Achieving any real growth impossible without inclusiveness: Baghel
Baghel outlines his plan of inclusiveness and growth for his state in an exclusive interview with Millennium Post
There is a reason Chhattisgarh's third Chief Minister, Bhupesh Baghel wants to include his state's tribal population in the growth plan he has put together. The 57-year-old Congress politician believes that without recognising the state's tribal population's immense potential to boost Chhattisgarh's growth, it is impossible for the state to achieve any real success. Baghel speaks to Abhay Singh and Abhinay Lakshman of the Millennium Post, in an exclusive interview, outlining his plan of inclusiveness and growth for his state.
With respect to your 100-day-plan, what have you managed to achieve so far and what remains to be done?
Here in Chhattisgarh, we are very quickly fulfilling the promises made to the electorate during the polls with the utmost commitment. Our biggest first step has been in the way of forgiving farmer loans. Secondly, we have made it a point to buy paddy, directly from the farmers who grow it, at an astounding rate of Rs 2,500/quintal. Thirdly, we have decided to make it a priority to give tribals their land back. The indigenous population of the area that had their land taken over in the supposed interest of building industry, have now started getting their land back. Now, we have returned 4,200 acres of land to almost 1,700 tribal farmers and this remains to be one of our top priorities. Fourthly, we are promoting tribal families who collect tendu patta (leaves), by buying it from them at a rate of Rs 4,000 per sack, which is currently the highest rate in the country. Fifthly, we have managed to find a way to halve electricity bills of houses using less than 400 units.
What is your vision to promote education in your state?
Where my government is coming from is that education should not be bolstered just for the sake of education, but with the purpose of providing opportunities and most importantly jobs and employment. Our mission here is to provide quality education in a wholesome manner and we are constantly striving towards that goal. We have also stressed the importance of vernacular languages in enhancing learning capabilities of students, which in turn, also works as a way to preserve such local languages. For example, we have started this concept of "Niji Duniya", where children are being taught in their local vernacular languages and teachers also use animation to impart lessons. However, there were systemic problems in the way education was looked at before, which had resulted in a large number of vacancies for the posts of teachers and professors in government schools and colleges. Around 1,300 to 1,350 assistant professor posts were lying vacant in government colleges before and now we are trying our level best to fill those vacancies so that the students are afforded the best our government can provide.
How do you plan to bring the tribal population in Chhattisgarh into the mainstream of society?
As I've said before, bringing the tribal population into the mainstream of society, while still preserving their culture is extremely important to our government and to the development of the state. One of the core problems tribals have consistently faced has been the violence and disturbance that comes with living in Naxal-infested regions, as a result of which even basic amenities like a warm meal and healthcare are denied to them. We are first, looking to provide these basics to the tribals in the area so that eventually they can be fully part of our social fabric.
Increasingly, wildlife and humans in the state have had avoidable encounters. How do you plan to minimise such incidents?
See, the most recent example of what we are doing to address this problem is the Lemru Elephant Reserve, which has been established with the intention of minimising human-elephant conflict, that has become common in the state over the last few years. Spanning over 450 sqkm, the reserve will provide a huge protective area for the conservation of wild elephants. While we plan to increase the area of the reserve to almost 2,000 sqkm, we still need to work with all state agencies and other resources at hand to make sure we create an environment where these animals feel safe and drawn towards the reserve.
How do you plan to put the youth in the state to work?
We have now finally been able to make farming in our state profitable. So many people are now choosing to produce crops in the state because of our efforts to make it feasible. In fact, people who had left the villages to go to the cities are now returning to farm their lands and make profits out of it. More than 3 lakh people have come back to farming because of this. We are also trying to set up small industries for people who are working on minor forest produce, boosting jobs and allowing farmers to make more out of what they sell.
Are you planning to grow industry in the state in a bid to boost employment?
Look, maximum employment is created by medium and small enterprises and we will have more of an advantage if these industries somehow transform to include agriculture-based products and services. We can use food processing units to incorporate and make farmers in the state a participating stakeholder of Chhattisgarh's economic progress. This will help farmers increase their revenue and in turn, will also increase the state's revenue. So, a start would be to simply set up such food processing units in each block and then take it from there.
What about Chhattisgarh's Public Distribution Scheme? What was the driving force behind the scheme?
Our vision under this scheme was a simple idea that no one should fall short of food. So, we came up with this scheme where everybody gets "anaj" and no family is left behind in this attempt. We are also giving out specific ration cards for people Above Poverty Line and Below Poverty Line in addition to specifically providing essentials like grams, salt, and jaggery so that citizens can at least have access to the basics.
How are you looking to deal with corruption?
Previously, people used to decide their commissions before even deciding to work on a file. But the way we are looking at it is from a people-based view. We want to transform the governance system into one that can benefit every single person, be it in the sphere of health, education or socio-economic progress.
What is your masterplan for healthcare policy in Chhattisgarh?
As far as cities are concerned, it is usually easy for people to get to a hospital and get the treatment they need. But in tribal areas, people often second-guess the need to visit a doctor and it becomes difficult to get the proper treatment to them. The recently announced Chief Minister's Haat Bazaar Clinics are solving this problem creatively. This is the first time we have done something like this and it works because tribal people always find a way to visit these haat bazaars, be it for social or practical purposes. So we have these mobile medical clinics at these locations which give tribals access to basic healthcare. The vans have a doctor, nurse, staff, and basic medical equipment. And the numbers do look very promising, with the number of tribals visiting the clinics having increased by up to 4 to 10 times. People are getting treated now and getting the required medication.
How do you plan to address urban development issues in the state?
I agree that certain areas in the urban parts of the state need to be looked at. A large problem was that the urban population was not being able to get their small plots registered. As a result, plot-related formalities and paperwork used to be put on hold. But, we have decided to address this. After we took up the matter, we got around 60,000 such small plots registered by eliminating the massive red tape that existed. Under the new system, we have provided for plot owners to declare their land use and accordingly visit the Sub-Divisional Magistrate to get their diversion paperwork cleared and proceed as they please.
You have often spoken about the need to curb the vice of "fake news". How do you see your government go about this?
On the one hand, we are making laws to protect journalists, but on the other hand, we also need to take action against fake news because of its detrimental effects on society. If someone is disseminating wrong information, then action must be taken against them. But we are also making sure that there is legislation to protect journalists from misuse of prosecution under fake news charges. The way we want to go ahead is to use the cyber cell of our police force. Every police district has a cyber cell and it will be responsible for collecting the data on fake news and we will prosecute cases accordingly.