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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Express Adda with Yogi Adityanath: ‘Citizens can question government but can’t take law into their hands’

Yogi Adityanath was in conversation with Anant Goenka, Executive Director, The Indian Express Group, and Ravish Tiwari, National Bureau Chief and Political Editor, The Indian Express.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: July 4, 2021 8:05:46 am
(Top left) Anant Goenka, (Top right) Yogi Adityanath and (Bottom) Ravish Tiwari. (Screengrab)

At the e.Adda last week, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath spoke on four years of his government, the second wave of Covid-19, and the use of the National Security Act (NSA) in the state. He was in conversation with Anant Goenka, Executive Director, The Indian Express Group, and Ravish Tiwari, National Bureau Chief and Political Editor, The Indian Express

On the roadmap for Uttar Pradesh

Uttar Pradesh is the largest state by the country’s population, so naturally, our challenges are big as well. We have been facing those daunting challenges with robustness and today, the results are in front of us. Everyone saw the state that we had inherited. About four-and-a-half years ago, what assumptions the country and the world had about UP, I don’t think that’s hidden from any of you. But I’m sure that those assumptions about the state have changed now. If someone has not been influenced beforehand, he/she will have a favourable opinion about UP. It has accumulated a lot of positive things in the meantime. In 2016, it ranked 16th on the ‘ease of doing business’ list. Today it’s at No. 2. The state’s economy was 6th in the country. If someone was visiting our state, we had to say that we are the most populated state in the country, but our economy is the 6th. But today it’s the second. We have prepared a roadmap, and the vision that’s been given to us by the PM, and that vision will make us the number one economy in the country, there should be no doubt about that. We had no problems in our work, in the first three years. From March 2017 to March 2020, we were working quite smoothly. After March 2020, corona became a stumbling block — corona has not affected UP alone, but the whole country and the entire world. UP had the biggest challenge to face, we should remember that when the national lockdown took place on March 25, and from thereon we kept facing one challenge after the other. First from Delhi, then Maharashtra and then from all other states, migration started. Forty lakh migrant labourers came back to UP alone. And not just migrant workers from UP, even those going to Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, and even those heading to Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Haryana, for all these migrants, UP became the epicentre. Not one worker or labourer who did not hail from UP can say that they faced any sort of discrimination. UP hosted them with all due respect and we even made provisions for a 21-day quarantine for the labourers whose states didn’t want them back. We made arrangements for their boarding, lodging and food. About one crore migrant labourers came to UP or transited through UP. We didn’t give anybody any opportunity to complain.

