You have been chief minister for three years. What are your biggest achievements so far?
The biggest state in the country in terms of population was mired in casteism, goondaism and utter chaos due to lack of developmental activities and unemployed, disillusioned youth. It was left to our government to ride on three years of trust, development and good governance to transform Uttar Pradesh from being one of the laggard states to one with a new model of development. We have revived faith in law and order. It is no mean achievement that the public can breathe easy along with investors, which would help usher in another industrial revolution in the state, eventually propelling UP into a $1 trillion economy. Our first step was to bring the law and order situation under control, crack down on illegal mining and land mafia and shut down unauthorised slaughterhouses polluting our rivers. The mantra of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas was implemented in letter and in spirit and it brought about changes in the madrasa education system, bringing Muslim students into the mainstream.
The investors’ summit brought global investment and infrastructure development to UP, without creating a regional imbalance. Underdeveloped regions were given projects such as the Purvanchal Expressway (340.8 km), Bundelkhand Expressway (296 km) and Ganga Expressway (596 km). 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 three years and is working on building 12 new airports. The proposed Jewar International Airport in NCR will not only provide jobs to people but will also give global recognition to UP. Because of Uttar Pradesh Investors Summit 2018, investment proposals worth Rs 4.68 lakh crore have been received out of which 371 projects have been implemented. All these will generate more than 33 lakh direct and indirect employment opportunities.
What are some of the toughest challenges for Uttar Pradesh?
The toughest challenge is to restore the pre-lockdown situation in the state, in terms of economy, employmentand public mood. We have to help people recover and we have an action plan to set up new industries and generate employment as much as possible. Another tough challenge is to rehabilitate the lakhs of migrants who have returned from various states. Right from arranging their return to their rehabilitation, the government is in mission mode. In the short run, our focus is to revive economic activity and mitigate the adverse impact of lockdown woes, while in the long run our focus is to become a trillion-dollar economy and one of India’s most attractive investment destinations. Keeping job creation at the core of all objectives, the state government is turning challenges into opportunities and maximising its potential in the interest of atma nirbhar Bharat.
There are experts who recommend the breaking up of big states for better governance. What are your views?
This is not the appropriate time to even think about this. The state is in the stage of rebuilding after the lockdown. Moreover, the issue lies in the Union list under Article 3 and, constitutionally, the state government is in no position to take a decision in this regard. This is the time for mustering all resources rather than dividing them.
Among the toughest challenges UP faces in scripting a turnaround are weak institutional framework and capacities.
The institutional framework was well in place but weak governance by successive governments failed to provide any benefit to the people. We have formulated several new policies and strengthened and streamlined systems by fixing accountability. Now, we have working systems in place and we are raring to go in these challenging times.
What are your focus areas?
Uttar Pradesh is a land of infinite opportunities. It is India’s third largest economy, contributing nearly 8% to the national GDP. Home to 16.5% of India’s population, UP is the country’s largest market and has the largest manpower base. With a high focus on maximising its demographic dividend, the state government is emphasising on industrial and infrastructure development for large-scale job creation. More than 2,600 startups have been established in the last three years. Recently, we have released the UP Startup Policy 2020 to promote fledgling units in sectors like health, power, education, tourism, transport, agro, food processing, etc. The new policy is aimed at creating 100 incubators in the state, with at least one in each district. The government is working towards creating an ecosystem to promote at least 10,000 startups.
We have also launched a flagship programme of ‘One District One Product’ to promote local industries to create jobs for artisans/ weavers/ peasants. MSME is one sector the government is giving attention to. MSME Park, Pharma Park and Apparel Park are some of the ambitious projects in the sector. Despite the lockdown, the MSME sector has started flourishing with some pro-active measures. Nivesh Mitra is one of the most efficient, digital, single-window clearance platforms. At Defence Expo 2020, the UP Defence Industrial Corridor successfully attracted investment intent worth Rs 50,000 crore. Creating a strong industrial infrastructure has been at the centre of the government’s approach to enabling a conducive investment climate for job creation. UP has established itself as a state of expressways.
The allround infrastructure development is designed to suit UP’s industrial development momentum. Due to the Covid-19 distress, there has been wide-scale reverse migration of labour. To convert this into opportunity, we have established a Workers’ Employment Commission, the first of its kind in the country, with two separate boards at state and district levels. Since demography is one of the strengths of the state, skill development has been one of the focus areas. UP is one of the leading exporters of consumer electronics and software in India; 55% of mobile component manufacturers in India are operating from the state. It also has the highest national output in sugarcane, food grains, potato production and milk production. There are immense opportunities in food processing sector, tourism, urban infrastructure, including smart cities, affordable housing and solid waste management
What is the yardstick by which you would want your term to be judged?
It is very simple for any chief minister, who thinks about his people, to perceive what the yardstick should be. The motto of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, given by Prime Minister Modi, is the ideal guiding principle for any pro-people, development-oriented government. I strive to create a social environment which is conducive to every layer of the cross-section. Development activities towards achieving a $1 trillion economy, employment/self-employment for all, education for all, the ideal social atmosphere for women and girls, and social harmony are the few milestones I would like to be remembered for.