‘Farm protests have no relevance in UP’: CM Yogi Adityanath
Uttar Pradesh, politically the most important state in the country (it sends 80 representatives to Parliament) goes to the polls next year in an election that will see a multitude of issues playing out – from the farm crisis to the law-and-order record in the region; from the economy to health; and from caste and religion to infrastructure. The state’s chief minister Yogi Adityanath spoke to Hindustan Times on all these and on his government’s achievements. Edited excerpts:
What were the reasons behind the recent (September 26) Cabinet expansion? Was it necessitated by caste considerations?
We had vacancies in our cabinet. We unfortunately lost three of our ministers — Chetan Chauhan, Kamal Rani Varun, Vijay Kashyap -- to the coronavirus pandemic. Apart from the loss of three ministers, we had four more vacancies from the past, and these too needed to be filled. We expanded our cabinet in August 2019 but could not expand further due to the raging Covid-19 pandemic. Now that the situation has relatively eased, we decided to expand even if only for the next five-six months before the elections. I believe that all communities should be represented in the cabinet for the all-round all-encompassing UP model of development I have showcased before the country and the world. I am pleased that in our cabinet all caste and communities are represented, and that it draws experience from ministers belonging to different sections of society.
You have spoken about your governance record but how does this fit into caste and religious considerations required for winning a UP election?
Our strategy is not caste equations; we have worked towards establishing a balance and equality within society. We have cut down segregation on the grounds of caste, religion, and ideology. We have gathered leaders from diverse backgrounds. Their diverse experience not only enriches the cabinet but also helps all-round development. Today if we are successful in UP it is because of guidance from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the result of teamwork of ministers with diverse backgrounds interacting with people’s representatives.
You have recently increased the price of sugarcane. Do you think it will help assuage the demands of the agitating farmers?
Our annadata farmers in UP have the capacity and the capability to feed the entire world. This issue was particular to UP as 21 sugar mills were shut down during the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) regime between 2007 and 2012, and 11 during the Samajwadi Party (SP) rule between 2012 and 2017. Sugar mills worth ₹250-300 crores were sold at deflated rates of ₹25 to 30 crores. Sugarcane was the cash crop of UP farmers but there was massive government corruption. The farmer was unhappy as he was not getting his dues. The situation got aggravated as the purchaser of defunct sugar mills chose to sell the machinery as scrap rather than invest more. This resulted in farmer suicides and starvation deaths in UP, and also in other states including Maharashtra and Karnataka between 2004 and 2014. We are beholden to PM Modi, who coined policies to help the farmers after he came to power.
Today, you don’t get to read reports about starvation deaths and farmer suicides, and this is particular to UP. The state government has given compensation to sugarcane farmers -- you should find out how much sugarcane famers were paid between 2007 and 2017, the figures will show you that we have compensated farmers more in our 4.5 years of rule than their compensation in the entire previous decade. We have paid ₹1.45 lakh crore in compensation and this also includes payments for sugarcane intake in the past decade.
We revived even the decrepit sugar mill in Ramala in Baghpat, the constituency of great farmer leader Chaudhary Charan Singh. The demand to revive Ramala sugar mill was being made for the past 30 years but no one paid heed. Farmers were fired upon and killed in Munderwa in Basti district in 2002 after the sugar mill there was sold. We established a new sugar mill in the same place. While the previous governments shut down the khandsari (sugar-cane molasses) industry, we not only revived it but also made it licence-free. We have also digitised the receipt-payment system, where the famer gets an SMS on his cell phone asking him to bring his crop to the mill. In the past 4.5 years, we have increased the price of sugarcane intake by ₹35 per quintal and the farmer is satisfied with the speed of compensation.
If the farmer is satisfied, then why is Rakesh Tikait of BKU agitating against the government?
This has no relevance to UP. This agitation is also no longer a farmers’ movement but has political objectives. This movement has nothing to do with genuine farmers. It is merely about accusations and counteraccusations. Everyone is allowed to put across his or her viewpoint in democracy and this right cannot be curtailed. But the moot point is that these agitators will not listen to all the assurances given the central government. They don’t want to listen to a common farmer or courts but want to lend a shoulder for vested interest to fire from. It is a matter of concern.
There has been appreciation of UP’s law and order record under your government but there is also some criticism that the number of police encounters have increased. What is your response to this?
The police are not “encountering” innocent persons. But if someone will fire at the police, then the latter is not deployed to get killed. The police jawan is a symbol of security all over the country, and no one has the right to fire on him or her. Self-defence is and should be allowed and UP Police also has this right.
How much improvement do you see in the law-and-order situation in the state in the past 4.5 years?
I review law-and-order daily, and match the figures given with the (sentiments of the) public I meet every day at my residence. It is through this that I get to know what the common man feels about the police. The mothers and daughters of UP and the farmers who were afraid to venture out in dark in the past as there was no electricity no longer live under fear. In the past, the famer could not leave his motor pump in the fields lest it be stolen apart from getting waylaid on rural roads and end up losing both his bullocks and the cart. Today he is assured that no one dare touch these. He is sure that his school-going daughter will not be harassed but will return safely from school. If any lady has gone out shopping or meeting relatives, she is assured of safety even in the night. Professional criminals who struck fear in the hearts of people are now themselves going to police to surrender. They have decided that they will work to eke out a living rather than resort to crime. This matches the perception of common people coming to meet me. National Crime Records Bureau data shows figures but does not count the fact that UP has perhaps twice the population of any other state in the country. So if you analyse criminal cases per million (population), you will realise that UP has performed better than others.