On managing the second wave of Covid-19

We had the first Covid case in UP in March 2020, we had no recourse for testing or medical care. We started with zero tests, and today we conduct about four lakh tests everyday. The central government supported us, the public encouraged us, civil society and many individuals, and institutions through their CSR initiatives also helped us. Today we have enough laboratories that enable us to conduct four lakh tests daily. We have conducted the most tests — the figure is six crore. We have also worked a lot on Covid prevention in spite of being the most populated state in the country. If we look at the number of migrant labourers, or the fatality rate of people testing positive, UP has fared better than any other big state in the country and is better than many countries in the world as well. The second wave was ushered in the state by the end of March, and we saw its impact by the first week of April. People spread a lot of misinformation about the second wave, and they even said the corona is at an uncontrolled stage in UP. I myself was infected by corona then, as soon as I tested negative, I stepped into the field, and we started surveying the infected areas and we then presented the truth to the media. People at that point were saying that the virus spread because panchayat elections were held. But we clarified that the elections took place because the court has decreed. Another thing that we heard was that corona was out of control in villages. We — me and my ministers — then visited the villages and rural areas where we encountered more stories, as to how bodies were floating in rivers, and other such things. Even when the communities that live alongside the river explained that burying bodies and immersing the dead in the river is a tradition for them, no one was ready to talk about it. We need to highlight the difference — this is a pandemic, you cannot compare it to the simple flu. It’s a country’s fight, we should only have positive thoughts and abstain from spreading negativity and false information. But many individuals and institutions have used this time to spread negativity and they have weakened this fight against the pandemic. You must have seen the new delta variant, which is highly infectious, the whole world is grappling with it now. Even there, why is the variant not being controlled? Those countries had organised vaccination drives on a huge scale. No one is discussing this topic today. Why is there no reportage on the same from the media? There are constant efforts to tarnish the image of the country, we should have stopped these efforts, and strengthened the fight of the country. We should have fought under the leadership of our PM, and kept the fight against corona going. This should have been our national religion, to participate in this fight. But many people have only spread negativity and have undertaken that as a mission for themselves. They wanted to spread panic regarding the corona situation. Many specialists had declared that UP would have a disaster on its hands especially during May and June. Today, it’s 23 June and we only have 208 active positive cases in the state. Today, the district of Mahoba is entirely Covid-free. Today at least 12 districts in the state have zero positive cases. In 52 districts, positive cases are in single digits. In the state, we have one or two districts where the cases are in double digits. And this is the same state for which it was cited that May and June will have 3,50,000-4,00,000 active cases. Today there are 3,366 cases in the state. UP has a population of 22 crore and the number of deaths from March 2020 to till date — all these are very sad and we offer our condolences to the aggrieved families — is 22,000 people. If you compare with any big states, Delhi or even other countries, then you will realise that how we have worked to prevent the spread of corona. Phrases like ‘poor health infrastructure’ have been used for UP, which we had inherited from the last government. We had nothing with us, we had to start from scratch and today we have lifted the Corona curfew, and life and activities are all coming back to normal. Starting from 7 am and lasting till 9 pm, normal, regular work is being conducted. We have kept night curfew, and weekend curfew, for Saturday and Sunday, but all regular activities are taking place.

We were careful about one thing during the second wave, we didn’t shut down our industries. They were fully operational. We set up Covid health centre and help desks. The workers came in shifts, and the factories were operational. Farming, essential services and UP state transport buses — nothing was shut. We worked to ensure that while on one hand we were preventing the spread of Covid, at the same time, essential services should be available for everyone. It’s not just lives we wanted to save, but also livelihoods. This was the PM’s wish, and we in UP carried out the PM’s wishes.

