier norms, the government has withdrawn the district magistrate’s power to issue permits for purchase of agricultural land following recommendation by the special committee.

Q: The BJP had won all five seats in the last two Lok Sabha polls. Do you think it will repeat its performance for the third time?

A: Undoubtedly, we will repeat our Lok Sabha poll performance for the third consecutive time. It will be a clean sweep again. People of Uttarakhand voted for Narendra Modi in the 2022 Assembly poll and they will continue to do so in 2024 as well, irrespective of the type of elections it will be.

People of Uttarakhand have put their faith and confidence in Prime Minister Modi and his developmental works. He had openly said that the coming decade belongs to Uttarakhand.

Q: Do you think Haldwani mob violence has brought a bad name to the state?

A: No, on the contrary, I will say our government took timely action to rein in the unruly mob. Those who were on the rampage, attacked the police and burnt down a police station were taken to task, and the violence could not spread to other parts of the town. This was also a lesson for those encroaching government lands. Swift action by the police and district administration has bolstered the government’s image across the country.