Today morning, an astonishing episode took place when I tried to meet Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who wants to become the prime minister. Though I did not have an appointment, I thought “since we are in Ahmedabad, let us try to meet him if he is free, and if not, let us fix an appointment, at least”.
When we started going towards his residence, we were stopped by a big police contingent 5 km ahead of his residence. I thought, “I am not a terrorist, and neither am I carrying any kind of weapon, so why is he scared of me? Why did he send police forces to stop me from visiting him? Even though it was for 49 days only, I too was a former chief minister. He could have invited me and offered tea, and could have told me, ‘Arvind, today I am busy, let us meet after 10 days or after elections, I am busy right now.” But I think sending the police to stop me 5 km ahead of his residence was not right.
Friends, India is going through a tough period. All the people present in this hall might be leading their life without a hitch. But, talk to the person on the road, he will tell you how difficult his life is. It is difficult for him to provide for his family and give his children better education because of mounting inflation and corruption. The amount of corruption that has taken place during the past 10 years of the UPA government, I don’t think so much took place during the British Raj.
You are all educated and you know about all the scams. But, for the past one year, a conspiracy is being played with this country. Everyone is upset with the UPA, and they have decided to go against it. But the alternative that is being presented to us is Modi and the BJP. For the past one year, a big chunk of the media is repeatedly propagating Modi as the best administrator, who governs very well. We are being told that there is “Ram Rajya” in Gujarat — there is no corruption in Gujarat, it is doing really well in the education sector, health facilities have become better, etc. So I too thought of going to Gujarat, to meet people and learn a few things about good administration. So we went to Gujarat three days ago. But the things we observed were shocking.
I want to share some of the things that we saw, which should help you understand why we should not head towards an “out of the frying pan, into the fire” kind of a situation. In Gujarat, we visited many villages. People told us that in public offices, employees work only when they are paid bribes. If you want to get a lower- rung government job, you have to pay Rs 10 lakh as bribe. For the job of an assistant registrar, it is Rs 33 lakh. And people said that if a police officer wants to get a transfer, he has to pay Rs 2.75 crore to the home minister.
Some industrialists who met us said that they have to pay bribes to get industrial licences. For an Indira Awas Yojana house, one has to pay a bribe of Rs 5,000- 10,000. To get a BPL card or to register an FIR, bribe has to be paid. There is rampant corruption everywhere.
Minister Babu Ram Bokhariya was involved in a mining scam and was sentenced to three years in prison. But he is out on bail and back in the Cabinet. Another minister, Purushottam Solanki, was involved in a Rs 450 crore scam. Now, how can corruption be stopped when you have convicted people in the Cabinet?
If farmers came to know about the condition of fellow farmers in Gujarat, then not a single farmer would vote for Modi. I went to Tunda village where I met Abbas, who told us that some goons and policemen had threatened him and his 7.5 acres were forcefully taken over. And he was not even compensated for his land.
A coastal highway is being built and land has been acquired without paying farmers a penny. Those who had been compensated received only Rs 90,000 per acre, while the market rate is Rs 50-60 lakh per acre. And the land has been leased to Adani for Rs 1-10 per sq m.
When they came to know that a solar park was to be built in Charanka, BJP MLA Shankar Choudhury and other party leaders acquired land from locals at Rs 50,000 per acre and later sold it to the government at Rs 27 lakh per acre.
Robert Vadra is indulging in a similar corruption in Haryana. Now, what is the difference between Vadra and Modi? This is Vadra’s modus operandi. They are told in advance if any project is to be undertaken by the government. And they buy land from the people, and later the government buys the land at higher rates.
We keep hearing that villages in Gujarat enjoy 24-hour power supply. But I met some people who said that power applications of 4 lakh farmers are hanging fire.
People in Badi Peepli village said that they get power supply for only three hours a day. In Lopadiya village, there is no electricity. People told us, “Before the Modi government, we used to get subsidies on various products, but that was also stopped.” But, the people there were politically aware. They said, “Our subsidies are being taken away but the Tatas were given a subsidy of Rs 29,000 crore for setting up the Nano plant.” I am not saying that industries should not be encouraged but farmers and farming should also be encouraged. Farmers are committing suicide on a very large scale in Gujarat.