On what has been his biggest learning from the two waves

We are facing an epidemic. Remember 1918, when the Spanish flu hit–sadly we don’t have the data from those days. What was the death per million rate? Twenty-five thousand. Today in India, it’s minimum, and it’s even lesser in UP. In an epidemic, often all the available infrastructure is not enough to tackle it. Compared to the first wave, the second wave was far more infectious and virulent. And we have accepted this. It’s only through the irresponsible behaviour of some institutions, that panic spread. People who didn’t even need oxygen, they too started making enquiries for it. Those who didn’t need hospital beds too started reserving beds in hospitals, the same happened with Remdesivir. I saw this medical store that had a queue. A reporter asked people why they were queueing up. The person responded that they wanted to buy medicines as ‘black fungus’ had arrived. The reporter asked the person if he had been infected by black fungus or if someone in his family had. He said no but he was stocking it up for future, in case they got infected. In a pandemic, people news to be well-informed but sadly instead of information, a lot of myths and falsehoods were spread to create a situation of panic. This made everyone scramble. Normally in a 500-bed hospital, there will be 50 beds that will need normal amounts of oxygen — one litre/2 litre per hour. But during Covid, where the patient was critical or was in desperate need of oxygen, there were 400-450 such cases. And if they were HFMC, they needed about 16-24 litres oxygen per hour. The Indian government started Oxygen Express. Air Force planes were deployed to fulfil the need for oxygen. All those people who were spreading lies about the Covid situation, they all scrambled when the question for oxygen audit arose. They entered a PIL in the court, but when the audit topic came, they showed a decrease in the demand. We have seen all this, all these faces who are hindering the fight against the Covid epidemic, should have been exposed. It’s sad that that hasn’t happened. We made all possible efforts during the second wave, and it’s with the same vigour that we are preparing for the third wave as well. Time is also of essence. Virulent and infectious diseases like dengue, kalaajar etc, tend to spread during September-October. We have worked out a four-step method to prevent the spread of such diseases. We have taken steps to ensure basic cleanliness, hygiene, fogging and have also made provisions for clean drinking water. This is sort of a mission for us. As for the possible third wave of the pandemic, it’s being said that it might impact children aged 12 and below. We have increased the speed of our vaccination programme. We have also made special booths for parents and guardians. These booths will provide vaccination on a priority basis for parents and guardians of children aged 12 and below. We have also made provisions in each district’s medical college for a hundred-bed paediatric ICU. Even in the district hospitals we have made arrangements for a 25-30 bed paediatric ICU. Our monitoring committees had worked really well during the second wave. We had organised door-to-door surveys, and for every symptomatic person we had made medicine kits, got their Covid test done within 24 hours and accordingly, taken a decision on whether they needed to be hospitalised or taken to a quarantine centre or to be in home isolation. Earlier we had made provisions for adult medicine kits, now we have also provided for a medical kit for children in four segments. Zero to 1 year of age, 1-5 years, 5-12 and 12-18 years. This service has reached almost all houses in all villages through our monitoring committees. We started this on June 27. We are indebted to our PM, who started this drive for vaccination. On January 16, when the vaccination drive started, people spread a lot of myths. People have died tragically, who’s responsible for those deaths? Those who badmouthed the vaccine, are they not responsible? What about those people who said that they won’t get vaccinated as it’s Modi vaccine, a BJP vaccine? Why didn’t we take those people into account and call them out? This is the first time we were doing this, I want to ask, has it ever happened before? To have a vaccine this quickly against a severe disease? Within nine months we have a vaccine in India – two vaccines, in fact. Imagine what would have happened if frontline workers and health workers would not have been vaccinated, would we have been able to face the second wave? It would have been very difficult. This was the PM’s vision, to first vaccinate the frontline workers, which enabled us to fight the second wave strongly. We saw how deadly this second wave was, one person could infect an entire group. We witnessed this up close and personal. We hope the third wave doesn’t come, but if it does, we are ready.

On the absence of communication during the second wave

The Prime Minister had spoken to chief ministers on March 21, 2020, and ever since, every week, through the medium of video conferencing and even personally over phone. He would take all updates and also offer his guidance. He has also addressed the general public. From Day 1, he has been saying that we need to be vigilant. ‘Do gaz ki doori, aur mask hai zaroori’ – this is the mantra given to us by the PM only. TTT: Trace,Test and Treat, this formula was given to us by him. Under PM Cares, many facilities were made available to the states to strengthen their health infrastructure and also to install oxygen plants in each state. Vaccines were made available for every state. In spite of all this, if someone says that there is an absence of dialogue, I feel it’s to hide their own shortcomings. The country has received continuous guidance from the PM, and all the states too benefited from such leadership. We also communicated constantly through cabinet secretaries, Home secretaries and various others, like principal secretary of the PM, health secretary and also the state secretaries. It’s a different thing that these things have not been reported in the media.

