September 19 is the halfway mark of Yogi Adityanath’s term as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Last week, at his residence, he spoke to The Indian Express on the work done — and the task ahead. Excerpts:
Education and health, you said, are your focus areas. But as soon as you came, you stopped the previous government’s laptop scheme.
The fact is they started the scheme in 2012 and they failed. To say we ended it is wrong. We have taken several measures to bring a change in education. When I was new, I went to a primary school in a district headquarters. I was told there were only 35 students and the school was on the verge of being closed. I asked the school administration if they had a plan, did I have to transfer them? offer VRS? I asked them if anyone in the staff of three to four can spend Rs 4,000-Rs 5,000 from their salary, sit with the gram panchayat samiti, parents, use the money to paint the school, clean the surroundings. I knew that if locals see the principal working, they will decide to help. Within a year, the school has more than 350 students. The team and infrastructure are the same but now they have arranged for flooring, toilet and drinking water.
That’s the basis of our Operation Kayakalp. There are 1.59 lakh primary schools in the state. More than 90,000 of these schools have benefited from this — with very little or no government help, just by public cooperation.
Second, we saw students going to school barefoot. In winter, teachers were coming in coats and sweaters, students were shivering. I announced that with the new session, students will be provided bags, books, sweaters, shoes and socks. We are making these things available to every student.
We are also bringing in the NCERT syllabus. Every district has been asked to bring innovation in education. In Lalitpur, they started Gargi Shikshika Yojana under which an educated girl or woman is hired to teach the students. Parents contribute Rs 10-15 every month per head. Public cooperation with the government is necessary. We are trying to spread this in all districts. In two years, enrolment is up by 50 lakh students, that’s an achievement.
Next, we were worried that teachers used to take their full salary from the government and hire someone else to teach. We ended this system of proxy teachers. Wherever a teacher is posted, we ensured his photo is displayed. This enabled students, village heads and panchayat samiti members to make sure that the appointed teacher is coming to the school.
In secondary education, Uttar Pradesh was a hub of cheating. I asked them to prepare four sets of a paper so that in case one set of paper is leaked, we can send another set.
Last year, we found 5 lakh students didn’t take the exam. Initially, I was worried but when I asked for data, we found that these were people who had nothing to do with education. They were people from Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana who only wanted certificates. They used to pay and get registered and ensure marks depending on how much they paid.
We also changed the syllabus of secondary education. I asked them to bring the NCERT syllabus so that it can give students a level-playing field in competitive exams. We compressed the whole process of exams and assessment to just one month — down from five months. Now we have extra four months for classes. I asked officials to end all holidays on birth anniversaries of great men and women and celebrate each in a one-hour period in school. This ended around 50-60 holidays.
In higher education, we brought in an academic calendar. In all universities this year, admission started from July 2.
I was in Vladivostok recently. They have Far Eastern Federal University and in the university, they organised all the programmes. As our delegation was significantly large, we were told not to expect a five-star hotel for our stay as the university is situated in a lesser developed part of the country. The university guesthouses were excellent, they had all the facilities. This was an example of how a university can be part of every activity. This is exactly what I was saying here. Every university has given us ideas and we are trying to implement that. In education, just providing laptops cannot be a symbol of development.
Roti and salt is not in the mid-day meal menu here. There is a set menu for every day. This (incident) is a form of journalism which, in reality, puts a question mark on the credibility of journalism. There was another incident in Azamgarh — another reporter from the same media group went to a village and gathered local girls in the village. He gave them a broom each and asked them to sweep so that he could get his video. At the same time, teachers reached there, they protested against and it and handed over that reporter to the police. The same thing happened with the mid-day meal. The job of the media is to present something as it is. If you want to give your views, you have the editorial page. But creating a scene and recording it puts a question mark on the reliability of all journalism.
But isn’t this shooting the messenger? Reporters make mistakes but the norm is to rebut the report. How can you justify FIRs and sending journalists to jail?
Journalists have to decide who is a journalist and who is not. In Noida, some people tried to blackmail Dr Mahesh Sharma and his team in the name of journalism. What will you call it? In the name of journalism, if someone is blackmailing, it should be stopped. With incidents like these, true journalists are affected. It affects their rights, credibility and honour. Wrongdoing by someone who has nothing to do with journalism but does it in the name of journalism — this gives an important pillar of our democracy a bad name.
