It’s time to change the calendar for Rajasthan government. It’s also time to take stock of its performance and promises on which it rode to power. In an interview to Rakesh Goswami, chief minister Vasundhara Raje talks about her feats and dreams, the biggest drag on government and the inquiry into Vadra land deals.
Let’s start with your big achievements in one year.
Of the 365 days, we have been able to work only for 151 days. Holidays, model code of conduct, and elections have taken up rest of the time. On the 13th it will become a full year. The achievement I am looking forward to roll out on the 15th is Bhamashah. Over the year we worked very hard on it. (Bhamashah scheme is a card that comes with a bank account number in the name of the female head of the family. Her biometrics details are recorded and only she can withdraw money.)
Bhamashah is an ambitious scheme because we are making woman the head of the family. The money will now go directly to her account. When they open the bank account, they get 2,000 rupees. It’s also biometric and you can swipe it, too. I have to put the health insurance on to it by the end of this year, and PDS at a later time.
But will this will roll out after the 15th ?
On the 15th I will start with 2 lakh. I want to go slow so that I can cover mistakes. One thing I have made clear is those who haven’t got the card will still be able to access the schemes. So it’s not a question of mero ko card nahin mila, mera kya hoga (I haven’t got the card, what will I do!).
What is the target? In how much time do you plan to cover everyone eligible for it?
I think I will be able to do it by the end of 2015. I believe the card will be complete after adding the health insurance. And that would be by July.
There was a lot of hue and cry over Robert Vadra land deals in Rajasthan. What has the government done?
Inquiry is on. There has been wrongdoing, the last government aided and abetted it. I’m not in a position to speak about the inquiry.
During your campaign, you promised 15 lakh jobs, how far have you been able to fulfil the promise?
I think we are doing well. Rajasthan was the first state with which the Skill Development Mission worked, and the first unit came up in Udaipur.
There are approximately 40 industries we are working with. Each of them are training a certain number of people, enabling them with skills. This is happening on the Honda floor, on JCB floor and on the industry floor. We lost this year. Next year onwards, we will be going for 3 lakh a year – 3 lakh a year times 4 is 12 lakh, which is a good number.
But everyone wants government job. The government has to now become as small as possible so that money can be spent on people, not on us.
Did the Sarkar Aapke Dwar initiative, where you took the government to people’s doorsteps, do more harm to you than good?
It was not harmful. In my yatra, I was able to see that after 53 years of governance, we have not been able to fulfil their fundamental needs. I discovered that electricity, water, road, doctor, teacher, jobs were the six things that people wanted but haven’t got. The other problem that I discovered was that the district administration had almost come to a halt because it was ignored for so long.
There was a time when collectors had to go to the districts, and when they travelled they made notes of their programmes, what they found and what they did. Now they don’t go, and there are no notes. They don’t do night-outs, they don’t really know what’s happening in the districts.
You ask the patwari why aren’t you there in your village, he says I have to educate my children, so he comes to the district headquarters; but when you tell him your job means you have to spend the night in the patwar ghar, he says aap karwaoge to mai dharna par baith jaonga ( I will go on a sit-in if you force me)…
Teachers, in lot of places, have outsourced their jobs. Same with doctors. No one is working.
There are villages that had problem with drinking water for 10 weeks. So what happens is that they all come here (to the capital), and roam from my house to the minister’s house to the secretariat, but don’t find a solution. So anger was building up.
If I am spending so much money, then I am going to make them work. So they are saying it’s unsuccessful, it has not worked.
The opposition has been saying you scaled down the free medicine scheme.
We haven’t scaled it down; we have given it more money. From Rs 255 crore in 2012-13 budget, it is Rs 298 crore now. You must understand free medicine is not their brain. Dharnas won’t help. I’d say to these people – why don’t you join us in our Swachh Bharat campaign, pick a broom and clean. If Akhilesh Yadav can do it, why can’t they?
Fifty-three years they haven’t done anything, and they are asking me for a hisab of 151 days, it’s a joke.
There have been lot of rumours doing the rounds that the CM is going to be changed, she doesn’t have a good equation with the PM, with the party president…
Did anything happen? Why do you listen to rumours. The same people who did it during Bhairon Singhji’s time do it now. These people are rumour-mongers.
But wasn’t that the reason why you were not able to expand your cabinet for 10 months?
Not at all, I just didn’t have the time. I was also interested in running a small government. And, by the way, in my last avatar also I worked with nine people for a long time.
You spoke about the HPCL refinery in your budget but nothing on the metro?
I don't want to talk about the metro. We are re-negotiating refinery. Our officers are working on this. We are thinking how to make it viable for the state. We are also looking for a consultant. Already three bids have come. So we will take it to a logical conclusion.
But you said it was a bad deal?
Because the land was ours, the money was ours - we were paying Rs 60,000 crore - and the oil was ours. We should have been the majority partner in the company. But we were getting only 25%. So don't you think it's a little skewed and against us?
The industry is very happy with the labour reforms but you have received flak for the Land Acquisition Bill.
You must please read the Bill, when you read the Bill you will understand. I have put it out in the public domain. If you can do something better, tell me, don't just criticise.
Any challenges in this year?
Financial. But there's no point telling people, they get bored. The debt has now crossed the one-lakh mark. It's Rs 1,30,000 crore - up from from Rs 72,000 crore where we left it.