On the BJP declaring victory over corona and its poll campaigning

You know right that UP is the most populated state in India, and we have to face the biggest challenges in terms of Covid. We have always had the discussion about poor health infrastructure. What we have done in the last four years, no body has discussed that, but everyone just piles criticisms at us. We had controlled Covid fully in September 2020. We had started all our normal activities in September itself, and in October, we had organised a grand Deepotsav in Ayodhya. In November we had Dev Deepavali. We had controlled the virus, and yet we constantly spread the message of precaution against the virus as well. The motto ‘do gaz ki duuri, aur mask hai zaroori’, we constantly harped on it. In February, in UP, there were only 85 cases, and all the active cases had been reduced to a bare minimum number. How was all this possible? We kept testing our population and we took it from 0 – 4,00,000. In March, we were conducting 1,50,000 tests, which we increased to 2 lakhs, 2.5 lakhs and then even 3.97 lakhs per day. If we hadn’t conducted the tests, then how would we have increased our potential to handle the second wave? Our door-to-door surveillance team kept working and they constantly monitored the situation. The second wave hit us, and there were some immediate, urgent problems that were faced by the public, we managed it all. That said, the virus is under control right now, but it’s not finished yet. We still need precautions, and we have issued public safety guidelines. We still have the night curfew, and not more than 50 people can gather for a public function. Saptahik bandi (weekend curfews) is being observed, and as the offices and industries are operational, we have established ‘covid helpdesks and covid care centres’ in place to help out the employees. We cannot just say that we were hassled, we were not. The second wave came, and we managed it. Look at England, and look at what a mess that are in. Look at how many cases they are getting per day. We are 24 crore, and they are six crore. We got 38,055 positive cases in one day, when it was the peak for us in the state. This was April 24. Today, how many cases were registered in Britain? Britain is about one fourth the population of UP. They have had major vaccination drives, and yet they have had high numbers even when they have constantly been under lockdown. We have to understand this epidemic, and accordingly fight against it for the nation, together.

On whether Covid-19 deaths were underreported

Tell me, did non-Covid deaths stop altogether? During Covid, everyone’s prime focus was safety measures for Covid and to find a cure for this illness. We realised this, and that’s why we organised some non-covid hospitals in each of the districts. That’s why we started tele-consultations. I think this thing of underestimated numbers is wrong. We have the figures of people who were tested, then after the test did they show positive result? Then if they were in home isolation or if they were hospitalised, and if sadly they died, that has been documented on our portal. But if someone passed away at home because of non-covid reasons, that is not part of our portal. As the death was non Covid, we have not conducted any test, we conducted a test, the test reflected a negative result hence it is not part of our portal. If somebody developed post-covid symptoms and passed away because of that, even after getting a negative test result, they are also not part of the portal. As the person tested negative they were automatically shunted out of the portal, we repeatedly grilled this into all are hospitals. All the hospitals had to upload the data of whoever was testing positive for covid, the same was for people dying of Covid. The data had to be uploaded everyday. If by chance a health worker got infected and was unable to upload the data, we made provisions so that they could upload the data from wherever they were. We also held enquiries and in many places explanations were also needed. In September 2020, we controlled the epidemic and we organised these two big festivals in October in November. In August, in Ayodhya we also conducted the Ram Janambhoomi Shilaniyas was done by our Prime Minister. Then Devdeepavali was held in Varanasi, with about 10,00,000 people in attendance. February, we saw only 85 cases. In January, 2021 we issued 1,03,000 death certificates. In February the number of death certificates was 99,100. March had 70,797. What will you call this? Covid deaths? When there was no Covid, and we were conducting 1.5-2 lakh tests everyday, this was not a part of that. There can be many reasons for deaths — accidents, heart attacks, cancer, kidney failures etc, we should not link these things together. To hide the death figures is a sin in itself. But the question is while we are struggling with the epidemic, what do we do? Do we encourage and bolster the public, or do we spread panic and fear in them? If we present a picture — of a man going home, after recovering from Covid — will that picture not help in bolstering the morale of the general public? I was observing this, that how people were impacted by the constant negativity, that even when you are telling them ‘that you will get better, they kept insisting that ‘no I will die’. I was surprised by the panic and fearsome situation that was created. People were showing the pictures of cremation grounds, and then juxtaposing it with data from the hospital, and they would say, that look hospitals are saying so many deaths, but the cremation grounds have so many more. Someone who has died of natural causes, or due to some illness, they will also need to have their last rites conducted at a crematorium only, right, we can’t deny them that right. But that was used to spread fear and falsehoods, and all deaths were attributed to Covid alone. This created a situation of fear and panic, which was unnecessary.