I went to Badi Peepli village where locals showed me a private health centre lying in ruins. It was built in 2003, but it was never made functional. Locals were using it as a garbage dump. Manish Sisodia also visited several villages where private health centres were found locked. In Saami village, I visited a big referral hospital, which had only two doctors, one nurse and three staff members. It was a 31-bed hospital and there was not a single patient, no proper bedding and no medicine. I told the doctor that probably people don’t fall sick here. In Delhi, we have 4-5 patients occupying one bed. In Maliya village, there is a community health centre that has two doctors who visit once a week. People told us that no treatment is provided, no medicine is given.
After the Bhuj earthquake, the then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee sanctioned Rs 130 crore for a super-specialty hospital. In a record time, L&T built the hospital, but it never became functional. Later, it was handed over to the Adanis, who now run it as a ‘for-profit’ medical college.
At a college in Waav taluka, there are 618 students and two teachers. Guess their salary? Rs 5,300 per month. This may be even less than minimum wage. How can a family of five survive on that? There are many vacancies in government colleges, schools and hospitals.
Modi claims that agriculture grew by 11 percent. We downloaded the figures from the government website. During 2006-07, agricultural production was Rs 27,815 crore. During 2012-13, it was Rs 25,908 crore. That leads to a negative growth rate of -1.18 percent.
It is said that after 2002, not a single riot has taken place. I have a list of 12 riots. In 2006, riots took place near Vadodara, which you may be aware of.
A large number of small-scale industries have closed down in the past 10 years. An industrialist who met us told us that 147 out of 187 factories had closed down in the Mehsana industrial area. So, what is the model? The model is to close down small and medium scale industries and hand them over to people like the Adanis. This cannot be a model of industrial development.
I keep on talking about the relation between the Ambanis and Modi. I came to know that the son-in-law of the Ambani family, Saurabh Patel, has been made the minister for petroleum, gas and mining.
Modi says Article 370 should be revoked from Jammu & Kashmir. One of the important clauses in Article 370 is that non-residents are not allowed to buy land in the state. Modi says this right should be given to the people. But in Gujarat, the land owned by those who have settled there in the past 60-70 years are being frozen and the government is taking it over. The farmers have been termed as ‘par-pranti’ (one who is not a local resident). Many families who belong to the Sikh community came to me and said, “Lal Bahadur Shastri had brought us here. He had said that since Kutch is in the border region, I want you to settle there and safeguard our border. This region used to be a desert, we have made it cultivable. But in 2010, government froze our land.”
Many families who had settled there from Haryana and Punjab told me that they were given a circular, which said that they were ‘par-pranti’ and hence could not own land in Gujarat. Later, I came to know that it was part of a land scam. The total amount of land that was being frozen was about 1 lakh acres. When I asked them about the current market rate of the land, they said, “Now the market rate has decreased, but about four years ago, it used to be Rs 5 lakh per acre.” So basically, land worth Rs 5,000 crore is being taken over by the government.
People talk about security in Gujarat. My team was there for three days and our cavalcade was attacked thrice. The attackers broke the windshield of my car. Another day, the windshield of another car was broken. On the third day, they broke the windshield of Manish’s car. If a CM cannot give protection to a former CM of another state, how can he give protection to the people of Gujarat? When we visited people’s houses and had a cup of tea, the police would turn up and ask us to show our identity cards; they would start interrogating us. I’m thankful to god that I was not killed in an encounter there.
AAP has its own vision of India, but we are going to the people to know what their views are. The first thing that people want is security. In the past year alone, 1,600 rape cases have been reported. The media had reported extensively on the 16 December gangrape case; fast-track courts were set up and the guilty have been sentenced. But what about the other cases? The perpetrators are still roaming free and they would continue to outrage the modesty of women. Who will give justice to those women? So, security and justice are some of the primary demands of the people.
Another concern is the communal riots that are instigated for political motives. I believe that even if one communal riot is fairly probed, and the leaders of those political parties found guilty are put behind bars, then there will be no more communal riots in this country.
Many people say that corruption cannot be curbed. But my experience as Delhi CM shows that we can reduce corruption to a large extent. A ToI survey showed that corruption was reduced to a great extent when AAP was in power. Employees in the police and transport department have stopped taking bribes. Earlier, medicines were not available at government hospitals, and now they have also started providing medicines.
Today, 99 percent of industrialists want to do business in a fair manner, but the government has purposefully introduced laws that force people to follow corrupt practices. AAP believes that the government should have minimum interference and help businessmen start new ventures and expand their business. But those who break the rules should be punished under the law.