Uma roots for cows
Three months into her new role as Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Uma Bharti has no time for herself or family. In between celebrating Women’s Day with the prime minister and official meetings during a day-long visit to Delhi, she spoke toSoni Sangwanabout her plans for her state. Excerpts from the interview:
You’ve already courted controversy with your cow-related schemes. What is this cow task force that you are talking about?
I am not talking about the cow as a religious icon but as an economic icon. There is a huge irony here. If I keep dogs, I am hailed as a progressive and am featured with my dogs in the papers. But when I talk about the cow, I am labelled a regressive. All I am talking about is a scheme through which we utilise our own resources to generate incomes.
Our rural economy is cow-based. Cattle give food through milk, fuel through cow-dung and physical assistance by helping plough the fields. I want to replicate the Anand experience in Madhya Pradesh and give self-dependence to our rural women.
What is your mantra for progress in Madhya Pradesh?
We have five resources that can give us immense strength: jan, jameen, jal, jangal and janwar (people, land, water, forests and animals). All these together can help get MP back on track. We have a population of over 6 crore which is largely law-abiding. We are the No. 3 state in mineral resources and milk animals population. Our forests have more herbs than the Himalayas. And most of these forests are along the Narmada, from where we can get water. In terms of agriculture, we grow everything — cotton, bananas, oranges, sugarcane, ginger, paan, flowers, opium.
You won the election on the development issue. What are you doing on these fronts?
I have taken on the task of improving roads as a personal challenge. By June 15, I promise that the road between Bhopal and Sagar will be ready. During my campaign, everyone was talking about this road. The distance should be covered in four hours, but it used to take nine hours. In fact, in two years, all roads in MP will be such that it will take two hours to travel 100 km. Right now it takes about four hours to do that. My dream project is a Swarn Mala four-lane highway linking Bhopal to all major cities. Bhopal will be accessible to all parts of MP within a 12-hour road journey.
What about the power situation?
It is exam time now and I have instructed that during the early part of the day, there should be no power cuts at exam centres. In the past three months, MP Power Board officials have been standing on the roads and ensuring that transmission and distribution are improved. We have replaced 11,000 transformers. My efforts are now on ensuring that the Indira Sagar Dam, the Maheshwar project and the Onkareshwar project are completed on schedule. If everything happens according to plan, we will have surplus power in three years.