LIZ MATHEW: What has been the biggest challenge in handling the Covid-19 situation in Haryana?
The early days of the pandemic, in March and April, were a big challenge. But soon we ramped up testing. At present, we have a recovery rate of 77 per cent, and at 1.32 per cent, our mortality rate is low. We are trying to further speed up the process with rapid testing. Currently, 12,000 to 13,000 tests are conducted every day. If we test most of the people, we will be able to detect the positive cases early, which will improve their chances of recovery.
We have also started plasma therapy and four plasma banks have been set up at Panchkula, Rohtak, Faridabad and Gurugram. We don’t think this pandemic will end immediately, but we are trying to build people’s confidence. I believe there is no Covid-19 panic among the people of the state. Also, our people have high immunity, perhaps because of their diet, lifestyle, body structure and an environment that encourages physical activity and sports.
SAKSHI DAYAL: Will there be another lockdown in Gurugram?
No, we don’t have any such plans. Our government has carved out containment zones and we have imposed lockdowns in neighbourhoods with heavy case load. We ensure smooth supply of essentials to such areas besides providing immunity booster medicines to every home in that locality.
LIZ MATHEW: In the Haryana Assembly, the BJP has 40 MLAs, five less than the majority mark. In Manipur, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh we have seen the BJP take Congress MLAs into its fold to stabilise its numbers. Is that a possibility in Haryana too?
There is a lot of stability in our government. We have the required numbers with 10 Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) MLAs and seven Independent MLAs. There is no insecurity and we face no threat. Whoever has more than 45 seats forms the government, and we have the required numbers. As for the Congress, we all know its character. The Congress is no longer a party of ideology, there are many groups within the Congress. It is a divided house and even if Congress MLAs offer to join our party, we will have nothing to do with that. Why should we accept their offer? We have a majority (in the Assembly).
MANRAJ GREWAL SHARMA: You have introduced pool testing of vulnerable groups in Panchkula for Covid-19. Will you extend it to other areas too?
We have done this everywhere because if the disease is controlled in vulnerable groups, it doesn’t spread. We sampled traders, small shopkeepers in vegetable markets and farmers who frequent Delhi’s Azadpur Mandi. Likewise, policemen commuting between Delhi and Haryana were also tested.
MANRAJ GREWAL SHARMA: You have said that Haryana is suffering monthly losses of Rs 4,600 crore. How many industries are functional now?
There was a revenue deficit of Rs 5,000 crore in three months (April, May and June) at a time when we had an additional expenditure of Rs 4,000 crore. So, there was a gap of Rs 9,000 crore in three months. But in July the situation returned to normal, both revenue and expenditure. The power consumption in July is on a par with the consumption last year. As many as 40 lakh people have started working in about 50,000 enterprises.
AANCHAL MAGAZINE: Do you think 75% reservation for locals in the private sector is appropriate for a free labour market?
That ordinance has not been implemented yet. We will implement it after discussing with the industries. Industries raised the issue of untrained labour with us. We have promised to take responsibility for training the labour. Even if this proposal of 75% is implemented, it will be implemented for only new industries, not for existing ones. They may or may not hire more than 10 per cent of the labour from a particular district. If they don’t get skilled labour, then they may hire from other states too. The industries won’t get affected because of this provision. (Last month, the Haryana Cabinet cleared a proposal to draft an ordinance for reserving 75 per cent private sector jobs for residents of the state.)
RAVISH TIWARI: The 75 per cent quota was not mentioned in your manifesto. Are you trying to implement it under pressure from your deputy CM (Dushyant Chautala)?
It’s not that (the 75 per cent quota) was not mentioned in our manifesto. If you see our manifesto, it says that industries which give 90 per cent of their jobs to Haryana residents will receive special incentives. They were for 75 per cent (quota) but we favoured 90 per cent.
SUKHBIR SIWACH: In recent weeks, MLAs from Rajasthan have taken up accommodation in Haryana hotels. Is it just coincidence?
Hotels in Haryana are open for everybody. Anybody can go and stay in any hotel, it is up to the hotel to accept them or not. This is a Congress drama, and we will not participate in it.
NITIN SHARMA: What will be the challenges in hosting the fourth edition of the Khelo India Youth Games in Haryana?
We have accepted the proposal to host the programme in November-December 2021, approximately 16 months from now. In this time, the (Covid-19) circumstances will improve. But if Covid carries on, the games will not take place. Nearly 10,000 people (players and officials) will be involved, it is a big event. The Central government also helps out with the programme. Last time, we had secured second place in the Games by winning 200 medals in Guwahati. We will try to improve our tally.
ANIL SASI: What is the scale of manufacturing in hubs such as Gurugram, Manesar, Sonepat and Panipat at present? Amid the Covid curbs, many states, including Haryana, amended the labour and factory laws. Uttar Pradesh rolled back these amendments. What about Haryana?
Industries were hit hard in the months of April and May. In June, many industries opened and in July, the percentage of industries opening up has further increased. Around 10-20 per cent of the industries are not running to full capacity as the labour has not returned. As for revenue receipt, now it does not come majorly (to the state) from industries, due to the GST.