Your tenure began with the controversy at Gorakhpur’s BRD Medical College. In health, we haven’t seen a groundbreaking idea
I visited the medical college on August 9, 2017 and a (false) narrative was created over the next two days that how a person named Dr Kafeel is bringing oxygen cylinders in his vehicle to save dying children. There was already a two-tier system for oxygen. First, there was liquid oxygen system in which oxygen reached everywhere. Secondly, there were oxygen cylinders. The small cylinder he (Kafeel) was going with is used for welding purposes. It was drama we are supposed to believe, that this welding cylinder is for the children.
The problem of encephalitis in Gorakhpur started in 1977-1978 and I was the first person to bring that in front of the country. I fought against this from the street to Parliament. On August 9, I went to each and every bed. Later, everything became clear. That no child died due to unavailability of oxygen. The deaths were either due to encephalitis or because of premature birth. It had nothing to do with oxygen.
If you look at the last two-and-a-half years and compare it with the data of 2016-17, you will find a significant drop in the number of encephalitis cases. Because of the campaigning on the issue I did during my tenure as MP, today international norms are applied at the BRD Medical College for encephalitis. There are ventilators on every bed; the wards are fully air-conditioned and well-equipped. BRD is the first medical college with a viral research centre. Because of this, in his first tenure, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave two things to Gorakhpur: eight new super-specialties in BRD and an AIIMS.
From 1947 to 2016, 12 government medical colleges were built in Uttar Pradesh. From 2016 to 2019, we are building 15. In seven, admission has begun for this session.
The Centre wanted to give life-support ambulances to Uttar Pradesh in two phases under the National Health Mission (NHM) at no cost but the Samajwadi Party government did not accept them. In April 2017, I raised a demand and brought 150 life-support ambulances to the state. I sent two ambulances to each of the 75 districts. Last year, before the election, I was conducting an assessment and found that in one year, these ambulances saved the lives of more than 78,000 people. This year, we have got 100 more ambulances. We have also started mobile medical vans for remote areas. These vans have doctors, paramedical staff, ward boys.
Under the Ayushman Bharat Yojana, we have given free treatment of up to Rs 5 lakh to 6 crore people. Around 56 lakh were left so we started a separate scheme for them at the state level.
Before elections, you raised the issue of sugarcane farmers but after elections, it slipped off the radar. Payments of over Rs 6,000 crore are pending.
This is not only for elections. When we came to power in March 2017, sugarcane dues had been pending since 2011. I agree there are arrears of Rs 6,000 crore but we have paid Rs 73,000 crore in two-and-a-half years. That’s unprecedented. Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of farmers, 2.33 crore registered. This is the first time when farmers are not protesting.
On cattle, it is being said that Yogiji made farmers stay awake in the winter because of stray cows, that they voted for you and you have reduced them to watchmen.
If the farmers were unhappy, (why do you think) they voted for us? The farmers are happy. Maybe there were some issues initially. We shut down illegal slaughterhouses. For years, both the National Green Tribunal and the Supreme Court had clear-cut directions but no one before us was able to take a decision on this. I knew I would be blamed but the first decision I took was to shut illegal slaughterhouses. All unattended cattle going to illegal slaughterhouses were saved and they came onto the road and in agricultural fields. In June last year, I provided funds to each district to construct big cattle shelters. I had already constructed anti-land mafia task force in 2017 to free government land from the clutches of land mafia and politicians. The anti-land mafia task force has freed 54,000 hectares.
But it is alleged that ‘govansh to bahana hai, Musalmaan nishana hai’. That mainly Muslims work at slaughterhouses and this policy was meant to undermine them.
In Uttar Pradesh, cow slaughter is already prohibited under the Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act. In the state, every district was provided funds for cow shelters where cattle were to be brought, fed and taken care of.
In January this year, we started Nirashrit Govansh Samvardhan Yojana under which if a farmer adopts a cattle head, he will be given Rs 900 per month in his account. It has started in some districts. For the funds, we applied a cess on foreign liquor. Today, we have around 3 lakh stray cattle in our shelter houses and even farmers have started to adopt cattle.
