Chief minister Yogi Adityanath on governance and growth in Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath has taken a vow to crack down on unlawful religious conversions through a law popularly known as the ‘Love Jihad law’. He went ahead with this ‘Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion Bill 2020’ following an emphatic win in state bypolls in which the divided anti-BJP forces suffered a setback. He spoke to Open about his government’s priorities and schemes for the poor, disadvantaged and those affected by Covid-19. “We recently launched Mission Rozgar, a programme which aims to provide jobs to at least 50 lakh youth till March 2021,” the chief minister says. His government has kicked off new policing measures to offer safety to women as well as policies to empower them. The 48-year-old monk politician, who had campaigned tirelessly in the Bihar polls, spoke on a range of subjects, including UP’s infrastructure, tourism, skilling, health care, his rivals and the Ayodhya temple construction. “We also aim to develop Ayodhya as a solar city,” the chief minister says. Excerpts:
What is your government doing to ensure women’s safety and gender equality in all public spheres?
The government of UP is committed to the safety and security and development of all mothers and sisters. This is our commitment and promise.
We have launched the Mission Shakti initiative for the safety, dignity and empowerment of women. Under the initiative, we have not only set up 1,535 women help desks at police stations across the state and launched women patrols, but also ensured their safety at the workplace.
Nodal women officers in different districts interact through webinars with different sections of society and ensured that each workplace must have an internal committee to enquire into cases of sexual harassment. Women and girls were also educated about the same. The campaign is aimed at spreading awareness among women and girls about steps being taken by the state government for their safety. We will be setting up secret glassroom in police stations across the state which would help women complainants speak freely to women police personnel. We have also co-opted the Green Gang (a large group of women volunteers fighting patriarchy across the state) in Mission Shakti.
The Green Gang is a group of women volunteers that is known for its work with villagers in Varanasi, Sonbhadra, Mirzapur, Jaunpur, Chandauli and Ayodhya districts for de-addiction, against domestic violence and against gambling.
What about the farmers?
Farmers’ welfare and the growth of the agriculture sector in the state are my government’s top priorities. During the lockdown, procurement of agricultural produce was carried out directly from their homes and we made sure that shops selling seeds and other farming items remained open. As the Rabi crop in UP got ready for harvesting amid the lockdown, the state government set up 9,000 procurement centres to help farmers sell their produce and these centres functioned successfully adhering to all precautions. These centres procured 36 lakh metric tonnes of wheat. In the next four years, the state government has also decided to build over 5,000 godowns at the grassroot level to store farm produce.
Even during the corona pandemic, when all the industries were facing closure, the sugar mills of the state continued crushing operations. It was the commitment of the government for safeguarding the interest of farmers, that the supply of their sugarcane remains uninterrupted during the lockdown period. Though the sugar sale remained negligible during the lockdown, but in spite of that, cane price payment of Rs 5,953 crore was made to farmers in this period
Soil health cards were provided to crores of farmers by the state government. Thousands of farmers have been provided 40 to 90 per cent subsidy through a custom hiring centre for purchasing agricultural machinery — this amount has been transferred directly to the farmers’ bank accounts.
It is noteworthy that through “The Million Farmers’ Schools” scheme, farmers have been given training in improved farming at the Nyaya Panchayat level. Fourteen new Krishi Vigyan Kendras have been established in the state. Six new science centres are proposed. The minimum support price, which was a far-fetched dream during previous governments, has been implemented and farmers have been given benefits at the grassroot level for pulses and oilseeds along with wheat and paddy. Under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi, Rs 12,000 have been sent directly to the accounts of farmers. Farmers’ loans worth Rs 36,000 crore have been waived.
The government paid two-month pension in advance to as many as 86,71,781 beneficiaries under the scheme of old age pension, destitute pension, Divyang pension and pension for lepers. In the month of June, pension was also paid under PM Poor Welfare Scheme Package. As many as 35,818 gram sewaks were paid a total of Rs 225.39 crore during the lockdown.
We recently launched Mission Rozgar, a programme which aims to provide jobs to at least 50 lakh youth till March 2021
What are your plans to redevelop Ayodhya?
