The Uttar Pradesh government has completed half of its tenure under you, how do you look at the journey so far?
It is because of the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that we have got an opportunity in Uttar Pradesh to know, understand and accomplish a lot of things in the last two-and-a-half years. We have tried to change the perception of Uttar Pradesh in our term so far. The state was waiting for recognition in the country and also in the world and we have tried to reinstate the recognition of the state to a large extent. I am confident that the manner in which the state government has functioned, the state will have a bright future in the future.
What are the highlights of your tenure as chief minister since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2017 after a gap of nearly 15 years?
We have worked for the overall development in the state and this is true for all sectors. We have worked towards improving the law and order situation in the state, the state government has been working to improve the condition of farmers and also to generate employment for the youth of the state within Uttar Pradesh. Efforts have been made to improve investment in Uttar Pradesh. The state government has taken measures to make basic facilities available to the common people while working towards infrastructure development in Uttar Pradesh. I am confident that the direction of the state government is right and the results will be visible to everyone in the coming days.
You have set the target of making Uttar Pradesh a $1 trillion economy. What steps do you plan to take to achieve this?
We have finalized our plan to achieve the target and have also identified the priority sectors in the state. Although work is being done in all the sectors, there are five sectors that have been identified, which will help us generate investment, trade and help the state become $1 trillion economy. The sectors that have been shortlisted are industry, infrastructure, agriculture and allied sectors, human resource development, and urban development. Apart from industries, the plan to start one-district, one-product scheme will boost trade in the medium, small and micro enterprise (MSME) sector. The service sector also has great possibilities, especially in the areas of spiritual and heritage tourism. In the agriculture sector, it is not just about crops and yields but it is also about animal husbandry, dairy production, and horticulture.
In the infrastructure sector, we have started work on the Poorvanchal expressway and progress has been made in the Bundelkhand expressway plan. Another expressway planned from Meerut to Prayagraj has been named Ganga expressway.
Specific efforts have been made to improve air connectivity in Uttar Pradesh. Till 2017, Uttar Pradesh only had two airports but now there are six airports functioning. Work is in progress on 11 more airports and two international airports are being developed by the state government at Jewar near Greater Noida and in Kushinagar. The first waterway in the country has been set up connecting Haldia in West Bengal with Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. Ten cities have been identified in the smart city project by the Centre and the state government has identified another seven cities, which will be developed as smart cities.
Corruption had become a big issue in both the assembly election and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. What steps have been taken by the Uttar Pradesh government to curb this menace? Which sectors continue to remain a challenge for the state government?
I have learnt from my experience that challenge is also an opportunity. From the first day onwards, we have taken a decision that there will be zero tolerance on corruption and crime in the state. I can confidently say that both crime and corruption in the state are at an all-time low. The fight against corruption and crime is going on and we will not rest till we end corruption and crime in the state and the fight is won.
Job creation has increasingly become a major challenge for the Union government. What steps has the Uttar Pradesh government taken to meet this challenge in the state, since you are the chief minister of the biggest state?
In the last two-and-a-half years, the state government has given 2.25 lakh jobs to the youth of the state. The ₹2 trillion investment in Uttar Pradesh in the last two years has led to employment of 5 lakh people and another 20 lakh people have got employed indirectly because of the investment. Another 4 lakh youth have either been employed in the MSME sector or have started their own units. Also, through the one-district, one-product plan, we believe that at least 25 lakh youth will get employed through the scheme in the next five years.
Rural distress has been a problem for the state government under you and some dues still remain to be paid to sugarcane farmers alone. How do you plan to double the income of farmers in the next three years, a target set by Modi?
The total dues remaining of sugarcane farmers is now ₹5,000 crore and the state government has so far paid more than ₹74,000 crore to sugarcane farmers which may not be the annual budget of many states but the state government has paid it to the farmers of the state. I am a firm believer that the farmers have a bright future in this country because the Prime Minister had given permission to make ethanol from sugarcane and industries have started coming up in the state. We plan to end the problem of sugarcane farmers in the coming years and it will lead to a bright future for sugarcane farmers.
The Uttar Pradesh government has organized ground-breaking ceremonies twice now to attract more investment. Investment projects worth ₹65,000 crore were announced in the second one while in the first one ₹60,000 crore was pledged. What is the status of these investments?
The ground-breaking ceremony was not a promise but it was an attempt to start the project on the ground. It is a happy occasion for us that in the last two years, the state government has succeeded in getting investment more than ₹2 trillion. Out of the ₹2 trillion worth of projects, most of the projects have started functioning and production has begun. Projects worth more than ₹65,000 crore are in the pipeline and our plan is to finalise it by December and then hold a third ground-breaking ceremony in the state to implement these projects. Earlier, it was only a dream to have so much investment in Uttar Pradesh.
A plan to create a defence corridor in Uttar Pradesh was announced in February 2018, for which the estimated investment was ₹20,000 crore. The project was to be able to provide jobs to 2.5 lakh people. What is the status of the project?
Our work is progressing on the defence corridor in Bundelkhand. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given us some directions and six areas have been identified for the project, which are Chitrakoot, Jhansi, Agra, Aligarh, Lucknow, and Kanpur. To further boost the defence corridor, an expressway is being planned in the Bundelkhand region and I think in the next two months, we will be able to start the work of building the expressway. We have come up with a policy on defence manufacturing and we have prepared a land bank. A defence expo is scheduled to take place in Lucknow in February 2020. The state government is a partner in the event.
The Supreme Court is holding a day-to-day hearing in the Ram Janambhoomi case. How do you view this development?
Everyone is looking to the Supreme Court because of the day-to-day hearing in the Ram Janambhoomi issue. We believe that everyone should wait for the judgement of the Supreme Court and respect the decision of the highest court. Ayodhya will have Diwali celebrations with all grandeur as it has always been the case.
There are assembly elections coming up in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand, and Delhi. Do you think the abrogation of Article 370 and making instant triple talaq illegal will have an electoral impact?
The BJP is in power in Maharashtra, Haryana, and Jharkhand. People are aware that if the same party is in power at the Centre and state then development work gets done faster. There is no doubt that the BJP will return to power in the three states. The abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir is a historic and courageous decision. On the issue of triple talaq, we have reached out to the women who are suffering because of it. We have also decided to have a time-bound approach and take measures at the earliest.