Next, we are starting a facility that if there are 150-200 cattle with farmers, then we construct a big gobar gas plant. We are taking the help of IIT Kanpur. Today, there might be one or two complaints or incidents where people try to make this an issue because of political reasons but I believe that this is not an issue in general.
You have spoken about governance in great detail but there are apprehensions among Muslims since you became Chief Minister. That they don’t have representation in the government.
Everyone has representation in the government and the government doesn’t implement any scheme taking in mind caste, religion or belief of the individual beneficiary. Hamare yaha sabke saath sabke vikas ki baat hai. Jab sabka saath sabka vikas laagu ho raha hai to mujhe nahi lagta hai ke isme koi ashanka honi chahiye.
In the last two-and-a-half years, there hasn’t been a single riot. All festivals went on smoothly. Compare the last two years with the years before 2017. Take the example of Muharram. Before 2017, there used to be rioting, violence at 400-500 places on this day. People now have a faith that if we do not break any law, then there won’t be any kind of problem, that if I work as per law, I will get security and the government will support me. But if you break the law, no one can provide you security. What is applied to one person is applied equally to everyone else.
The Muzaffarnagar riots took place under the last government but of the 44 cases decided, there has been acquittal in 43 cases. Why isn’t your government filing appeals?
The chargesheets in the Muzaffarnagar cases were filed by the previous government. The (riots) were the result of biased policies and failure of that government under which the whole society was differentiated on the basis of caste, belief and religion. There is nothing like that in our government. On the question of appeal, we will do that if needed. If there is no need, why should we unnecessarily intervene in the matter of the court?
You mentioned caste but you started giving SC certificates to 17 castes. A Union minister had to say in Parliament that what the UP government is doing is wrong. Why that gimmick?
It was not a gimmick. A division bench headed by a High Court chief justice gave an order in this regard. Our department sent that order to every district administration as it is. If we would not have done that, it would have been contempt of court. Now the matter has been challenged in the court and the court will take a decision. We just followed what the court said.
What is the one thing which worries you? A challenge?
There is nothing I am worried about. Our Prime Minister says what is a challenge is also an opportunity. I feel that we have to provide clean drinking water to everyone and that’s a huge, sacred work. I have already provided funds to Bundelkhand in the first phase. We have evolved a plan and are going to start this from there.
In his Independence Day speech, the Prime Minister spoke about population explosion. The Total Fertility Rate in Uttar Pradesh is higher than the national average. As CM, what are you planning?
We totally agree with what our PM said on this. Somewhere, we have to put a barrier after a limit. In what form it will be, there are proper discussions on the government level and we will apply it phase-wise. We have been working on this.
Another population data set shows that UP is the largest exporter of migrants to other states.
We have a population of 23 crore and when we came to power in 2017, all government jobs were stayed by High Court or Supreme Court. We got the stays vacated. We have given more than 2.25 lakh government jobs to UP youth in different departments. Appointment of 69,000 teachers, 51,000 policemen and 25,000 secondary education teachers is in the final phase.
Riots, goonda raj and anarchy were how UP was perceived. That has changed. Today, Uttar Pradesh is getting the best investment. In my term, we brought more than Rs 2 lakh crore. Under the One District One Product policy, we focused on the state’s conventional products. The result is that Uttar Pradesh is at the top of exports with exports worth more than Rs 1.14 lakh crore. All these are generating employment.
The decision on Ayodhya is expected in November and if it’s not in favour of Ram Lalla, what is Yogi Adityanath going to do?
Everyone has faith in the court. Everyone knows that day-to-day hearings have begun. These hearings are on the basis of merit. We will respect whatever is the verdict of the court. We are going to respect the verdict, you don’t need to worry.
As far as giving Ayodhya its due recognition, the government is doing its work on a priority basis by organising Deepotsava and ensuring the inclusive development of Ayodhya.
Another important issue is the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Several BJP Chief Ministers and leaders have demanded an NRC in their respective states. What’s your take on the NRC and Uttar Pradesh?
This is an important and a brave decision of implementing the court’s order. I believe that we should congratulate the Prime Minister and the Home Minister for this. These things are being implemented phase-wise and I feel that when Uttar Pradesh will need an NRC, we will do so. In the first phase, it has been Assam and the way it is being implemented there can be an example for us. Using their experience, we can start it here phasewise. It is important for national security and it will also put a stop on the rights of the poor being taken away by illegal immigration.