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We are proud to be seen as a start-up state: Raman Singh

Interview with Chief Minister, Chhattisgarh

R Krishna Das  |  Raipur 

We are proud to be seen as a start-up state: Raman Singh

Chhattisgarh has shown good socio-economic growth in the first 15 years, especially with its political stability. Chief Minister Raman Singh talks to R Krishna Das about key initiatives and tries to dispel myths about Naxalism in the state. Edited excerpts:

Chhattisgarh fared well in the World Bank’s recent ‘ease of doing business’ ranking, standing fourth. What has the state done to achieve this?

We had a holistic investor-centric approach to building a ‘Single Connect’ system. To promote ‘Make in India’, we looked at innovation and entrepreneurship by making investing easy for MSMEs/start-ups, large national and international companies, and existing business houses in the sunrise sectors.

The Centre’s recommendations on reforms were followed. All departments implemented necessary steps to ensure ease of doing business. Manual processing was made minimal through simplification and automation of key approvals, lowering of time for application processing and provisioning for deemed approval, and appropriate information dissemination online.

How will you maintain/improve this?

We will be ‘leading by doing’. We will create a best-in-class investment ecosystem customised to manage complexities in the Indian scenario. We will simplify processes through appropriate service delivery re-design and appropriate automation, in alignment with the 340-point reform action plan of the department of industrial policy and promotion.

In its first 15 years, Chhattisgarh has done well in political stability. How do you think your state’s politics has been different from that of peers Uttarakhand and Jharkhand?

Our approach has been to focus on inclusive growth and pro-poor development, especially in the past decade. People’s undivided mandate strengthened the government to adopt firm policies and ensure implementation.

Chhattisgarh has to its credit many firsts in policy making. It introduced the food security Act, was among the first to expand the scope of the job guarantee scheme, successfully provided 24-hour power to all, among other steps. The state’s proactive steps led to one of the lowest unemployment rates in India.

Under the Centre’s coal block auction initiative, Chhattisgarh has received only Rs 106.68 crore. What future benefits do you see accruing?

The idea behind the Centre’s move to auction coal blocks was transparent allocation and maximisation of returns for states. So far, we have received the upfront money from new allottees. They have started production, so we will start getting variable bid amount, too. In 2016-17, we expect Rs 1,200 crore from auctioned mines; by 2020, we should get Rs 2,200 crore annually. We have planned to develop 2,000 km of road network on an annuity model; coal auction revenue will be used to pay the annuity.

The state has been affected by Naxalism — Dantewada and Darbha Valley have seen several incidents...

I would like to clarify a few myths about Naxalism in Chhattisgarh. First, Naxalism is now restricted to one part of the state, the Bastar region. It has been wiped out in northern parts bordering Jharkhand where there is complete normalcy. Second, Dantewada and Sukma in the Bastar region are 400 km away from Raipur. An industry or investor in Raipur, Bhilai or Bilaspur will never run into Naxal issues. In fact, Hyderabad is geographically closer to Naxal activities than Raipur. The media should help us dispel the myths.

What has the government done to counter the threat?

We are fighting the battle on two fronts. On the one hand, we are strengthening the security apparatus to counter Naxal activities. On the other, we are redoubling our development efforts to ensure people in these regions catch up with the more developed areas and have gainful employment and better livelihoods.

On the security front, we have deployed over 20,000 police personnel in Bastar, supported by over 45,000 central police personnel. We are rapidly expanding the road network in Bastar. Rail connectivity is expanding; in four years, there will be a direct rail link from Raipur to Jagdalpur. Telecom connectivity has improved dramatically and the bank network is expanding. Our forces have experienced significant success in the recent past. I believe the tide is turning and this is apparent in the record number of Naxal surrenders.

On the development front, our efforts are focused on skilling individuals through livelihood colleges for gainful employment. Interventions in agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry are aimed at increasing incomes. Also, the area around Jagdalpur is becoming a centre for iron & steel production. A 3-mtpa steel plant coming up in Nagarnar will start functioning from December 2016. Another 3-mtpa one in Bastar is also in the pipeline. These will change the face of the region and make it a hub for economic activity, generating employment and supporting a huge services sector.

According to the Economic Survey of Chhattisgarh, 2014-15, only Rs 40,000 crore has come in actual investments, against the projected Rs 1.92 lakh crore under MoUs in the industrial sector...