We are working on a plan to develop Ayodhya as a big centre of tourist, economic and religious activity. We also aim to develop Ayodhya as a solar city in order to ensure a clean and green environment there. Ayodhya is known worldwide as the land of Lord Ram and has an immense mythological significance. Therefore, all the development works in the town will be executed keeping its ancient culture and mythological significance intact. All ghats (paved riverbanks) of Ayodhya will be conserved and beautified.
The upcoming multi-level parking will come up in a manner so that it can be commercialized. We will make two bus stations in Ayodhya, and develop the ‘Panchkosi’, ‘Chaudahkosi’, and ‘Chaurasikosi’ parikramas (circumambulations) around Ayodhya (so that they remain) hindrance-free. We will widen all roads in Ayodhya on a priority basis. The Ram-Janaki path will be built. Increased footfall of tourists and pilgrims would lead to employment opportunities for local people. The town will have a proper and adequate drainage system. We are speeding up the airport construction project in Ayodhya as well. Development work is fast-tracked and funding will not be an issue. The tourism department has undertaken development works worth Rs 258.12 crore. The department would also send a proposal to the central government for Rs 200 crore for theme-based gates, development of parikrama roads, construction of tourist facilities, parking, and food court.
How do you plan to enhance tourism over the next few years?
We are one of the historically rich places and recently, we have become the most visited state across the country. The state was visited by over 53 crore Indian tourists in 2019, whereas, more than 47 lakh foreigners also landed at Uttar Pradesh’s airports. UP witnessed the third-highest number of footfalls in terms of foreign visitors in India in 2019. The ghats of Benaras and the Ganga Aarti on the banks of the holy river are popular with both domestic and international tourists. I earlier mentioned about everything around Ayodhya development. We have also implemented a 360-degree marketing and branding campaign strategy to attract more visitors. Moreover, we also enjoy a formidable social media presence. We have further organized and taken part in numerous roadshows to highlight the offerings of our state. We are also inviting interest from top hoteliers from the country to develop more hotels.
However, amidst the pandemic things have taken a different course and therefore, we are developing a policy for the safe return of tourists. We are further promoting “Go Vocal For Local” and “Dekho Apna Desh” initiatives which our honorable prime minister Narendra Modi is quite passionate about.
Tell us about your key achievements as chief minister of India’s most populous state.
When I became chief minister in 2017, my biggest challenge was to end the prevailing anarchy and Goonda Raj in Uttar Pradesh and revive people’s faith in law and order.
I was guided by this verse from the Gita: “Paritranaay Sadhunaam, Vinashaya Cha Dushkritam, Dharma sansthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge” (for the uplift of the good and virtuous, for the destruction of evil, for the re-establishment of the natural law, I will come, in every age).We started working towards establishing the rule of law so that the people could live well. The change in environment could bring in investors who could help usher in another industrial revolution in the state, eventually propelling Uttar Pradesh to a $1 trillion economy.
The first step we took was to tighten the noose on illegal mining, land mafia and shut down the unauthorised slaughterhouses polluting our rivers and environment. Unfortunately, we inherited a helpless police force. The places that should have been “safe zones” were the “safari zones” of criminals. Our government tried hard to bring the law and order back on track. As a result, today either the criminals are fleeing the state or are in prison. For better policing, new police stations and new check posts were established in the state and 1.37 lakh police personnel were recruited. The police commissioner system was implemented in Lucknow and Gautam Budh Nagar. We adopted a policy of zero tolerance towards crime and corruption, which ensured an immensely improved policing system. Therefore, crime figures have dropped to a considerable extent. While dacoity cases decreased by 59.70per cent in 2019 as compared to 2016, there was a decrease of 47.09per cent in murder cases in the same period.
What are the other tangible benefits of these steps?
Due to effective measures taken by the administration and the police, no incident of violence was reported at the time of the order for the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir and at the time of the verdict on Sri Ram Janmabhoomi dispute in Ayodhya. In opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act, some anti-social elements unsuccessfully tried to disturb law and order but this too was effectively controlled. As an exemplary measure and to send a stern message to anti-social elements, the cost of damages caused to the public property is being recovered from them. This effort of the UP government received widespread support and popularity throughout the country. The Punjab and Haryana High Court appreciated the measures and said that stringent law should be enforced in other states against criminals on the lines of UP.
