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Devendra Fadnavis : Maharashtra on road of success

Devendra Fadnavis, Maharashtra, Chief Minister, CM Fadnavis, Maharashtra Chief MinisterThe Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis-led Maharashtra government which came into action in 2014 hand in hand with Shiv Sena will be completing its first term soon. While the post of the Chief Minister has always been a power struggle game for both the Shiv Sena and BJP leaders, and there are fresh talks of Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray being the frontrunner for the post, the incumbent CM has expressed full confidence that he would return for a second term on the top post after the Assembly polls slated for later this year; he also said that his work will speak for him.

“I am the Chief Minister of not just the BJP but also the Shiv Sena, RPI, Rashtriya Samaj Paksh (all allies in the state government). People will decide who will be the next Chief Minister. You need not worry. Our work will speak for us,” Fadnavis told the party workers at a state executive meeting held in Mumbai last month. The CM has also advised people not to fall in the trap of any reported tussle over the CM’s seat.

When Fadnavis took over the helm of the state in 2014, he promised to bring in transparency and accountability in Mumbai’s civic administration and run an efficient and transparent government. His vision for the state to run smoothly included a people-centric government, ‘including a thrust on urban infrastructure, public services and a more robust investment in rural and agrarian sectors’.

The government of the 18th Chief Minister of Maharashtra Fadnavis who is also the second youngest to hold the post in the state after Sharad Pawar promised to prioritise its focus on the quick decision-making and development with thrust on industrialisation, transparency, fiscal prudence, and infrastructure growth. The government has also set in motion various initiatives, and on many occasions, it has balanced them through regional or community specific measures, to avoid political landmines. The achievements of this government are many, but here we would like to highlight a few –

MARATHA RESERVATION

The Maratha community that roughly forms one-third of the state population had the demand for reservation for a long time. The Devendra Fadnavis-led government in Maharashtra had approved 16 per cent reservation for the Marathas in jobs and education in November last year following state-wide protests.

On June 27, the Bombay High Court upheld the decision, but asked the state not to exceed the recommendation of the State Commission for Backward Classes that the reservation be kept at 12 per cent in education and 13 per cent in jobs. A 16 per cent quota for Marathas would take the proportion of reserved seats in the state to 68 per cent. The court said that the 50 per cent ceiling can be breached under exceptional circumstances.

Citing a Gokhale Institute of Economics report that found “40 per cent of total farmers who committed suicide were Marathas”, the court judgement notes, “This report is a reflection of the agrarian crisis in the state and since most of the Marathas are agriculturists, it brings forth the financial distress faced by the community. In the backdrop of the said scenario, the youth of this community is looking towards reservation as a solution to their progress and march towards cities…”

As per an article published on “The Wire”, the Gaikwad commission’s data do indeed paint a dismal economic picture of the Marathas. For instance, the judgement says, “On the basis of data and survey it [Gaikwad Commission] has arrived at the conclusion that 37 per cent families belonging to Marathas are below the poverty line compared to the state rural average of 24.20 per cent.”

A social group caught in the throes of economic crisis does not become socially backward. The article also includes high court judge P.S. Krishnan explaining that there will always be rich and poor people in a community but that can’t become a determinant for declaring it socially backward. He also neither observes that reservation is a tool for removing poverty nor arresting the economic decline of a social group. “Economic decline and agrarian distress can be tackled by a slew of measures appropriate to the agriculture sector, which does not include reservation,” Krishnan was quoted.

Later in July, the state legislature passed a bill bringing down reservation for the Maratha community from 16 per cent to 12 and 13 in education and government jobs respectively. Now, after both the houses of the legislature agreed passing the bill.

JALYUKT SHIVAAR ABHIYAN

In a bid to make Maharashtra a drought-free state by 2019, the Maharashtra government has launched the project “Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyaan” which involves deepening and widening of streams, construction of cement and earthen stop dams, work on nullahs and digging of farm ponds. The mobile app, developed by MRSAC, is being used to map these locations. The mapped location can be monitored through this web page. The user will be able to download the application, view instruction manual and view mapping locations along with photographs. District-wise, taluka-wise, work-wise statistics is also available both in tabular and graphics form. The project aims to make 5,000 villages free of water scarcity every year.

