Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel is set to complete one year in office in December. In an interview, he said vishwas (confidence), vikas (development) and suraksha (security) are most important for people. He added that development does not mean building of roads and buildings, but the development of people through health, education and jobs. Edited excerpts:
How do you look back at the 10-month journey as chief minister of Chhattisgarh?
We had been in Opposition for 15 years. At that time we used to take up the issues of the people in the assembly, as well as on the roads. Now we are in power, but we continue to work for the people. Whatever we have seen, heard and experienced, we are now implementing it on the ground. We continue to work hard for farmers, the youth, tribals and women.
What are the biggest challenges as chief minister?
The biggest challenge in Chhattisgarh is that 37.6% of the children are malnourished, and 41.5% girls and women in the age group of 14 years to 49 years are anaemic. If our children and women remain weak then what will happen to the future generations?
International data shows that India is below Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal. We have taken this as a challenge and we want Chhattisgarh to end malnourishment.
Since health is a major problem area for the state, what steps have you taken to improve the situation?
The issue is that the financially weaker section comprise 39.9% of the population. (Therefore), the state government has decided to provide medical coverage of up to ₹20 lakh (per household), as the Ayushman Bharat scheme, which provides up to ₹5 lakh medical coverage, does not help in case of a major ailment. The Union government only provides ₹50,000 in the central scheme and the remaining ₹4.5 lakh is given by the state government.
Chhattisgarh has started a scheme to stop stubble burning by farmers. Can you provide the details?
If we do not return what we extract from the fields, the soil will lose its quality. Farmers also know that burning of stubble is not the solution to improve soil quality, but management of rice crop takes a lot of time and money.
The problem of burning stubble is also prevalent in Chhattisgarh. We want to limit it through Gaudhan scheme, wherein farmers gift away stubble after rice is harvested. The remains of the crop is then used to make manure, which is sold for ₹10 per kg.
Delhi bears the brunt of stubble burning by farmers in Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab. Have you suggested it to the Congress governments of Rajasthan and Punjab?
Many states are facing the same problem related to stubble burning. It is not limited to Punjab and Haryana, it is present in Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Wherever there is rice crop, this problem is present. The Union government has to intervene to find a solution to this problem.
Maoists violence in Chhattisgarh has continued for long. How do you plan to address the problem?
Earlier, the strategy was to fight a bullet with a bullet, but Maoist violence increased from 3-4 blocks to 14 districts. After Jammu and Kashmir, maximum number of paramilitary personnel are present in Chhattisgarh. We wanted to answer the question of why Maoists were increasing, but there was no answer. We spoke to people and realized that vishwas, vikas and suraksha are most important for people. Development does not mean just building roads and buildings, but development of the people through health, education and jobs.
Congress is facing a leadership crisis at the national level. What is the way out of this crisis?
When Rahul Gandhi resigned from the post of Congress president, there was a vacuum. But this crisis ended after Sonia Gandhi took charge of the party. I believe that Rahul Gandhi will again come back as party president.
In your opinion, should Congress join hands with Shiv Sena, which has always been a part of the National Democratic Alliance? Can Congress trust Shiv Sena to give up it’s Hindutva politics for government formation?
Congress will have to decide on the basis of the existing situation. Senior leaders are discussing this, and they will find a solution to the issue. We have to decide which party is a bigger enemy for Congress.