Edited Excerpts from an interview •
The Samajwadi Party Government in Uttar Pradesh has completed three years. How will you rate your performance on a scale of 1 to 10?
The performance of the government is 10/10. However, there is always scope of improvement. After assuming power in March 2012, the government straight away chalked out a plan for the all-round development of the state where all sections of society would benefit, especially the downtrodden. The government made efforts to bring the state back on track as the entire system had collapsed during the previous regime. People were not getting health services and the power situation was bleak as the previous government did precious little for the betterment of this sector. The government started focussing on the farmer, labourer, the downtrodden, women, students, small businessmen and those living in rural areas. Special focus was given to education; a special impetus was given to girls’ education.
Our claims in this regard can be corroborated by facts. In the year 2012-13 i.e. the first year of the Samajwadi Party Government, the state recorded a growth rate of 5.8 per cent as against the national average of 4.5 per cent. Similarly, in the year 2013-14, the growth rate of Uttar Pradesh was 5 per cent as against 4.7 per cent growth rate of the country as a whole. For the first two quarters of the year 2014-15, the growth rate of Uttar Pradesh was estimated at 6.3 per cent and 5.4 per cent, respectively, while the country’s growth rate for the corresponding period was only 5.7 per cent and 5.3 per cent, respectively. As per estimates, the growth rate of Uttar Pradesh would be around 6 per cent for the year 2014-15.
According to a booklet titled “Uttar Pradesh Inching Towards Double Digit Growth”, published by Assocham in February 2015, the growth rate of Uttar Pradesh was better than the growth rate of the country for 2012-13 and 2013-14. So, you can safely conclude that the state government has been performing well in spite of the fact that it started functioning under very trying conditions. In fact, we have fulfilled the promises made to the people during the Assembly election.
Law and order has always been a cause of worry for most governments in Uttar Pradesh. What have been some of your achievements in this regard?
The law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh is always hyped up every time a Samajwadi Party Government comes to power. Even the smallest of incidents is exaggerated. The Badaun incident is a classic example of it. Some elements are always on the lookout for fomenting social unrest in the state. It is done to paint the Samajwadi Party Government in a bad light. You will appreciate that the police performs its duties under difficult conditions. Its efforts are hardly appreciated even when it genuinely does good work. The government has extended full support to the police to discharge its duties responsibly to maintain law and order in the state. There is a shortage of police personnel but the government is making efforts to recruit sufficient numbers of police personnel. Besides, we are also focussing on the modernisation of the police force.
What has the government done to promote Uttar Pradesh as a tourist destination?
You are aware that Uttar Pradesh has tiger reserves and bird sanctuaries; then there are the cities of Agra, Lucknow, Varanasi, Allahabad, Mathura, Kannauj, Fatehpur Sikri and Sarnath, among others. In short, the state offers many destinations for the tourists to choose from. It offers religious tourism, visits to historical places such as the Kalinjar Fort, Jhansi Fort, the Bhool Bhulaiya in Lucknow and the Ghats of Varanasi and Sangam (Allahabad). Also, the government is developing a Lion Safari and Lion Breeding Centre at Etawah with a view to developing eco-tourism.
The concept of a ‘Heritage Arc’ has been visualised to give a further boost to tourism. It envisages providing an opportunity to explore the state in all its glory. It signifies heritage in terms of cultural, historical and natural aspects. Moving along this Arc from the north-west of the modern-day Uttar Pradesh to the south-east takes a tourist through the three great cities of Agra, Lucknow and Varanasi, besides several exciting destinations on the way. Travelling on the ‘Heritage Arc’ by air, rail or road would offer an unforgettable experience of history, spiritualism, art and nature. The government will be making efforts to encourage tourism and tourism-based industries in those cities so that there are jobs for the youth.
The government is aiming to increase the participation of the people in promoting tourism as an industry. Recently, the government successfully organised ‘My Agra Campaign’. It has revived the ‘Maitreya Project’ in Kushinagar so that tourists travel to eastern Uttar Pradesh, too; this would ensure economic development of this region.
With the help of the Pro-Poor Tourism Development Project aided by the World Bank, basic amenities are being developed along two main tourism corridors — the Agra-Braj Corridor and the Buddhist Circuit. An international airport is being developed in Kushinagar to attract foreign tourists. Besides, important tourist destinations such as Lucknow, Allahabad, Varanasi and Agra would be connected by air for the convenience of tourists.
Moreover, we have implemented a Heritage Tourism Policy whereby heritage properties could be converted into hotels to boost tourism. The Bundelkhand Circuit also will be promoted. The government is making efforts to launch intra-state air services, which will, again, give a fillip to tourism.