The Government has spent around Rs 7,500 crore in the past few years on this scheme alone. Although the state government did not give details of the Jalyukt Shivar scheme and the locations of the wells and farm ponds that it claimed to have built in the past four years, it has claimed that the scheme has changed the water story of Maharashtra for all time.

After its launch in December 2014 by the CM with an objective to harvest rainwater and enhance groundwater levels, the project reportedly has run into stormy weather for its haphazard and unscientific implementation, undue reliance on machinery, lack of transparency, and public participation. There were also allegations against the government for being implementing the majority of the scheme unscientifically. Many activists have also questioned whether the scheme can be fruitful to recharge groundwater level in the long-term.

Water which is one of the most important resources needed for the existence of living beings is also vital for economic and agricultural development. As nearly 82 per cent area of the state in Rain-fed sector and 50 per cent area is drought prone and its uncertain, insufficient, and irregular rainfall pattern adversely affects agriculture.

Maharashtra is the third largest State in Union of India considering population as well as the area. Nearly 58 per cent of the population lives in the rural area which depends largely on agriculture for their livelihood. The rainfall varies from 400 mm to 6,000 mm. The geographical area of Maharashtra has been divided into 36 districts and 358 Talukas for administrative purposes. The agriculture suffers due to uncertainty of monsoon. Nearly 148 Talukas are drought prone.

According to data, around 13,950 ponds were dug between 2014 and 2016 under the NHM, the JSY and the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, while nearly 24,700 more were under construction under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in 2016-17. Till date staggering 1.6 lakh odd applications have been received by local authorities under the ‘Magel Tyala Shettale (Farm Pond on Demand scheme)’ ever since Fadnavis launched it in February 2016.

Besides there are also talks around the government for not taking into account the massive amount of work that goes into involving people in carrying out watershed works. While local authorities said that they are aware of the concerns engendered by the indiscriminate digging of farm ponds, they find regulation impossible.

When Afternoon Voice covered a news story on the ground reports of the success of the scheme, Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Atul Londhe attacked the ruling government saying, “Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan is one faulty plan that fooled people. The scheme failed to take note of soil conservation. Excess use of machinery for the scheme has led to erratic digging that has made the situation worse. Water conservationist Rajendra Singh has also accepted this.”

“We have many times tried to bring this into the notice of the government but it went unheard. When the Prime Minister had announced that the government has managed to save a good quantity of water, he must answer why did the water level go down then? He must also answer where and how the entire allocated fund was used? What happened to the loan-waiver even? The present government is unaware of how to properly govern a state and they do nothing except bluffing,” Londhe casted his doubt.

On the other hand, while denying the rumours around the failure of the scheme, BJP state spokesperson Madhav Bhandari, “One has to understand the nature of water scarcity in Maharashtra and this is in connection with monsoon rainfall quality since ages. This year we have seen a very irregular monsoon i.e. only 60-701 per cent of the state’s average rainfall. The incumbent Maharashtra government has accepted the seriousness of the situation, unlike the previous government who used to declare it enough late. Those who are accusing the government for the delay in declaring a drought, I must say they are only misleading the people.”

MUMBAI-NAGPUR SUPER EXPRESSWAY

Mumbai-Nagpur Super Communication Expressway is termed as dream project of CM Devendra Fadnavis. It is also known as Maharashtra Samruddhi Mahamarg. Total length of this super expressway is 701 km. It will be an 8 lane expressway, connecting Nagpur and Mumbai. The expressway will pass through 10 districts, 26 tehsils, and 390 villages of the state. The cost of this mega project is around Rs 46,000 crores. It required the acquisition of 8,603 hectares of land.

Timeline of Project

May 2016: Consultants appointed for making Detailed Project Report

January 2017: Request for Qualification (RfQ) bids opened for civil works

July 2017: Land acquisition process started

May 2018:   MSRDC opened financial bids submitted by qualified contractors

May 2018:  Maharashtra cabinet gave its official approval for Concession Agreement for the project

June 2018: Lowest bidders identified for thirteen packages, bidding for remaining packages to happen soon

November 2018: 90% land acquisition done. Work to be done in 16 packages, contractors for which are already identified. Work to start in December

December 2018: Prime Minister Narendra Modi performed ground breaking ceremony for the project on 18-December-2018

January 2019: Land acquisition complete, funding secured, expressway to be ready by December 2020, Road construction started

SHIVAJI SEA MEMORIAL

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is a revered figure in Maharashtra’s politics. Every party tries to take credit of anything related to Shivaji Maharaj.The BJP and the Shiv Sena hope that building Shivaji sea memorial will help them to win the support of the Maratha community. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s upcoming statue in Arabian sea off Mumbai coast will cost Rs 3643.78 crore and construction of the project is expected to complete by 2022-23.