Again, we had inherited a recruitment system which was corruption-laden and many cases were filed in court. While it was a challenge, we have been able to create a very transparent system for recruitment where we have already hired more than 3 lakh employees without any controversy.
Any major scheme for farmers and also in the healthcare sector?
The Uttar Pradesh government has constantly reinforced its commitment to prioritise farmers’ welfare and the growth of the agriculture sector by ensuring pro-farmer measures whether it is waiving off farmers’ debt worth Rs 36,000 crore or ensuring procurement of their crops nationwide. In the previous government, farmers suffered extreme hardship. Our priority was to make things work for the farmers. A system has been created now to resolve the problems related to payments of sugarcane farmers that were in cold storage since 2010-11. Over 47 lakh sugarcane farmers in Uttar Pradesh have been paid a record cane price payment of more than Rs 1,08,000 crore between 2017 and 2020. This cane price payment is far more than the cane price payment paid during the five-year tenure of the previous government from 2012-2017.
Now, health is a priority sector for us. We have planned 15 new medical colleges in the state. We have also received approval from the central government for creation of another 13 medical colleges. UP will soon get the services of 28 medical colleges. Besides, two AIIMS centers are coming up in Gorakhpur and Rae Bareli.
It is the result of the improvement of health services and the activities under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan that the number of Japanese Encephalitis patients has decreased by 56per cent and the number of deaths by 90per cent. We have successfully managed to contain COVID-19. The Covid management efforts of the Uttar Pradesh government received international recognition in the form of praise by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The global health body has applauded our Government for its COVID-19 management strategy. Our work also earned appreciation from the Prime Minister and Niti Ayog.
In the previous government, the goons could commit crimes and intimidate the police as they were backed by politicians. Our government has ‘zero tolerance’ for criminals
Have you taken stock of the performance of your Team-11 of bureaucrats?
We have set up Team-11 comprising 11 senior officers to review the measures taken by the government in management of Covid-19 pandemic. Each officer is given a specific task to carry out in coordination with other officers and a daily meeting takes place. The formation of Team 11 had prompted the Government of India to form such a team to manage various arrangements required for the management of Covid-19.
What are your plans to address infrastructural issues in the state?
We organised the “Divya Kumbha, Bhavya Kumbha” (Kumbh Mela) event, which brought us global recognition for its immaculate execution. We allocated Rs 4,300 crore for creating the infrastructure necessary to conduct the Prayagraj Kumbh in 2019. The Niti Aayog officials complimented over several factors — electricity, water and sanitation facilities, public accommodation, convenience shops, food courts, vending zones, banks, ATMs, transport facilities and health centres established in the mela area. The Indian Inland Waterways Authority set up five jetties in the Mela area which facilitated the operation of large cruises and motorboats in the Ganga and Yamuna rivers in Prayagraj for the first time.
We have set the target of making Uttar Pradesh a $1 trillion economy and are constantly working on it. The Investors’ Summit brought global investment and infrastructure developmentto UP without creating a regional imbalance. Projects worth almost Rs 2.25 lakh crore have been grounded out of projects worth more than Rs 4.50 lakh crore identified during the Summit. Underdeveloped regions were given infrastructure development projects such as the Purvanchal Expressway (340.82 km), Bundelkhand Expressway (296.070 km) and Ganga Expressway (596.00 km).
It is noteworthy that before 2017, only two cities in the state were connected to the air grid. Our government has added seven cities to the air grid in the past three years and is working on building 12 new airports.
The Jewar International Airport is a boon to the state and will act as a catalyst in transforming the fortunes of NCR. It will not only provide enough scope of jobs and employment to millions of people but will also give global recognition to UP. The work to initiate construction of the metro is in progress in cities like Kanpur and Agra after its successful launch in the state capital. The first waterway in the country has been set up connecting Haldia in West Bengal with Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. Ten cities have been identified in the smart city project by the Centre and the state government has identified another seven cities, which will be developed as smart cities.
Uttar Pradesh Defence Industrial Corridor (UPDIC) is another project that intends to reduce foreign dependency of Indian Aerospace and Defence Sector. It took off to an encouraging start with the announcement of investments worth over Rs 3700 crore in Defence production at the meet organised at Aligarh on August 11, 2018. The Uttar Pradesh Expressways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA) was made the nodal agency to execute this project in collaboration with various other state agencies. The state also intends to establish Common Facility Centres (CFC), Centres of Excellence (CoE) and Skill Development Centres to facilitate in providing best practices, research and development and skill development.