There are more than 50,000 entrepreneurs and factories in Haryana and more than 38 lakh workers are employed here. We want to work on data regarding workforce in small and medium enterprises. We have started a new system wherein every entrepreneur has to register his/her workforce with the state government. We have also started a new portal — Haryana Udhyam Memorandum (HUM) — where entrepreuners can register details about their workforce. It will help us determine the exact number of workers. Some factories don’t show their full workforce because of tax issues.
Regarding the changes in the labour laws, we have sent the amendments to the Governor and he has signed them. The file will now be sent to the President and once he approves, they will be implemented. We simply made sure that industries do not stop due to labour unions and these amendments are not anti-labour.
VARINDER BHATIA: You also hold the Finance portfolio. Can you tell us about the steps being taken to recover from the losses of the past four months?
The month of April saw a revenue loss of Rs 1,200 crore and we recovered some of the losses in May and June, which also saw losses of Rs 9,000 crore each. But now I am sure we will generate more revenue… When the lockdown started, everything was closed and people stopped spending. But the government had to spend on salaries and crop procurement. We did procurement worth Rs 16,000 crore. Now the situation has stabilised.
VARINDER BHATIA: Last year, the Haryana government had organised an international investors’ summit to attract foreign investment. How successful was it and what is the situation now?
We have been engaging with investors through webinars and three-four big foreign investors have come forward. Flipkart has approached us for 150 acres of land and plans to invest more than Rs 5,000 crore. ATL has also approached us for investment of more than Rs 3,000 crore. We are going to develop a medical device park in the state. Regarding KMP (Kundli–Manesar–
Palwal or Western Peripheral Expressway), we are also making a social-economic corridor, and in Panipat, we have offered 1,000 acres to the Central government to set up one of the three pharmaceutical parks they are planning. It will create employment for thousands. We also plan to give land on lease to investors.
LIZ MATHEW: Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao has been one of the main campaigns of the BJP government in the state. Haryana has a skewed sex ratio. How far has the government succeeded in improving the situation?
A neutral gender ratio is very important for society, and when we came to power, this was one of our main concerns. Haryana was among states with very poor gender ratio and I remember a conversation with PM Narendra Modi in October 2014 in which he emphasised that this should be our main concern. So, in January 2015, we launched Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao. At the time, the gender ratio in the state was 871. We made a separate cell under the CM’s Office and worked in tandem with NGOs, the education sector, panchayats, home and legal departments to stop female foeticide. We identified and took action against doctors and organizations indulging in such practices. As a result, the gender ratio in the state has improved. It is 930 now. It is a remarkable achievement. We are also thinking of giving 50 per cent reservation to women in panchayats.
HINA ROHTAKI: How prepared is the state to deal with the pandemic in the coming months and what are the projections?
We revise our projections every fortnight. The number of cases projected earlier was much higher. The situation has improved. Of the 30,000 cases, over 23,000 have recovered in the state. We have 1,500 isolation beds and 1,000 ventilators. We increase our hospital inventory as per the projections. That is why even now the beds in many hospitals in the state are vacant.
RAVISH TIWARI: In the early months of the pandemic, a large number of cases were linked to the Tablighi Jamaat. Haryana too saw such cases. Many, including some BJP spokespersons, blamed a particular community for it. After three months, do you think that approach was right?
That was only one incident. The original source of Covid-19 was in China. It’s not that it originated from the Jamaatis. In early March, the Tablighi Jamaat congregation took place and the virus spread. People from all over the country were present in the congregation, including Haryana residents. There was a protest, some rumours were spread. We convened a meeting of 250 local heads of all religions and urged them to put an end to the rumours. Most of the people who attended the congregation have been cured and discharged. Recently, there was a marriage in Hisar where 50-60 people got infected. It is not appropriate to blame one group of people for the incident. It was just one incident which is over and now we must end the issue too.
HARIKISHAN SHARMA: During the 2014 and 2019 elections, Robert Vadra and deals by DLF were major issues. But not much progress has been made in the cases.
We have always maintained that we will not tolerate corruption at any level… We have started the proceedings in pending cases. Some cases have gone to the courts, others to the CBI. At least four-five issues are at an advanced stage. The final decision can come any time. Our task is to initiate the process, the courts will give punishment. We don’t want innocents to be punished, we don’t believe in political vendetta… Corruption has been happening due to policies of last 25-30 years, it takes time to rectify a rotten system.
SAURABH PRASHAR: Does the RSS influence BJP-led state governments?
There is a system in place in every state and people follow it. Despite all the freedom, no one can work without guidance. It’s true in every field. We take guidance from our teachers, the Central government and even other state governments. Asking for guidance from the RSS is not a crime.
JAGPREET SINGH SANDHU: Recently, the Chandigarh administration proposed a weekend curfew but Haryana refused.
A lockdown will not serve any purpose unless it is imposed for a 14-day period. Imposing a lockdown over the weekend merely gives the impression that something is being done. Unless we isolate an infected person for 14 days they will continue to infect others. It is a chain and to break it we need 14 days. A weekend lockdown serves no purpose.
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