Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur today demanded that the Centre provide 100 per cent tax exemption for the first five years to industries set up in the state and 50 per cent for the next five years. In a pre-budget meeting of Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley with state counterparts, Thakur - who also holds the finance portfolio - put forth his demand. Thakur also called for making a provision of 7 per cent interest subvention for a period of seven years to promote industrial development in the hill state. The Himachal CM also suggested reduction in corporate tax rate to 20 per cent for further industrial development and said entrepreneurs of the state were denied the benefits of capital investment subsidy which ended in March 2017. He said though a special committee was constituted for preparing an extensive industrial policy for the hill states, yet no announcement has been made. He thus requested that the central capital investment subsidy to the state be continued till new announcements are made. He also urged for restarting the freight subsidy scheme and reimbursement of transport cost of about Rs 5 crore at the rate of 75 per cent. He also called for enhancing import duty on apple and announce it in the union budget 2018-19 so that interests of the horticulturists of Himachal were protected. The chief minister also demanded subsidy\/viability gap fund for operating flights and heli-taxi services on the pattern of north-eastern states to HP for assisting in tourism promotion as well as disaster management. Environment protection would be a priority for the state, he added and suggested making budgetary provisions at the centre for expansion\/construction of airports in hill states. Thakur sought according priority to expansion and strengthening rail network in the state for improving connectivity. He stressed upon making efforts for constructing Bhanupalli-Bilaspur-Manali-Leh rail line besides broadgauging of Pathankot-Jogindernagar rail line. He also requested to declare these projects as National Projects keeping in view the strategic importance. The Himachal chief minister also demanded transferring power to accord environment clearances for hydel projects above 50 MW to the state government to avoid unnecessary delays. He also requested for enhancing sanctioning powers to state government under FCA ACT -1980 from 1 hectare to 5 hectare under PMGSY to speed up the works. He also requested to include areas above the population of 100 and below 250 under PMGSY to benefit more population in the state. The chief minister demanded release of Rs 289 crore for 111 irrigation projects included under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojna in 2017-18 and added that out of total 338 crore only Rs 49 crore were received so far. He also urged for including Finna Singh and Nadaun Irrigation projects under priority projects of the ministry so that they can be completed by December 2019. He also requested to remove disparity in the wage rates in the tribal and non tribal areas under MNREGA.