On holding the Kumbh Mela

This was said for the elections as well. It was being said that the virus spread in UP because we held panchayat elections. At one point, someone said that the Election Commission should be hanged, and a case for murder should be registered against it. I want to ask you, did Delhi and Maharashtra have elections? Or did these states have the Kumbh mela? We need to educate ourselves more about the particular strain of the virus which was so virulent and infectious. Compared to the first wave, the virus of the second wave was 50 per cent more infectious. We need to accept that truth as well, and accordingly prepare the people for that truth, and safeguard them. For that, if we start playing around with our beliefs and faith, and start attacking constitutional institutions, that would be sheer injustice. This is a pandemic, one of the biggest of this century, and we need to fight this together. Our PM is leading us in this fight, right from the forefront. I feel we need to be responsible and we all need to participate in this collectively, as this will benefit humanity at large.

On the one thing he has changed systematically in UP

We have changed the overall perception about the state of Uttar Pradesh. We have incorporated a sense of security in the aam janta of the state. This is the same state which witnessed more than 300 big riots during the reign of the Samajwadi Party. Today, as we complete about four and a quarter years of our governance, we have not had a single riot. UP, which had faced the challenge of riots and violence in the past, is today free of them. Our judicial system is said to be the most stringent. We have done a lot for farmers, youth, women and labourers as well — basically we have done something for almost all strata of the population. For farmers, right from the exemption of loans, to the implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana and even procurement — in 2016, there was only 7,00,000 metric tonnes of wheat procured. We, on the other hand, have procured 56,00,000 metric tonnes of wheat, within the state of UP, and this is straight from the farmers, not the aadhatis. Even during this Covid era, we have kept our 119 sugar mills running. We bought sugarcane worth Rs 1.38 thousand crores. As per the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, we have made provisions to irrigate 20,000 hectares of land. These were plans for irrigation that have existed for the last 30-40 years, we are taking them forward. We had the goal of doubling the incomes of farmers, we are in pursuit of that goal. Around 4,00,000 lakh youngsters were gainfully employed by the UP government, in a completely transparent manner., 6,00,000 people were connected to the government through outsourcing. One and a half crore youngsters have been employed with the investment that we attracted through the ‘ease of doing business’ tag. 60,00,000 youths were connected to the various banking facilities and other schemes like the Mukhya Mantri Swarozgar Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Swarojgar Yojana, One district One Product scheme and Vishwakarma Shram Samman Yojana, to help them be gainfully self employed. Today, UP has the lowest unemployment rate, in spite of being the most populous state. It is the first state to have provided a medical insurance cover of Rs 5 lakhs for all labourers — be it pravasi or nivasi, along with a Rs 2 lakh social security cover. We also give them bharan-poshan bhatta. About 40,00,000 people have also been given houses,2,61,00,000 people have also now got access to toilets. All this had been done without a sense of discrimination. Now the UP government will go to the general public, armed with these achievements. Don’t worry, I will talk to you again, the same way, after the elections as well. BJP will win more than 300 seats in the UP elections, there is no doubt about that.

On labour reforms

We will have to look at certain things. The well being of the industry is directly related to the well being of the labour. I don’t think there is a problem in labour reforms, as long as we are protecting the rights of the labourers under labour law. We cannot benefit the labourers by shutting down industries. We all have the example of Kanpur in front of us. At one point it was considered the textile hub of India. It all shut down due to falsehoods and misinformation. The industrialists had to invest and set up their factories, they went to some other place. That person is still an industrialist today, but the people who worked in that industry were reduced to selling vegetables on the footpath, or becoming hawkers on the streets. Those who were earning a respectable wage, had job security and could avail many facilities, were deprived of all this. We need to protect the rights of the labourers and workers, and while doing that we need to uplift industries. We are making efforts in that direction, we will not do anything that will harm the labourers and the worker class. We will also strive to create the perfect environment for industries to grow and flourish. What was their biggest complaint about the administration – that their files would get stuck in the red tapism and bureaucratic loopholes. We want to make that process simple and get a single window clearance system in place. This process of simplification has yielded some great results. India too has emerged as a decent destination for investment. At one point, China was believed to be the most favoured destination for investment, but now, after the first wave of Covid, UP emerged as a major attraction for investment.

