Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis completes 100 days in the top job of the state on Saturday. In an interview with HT, he spoke of the Centre backing Mumbai for completing big projects and why it has been tough to turn around the work culture in the state secretariat.
You will complete 100 days as the CM on Saturday. How has the ride been so far?
It’s been a very tough job. When I took over, 20,000 out of the 40,000 villages were facing drought. But, also 15 years of the Congress-NCP misrule had left all institutions weakened. When there is a decision deficit and policy paralysis, a state loses out on its time and the work culture gets affected. We are trying to change that. By taking decisions, I think we have tried to win the confidence of industry and people and have sent a signal to the bureaucracy.
Make in India, drought-free Maharashtra, Mumbai Next... all big decisions in 100 days. Critics question whether you can deliver on any of this in your tenure.
It’s possible. Hundred days is too little for anyone to judge us. Judge us by our intent. And, our intent is very clear. We want development with transparency. The previous government kept development plan files pending. How can you achieve development without clearing plans? I cleared 25 plans in the last three months. Approvals have been brought down by 25%. We aspire big, but nothing can be achieved without dreaming big.
The state exchequer is in a poor state. How do you plan to finance the big projects?
I am not worried about financing big infra projects. I believe if you have clean projects with clear planning and statutory approvals, financing is easy. The Centre is ready to partner. In this budget, you will see enhanced public spending and Mumbai will be one of the top beneficiaries. After PM’s visit to Japan and China, several credit agencies are opening up to us and they have low interest rates. The challenge will be of smaller infrastructure projects to change the eco system. We need Rs 12,000 crore to Rs 20,000 crore for this. We are looking to leverage additional resources such as linking FSI with the 2015 ready reckoner, instead of 2008. Why should FSI premium be frozen to 2008? Also, by reviewing decisions of the earlier government, we have managed to get Rs 5,000-7,000 crore. The last option may be to borrow, but if we have to ensure it is put to the best possible use.
You are running a coalition government where you are faced with an ally, who is also your biggest competitor. There are seniors in your Cabinet who are not too happy with you.
So far, I have not experienced a problem. They [Sena] can have a different opinion, but there is nothing we cannot sit together and resolve. As far as reports about discontent within the BJP and my ministers are concerned, it is manufactured news. I have 100% co-operation from my ministers and colleagues.
Will BJP’s Maharashtra dream be achieved at the cost of environment and work force? You have scrapped the river regulation zone policy and plan to introduce labour reforms.
Absolutely not. The river regulation zone policy that was scrapped by us was ultra vires policy as per the law and judiciary department. Why should a zero discharge industry not be allowed to operate within 2km of a river bank? We cancelled it because the legal opinion was that it is unconstitutional. But we are following the national guidelines, including the location policy to curb river pollution. There are 4 stages of clearance for this, including environment impact assessment. As far as labour reforms go, we have decided to stick to those which had been cleared by the previous government. These will create more employment and give industry greater flexibility and will be in favour of the workforce.