According to DIPP data, Chhattisgarh attracted investment intents to the tune of Rs 6.89 lakh crore through industrial entrepreneur memoranda (IEMs) from 2010 to July this year, to become the second-most-preferred investment destination in India, accounting for more than 14 per cent of the total. Since 2012-13, more than 65 per cent of the IEMs filed in the state are for core sectors like iron & steel, coal, power, cement, oil & gas, chemical & fertilisers, etc.

These sectors are highly dependent on minerals like iron ore and coal. Policy paralyses during the previous central government’s term hurt confidence of investors, who waited for the right business environment. A global economic slowdown also hindered economic development. A new visionary government at the Centre is not only attracting investors but also ensuring transparent policy framework and service standards. The auctioning of coal mines has paved the way for investment in the state’s core sector.

Our prime minister’s focus on ‘ease of doing business’ involving all state governments through seeding positive competitiveness has boosted investor confidence. Our continuous effort to ensure ease of doing business, lower cost of doing business through incentives under policies, a natural advantage of low raw materials cost, and our developed industrial infrastructure have won us investors from across the globe. I am confident all genuine investment intents we have got in the past few years will get materialised in the years to come.

Also, we are developing Naya Raipur, the country’s first smart capital city, which presents a huge business opportunity to willing investors. We have received Rs 53,000 crore worth of investment proposals in last six months.

With a young and dynamic team of ministers and officials, the state will take strong steps to reach out to investors.

Chhattisgarh recently signed an MoU with the Centre under the 24x7 ‘Power for All’ initiative. An aim is achieving electrification of all households in the state. Besides, under the 12th Plan, the state envisages adding 22,000 Mw of power-generation capacity. How will you achieve these?

The state has finalised a three-year action plan to strengthen the transmission, sub-transmission and distribution networks at an expenditure of Rs 3,753 crore. On completion, the transmission capacity will increase from 6,030 MVA to 10,545 MVA, and the total number of 33/11 KV distribution sub-station will increase from 980 to 1,330 by the end of 2018-19. This will help achieve the objective of power to all by 2019. We are also working on various loss-reduction schemes like replacement of old conductor by higher capacity conductor, laying AB cables in theft-prone areas, and development of HVDS for agriculture pump connection.

For electrification in the extremism-affected Bastar region, there are 382 villages with no easy accessibility where even survey is difficult. We are working hard to improve accessibility by developing road network, with support from the Centre through a special cost of Rs 3,045 crore under its Road Requirement Plan. We have accorded top priority to this challenge and drawn a three-year action plan for providing electricity to 382 villages at an expenditure of Rs 815 crore. We hope to get close cooperation from the Centre for providing security cover, as well as financial assistance to execute these works as planned.

Further, as for the target of 22,000 Mw power plants likely to be commissioned by the end of 12th Five-Year Plan, Power Grid Corporation, a central transmission utility, is vested with the responsibility to develop inter-state transmission network for evacuation of power from Chhattisgarh. We are working closely with PowerGrid to have an early completion of transmission lines. Construction of five pooling sub-stations of 765 KV level have already been completed in the state – in Raigarh, Janjgir-Champa, Bilaspur, Raipur and Dharamjaigarh. These pooling sub-stations are interlinked with those of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand.

As of today, more than 18,000 MVA of capacity is available in the network. For future requirements, PowerGrid is constructing an 800-KV HVDC link between Kurukshetra and Janjgir Champa. This link itself shall be capable of evacuating 6,000 Mw of power from Chhattisgarh to Haryana; this will be commissioned by March 2016. For requirement beyond 2016, PowerGrid is constructing Korba-Jabalpur 765-KV double circuit and Raipur-Wardha 765-KV second circuit. A new 765 KV pooling sub-station at Rajnandgaon, with 765 KV of double-circuit link between Raigarh and Pudulor in Tamil Nadu, is also under consideration. On completion of these works, transmission capacity for evacuating additional 8,000 Mw power from Chhattisgarh to the southern states will be available. I hope we will resolve the issue of evacuation of power in the next couple of years.

Recently, the state government announced it would publicly auction its only known gold mine. Does this set a precedent for other mineral mines?

We are going to auction a gold mine for prospecting-cum-mining lease. By our current estimates, the gold deposits could be 1,800 kg. We believe there is material possibility for this estimate to increase as state agencies currently do not have appropriate technology and equipment to extract the deposits. Our aim in going for the auction route was to leverage the technical knowhow with other organisations. We want to invite the people that are the best in the industry.

