Millennium Post

‘They blame me for fulfilling my promises in election manifesto’

It’s not everyday that the young chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav calls you over for a free-wheeling, hour-long chat, and shares his vision for his home state, and how he intends to take it on a higher path of growth and development. It was exactly an year back that the confident but genuinely humble Yadav scion had talked to Millennium Post, when he was trying to emerge out of his father’s shadow. Now, he has come of age politically, with the completion of one year in power. In an exclusive interview with Tania Ameer Khan, he stresses upon the importance of supporting a secular government and mentions the flagship projects that he has undertaken thus far, such as building PPP expressways and tackling corruption and law and order problems, amongst others. Excerpts:

You are one of the youngest chief ministers in the whole country and we have a lot of expectations from you. Now that you have completed one year, what do you think have been your achievements so far?

To begin with, I would like to say that these days everyone is hurling accusations at me. Right from members of the legislative assembly to the media, they only blame me for fulfilling my promises made in the election manifesto. I do hope doing so is an accepted thing in a democracy. People are saying that ‘you are sitting in the government and implementing the manifesto!’ I think for a government to be able to do this is a major achievement and we have been able to pull it off. In the two budgets which have been passed in the house, we have tried to include everything from the manifesto, right from
vidyadhan yojna,
unemployment scheme, laptop scheme and others.

People have criticised us for the laptop scheme saying it was just for rhetoric and wouldn’t be implemented. In fact, a leader of opposition in the house said this is just a jhunjuna, which they will show but not give. But we have proved them wrong, and given out 10,000 laptops till date, and the real result will be seen when we give out about 5-6 lakh more. In fact, we intend to give out at least 15-16 lakh laptops. The whole idea behind this exercise is to remove the digital divide between the child in the village and the one in the city. In fact, Intel came to us saying they will train teachers here free of cost. We have implemented this. We have introduced more universities and have worked on improving their infrastructure.

For Lucknow-Agra expressway, we have made RFQ (request for quotation), which is going to be India’s biggest PPP project – the longest in length and highest in cost that no state has ever attempted. The idea next in line is to make it into a prepaid project vis-a-vis the private expressway. Through this, not only Delhi, Agra, Firozabad, Kanpur, Unnao, Lucknow and other areas in UP will get express road connections, but also the whole scene of economic development will experience a massive change for the better. This highway will be connecting two capitals. Besides, Agra is an important tourist destination, which when connected to Lucknow, which in terms of tourism is a dead city compared to Agra or any other city, will actually benefit immensely, drawing in the stream of tourists, who would normally not include Lucknow in their itinerary.  

Our main focus now is to improve infrastructure setup, improve the tourism sector and provide education. Power is a problem here, with higher levels of consumption, although distribution hasn’t been undertaken adequately. But the UP government is working at every possible level to develop this. We are working on both generation and distribution of power in the state. In fact, in certain places, the standard of power distribution has been significantly hiked. Our main concern at present is to reduce the cost of consumption for the consumer. The model of power generation, distribution and consumption should be shaped in such a manner that it doesn’t become a burden on them, and we are working on it. Getting across power for free to farmers in the state or at a substantially lower cost is one of the major challenges ahead for us.

What do you think have been your failures?

People might say some of these things could have been brought in earlier, for example the IT City. But there is a procedure that we had to follow, because essentially, it was a land meant for animal husbandry department. However, we looked for the ideal place and decided to set it up at that spot. Another important requirement is having an excellent cancer institute. A lot of people opt to go to Mumbai’s Tata Memorial institute because there is no place offering treatment for cancer in this state. Cancer cases are on the rise and these people can’t go to AIIMS in Delhi or even afford expensive treatment in private hospitals. We have also given place to Amul in the state, and they would soon be setting up a five lakh-litre plant here. The only thing which can be considered as our failure is that the work might have been going on at a slow pace, because everything needs to be done according to the procedure. If you hurry the process, then you will end up going to jail. For example, the previous government did try to hasten up things and now you can see their ministers being put behind the bars. But I can vouch for sure that we have been able to put UP on the right path of development already. Infrastructure, power, education and also implementing social schemes are areas that we have concentrated on chiefly.

In your tenure, law and order has been coming up as a major issue. There have been communal clashes and curfews imposed, and some say you have no control over party workers. How do you plan to resolve this vital problem?

Law and order is something you have to work on a daily basis and must be at it continuously. Any incident that happens, you have to deal with firmly and in a right way. So, if an untoward incident takes place, then registering an FIR, or getting the investigation done, are not issues here. For example, in the Bulandshehar incident the girl and mother who went to lodge their complaint at night, were made to sit behind a
(wire gauze) door for their own protection. Yet, the news that was reported said that they had been arrested, when, in fact, the investigation and enquiry into the incident were getting done. Because such incidents wouldn’t stop overnight, our priority is to ensure that police and legal procedures, such as registering FIRs, getting investigation conducted and sending criminals to jail happen smoothly and that is what we are doing. [Ghatnaye ekdin mein nahi rukh sakti, isiliye durghatna ke baad, FIR darj karna, kaarwai karna aur jo doshi hai unhe jail bhejna, yehi humara kaam hai]. In UP, no one can say that if an incident has occurred, no action has been taken to deal with the matter at hand. We have even removed a minister when the need arose. Even in the CEO issue, whatever the government could do, it has done. Every government has to work continuously. See, even in Delhi, after such a big incident occurred, it did not stall more such heinous episodes from happening again. Also, I have seen that any news from UP about an incident at a thana is carried on every national channel. We have to be more alert and observe these issues, so that it doesn’t turn into a law and order problem.

Shivpal Yadav’s comment – ‘As long as you work hard and get things done, you can steal a little. Stealing should not get transformed into general loot of the people’ – has created a furore in media. What is your view on the issue of corruption, which is a major problem in your state, and how are you handling it?

Let me tell you what had actually happened. He said dakaity nahi ho sakti (there can’t be robbery) and what media showed was chori kar sakte ho (you can steal some). But actually what he said was kaamchori (slight shirking of responsibilities) and not chori (stealing). He essentially said
dacoity nahi hone denge hum, lekin thodi kaamchoori kar sakte ho.
(we won’t let loot happen, but you get a little lax about your work at times). From there, kaamchori became chori, hence the confusion.

Corruption was at peak during the tenure of the last government. But we are here to reduce corruption, because it simply derails development. People keep waiting for files to be moved. I keep checking the file movement in the government, because all the dates are on the files. Ideally, there should be no delay because of any reason.

When it comes to industrialisation, what are your achievements and future plans?

Right from day one we have had many delegations of industrial bodies meeting us. We had done a summit with CII in Agra, where a lot of investors had come. Then we did a US IBC programme in Lucknow, where a lot of American business partners came in. Even our policies for sugarcane, solar energy, infrastructure and PPP roads, have started seeing the light of the day. For an industry to be setup, the policy needs to be in place. Before this, there was no concrete policy in place. We have land and industrial area. The ambassador from Japan had come here, who said although they worked in various states, with several industries in Tamil Nadu and Haryana (they have more than thousand industries in India), they have, in UP, only 70. So we are working on this aspect as well.

Mamata Banerjee and several other political party leaders believe that state governments should not acquire land from the poor and give it to builders and people from private corporations. What is your view on it?

Recently there was an all party meet on land acquisition as well. In our ghoshna (announcement) following that, we had stressed that without the consent of any farmer we cannot and will not acquire land, and that is what we are doing. But without land, no development is possible. You can’t force a farmer to sell his land but yes, if he gets a good price for it, then he will go ahead and sell it willfully.
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