K. MURALI KUMAR
Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa: “My government is for the welfare of all sections of society.”
FOR the B.S. Yeddyurappa-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Karnataka, the year-end holiday season brought some good news. With the BJP winning five of the eight Assembly seats in the byelections held in December, it has gained a slender majority in the 225-member Legislative Assembly.
The focus of the government, which recently completed 200 days in office, has been on improving infrastructure, increasing irrigation facilities, initiating steps to increase power availability, and launching schemes for the economically weaker sections of society. In an interview to Frontline, the Chief Minister said that 90 per cent of the promises made by the BJP in its election manifesto had been made part of the State budget. Gazette notifications have already been issued for these programmes. Yeddyurappa said that the Kannada language received the classical language status because of his efforts.
Excerpts from the interview:
Your government has completed 200 days in office. What would you say are its achievements?
My government has given priority to infrastructure development, augmentation of power generation, initiating steps for the betterment of farmers and weaker sections, and “Janaspandana” programmes.
The idea of the “hobli” level “Janaspandana” meetings, which were inaugurated in September, was to take government programmes and facilities directly to the rural masses. As many as 5,24,270 applications were received during the “Janaspandana” meetings held in the State’s hobli centres. Of these, 1,82,084 applications [35 per cent] have been disposed of. During these meetings, our officers meet people in villages. The officers concerned sit for 12 hours at a stretch and solve people’s problems across the table. The programme is a first of its kind in the country.
Also, in a bid to provide a better, more efficient and people-oriented administration, my government has sought the help of intellectuals and experts in various fields – persons like S.V. Patel, Dr. K. Kasturirangan, Dr. C.S. Vishwanath, Y.B. Ramakrishna and Nandan Nilekani. These learned persons have been made chairmen of various committees and requested to assist the government by giving suggestions on programmes and their implementation. The help of persons such as Sushil G. Namoshi [a member of the Legislative Council from Gulbarga] is also being sought in the implementation of the recommendations of the Dr. D.M. Nanjundappa Committee set up in 2004 to make recommendations to remove the regional imbalances in Karnataka, especially in north Karnataka. They are doing a wonderful job.
What areas of infrastructure are you focussing on?
For example, in almost all the districts we want to build airports or airstrips. Land acquisition and rehabilitation works are under way to develop airports in Shimoga, Gulbarga under the private-public-partnership [PPP] model. The ground work for signing a memorandum of understanding [MoU] with private players is also under way for the Bijapur Airport project. And a project for construction of the terminal building at a cost of Rs.3 crore at Bidar is pending with the Defence Ministry.
In all, the State will have as many as 11 new airstrips and Rs.20 lakh [per airstrip] has been released in advance for the construction of airstrips in Davangere, Bagalkot, Kodagu [Kushalnagar] and Raichur districts.
For the development of infrastructure in each city corporation, we have announced a grant of Rs.100 crore. Of this grant, we have cleared the spending of Rs.50 crore up to March 2009. The remaining Rs.50 crore can be spent during the 2009-2010 financial year. The corporations can formulate plans to spend this money. In order to shorten the travel time between Bangalore city and the new international airport at Devanahalli, we have asked the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Limited to prepare a project report on providing a high-speed train connection.
The land acquisition process has been speeded up for the Kottur-Harihar and Munirabad-Mahbubnagar railway projects. Further, Rs.20 crore has been released for land acquisition for the Bidar-Gulbarga railway project. The government has also given a Rs.2.5 crore corpus grant to the Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology for the promotion of information technology [IT] and biotechnology. And approval has also been given for the setting up of IT parks in Mysore and Mangalore at a cost of Rs.31.68 crore by KEONICS [Karnataka State Electronic Development Corporation Ltd.] with its own capital and in collaboration with private players.
We have also become the first government to give so much of money for the development of Bangalore, which is a very important city.
But the progress on the ground has been very slow.
The recent rains in Bangalore slowed down the work. But now work is back in full speed and progressing well. It will take another three years to see the changes.
To make Bangalore a world class city, the Bangalore Development Authority has taken up construction of a peripheral ring road, construction of the Kempegowda layout, construction and distribution of houses for economically backward sections, rejuvenation of lakes, clearance of illegal buildings, provision of basic infrastructure to city corporation and municipal corporation areas in the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike limits. The Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited is progressing well and Rs.300 crore has been released for this.
