Sharing the benefit of the boom

Published : Nov 16, 2007 00:00 IST

We have to concentrate on the social structure, says Vilasrao Deshmukh. - VIVEK BENDRE

We have to concentrate on the social structure, says Vilasrao Deshmukh. - VIVEK BENDRE

Interview with Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. By Lyla Bavadam

We have to

ON October 31, Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh completed three successful years in office. He spoke to Frontline on some of the key ideas that are making a difference in Maharashtra. Excerpts from the interview:

The idea of inclusive growth is encouraging, especially when it appears that only the middle class and the wealthy are benefiting from growth. Could you elaborate on this?

The benefit of the boom in the economy should pass on to the aam admi [common man]. If this doesnt happen, then the boom has no meaning. We have to concentrate more on the social structure. We need to look after the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Look at the areas of health, education these are the areas where the government should provide more budgetary allocation. The national policies are also helping our policies. For instance, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act is like an extension of our EGS [Employment Guarantee Scheme]. It guarantees at least 100 days of work to rural people. With this right to work comes the right to earn and with that follows the right to food, education, and so on. Maharashtra has benefited from this scheme. This scheme facilitates decentralisation. Since Maharashtra already had the EGS it is easier for us to implement the NREG Act.

What about education?

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is creating educational infrastructure in rural areas. School buildings and other amenities, books, uniforms and midday meal are all part of the thrust on inclusive growth.

Are you providing any incentives for teachers? It used to be a problem to get teachers to stay in rural areas.

Rural people have been getting educated and are willing to teach as it provides an employment opportunity. Actually you need a B.Ed. to teach, but we have decided to be flexible. We employ teachers and allow them to pursue the B.Ed course while in service. We also have our vastishalas. Supposing there are only 15 children living in a remote hamlet, we employ a local teacher and the children are locally educated instead of having to go to boarding schools. This way the children are not deprived of education.

Another catchy idea of your government is the From Red Tape to Red Carpet action plan.

Yes. There is this misconception that nothing is possible because of red-tapism. So we decided to turn that red tape into red carpet. And we are seeing the results. Last June, when we went to the United States, the foreign direct investment was only Rs.38,000 crore. Since then it has gone up and is Rs.72,000 crore now. And all [this] only in 78 proposals. Weve just concluded one MoU with Dow Chemicals. They are investing about $100 million in an R&D unit at Chakan near Pune. Theyve also recruited about 100 scientists from Pune.

Any special push for tourism? The State has so much to offer.

I agree that we need to pay more attention [to this aspect]. We have a huge coastline, but the Coastal Regulation Zone is creating problems. The forts of Maharashtra are another possibility but these come under the purview of the Government of India and the whole procedure of obtaining permissions could delay all the proposals.

Recently you said that agricultural growth was slow. What is being done for this sector?

This year, agricultural growth reached 3 per cent. Earlier it was 1.75 per cent. Our target is 4 per cent. In the past three years, we have had good rainfall and a record high production of soyabean and sugarcane. Contract farming has picked up and the farmers are happy. Were also encouraging organic farming. In horticulture we are number one in the country. More than one lakh hectares of land are under horticulture. Exports are doing well, too.

I would say that agriculture is really looking up.

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