TOI Interview with Modiji
EXCLUSIVE Q&A NARENDRA MODI CHIEF MINISTER, GUJARAT
Red carpet, not red tape for investors, is the way out of India’s worsening economic crisis, says Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. The Bharatiya Janata Party leader, who recently set off speculations over his prime ministerial ambitions, laughs off suggestions that Congress may turn the 2014 general election into a Modi versus Rahul Gandhi contest. In a rare interview with PR Ramesh, Modi says Congress president Sonia Gandhi had failed to prevent a landslide victory for BJP even as she spearheaded her party’s campaign. Excerpts:
Industry has been raising concerns over fate of its investments in a slowing economy. What is the way out?
It is a crisis. In the new economic scenario, the government can’t do all that is needed to pump up growth. We have to encourage private investment, not just in infrastructure but also in the social sector. We have to open up new investment avenues for people who want to invest. But before any individual or company invests, they look for safety of their money and profit from the investment. We can provide safety for their money through clarity in policies, transparency in decision-making and decent implementation. Is the UPA government able to do these? The answer is: NO.
So, what can be done to revive sentiment?
As I said, there should be clarity and purpose while making policies. We should create an atmosphere where people can make investment from their office or home. Ambiguities and waffling in policy-making should go.
Foreign investors, too, have begun to doubt the India story. How can this impression be changed?
First, the government should stop painting a rosy picture. If the prime minister accepts reality, he can find an answer. But the problem is that he does not believe in what he is doing. He is not able to even take his decisions to their logical end. The Indo-US nuclear deal is a case in point. The prime minister was ready to sacrifice his government for the nuclear deal. Has he been able to implement it? No! Sound policies and stamina to implement them alone can convince the investor.
Will the BJP help the prime minister in taking the deal forward?
Why should the BJP take the lead? We were told that the nuclear deal was his principal achievement. What is he doing to implement it? You should put the question to the prime minister, who claimed that it was the answer to our energy crisis and the biggest policy trophy of UPA-1.
The prime minister and the Congress have been maintaining that the Opposition-run state governments are not aiding the Centre’s efforts to put the economy back on rails…
The charge is baseless. Look at what the Centre is doing to state governments’ efforts to attract investment. Iron ore is available in abundance in Odisha. But the Congress and the government led by it at the Centre are opposing entry of steel companies into the state. They don’t want the state government to perform and they place hurdles. This is naturally making investors jittery. They want to work with the state governments but the Centre is playing the obstructionist. The Centre went to the extent of unleashing enforcement agencies on those who promised investments in Gujarat at the Vibrant Gujarat meet. They should stop preaching and do what they are expected to do — govern.
But the government is trying to put in place a mechanism…
They prepare reports on various issues and then analyse them. Reports take two years to be prepared and then they go an unending analysing trip. There is no real action.
How has Gujarat managed to present an alternative model?
Gujarat is a very successful model. Look at the investment auto companies have made in the state. Every auto major has its plant in my state. It is because of the efficiency of the state government. We have best quality infrastructure, skilled labour and zero man-day loss. We plan our skill development and infrastructure with the future in mind. In 2012, we plan for 2015. The result is for everyone to see. Gujarat, which accounts for 5% of the country’s population, accounts for 16% of the nation’s industrial production and 22% exports.
What should be the role of the government in business?
The government has no business to be in business. It should play the role of a facilitator. In my state, investors don’t have to grease the palm of politicians or bureaucrats. There are well laid-out policies. I believe that country can progress only if we end red-tapism. No red tape, only red carpet, is my policy towards investors.
Your critics, however, say that the aam admi is not part of your development agenda…
Only the reality-challenged will buy into this nonsense. How can a state, which has above 10% growth in agriculture, be seen to be having a bias towards big business? This over 10% growth rate is made possible through constructive interventions by the state government. Mind you, the national average of agricultural production is only 3%. Since you have raised this issue, I would like to explain the initiatives that we have taken for the less privileged. I will give you a few examples. Kite festival is a big event in Gujarat. Mainly BPL families are engaged in kite-making. The total business a few years ago was a paltry . 32 crore. This year, it will cross . 5,000 crore. Women’s self-help groups are another example. The government has signed a tripartite agreement with SHGs and corporates. Now, 35 corporates are involved in the project, providing SHGs marketing facility. We have two lakh people engaged in this and the turnover is . 1,600 crore. Our effort is to take it to . 5,000 crore. Last month, we ensured jobs for 65,000 students from ITIs. There are many such initiatives for students, artisans etc.
Your opponents, particularly in the Congress, say that the funds meant for development do not reach the target groups…
Again, this charge has no merit because the media and our rivals refuse to see what we are doing at the ground level. Rajiv Gandhi once said that only 15 paise out of . 1 allocation reach the intended beneficiary. But we have ensured that 100% of the money that is allocated from Gandhinagar reaches people. I can say without any hesitation that we have the best delivery system. We hold melas to identify beneficiaries through a transparent procedure. We recently held 300 melas across the state and distributed . 8,000 crore for self-employment. I have a coastline spanning 1,600 km. We have spent . 18,000 crore for education, health and other needs of fishermen, who are mostly Muslims.
So, why is it that we get to hear praise showered on you mainly by the likes of Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani?
That’s because the media is not willing to hear beyond what Tatas and Ambanis say. They talked about me and Gujarat at the Vibrant Gujarat meet. It is an event held once in two years. But does the media pay the same kind of attention to the Krishi Mahostavs that are being held here? For 30 days, every year, one lakh employees of my government hold a farmers’ outreach programme. These officials work in sweltering heat to help my farmers increase productivity.
Do small businessmen get the same treatment as big players under your regime?
I must tell you about this visit of a young boy to my office. He was a Gujarati Muslim boy, born and brought up in South Africa. He sought my help to set up a unit in the state. I spent 10 minutes with him and it did not appear to me that he had the wherewithal to set up business. I directed him to the collector of Vadodara. He turned up 13 months later with an invitation for the inauguration of a factory that he was associated with. The next time I saw him was three months later. I was told that he was working with the Bombardier plant in Gujarat. They supply coaches to the Delhi Metro. In 19 months, he was part of an established business. That is what hassle-free governance can do to people.
You have been accusing the Centre of step-motherly treatment to states run by Opposition parties. But the Centre says that this attack is misplaced…
I can reel out at least 100 examples to prove my point. When Atalji was the prime minister, Gujarat and Assam used to get the same royalty on crude. One of the first decisions that the Manmohan Singh took was to slash our share. We are losing around . 5,400 crore on this account. We don’t get money from PMGSY (Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana). We need money for upgrading rural roads. But they say money can be given only for new roads. We also don’t get money from SSA (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan) programme. If this is not injustice, what is?
Is the economic crisis affecting the credibility of the government at the Centre?
The country is paying a huge cost. Many foreign governments are connecting with state governments rather than with the Centre. In the past two years, three important leaders from Japan, including two former prime ministers, visited Gujarat to discuss economic initiatives.
Many see you taking the centre stage in your party in 2014…
I am busy making things better in Gujarat. I am 100% involved in it. I never spare time for issues outside Gujarat.
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