‘Money grows if invested in Gujarat’, says CM Vijay Rupani
Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani spoke to Smriti Kak Ramachandran about key schemes during his term, challenges such as malnutrition, and the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests in Delhi and other states. Edited excerpts:
You have been in office since 2017. What are your government’s accomplishments?
Unemployment in Gujarat is the lowest compared to other states — while our unemployment rate is about 4.1%, in other states it is as high as 18-20%. Gujarat has the most number of start-ups; FDI has doubled as compared to last year. Our water management techniques have been appreciated. ~1,275 crore has been allotted to students of non-reserved category under Mukhyamantri Yuva Swavlamban Yojana, which has benefitted over a lakh people.
A zero-tolerance policy for corruption has been adopted, and Gujarat is the least corrupt state in India, according to the India Corruption Survey 2019.
Investment projects over ~1.09 lakh crore have been set-up in Gujarat out of the total projects worth ~5.47 lakh crore across the country in the last 3 years; 66% of total MoUs signed during last three Vibrant Gujarat summits have been implemented. There is an environment here that gives confidence to the investors that if you invest in Gujarat, the money will grow.
What did Gujarat do to bring down unemployment?
In the last three years, we created more than 1.5 lakh government jobs. Every year, about 12 lakh private-sector jobs were created... Our employment department has conducted over 700 melas (job fairs) ... it is not only people from Gujarat who have benefited, people from other states are also coming to Gujarat to find employment.
There are still concerns about the roll-out of GST. States such as Punjab and West Bengal have said pending GST compensation has created a financial crisis.
Now it has all been settled. When VAT was implemented, there were practical difficulties, but with time these issues are resolved. The Union government had for five years fixed a composite amount, it said if collection is below a certain amount, the Centre will pay, which is what they are doing, but there is some issue with timely payments.
During 2017 assembly polls, two groups seemed visibly upset- farmers and manufacturers. Have you been able to address their concerns?
Our policies for MSMEs have made it easy for them to set up businesses. We have 32 lakh manufacturing units in the MSME sector, and we realised that if one unit employs 20 people, it leads to many jobs. So we drafted a policy so they will not need multiple permissions to set up businesses. They can now first start their enterprise and then get the requisite permissions within three years. We follow a policy of ‘pehle production, phir permission’ (production first, permission later). We made it easy for them to get loans.
For farmers, irrigation was a main concern; we have addressed that issue. We started the process of desalination and eight new such projects will be up and running in two years.
We have also been providing MSP for crops. The work to double their income is underway, Narmada water has been taken to over 600km; there is power also.
Doesn’t malnutrition in children remain an outstanding issue?
There are one lakh severely malnourished kids in the state, and we need to reverse that in a year. So we’ve started a campaign, where one lakh individuals, including me, will take on the responsibility of looking after these kids for a year. We have also formed a trinity of AAA: Asha worker, Aanganwadi worker and ANM workers who will be incentivised for reversing the malnutrition trend.
The Patidar movement peaked ahead of the elections. There are local body elections by year-end, will we see a repeat of that mobilisation?
That has now ended. Most of those leaders are exposed, Hardik Patel joined the Congress and the party’s designs became known. Now, there is a better environment, and we will win with good numbers.
You were in Delhi to campaign for the party, which has been accused of using anti-CAA protests to polarise the electorate.
In Gujarat, there is no response; people have been supporting CAA. Concerns about NPR are unfounded... We are not asking for records of parents date or place of birth; whatever the Centre decides and states support, will be done. But the tukde-tukde gang is spreading misinformation and stoking fears among Muslims.
In Delhi, the BJP has been accused of polarising; but it is the Congress and the AAP who are supporting what’s happening in Shaheen Bagh. Anti-CAA protests are actually opposition to Prime Minister Modi; this is a front against him.