What about the rural areas?
The government has taken up 1,000 villages for all-round development. In keeping with the recommendations of the Nanjundappa Committee, we have added 200 villages to this list. To encourage milk production, we are spending Rs.300 crore a year. And Rs.31.21 crore is being spent to provide monthly financial assistance to over 5 lakh women from milk producers’ families.
What are the other measures taken in the animal husbandry sector?
A grant of Rs.11.87 crore has been provided for the development of infrastructure of the veterinary colleges in Shimoga and Hassan, Rs.1.5 crore to the Gulbarga Dairy Science College, and 40 acres of land has been sanctioned for the establishment of a vaccine production and research centre at Hirebagewadi in Belgaum district.
In a bid to overcome the shortage of veterinarians, 84 retired doctors have been reappointed to vacant posts in government veterinary hospitals and clinics on a contract basis. My government has also released Rs.1.5 crore for dairy development in northern Karnataka through the Belgaum, Bijapur and Dharwar milk federations. Again, Rs.1 crore has been released to strengthen the milk federations in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region. And as per the Nanjundappa Committee recommendations, 48 primary veterinary centres are being upgraded to veterinary clinics, and 15 veterinary clinics are being upgraded to veterinary hospitals. We have released Rs. 3.21 crore under the Amritha Scheme for devadasis and widows for the purchase of milch cows/buffaloes so that they can lead financially independent lives.
Karnataka has been perennially short of power.
Sudhakar Rao, Chief Secretary of Karnataka, distributing old-age pensions at a “janaspandana” meeting at Farahathabad in Gulbarga district on December 20, 2008.
Within three months of forming this government, I signed an MoU [memorandum of understanding] with the Government of Chhattisgarh for supply of 2,400 megawatts [MW] of power. An office of the Karnataka Power Corporation has been set up at Raipur [Chhattisgarh] in connection with the establishment of the thermal power plant in that State.
A project report is being drawn up. We are also concentrating on wind energy. As much as 400 MW of power is produced from renewable energy sources and supplied to the State’s power network. Overall, our aim is to add 5,000 MW of power during the next four to five years. Power and water are crucial ingredients if the State is to progress and we are redoubling our efforts in these two areas.
On the power front, the first unit of the Bellary Thermal Power Plant with a production capacity of 500 MW has been dedicated to the nation; tender procedures and land acquisition work have been taken up by the Karnataka Power Corporation for solar photovoltaic power projects in Kolar and Belgaum. We have also sanctioned coal-based thermal power projects of 4,000 MW and 1,320 MW at Kudgi [Bijapur district] and at Farahathabad [Gulbarga district] respectively.
Under the Eleventh Five Year Plan, the 800 MW Yadlapur Thermal Power Project, 1,600 MW Yaramaras Thermal Power Project, and the third unit of the Bellary Thermal Power Plant with a capacity of 500 MW have been approved.
What about the power transmission sector?
On the transmission side, we have initiated measures to supply quality power by installing separate feeders to irrigation pumpset users in Malurtaluk [Kolar district]. We have also, under the “Niranthara Jyothi” scheme for non-agricultural consumers of power in the same taluk, started supplying uninterrupted power by installing separate feeders.
Farmers are still distressed in Karnataka.
Nowhere else in the country do farmers get the kind and range of benefits that the farmers in Karnataka get. Farmers have been given loans at a rate of interest of 3 per cent per annum. Though there is a power shortage, we are giving free poswer to 17 lakh irrigation pumpsets. As many as 16 lakh farming families have benefited under the scheme that provides Rs.1,000 to small and marginal farmers engaged in dryland farming for the purchase of seeds and fertilizers. The Organic Farming Mission, an empowered committee that was created with a view to encouraging organic farming among farmers has conducted opinion surveys in six places in the State. An action plan has been formulated on the basis of these opinions.
Also, an Agricultural Mission has been formed under my chairmanship, and Rs.14.8 crore has been sanctioned for this. We are also selecting farmers who will go on a study tour to China. To financially assist farmers who seek aid for farm mechanisation, we have sanctioned Rs.100 crore.