The envisaged corridor not only targets the setting up of manufacturing hubs but also aims at generating employment opportunities to cater to the most populous state in the country. The project will generate more than 33 lakh direct and indirect employment opportunities. In order to speed up the pace of industrialisation in the state, the government is going to organise the UP Global Investors Summit. Today, UP is the first choice of big entrepreneurs for investment and ranks second nationally when it comes to ‘Ease of Doing Business’.
We are also focused on highlighting the art and culture of the state. Uttar Pradesh government was the first state of India to launch the concept of “One District One Product” on UP Diwas: (24th January) in 2018 which is now being implemented by the central government. The aim was to encourage indigenous and specialised local products such as carpets from Bhadohi, perfumes from Kannauj or Kalanamak rice of Siddharthnagar district, etc.
The ODOP scheme so far has helped the state to raise its exports by about 30per cent and has also helped it in becoming the third-highest exporter among all states. Furthermore, the export of Bhadohi carpets has doubled from Rs 4,000 crore to Rs 8,000 crore. Industries like handicrafts, food-processing, carpets, garments etc have also earned more foreign exchange.
I believe that a society can move on the path of development only through education. To realise the full potential of our youth, we freed education from the clutches of cheating mafias. Through ‘Operation Kayakalp’, basic facilities like boundary wall, toilets, drinking water, electrification are being done in more than 92,000 primary schools. As many as 45,383 teachers have been recruited and the recruitment of 69,0000 teachers is being completed. Similarly, 55 new government inter colleges have also been approved in secondary education. Not only this, the process to set up Atal Residential Schools have been expedited in every Circle Headquarters in order to spread the light of knowledge in the lives of children of labourers and deprived.
Women battalions of PAC (Provincial Armed Constabulary) are being established in Lucknow, Badaun and Gorakhpur. A “Pink Bus Service” has been started. In these buses, security personnel along with women conductors are being deployed and CCTV cameras are installed. Unnecessary government holidays were scrapped and victims of ‘triple talaq’ were given due respect and necessary government help. The call for “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwas” was made a ground reality by bringing changes in the madrasa education system, bringing minority students to the mainstream of the society.
With the support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we have tactfully and successfully managed to contain the virus in UP. The cases are at minimum right now
Tell us more about skilling schemes.
It is a matter of personal satisfaction for me that in these three years, UP has reached the top in the country in many areas. UP became the first state to implement a skill development policy and a health policy and to declare human-wildlife conflict a disaster. It also secured the first place in the country by winning the top award for making the most purchases under e-market (GeM), a tool for transparent procurement by the state.
It also secured nine awards in Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, seven in MNREGA, two in National Urban Renewal Mission, one each in Livelihood Mission, Gram Swaraj Abhiyan and NIRDP. Within three years, the maternal mortality rate declined by 30 percent. The state received the highest award for Nutrition Month. Fourteen bodies of the state were honoured in the cleanliness survey and received the Krishi Karman Award for highest oilseed production. Uttar Pradesh has been the differentiator in 2019, completing 4.30 lakh houses, the highest for the country, under the Modi government’s affordable housing programme for the urban poor.
The state also ranks first in milk, sugar, sugarcane and food production. It is also the leader in the establishment and operation of the most medical institutions in the country. These awards encourage us to innovate constantly. Because of these, the state is gaining the identity of a developed state and is coming out of the Bimaru tag.
We are committed to the welfare of all, including the village, the poor, farmers, women, labourers, and youth. For the inclusive development of UP, we have presented a budget of over Rs 5 lakh crore, the biggest budget in the history of the state. In this historic budget dedicated to youth, schemes like the Chief Minister’s Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme and Youth Entrepreneurship Development Campaign (YUVA) were announced which will prove to be milestones in the field of self-employment and self-reliance. Also, our recently launched ‘Mission Shakti’ initiative will further ensure safety and empowerment of women.
We recently launched Mission Rozgar, a programme which aims to provide jobs to at least 50 lakh youth till March 2021. The scheme will be targeted at largely those who lost their jobs during the Covid-19 economic slowdown.
