In an interview, Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis told the Organiser that his earlier lack of direct administrative experience did not hamper him at all. Instead, the bureaucracy was happy after he took over since it was convinced of the sincere motives of his government and was glad to come out of a depressing period of the previous Democratic Front (DF) regime when developmental activities were at almost a standstill.
What are your principal achievements over the two years?
We had a tough time combating the drought situation all over the state. Supplying drinking water to people and cattle was our first priority. As irrigation development was almost nil in the previous 15 years, my government decided to give topmost priority to making Maharashtra self-reliant as far as water was concerned so that neither people nor cattle or agriculture and industry would have to suffer as ever. I am thankful to the nature that it showered its bounty on Maharashtra this monsoon. But this has not made us complacent. We have decided to free villages and agriculture permanently from water shortages through My government’s ‘Jalyukt Shivar’
The programme (Farms have Water) has enjoyed phenomenal success. It has been hailed by the beneficiaries, the experts, officers and the media. About 4000 villages have become self-reliant for water so far and our target is to extend the programme to another 16000 villages. By the time the next Assembly election approaches Maharashtra, you will have witnessed a fantastic change in the countryside. Overall, 20000 villages will be flaunting the achievements of the Jalyukt Shivar programme. ‘The poor, the villager and the farmer’, is our focus. We have spent nearly Rs 4200 crore to extend assistance to farmers in a year’s time against the total expenditure of Rs 4700 crore by the DF government over a period of 15 years.
Education has remained a sensitive issue for years all over Bharat. What are your government’s plans to make it meaningful?
Maharashtra was at the 16th place during the DF’s rule. We have been working tirelessly to change this picture. I am happy to say that we have been brought Maharashtra to the third position among all the states in the country. Over 16 lakh students have been benefited since nearly 18000 schools have made impressive progress in their overall performance. More than 25000 schools have ben turned digital while 1833 schools have obtained ISO certification. I think this is a remarkable achievement and I wish to congratulate all those working for this objective. Another important factor is that we have reduced the drop-out rate to about 1.33 per cent from the previous 1.92 per cent. However, our most path-breaking decision is to increase the EBC bar to Rs 6 lakh annually. This will cover a large number of students, especially those in rural areas and from lower income groups.
Employment generation is a major concern, especially since the manufacturing sector has shrunk in Maharashtra for a variety of reasons. What steps are you taking to remedy the serious situation?
I agree that we need to work a lot on this front. But we have not remained inactive. We have made crucial changes in the State Apprenticeship Act, whereby we will provide employment to about one lakh youths. We have created a separate Skill Training and Entrepreneurship department. Funds have been provided to various districts to conduct the activities accordingly. We have entered into agreements with 22 major companies to provide technical training to over eight lakh youths. Virtual classrooms have been opened in 32 Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and this number will soon cross 100. Thus students in Chandrapur and in Mumbai will receive the same quality training simultaneously. Over three lakh women will be trained through the UNDP.
You time and again speak of village development. How do you propose to proceed in this connection?
Besides agricultural reforms and irrigation development, we are rapidly progressing on the Smart Village concept. Nagpur district has been fully digitalised and we shall be using this experience in other districts. CISCO has offered to launch digital intervention in this regard. Such efforts will result in bringing urban and rural areas at par in this age of information technology. Sabir Bhatia, the inventor of Hotmail, has indicated that he would be happy to help us in establishing censor-based agricultural connectivity. By March 2018, we plan to extend this connectivity to 29000 Gram Panchayat Schools and Primary Health Centres. Once this connectivity is active, an expert doctor will be able to advise a patient in a remote corner about the line of treatment and medicines to be consumed. Another benefit will be that the government will be able to obtain feedback from rural areas directly. Owing to this enabling network, the farmer will become the aggregator. Initially, we have covered about 1000 Gram Panchayats.
Your announcements about infra structure development are described as grandiose by some of your opponents. How would you react to this charge?
I am aware of such criticism but my work will be the effective answer to their negative mindset. The 800-km Nagpur-Mumbai Prosperity Corridor will take Maharashtra 20 years ahead on the scale of development once it is completed. It will integrate 24 districts with Mumbai along the way. A car journey between Mumbai and Nagpur will take just eight hours. Because of our emphasis on port connectivity, only about 16 hours will be needed for the people of these regions to take their produce to the Jawaharlal Nehru Port. With all these steps, it will become the first Communication Expressway of Bharat. The pipelines will supply petroleum products and gas for industrial development in these districts. It will give a boost to the State’s rural economy. We estimate the project cost to be around Rs 34000 crore. Financial tie-ups have started taking shape. We will raise funding from the Asian Bank of Development, the State Bank of India, Korea and other sources. Almost 82 percent of the land required for this project is dry-land. Thus, inconveniencing farmers will not happen.
I am confident that a dramatic change will be visible in Maharashtra within just two years owing to the National and State mega projects we are implementing.
You have declared in the past that your government will improve the quality of life in the Mumbai Metropolitan region. Have you made any progress so far?
A vast Metro network in Mumbai is the State Government’s priority. The DF Government managed to build just 10 km of Metro rail in eight years, with great difficulty. On the other hand, we have initiated projects covering over 100 km in the last two years and have obtained approvals for up to 150 km. According to experts, Mumbai and its neighbourhood need 172 km length of Metro, which will be able to carry 80 lakh commuters a day. This can be compared with the 70 lakh daily commuters on the suburban railway network. Thus, Mumbai and the Metropolitan Region will have another lifeline, covering areas up to Bhiwandi, Kalyan and Virar. We also plan to integrate all suburban transport systems – trains, Monorail, Metro and BEST buses – by bringing them under a single ticket system within the next three to four months.
How do you look at Maharashtra by October 2019 when the present Assembly’s term expires?
I can foresee a prosperous Maharashtra in 2019. Its farmers, students and people in general will be in a much better condition than they were when we took over in 2014. I am dedicated to the development of every person in this state and have been working towards this objective.