Shubhangi Khapre: How realistic was former finance minister P Chidambarams statement in 2005 about making Mumbai a regional financial hub? You were the state finance minister at the time and had supported his statement.
Jayant Patil: For the country,Mumbai is the financial capital at present. But to bring the city on a par with other international financial centres such as Singapore and Shanghai,we have to achieve a number of other things in terms of infrastructure and attracting more financial institutions. The one good thing which has happened is the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission started by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,after which funds were made available for infrastructure projects – metro,monorail etc. With the pace at which we are investing in infrastructure in the city,I think we can achieve the status by 2020.
Manasi Phadke: A number of mega infrastructure projects such as the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link and Charkop Bandra Metro have failed to take off. You think,then,that by the end of 2020,the citys infrastructure will improve so drastically?
JP: Yes,by 2020 we certainly can achieve this despite all the hurdles involved. Projects such as the Metro and monorail are nearing completion and have been achieved only in the past five years.
Manasi Phadke: A lot of these mega infrastructure projects were conceived as public private partnerships,but did not work that way. Do you think the private sector has the appetite for these projects?
JP: The private sector does have the appetite,but the government sector needs to be more liberal and friendly. If we remain stringent,then private sector will stay away. We need to be more flexible.
Sharvari Patwa: Do you think there is something intrinsically wrong with the way we construct our roads? More than 20,000 potholes have been
reported in the city this monsoon so far.
JP: For the past three years,I have been going on a drive with BMC officials along pothole ridden roads with officials assuring me that the roads will be fixed. Since it ends up being a publicity stunt with no return,I did not go for the ride this year. The quality of road construction material and tar is very poor. Quality control is weak and this becomes a vicious cycle. In the Indian political system,in a limited budget,a number of roads are superficially worked upon before the public representative has to face elections. The civic authorities have to improve their administrative method and bring in more accountability.
Mayura Janwalkar: The Bombay High Court recently questioned whether road contracts are being given to the best quality contractor or simply the lowest bidder. What are your views?
JP: Ideally,the pre-qualification process of bidders should be strict so that technically unsound contractors are filtered out. Amongst them,the lowest bidder should be chosen. Right now,malpractices take place in the pre-qualification. Contractors claim to possess a list of machinery when they dont have them. There needs to be a way to cross-check.
Sagnik Chowdhury: What are your views on the Heritage Committees stand on the level of buildings along Marine Drive? What is your opinion on the heritage v/s development debate?
JP: We should not kill heritage over the need for development. Since my term as finance minister,the state has been sanctioning Rs 15 crore every year to renew all heritage properties which belong to the state. As far as buildings around Queens necklace are concerned,they need to be preserved.
Mihika Basu: What is your take on the issue of privatization of education in the state? The Chief Minister expressed concern over this issue.
JP: Considering our population,I believe more people should invest in education because the state government does not have the ability to provide quality education to so many. The state has its own limitations. These institutions needs to be better monitored to check the standard of education malpractices. This is my personal opinion. I do not know what the CM has said.
Alison Saldahna: Considering the large administrative problems faced by the city,what is your view on bifurcating the BMC?
JP: In the case of BMC,if the system is so large and ineffective,we have to consider a new model. There is corruption not just in the BMC,but in all municipal bodies of Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). A good option is e-tendering.
Alison Saldanha: The e-tendering procedure introduced by BMC still sees the same set of contractors bidding,especially for road projects.
JP: There is lot of dadagiri at the local level as the existing set of contractors exerts its influence and makes it impossible for new contractors to survive in the system. There are chances that some contractors enjoy political backing.
P Vaidyanathan Iyer: Tell us something about the work your ministry has done in rural Maharashtra.
JP: You can access the income and expenditure of gram panchayats online. 90 per cent of villages issue all 19 types of certificates such as birth,death certificates etc at the village level,meaning people dont need to go the tehsildar at the taluka level. The Eco village scheme,which requires villages to plant trees and construct toilets and recover 100 per cent revenue through tax was launched. In the first year,we achieved 60 per cent of the target by bringing in 15,000 villages under the scheme. For improving the standard of education in primary schools,we divided them into A,B,C,D and E categories based on various parameters of performance. A large number of schools falls in the C and D category. Efforts are on to get them into the B category.
Shubhangi Khapre: What is the status of the Shivaji statue which is to be built in the Arabian sea?
JP: We have found a 16-acre islet which is 1.3 km away from the coast near the governors house. The National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) is studying the environmental impact. We have asked international architecture and design firms if they are interested in the design aspects. We want to develop it as a world class tourist attraction with an aquarium,cafeteria,auditorium and an exhibition space where we can display weaponry from Shivajis time. The entire area will be able to accommodate about 3,000 people at a time. The height of the statue will be above 312 ft.
Sukanya Shantha: Does your party stand divided on the issue of banning dance bars? Have you thought about rehabilitating these women?
JP: The entire party stands united on the decision to ban dance bars. The party stands by the decision made by home minister RR Patil.
Tabassum Barnagarwala: What according to you is the feasibility of Dharavi redevelopment project considering the resistance from the residents?
JP: It is very feasible. The resistance is always there. Once one sector is developed and people see how good it can be,then they will come forward for the redevelopment of their own sector. The project can then get completed in two to three years.
Shubhangi Khapre: Are efforts on to overpower the Congress in the state?
JP: NCP is definitely trying to grow and increase its tally in the coming assembly elections,but there is no question of overpowering the Congress. The parties will fight the elections together.
Transcribed by Stuti Shukla