On whether the RSS run Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) will help bring about reforms faster

Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh is a labour union that aligns itself with a lot of positive thoughts and has always pushed for the general well-being of workers rights, along with the well-being of the nation. We have always had dialogues with the BMS and other labour unions. We have also kept representatives from such unions in the commission that we have formed for solving the problems of the non-resident labourers of UP. We are open to their suggestions, as all of this is for the benefit of the labourers and workers. There is no other problem in UP, we have already attracted investment worth Rs 4,00,000 crores in UP. Even during Covid times, we got investments worth Rs 65-70,000 crore with no external trouble or problems. They just need some encouragement from the government, and we try and help as much as we can, by simplifying things. Nobody, no investor and no business should be affected by babudom.

On the High Court quashing NSA cases filed by UP Police

It was a report in your paper, and it was a fake report. I can supply you with the correct data. I told my home department that the Indian Express Group should get the right data, and it’s their responsibility to make sure that the right data is made available to you. Whatever, whichever cases we have registered, whoever took the law in their own hands, and spread lawlessness in the state, or spread anarchy in the state, it’s only in those cases has the local law enforcement registered the cases, it’s not something which has been manufactured. It’s because we took such decisions, its only because of this that UP has not had any riots in the recent past. Or else look at what kind of activities were taking place during CAA. Everyone has a right to legal recourse and each citizen is eligible to question the government regarding their security. But no one can take the law in their own hands, that’s not done.

On filing sedition cases against journalists

That’s not what we want but if someone is deliberately spreading fake news and spreading communal hatred and encouraging anarchy along the way, we wish to act and prevent a riot that will harm many people as well as hit infrastructure. We wish to unmask those people, the safety of 24 crore citizens is a priority and we are committed to that.

On the constant invocation of ‘love jihad’

Kerala High Court has also made statements regarding this in 2009, where it said that love jihad is a way to make the state an Islamic state. The Karnataka High Court too made a judgement regarding the same. We presented all the facts and evidence to the court, at how certain conspiracies were underway. We analyse the numbers and data that comes to us regarding law and order on a daily basis. We look at things district- wise. Have we forgotten the incident of Meerut, where an individual named Abdullah becomes Amit and ensnares a Hindu girl, marries her and takes all her property? He then buries their girl child in the same home. We saw about 100 such incidents across districts. We organised teams to investigate, as to who is funding these things, what’s the purpose of these incidents? To avoid riots and a feeling of anarchy and insecurity, we felt the need of a stringent law against such anti-social elements. We got the ordinance, and then later we made it into an Act. It’s applicable to everyone, not just one community alone. Whoever violates the law, it will apply to them.

Quick Questions

Your most favourite thing about UP?

UP is India’s heartland. Its vibrations pulsate through the whole country. So, UP’s development and prosperity is linked to India’s growth. We are working with the same mission and vision as that of the Prime Minister’s.

That one achievement that makes CM Yogi very proud?

The safety of every citizen of UP and the state’s prosperity.

One transformation in UP that you couldn’t bring about in your first term?

In any task there is always the scope to do more. I cannot say that I am perfect. Some room for improvement always remains. And wherever we feel the need, we take continuous steps for betterment.

Vidur, Chanakya or Amit Shah — who do you think is India’s best political strategist?

All three have their respective time periods. If we look at the time period of the Mahabharata, then Vidur was a necessity for those times. If we consider the later period, when India was in the Golden Age, then Chanakya was necessary. And, in the changed times now, amid the talks of pivoting the country in a new direction, Amit Shahji is playing the role of the political Chanakya for today’s day and age.

If Vidur were to be alive today, what advice would he give to Rahul Gandhi?

He would have advised him to sit back and relax, which I think will be beneficial for the Congress party.

And what advice would Vidur have given to you ahead of your election?