We are in the process of auctioning four mines of limestones. We have planned exploration activity in a big way. Other minerals will be auctioned on the basis of exploration data.

According to the Sample Registration System data, maternal mortality rate for Chhattisgarh has been much higher than the all-India figure. What are you doing to mitigate this?

To reduce maternal mortality, the state has focused on increasing institutional capacity. We have started three new medical colleges since 2004 and are adding one more by next year. The number of district hospitals has increased from 17 to 24; those of community health centres from 114 to 153, primary health centres from 512 to 792 and sub-health centres from 3,818 to 5,180 in the past 12 years. Till 2009, we had only 10 public facilities to manage complicated deliveries with caesarean section; now we have 48. To bring pregnant women to the facility, we have started 102 Mahtari, a free ambulance service. More than 800,000 mothers have benefited from this so far.

We have developed packages for caesarean and normal delivery under Mukhyamanti Swasthya Bima Yojana and Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana. This is ensuring access to private hospitals, too. As a result of these, MMR for the state, 407 in 1999-2000, came down to 230 in 2011-12. By comparison, the national average, which was 327 15 years ago, came down to 178. Institutional delivery has increased from 18 per cent of total reported deliveries in 2005 to 74 per cent now.

According to the Economic Survey of Chhattisgarh, of the 435 cases forwarded to the bank under the Chief Ministers Employment Generation Scheme in 2014-15, only 36 were approved, and only five distributed by the bank. The scheme envisages providing easy bank loans to youths in pursuit of self-employment. What steps is the government taking to improve the efficiency of the scheme?

According to the updated position of the Mukhyamantri Yuva Swarozgar Yojana, 882 cases were sent to the bank. Of those, 357 cases are sanctioned, and disbursement was made in 248 cases. Steps taken to increase the scheme’s efficiency include giving district-wise targets to DTICs and regular monitoring of pending cases through monthly review meets. With the launch of Mudra Bank by the Centre, credit facilitation to small business has become much easier.

We take pride in viewing ourselves as a start-up state. We have exhibited stellar socio-economic growth in the past decade and understand the key parameters of success for start-ups and budding young entrepreneurs. My belief is that the new ‘Make in India’ growth story is based on the pillars of innovation and entrepreneurship.

According to the 2011 Census, the gap in literacy rate for males and females was 20.9 percentage points in Chhattisgarh, compared with the all-India figure of 16.7 percentage points...

The government has set up 93 Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBVs) in Chhattisgarh. These are residential schools for girls in classes 6 to 8. In 2015-16, a total of 9257 girls enrolled in these schools. We have 74 special hostels for girls in high schools and higher secondary schools. This financial year, a total of 5,312 girls have enrolled in these hostels.

In the Naxal-affected Bastar region, there are 28 Girls Porta Cabins (Special Residential Schools). The enrolments this year were about 12,000. Besides free lodging and boarding, our education department provides free text books and uniform to all girls up to class 12. With the help of NGOs and other agencies, the department is proving not only skill development training but also life skills, and education on menstrual hygiene management and self-defence. Our school education department is providing free bicycles to girls enrolled in Class 9 under Saraswati Nihshulk Cycle Yojana.

With our concerted efforts, enrolment of girls has increased 26 per cent at the primary school level and 40 per cent at the upper primary, high school and higher secondary levels.

According to the 2011 Census, the number of households with latrine facility within premises in Chhattisgarh stood at 24.6 per cent, compared with the all-India figure of 46.9 per cent. That’s a huge gap...

According to the baseline survey conducted during 2012-13, about 4.4 million families were residing in rural areas. Of these, 1.7 million had toilets on their premises. Under the Swachh Bharat Mission, Gramin, Chhattisgarh has to build 2.6 million toilets by 2019. We have made a 5-year perspective plan to achieve this goal. We are going to construct 700,000 toilets this year, 115,000 of them through NREGS.

Chhattisgarh has also adopted “community-led total sanitation” approach, through which we have achieved more than 1,000 open-defecation-free villages. So far, 150,000 individual toilets have also been built. In urban and semi-urban areas, the state is setting up public toilet facilities at important public places. Haat bazaars in rural areas will be covered with public toilets at a later stage.

(With inputs from Kumar Akash and Bhaswar Kumar)

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First Published: Fri, December 25 2015. 23:22 IST