Again, Rs.43 crore has been spent on providing 3.45 quintal of seeds of different crops to small and marginal farmers at subsidised rates during the kharif and rabi seasons.
We are establishing an Agricultural University at Raichur, a Horticultural University at Bagalkot, a Horticultural College at Bidar, and a Plant Protection and Research Centre in Doddasaggere [Tumkur] on the model of the Lalbagh Botanical Garden [in Bangalore]. We have already released Rs.1 crore for this. Approval has also been granted for the setting up of an Arecanut Research Centre at Sringeri at a cost of Rs.1 crore.
You had mentioned the importance of irrigation. But Karnataka appears to be heading nowhere with projects on both the major rivers in the State, the Krishna and the Cauvery.
Yes. The Tribunal that is deciding on the sharing of the excess waters of the Krishna should take an active interest. We are trying our level best to store water [for irrigation purposes] up to the maximum height at the Alamatti dam [across the Krishna river], but Andhra Pradesh is objecting to it. Again, we started work on the Kalasa Banduri drinking water project on the Mahadayi river even though the Government of India had not given us the sanction. The Government of India must take decisions impartially.
Are you saying that the Government of India is prejudiced against Karnataka?
Yes. The Central Government is 101 per cent prejudiced against Karnataka. They are not at all cooperating with us. Political compulsions are making them support Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Unfortunately, even our Congress friends, Members of Parliament and MLAs from Karnataka, are keeping quiet.
On the industrial front, reports have suggested that industrialists are not happy with the industrial climate in Karnataka.
That is not correct. We have introduced a new industrial policy for the period 2008-13 and passed on so many benefits [to industry]. We have also formed a high-level empowered committee to formulate a new textile policy, Suvarna Vastra Neethi with the thrust being on readymade garments. My government has formed separate special task force committees for the development of the steel, cement and textile sectors. We are also establishing food processing parks in Shimoga, Malur, Bagalkot, Hiriyur, Jewargi and Chickmagalur. In Shimoga, 100 acres of government land has been sanctioned for the setting up of a food processing park.
The State’s Single Window Clearance Committee has cleared 222 industrial proposals with an investment of Rs.3,559.26 crore. This has generated 93,806 jobs. The State High Level Clearance Committee has cleared 30 projects with a total investment of Rs.30,184.90 crore. This has generated 4 lakh jobs.
During my visit to America, we signed an MoU with the State of Illinois on trade exchange, and the State of Georgia was enthusiastic about setting up a trade centre in Bangalore. A number of non-resident Indians are also showing an interest in investing in the medical tourism sector.
You spoke of taking up 1,000 villages for development. What progress has been made?
Plenty. The implementation of 79 major drinking water schemes is under way and these schemes are expected to benefit 835 residential localities. A sum of Rs.50 crore has been released for providing pure drinking water to backward villages identified in the Nanjundappa report.
Under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, 831 kilometres of roads have been developed at a cost of Rs.205 crore with Karnataka having the distinction of standing second in the entire country in the implementation of this project and first place in the quality of works undertaken.
Under the Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, job cards have been distributed to 29,52,255 rural families, while 4.23 lakh families have been provided with employment. Under the Suvarna Gramodaya Scheme, a Rs.242-crore grant has been released to zilla panchayats. A Government Order has been issued to develop around 200 villages coming under the Gulbarga revenue division at a cost of Rs.208.2 crore.
What are the social welfare measures taken by the government?
One hundred and four pre-matric and post-matric hostels have been started for the benefit of 10,050 Scheduled Caste students. The number of post-matric hostels for Scheduled Caste students was raised to 3,848, and steps have been taken to provide job-guarantee training to unemployed candidates from the Scheduled Castes through the Nemmadi Tele Centres, which was started by the e-governance department.
We have also released Rs.50 lakh to provide nutritious food to Koragas, the tribes of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts, and a further Rs.1 crore to build 500 houses for the homeless among the Koraga and Jenukuruba communities.
Finally, the government has released Rs.10 crore for the Rajiv Gandhi Housing Corporation to construct 3,750 houses under the Ambedkar Housing Project.
After the BJP took over the reins of the government, there have been a number of communal clashes.
This may be the handiwork of some vested interests. We have taken adequate steps for communal harmony. My government is for the welfare of all sections of society and for all religions.