He would have said, ‘You are doing very good work, and the BJP should get the next 25 years in UP, because that is in the interest of both the state and the country’.

Who will be your biggest adversary in next year’s polls — Akhilesh Yadav or Mayawati?

I don’t consider anyone an antagonist. Both sides (the government and Opposition) are the essence of a democracy. In politics, we never believe that we have any adversary. We do politics on values, issues and ideals.

UP model or Gujarat model?

We are working with Modiji’s model — one India, best India — and moving ahead.

One personal regret which will remain for the rest of your life?

I never regret what has happened. I think before acting, and that’s why there are no regrets. If there were regrets, would I have become a hermit?

In hindsight, what is that one lesson you will take and do one thing differently the next time round?

I have come into politics to break people’s misconceptions about the country’s religious leaders and to show that a hermit, too, can bring about changes in every sector of social life. Our systems of worship may be different, opinions, religions and sects can be different, but, for us, the religion of nation and nationhood is of paramount importance. We have to keep our focus on the mission of seva (service). I have come with that sentiment. And that value, mission and loyalty stirs me to work within politics and outside.

Who is that one person in the Opposition whom you appreciate?

In today’s time, such a personality is hard to find in the Opposition, but such people did exist in the Opposition at one point in time. I keep quoting Dr Ram Manohar Lohia often. The way he put forth his views, if today’s socialists contemplated on those, they would have been freed from family disputes and caste issues, and would have worked for the welfare of the country.

What is that one lesson for the BJP from the loss in the recent West Bengal election?

You can’t call it a loss for the BJP because the seat tally has jumped from three to 77. We may have been deprived of power there but you can see what kind of a situation there is. Where democracy is a joke, what will you say to that? We touched 77, the second wave of the pandemic pulled the brakes on the BJP’s campaign, but I believe that the BJP will return there in the times ahead.

My family has old ties with Gorakhpur, Hanuman Prasad Poddarji has been our family (spiritual) guru. We keep getting messages about you from there. Someone from there has urged me to ask you: Gyaan Yogi (ascetic of knowledge and wisdom) or Karma Yogi (ascetic of action) — which one is Yogi Adityanath?

See, as the original editor of Kalyan (Hindu religious magazine), Bhaiji’s (Hanuman Prasad Poddar) unmatched service is still the chief inspiration for the world of literature and Sanatan Dharma religious members. He’s been very dear to me. Bhaiji’s birth also had a purpose, he was a yogi (ascetic) of the Natha Sampradaya (a Shaiva sect order). But the Bhagavad Gita clearly states: tasmad yogi bhavarjuna (therefore, Arjuna, strive to be a yogi). And this inspiration to become a yogi, and to work selflessly, is my biggest mantra.

Q&A Session

Sanjay Bhutani, MD, India and SAARC, Bausch & Lomb India Pvt. Ltd

When your government came to power four years ago, the home buyers in Noida and Greater Noida were hopeful of getting possession of their flats. While there has been substantial development in infrastructure, there’s still a lag, people are still waiting to get the possession of around 30,000-40,000 homes, I’m speaking specifically in the context of Jaypee Wish Town.

Yogi Adityanath: When our government came to power, we had meetings with builders and buyers. Within one year, in Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Authority, about one lakh buyers got possession of their homes. Because of the wrongful working method of the previous governments, these buyers had to wait for 8-10 years. This matter then went to the courts. And because the courts intervened in the matter, the government could not proceed with it. Otherwise, within a year, about 2.75 lakh buyers were to get possession of their homes. The Supreme Court released some directives and appointed a list of agencies, which have to take this forward. The state government is cooperating.

Nikhil Hawelia, MD, Hawelia Group and National Head, Labour Welfare Committee, CREDAI Youth Wing

In spite of the labour cess, there hasn’t been much improvement in the workers’ social status. The money wasn’t released even for the Covid-19 vaccination. What is the reason for this money to remain unavailable for promoting labour welfare?

