"Gujarat has 6 smart cities and our focus is on making them compete with the best in the world.”

With a firm focus on making Gujarat a world class state, Gujarat Government is pushing ahead with its agenda of making the state a land of opportunities and an inclusive development taking everyone along in its quest to make Gujarat a model Smart State. In an exclusive interview with Annurag Batra, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, BW Businessworld and Manish Arora, Associate Editor, BW Smart Cities, Vijay Rupani, Chief Minister, Gujarat, talks about his Government’s initiatives taken so far and his planned vision on making Gujarat compete with the best cities in the world.

What are your plans for Gujarat for the next 5 years?

I am glad I shall get the full five year term to go ahead with the development agenda where we have made a vision document for these five years. Our first priority is to complete the projects started by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was Gujarat’s Chief Minister. We are focusing on his vision of doubling farmers’ incomes, maximize their agriculture produce and new programmes for insurance and irrigation etc.

Secondly, we are making sure that the farmers must get the minimum support price for their produce and we are concentrating on the whole chain of marketing yard to cold storage. As Gujarat is a state with a 1600 km long coastline we are concentrating on making our seaway the main mode of transportation, we have also started a RO-RO ferry service and are focused on more and more port development from cargo to mass transportation to make sure that there is less burden on the roads and the whole transportation route gets shifted to the seaways from roads.

Thirdly, the youth must get employment opportunities and we want to project Gujarat as a land of opportunity for them to get jobs. We are working in this direction and ensuring industrial development, FDI investments in Gujarat which ultimately will lead to employment generation.

In this years’ budget too we are planning to give an unemployment allowance to the jobless and skill train-ing for youths with a plan to train and get them jobs on the basis of skills acquired by them. We are taking ahead Modi’s motto of “Bachho ko Padhai, Yuva ko Kamai, Bu-zurgon ko dawai” (Education to children, employment to youth and medicine to elderly people) forward and firmly believe in it.

Health is also a major focus area for our Government, we have given health security to senior citizens above the age of 60 to cover serious ailments like heart attack and cancer etc. We will provide 3 lakh rupees assistance to senior citizens for undergoing operations for these ailments. Rest, primary facilities like water, law and order, administration, sewerage, electricity and education etc. are our focus and Gujarat is the only state which has made a law to regulate the fee charged by private schools even after being challenged by the schools and even the Supreme Court, but in the end we won. Hence, our objective is to implement this law with utmost seriousness and help the middle and poor section children get good education.

What kind of outlay has been sanctioned for urban development and Smart Cities Mission in the budget presented in Gujarat assembly and what are your plans regarding this for the next few years?

In the budget of 2018-19 the Gujarat Government has kept aside Rs. 12,500 crore for urban development to make the state truly world class and we will need 3,000 crore rupees for Smart Cities Mission because we are in competition with world class cities. Gujarat has 6 smart cities and our focus is on making them compete with the best in the world. In order to achieve this objective, the whole system needs to be made smart by leveraging technology all the more and we are working in that direction with utmost sincerity.

Your views on the Central Government’s ambitious GIFT City project?

Modi Ji had envisioned a very ambitious project of GIFT City where YES bank recently has raised $600 million through its first US dollar denominated bond offering and listed the bonds on London Stock Ex-change’s International Securities Market (ISM). These proceeds will be used to fund the bank’s IFSC Banking Unit (IBU) in GIFT City. GIFT is the dream envisaged by Modi Ji to make a futuristic city where the international financial services are concentrated at and a city which can compete with other financial cities like London, Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong. We want to make Gujarat a hub for all this by making this township truly international where banks, insurance firms and stock exchanges can operate easily and are well connected with the whole world. We aspire to offer Indian as well as global firms a world-class infrastructure and facilities here at GIFT City. Our most important focus is to generate earnings and employment opportunities for people to make then self-sufficient and be able to earn their roji-roti (bread & butter).

Your comments on achievements of the central government’s so far?

The very first achievement of the Central Government is that there is not even a single blot of corruption charges on the Government under Modi Ji’s tenure. So many corruption scandals broke during 10 years tenure of Manmohan Singh Government, all of that stopped when Modi Ji’s Government came to power and we all have seen an honest Government in these five years committed to working for the common man of the country.

Secondly, the economic reforms carried out by Modi Government. There were so many talks since so many years about one nation, one tax i.e. GST but his Government made it a reality and this tax will not only strengthen and improve but also boost India’s ranking in ease of doing business. GST is also important for attracting foreign investment and increase tax compliance. This tax has seen the light of the day because of Modi Ji’s sincere efforts.

Thirdly, people of our country have reverence and faith in this Government that it is only Modi Ji who has been vocal about raising the issue of black money and taking steps in this direction. No Prime Ministers or Governments in the past could muster that kind of courage to speak against it, only a person like Modi Ji can talk about black money who does not have it. This is a testimony that he is honest in his resolve against the menace of black money and continue his fight to bring the offenders to justice.

Fourthly, this Government has boosted the morale of our army from time to time. Decisions like surgical strikes on Pakistan were taken to keep up the moral of our soldiers and give them the confidence that their sac-rifices would not go waste and we would hit hard by re-taliating with a shower of bullets if any kind of assault is made on our soldiers. This Swabhiman (Pride) of India and our army alike has been up because of Modi Ji.

Thus, this is the Government for the poor and exploited, for the less fortunate ones living in villages. This Government has come out with a lot of schemes and programs for the farmers and poor of this country. All these accomplishments of Modi Government are in public domain and for all to see in the next general elections. We are hopeful that the citizens of this country are and will be with us.