To start with, her interpretation of “chintan baithak” as “worry-sitting” is grossly incorrect. Chintan is more about taking stock of the situation, a precursor to manthan, which is churning. As such, there is no need to worry as the Devendra Fadnavis government is in perfect control of the situation.
Governments have always been the favourite whipping boys for journalists. Many governments of the past, perhaps, deserved to be so. But the BJP-led government in Maharashtra is working hard to restore the state’s lost glory. However, one must be free of routine scepticism and doubts to dispassionately assess the Fadnavis government. People in Maharashtra have been starved of good governance for 15 long years. Previously, funds allocated for irrigation would go directly to ruling party politicians’ pockets. Rural and urban infrastructure was neglected for years. People had turned cynical about politicians. The BJP-led government was formed against this background.
What has it done since? Let us begin with some statistics. The gross state domestic product (GSDP) has increased at a fairly decent rate of 8 per cent during 2015-16. A rise of 5.9 per cent and 10.8 per cent is expected in the industry and services sectors respectively.
Chief Minister Fadnavis has toured almost all districts in the state — besides visiting drought-hit districts twice. Hence, it is unjust to suggest that mingling with Bollywood stars is his passion. He has roped in stars like Aamir Khan for promoting water conservation and in response to his appeal, many cricketers have contributed generously for campaigns such as Jalyukta Shivar. Prime Minister Modi and all of us in the BJP believe that development need not be just a government programme, but can be a movement of the people.
During 2014-15 and 2015-16, as many as 6,205 villages from 34 districts were selected by the government for conversion to “water-scarcity-free” districts. They will attain that status within months. This is in addition to a record 1.55 lakh water conservation projects that have been completed. We have set the ambitious target of making 5,000 villages scarcity-free every year. The state government provided a special fund of Rs 2,000 crore for Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan in the villages selected for 2015-2016. It has resulted in the creation of 24 TMC storage that is equal to the irrigation needs of 6.5 lakh hectares of land.
Steps to provide immediate relief in drought-hit areas are afoot. Jaldoot Express has provided the city of Latur over six crore litres of water. This city now receives water daily. When an MLA from the city was at the helm of the government in the past, the city would get water only once a fortnight. Besides organising water tankers for Marathwada, the government has acquired wells and borewells in the region for the judicious distribution of water.
Vital infrastructure projects are on schedule and work would soon begin for MTHL, Metro 3 and Metro 7, and the coastal road project to ease traffic in Mumbai.
These projects were stuck at different stages for almost 15 years, mainly for want of necessary permissions from the government.
Lastly, about parivartan in political culture. Tavleenji would agree that political culture has much to do with the culture of governance. We are changing both. The number of farmers driven to commit suicide has already fallen in districts like Wardha and Yeotmal. For rapid industrialisation, the Fadnavis government has brought down the number of permissions needed to start an industrial unit from 75 to 30. To open a hotel, you now need only 25 permissions as against 150 in the past. Citizens in Maharashtra can now file FIRs electronically in any police station. Rate of conviction in cases filed against criminals was barely nine per cent two years ago. Now it has reached 51 per cent.
Maharashtra has seen corrupt but apparently efficient governments as well as clean but inefficient governments.
Under Fadnavis, Maharashtra has a clean, efficient government.
(This article first appeared in the print edition under the headline ‘Scenes of Change’)