The number of large specialty hospitals in the state including AIIMS has increased, and health data, especially Covid, shows UP doing well. But there are still instances such as recent viral fever in Firozabad that seem to overwhelm the health care system and killed 60 people in a short time. Why does this happen time and again?
Despite gaining independence 75 years ago, we haven’t been able to understand the importance of urban planning. We have 556 urban bodies, and not one of these bodies had a permanent urban town planner when we came to power. There was no master plan, and officials were performing duties perfunctorily. This dysfunctional set-up that existed without any future planning has resulted in such incidents like in Firozabad. With the urban bodies existing only on paper, day to day functioning in these burgeoning towns has been severely hit either in the form of massive traffic jams or local outbreaks of diseases. The way Firozabad has been planned, or should I say not planned, is that there is hardly any rainwater drainage because of which water gets collected and leads to dengue infections.
Residential and industrial areas are together in Firozabad due to non-existent planning. The poor storage of chemicals used for glass industry in Firozabad has provided impetus to the dengue infection. The dengue strain in Firozabad is particularly virulent compared to other places. I had to go to Firozabad myself on Janamashtami to supervise the fight against dengue. I found that those who were treated in government medical college and hospitals were getting cured as there was availability of blood platelets. But there was concern about those being treated in private clinics as there was no availability of blood platelets. We have now made Firozabad a municipal council so that proper drainage is provided. We today have increased the number of urban bodies to 700 from 556; 17 municipal councils have been established, up from 14; and all these MCs have been put under the smart cities mission.
According to latest data from RBI and MOSPI, UP’s per capita income has grown at a compounded rate around 3% over the past few years. If we go by your projections of achieving national level per capita income in the next five years, then it will require double digit growth. How will you achieve this?
Our growth was between 8-9% before 2020. Our growth was inhibited by the Covid-19 pandemic but it will now increase. Let me tell you we were confident that we will take the state growth to double digits, and we had made all efforts and plans in that direction. The infrastructure was developed keeping that in mind. We came up with “one district one product” to push our MSME sector with the new Vishwakarma scheme for skilling manpower. The pandemic acted as a speed-breaker to our plans but we are confident. We are working towards making UP a trillion-dollar economy as the state economy has nearly doubled as compared to the past.
It is in this context that we increased the UP budget from a mere ₹2 lakh crore to ₹6 lakh crore now. This tripling of budget will circulate the money, giving impetus to economic activity through infrastructure development and urbanisation. We have taken banks to the villages with nearly 45,000 rural banking outlets. With full support of PM Modi, we are speeding ahead and have another five years’ time.
Time? The state elections are up ahead?
I am totally confident about coming back. I understand the political dynamics of UP very well, as I have been in active state politics for the past 23 years. I am confident about the political understanding and maturity of UP electorate.
There have been announcements of investments by businesses, Indian and foreign, but there is still not much to show on ground. When will these announced investments begin to have an impact?
I don’t agree. We did the first UP investor summit in 2018 and we signed MoUs worth ₹4.68 lakh crores. We have been able to translate more than ₹3 lakh crore of that into investment on the ground. We did two groundbreaking ceremonies, with PM Modi present in one function and home minister Amit Shah present in the other. For example, in Braj region, known for its potato crop, Pepsico has established a ₹850 crore project in Mathura. This unit will not only generate employment for 2,500 people but also process 1.5 million tonne of potato every year and generate wealth for local farmers. A similar project is coming up in Aligarh, and we worked on this new industry despite the raging pandemic. We have put up the country’s first display unit in Noida and the state is rapidly developing as the new data centre of the country. During the pandemic, we got ₹66,000 crore of investment – not a small achievement. This investment has directly or indirectly created jobs for 10.61 million young people. We have linked 60,000 young people with self-employment schemes. So, it is not correct to say that investments are not reflected on ground.
What about infrastructure?
This is part of our development model. From 1947 to 2017, there were only two expressways in UP. Presently, we are close to completing the Poorvanchal expressway; the Bundelkhand expressway will be completed by November: we have acquired 96% of the land required for the Ganga expressway; the Gorakhpur link expressway is work-in-progress; and we have approved the Balia link expressway.
The Meerut-Delhi 12-lane expressway was completed during our tenure. Beyond expressways, we have gone for metro rail; there was no such facility functioning before 2017. Today we have metros in four cities, Lucknow, Noida, Greater Noida, and Ghaziabad. Kanpur is to get the facility by the year-end and work in Agra is progressing fast. Project reports for metros in Gorakhpur, Prayagraj, Varanasi and Meerut have been submitted. The Delhi-Meerut Rapid Rail project is also in full flow. Besides this, there have been huge reforms in power, water ways, and air connectivity. In 2017, only the Lucknow and Varanasi airports were functional. Today, there are eight airports functional in the state and five new international airports are coming up.
There is always some communal tension before elections in UP. How will you keep communal harmony this time?
Today everyone in UP is feeling secure. People are getting benefit of government policies without any bias. Any conspiracy to stoke up tension in the society or to protect rioters will be tolerated neither by the public nor by my government. UP today is not willing to accept any kind of anarchy. The public wants to build on peace and security of the past 4.5 years.
You are confident about coming back. What are your plans for the future?
We have given a model of security, good governance and development. This model has been praised by the people of the state. And this is the model that will take the state to glory.
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