The statue will be located facing Mumbai’s Girgaum Chowpatty beach, 1.5 km away on a manmade island of rocks. The statue will be 126 metres in height, placed on top of an 84 metres high platform, making the total height of the monument 212 metres. Statue was initially planned for 192 metres, however, it was increased to 212 metres as the Fadnavis government wanted to keep the statue as the tallest in the world.

BABASAHEB AMBEDKAR MEMORIAL AT LNDU MILL

According to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Babasaheb Ambedkar Memorial at the Indu Mills compound in Dadar will be completed by 2022.The Statue of Equality or the Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Memorial is under-construction and its total height is 137 metre, including the plinth. The Ambedkar’s statue will be the third tallest statue in the world after the Statue of Unity (182 m) and the Spring Temple Buddha (153 m). The foundation stone was laid on October 11, 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The contract for the construction of the statue had been awarded to the Shapoorji Pallonji Group at a cost of Rs. 783 crores. With the construction of this Memorial, CM Fadnavis has tried to target the dalit community of the state.

MUMBAI, PUNE AND NAGPUR METRO TRAINS

Work of Metro lines of 150 kms started in Mumbai.  After its completion, metropolitan region will be decongested. This was pending since the last 8 years. The state government led by CM Fadnavis started metro rail projects in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur. Similarly, coastal road project initiated with the ‘Bhoomi Poojan’ for the First Phase from Nariman point to Bandra.

LNTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AT NAVI MUMBAI

Mumbai became a WiFi city with over 1200 hotspots. The Maharashtra Information Technology Corporation (MITC) has collaborated with US-based companies like Hewlett Packard and Fortinet for the technical aspects. Work on the Bandra-Virar and CST- Panvel elevated railway corridor, and Mumbai Trans Harbour link also started.  State housing policy announced to affordable housing for all and to set the derailed housing process in the state in motion. Process to set up lnternational airport at Navi Mumbai speeded. Project to set up 10 airports in the state in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities initiated to ensure better connectivity.

MUMBAI-DELHI INDUSTRIAL CORRIDOR

Funds to set up the Mumbai-Delhi industrial corridor allocated. Foreign lnvestment guaranteed for 712 kms Mumbai-Nagpur super expressway which will connect 24 districts of the state and take the development to all these districts. Fadnavis government closed 11 toll nakas in state and extended discounts to light motor vehicles on 52 toll nakas. The government took revolutionary steps to increase agricultural output and provide relief to farmers. 2750 megawatts of power added and load shedding ended. Revolutionary steps were also taken to improve standards of school, higher technical and medical education. Quality facilities extended to minorities and Adivasis to uplift the community. The state government sanctioned 10 SMART Cities in the state. State Tourism policy declared to ensure the state becomes tourist friendly and to focus on infrastructure at tourist spots. The Tourism Policy 2016 designates Tourism as a priority sector since it holds the potential to usher in economic development and generate high employment opportunities in Maharashtra.

OTHER IMPORTANT ACHIEVEMENTS OF FADNAVIS GOVERNMENT

Maharashtra attracted investments to the tune of 15 lakh crores during the Make In India week out of which Maharashtra tops in conversion of investment pledges to reality. Due to steps taken by Fadnavis government, state’s ranking in Ease of Doing Business goes up. The state government has taken steps to initiate Skill Development Centres in all districts to train the youth. The Fadnavis government worked in the direction of ensuring the security of women and people in the capital city of Mumbai.  For this over 5000 CCTV cameras were  installed in Mumbai. At the same time, during Fadnavis tenure, rate of conviction has gone up from 9 per cent to 52 per cent and cyber labs have been set up in all districts of the state. The government made all police stations online. Maharashtra government passed the Right to Services bill and brought 369 services under its ambit.

By Rajesh Choudhry

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