I am confident that the remaining term of our government will prove to be milestones in the direction of progress, public welfare and democracy. We have tried to change the perception of Uttar Pradesh in our term so far. The state was waiting for recognition in the country and also in the world and we have tried to reinstate the recognition of the state to a large extent.
While your government has taken several steps to ensure better law and order, some of your political detractors, including Rahul Gandhi, have attacked you for reportedly letting police commit excesses. How do you respond?
We are committed to ensuring law and order in the state. The previous governments who allowed ‘Goonda Raj’ are the ones spreading rumours to manipulate the public. But the people of the state are aware of the reality.
In the previous government, the goons could be seen committing crimes like gun firing, intimidating police openly and committing crime fearlessly as they were backed by politicians. Our government has ‘zero tolerance’ for criminals. We have full faith in our police and have given them freedom to take actions and decisions without any political interference.
How do you assess your Covid-19 response? Are you worried about the rising numbers? Is the government looking at increasing the number of tests?
Our strategy to fight Covid-19 has been multi-pronged. It consists of containment of virus, treatment of infected persons, increasing the number of tests, employment to returnee migrants and taking care of 24 crore people of my state.
We were at the centre of global attention being the most populated state. Most number of migrants returned to UP. Even those who were returning to Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand were crossing Uttar Pradesh. However, with the support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we have tactfully and successfully managed to contain the virus. The cases are at minimum right now. This virus was totally unknown to everybody. We tackled it by being 10 steps ahead of it. While this strategy will continue, we will keep bolstering our health infrastructure. Our recovery rate is around 90per cent while the death rate due to Covid has come down to 1.3per cent.
Listen, Uttar Pradesh achieved the landmark of testing almost 2 crore samples for COVID-19. Testing an average of 1.5 lakh samples daily, UP recently became the first state in the country to cross the milestone. Initially, medical equipment like thermometers, pulse oximeters and PPE kits were being imported before the pandemic now after the pandemic, MSME department is helping Industry to produce these items and keeping the cost down and generating employment. It is further reviving our economy by helping MSMEs to get bank relief. Almost 4.37 lack units have been under the Atma Nirbhar policy and 6.30 lakh new MSMEs have been financed by banks to the tune of more than 18,000 crore during the current year.
Please elaborate on the specific steps you had taken to support migrants returning from other states, including Maharashtra, entrepreneurs, farmers and others who were impacted by the coronavirus.
Our people are our priority. We received around 40 lakh migrant workers from some of the states. As many as 1,660 trains were run to bring in migrants from all over the country. The community kitchens were opened which catered to migrant labourers and destitute persons. About 6.75 crore food packets were distributed to them during the lockdown.
We ensured that all of them got tested for free. Medical treatment was also given free. Ration kits with 30-day ration were distributed. Every migrant was also given a sustenance allowance of Rs 1000 per month along with the ration kit. About 53 lakh construction labourers, street vendors, carriage pullers and daily wagers of rural areas were also given Rs 1000 each via Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT).
The government made MNREGS job cards of returnee migrants and also those who desired to work in villages. The skill mapping of about 40 lakh labourers was done to enable them to get jobs according to their skill set. Over 8 lakh MSME units were made functional where over 51 lakh labourers were employed. Rs 10744 crore of loan was distributed among 4.35 lakh industrial units under the Atmanirbhar Yojna. Under the Atmanirbhar Uttar Pradesh Rojgar Yojana, a Loan amount of more than 18,000 crores has been distributed to more than6.30 Lakh units. The campaign was launched in 31 districts of the state. These districts had more than 25,000 returnee migrant workers. The government further came up with a Startup policy to motivate youths towards self-employment.
You have said in the past that you are extremely proud of Hinduism and your Hindu background. Your detractors, politicians and academics, allege that you are more a leader of Hindus than people of other religious communities. What have you got to say about this allegation?
I have been elected to the office by the people of this state and I represent the interest of all the 24-crore people of my state. My duty towards the state takes precedence over my personal ideologies.
You have changed the names of several cities of Uttar Pradesh. Isn’t the Indian past pluralistic enough to accommodate Mughal names as well?
Prayagraj means a confluence of two rivers. Here, we have a confluence of three rivers, Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati and therefore, we thought it was an appropriate step to name the city Prayagraj.