Yogi Adityanath: We are making optimum utilisation of the labour cess money for registered workers. For instance, we gave bharan-poshan bhatta (maintenance allowance) from the labour cess to every registered labourer during the Covid-19 pandemic. But at the same time, we made an allowance available to the unregistered workers from our state budget. Also, in UP, we have 18 administrative divisions, in which we are making Atal Awasiya Vidyalaya (Atal Residential Schools) for labourers’ children, for them to get modern education and skill development. In those 10-15 acre campuses, we are developing facilities for food and lodging as well since the registered workers are always on the move and their children aren’t able to achieve education. Besides this, we are using the labour cess money for the weddings of the workers’ daughters.

Subho Ray, President, Public Affairs Forum of India (PAFI)

What is that one strong message that you would want to give to the present and future investors?

Yogi Adityanath: UP is the best destination for investments. I can say it is the best environment for safety and ‘ease of doing business’. UP’s ranking at No.2 further proves that if India is the best destination for investment in the world, then within the country, UP holds that title. We either already have or are developing infrastructure, along with safety. We have land banks, and we are giving a complete guarantee of protection to every industrialist and investor. Nobody can exploit or cheat them.

Vikash Madhogaria, Chairman, Vikas Group of Industries

Where do you see India and Indians in the next 10 years?

Yogi Adityanath: I believe that under the Prime Minister’s guidance and vision, India is heading towards becoming the world’s biggest economic power. And UP will collaborate and contribute towards this vision for India.

Huma Hassan, Independent Director and faculty, Plutus IAS

What has the government done for the education for women, an area where there still hasn’t been much development?

Yogi Adityanath: For women empowerment, we have started Mukhyamantri Kanya Sumangala Yojana, which begins when a girl is born and continues till she becomes independent. A package of Rs 15,000 is given to a girl at different stages of her growth. Even for her wedding, the state government is preparing financial aid. Her education till graduation is free. There’s work that needs to be done with regard to women empowerment. UP was the first state which worked for women’s safety, because for 20 years, there was an unsafe environment in the state. Today that is not the situation. We’ve created anti-Romeo squads and Mission Shakti, wherein each of the 1,535 police stations now has women’s help desks. Under the Safe City Project, we have started a women helpline. At every level, steps are being taken to implement these, and through these schemes, we are not only providing benefits of safety but are also starting programmes for their independence. Today, the number of SSC officers in UP is the highest.

Neelkanth Mishra, co-head, APAC Strategy and India Equity Strategist, Credit Suisse

Your budget has shown that UP had 15 medical colleges in 2017 and you are planning to increase that figure to 61 by 2025. While a positive step, how can there be a quality control for these? Also, UP has become the second centre in India in terms of electronics production after the Deccan cluster. How do you plan to attract FDIs to the less-developed regions of the state?

Yogi Adityanath: From 1947 to 2016, there existed only 12 medical colleges in UP. And between 2017 and 2021, we are making 30 new government medical colleges. We have started recruitment and training simultaneously, so that, along with quality education, we are also looking into the extent to which good medical facilities can be provided – doctors, paramedics, nursing staff and technicians. With that, super-speciality training and skill development are also happening parallelly. This infrastructure has given us renewed strength to fight Covid-19, and it is the result of this that UP is close to successfully controlling the second wave.

UP is turning into an electronics hub and we have put policies in place towards that. It is true that right now most investment is happening in the NCR, the other regions are deprived in comparison, but in eastern UP, Bundelkhand, central UP, whether through land banks or incentive-oriented policies, all these are part of our policy to encourage investment. And investors are taking interest in that. IT parks are coming up, too.

Sanjay Pugalia, Editor, The Quint

In recent days, the talks have resurfaced to divide UP into three parts, to make the state smaller. What do you have to say about that in the run up to the state election next year?

Yogi Adityanath: There is no such proposal to divide UP into any parts. We have come to unite, not divide. The whole of UP, as one force, will work for 24 crore people’s safety and prosperity, and is also striving towards upgrading their lives.

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