Shri Nitin Gadkari, the Union Minister of Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation is among the Ministers of Shri Narendra Modi cabinet who leads many significant ministries and whose working speaks volumes on the ground. His style of work is applauded even by the opponents. Organiser editor Prafulla Ketkar and Panchjanya Correspondent Ashwini Mishra had a long discussion with him to know about the four years ‘achievements of Narendra Modi-led NDA Government. Excerpts:
What has been your approach to development in these four years?
The difference lies in vision and approach. Economy, ecology and employment are integrated factors and you cannot deal with them separately. While working on the ideal of Antyodaya propounded by Deendayal Upadhyaya, we think of the last man standing in policy formulation. The developmental work done by us in these four years is visible everywhere. Roads, bridges and highways are being built in every part of the country. The opponents from Mulayam Singh to Mamata Banerjee and CPM Chief Ministers too have appreciated our work. We believe that this country belongs to all. Hence, there should be no politics in respect of development. We are building highways from Delhi to Mumbai costing rupees one lakh crore. The present highway leading to Mumbai is through Ahmedabad. But the road that we are now building connects Mumbai via Alwar, Jaipur, Swai Madhopur and Vadodara. All these are underdeveloped areas of Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh Gujarat and Maharashtra. The distance through the new highway will be 125 km shorter. We are also building waterways. The construction of Jojila Tunnel in J&K, where the temperature is minus 45 degree, has proved to be a lifeline for the people of Leh-Ladakh.
When many areas of Delhi and its adjoining areas cry for water, the water of many of our rivers goes to Pakistan. What are you doing on this front?
Yes, it is true that the water of our share is going to Pakistan. I am trying my best to ensure that we provide that water to Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. Since the water of many of our rivers is still untapped, we have decided to utilise that water. We are taking up some projects of interlinking of rivers. They include Pancheshwar, Ken-Betwa, Tapti and Narmada. Two projects are going to come up at Godavari. If we store Godavari water in Maharashtra, we can fill at least 40 dams there and the areas like Marathwada, Nashik and Malegaon will never face water crisis. The question is not of water shortage, but of its management.
North-East is now very close to Delhi in respect of development. How have you done it?
If you have will power for development, it is definitely visible on the ground. The previous governments did not have the will power. But development of north-eastern states is on top of our agenda. We have set up National Highway and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd for North-East. It is first initiative on the part of the government. For the first time the works worth Rs 1.5 lakh crores are being done there. What was not done in 50 years is being done in five years only. Also, the projects worth Rs 40,000 crore in Arunachal Pradesh and Rs 55 crore in Assam are being executed. Apart from it, the road projects worth Rs 25,000 crore are being executed in border areas of Myanmar, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal. We are also working on Brahmaputra River. In coming days our goods will reach Bangladesh from Varanasi and Haldia. We have built port in Chabahar. Diplomatically, it is very significant.
What is the progress on the projects like Sagar Mala and Bharat Mala?
Bharat Mala is Rs 7.5 lakh crore project. We are starting first phase of it. We are building roads in the border areas, connecting the district headquarters with villages and building ring roads in big cities. We expect investment worth Rs 16 lakh crore in Sagar Mala project. We have to develop ports and connect them with the roads.
Why the work on Smart City is still not much visible?
No, it is not true. We should understand that the government too has some limits and we have to understand them. It is a pilot project. We are working on many other such projects and the results of those projects will be visible shortly.
The condition of Ganga is very poor from Haridwar to Bengal. What is the progress on cleaning the river after you took over this assignment also?
I will clean the Ganga about 70-80 per cent by March 2019. We have started 11 projects for it in Patna, seven in Kanpur and three in Varanasi. We are also working on some other projects in other cities. We are identifying the drains falling into the Ganga. We are planning to produce methane from that sewage water. It will help us run 5,000 pollution-free buses from that. We are also entering into an agreement with Indian Oil for Ganga.
You have connected both the development of infrastructure and the culture. What is the thinking behind it?
When we talk about development, it includes the development of education, health, culture, traditions and sports activities. The infrastructure includes facilities of roads, railways, drinking water etc. When we connect all these, we call it integrated development. This integrated development plays a significant role in the development of the country. Our objective is to ensure welfare of villages, deprived people and the farmers. For farmers, we have started work on 109 irrigation projects. Many of these projects were hanging in balance for years. Apart from it, we are going to irrigate 1.88 crore hectares of land in coming days. It will help us curb suicides by farmers, migration from villages to cities and increase in farm production. The industries related to agriculture will move to the villages. We are working on the policy that ensures development of the deprived people.
How would you assess the performance of the Government and your ministries?
See, there is a fundamental difference of approach in our Governance. In order to understand that you will have to compare our 48 months under the leadership of PM Modi with the 48 years rule of the Congress Party. We do not differentiate or discriminate between the people on the basis of caste, creed, gender or political ideologies when it comes to key governance issues. Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas is a matter of conviction for us and not just slogan. Therefore, you see decisive decision making and effective implementation on all fronts.
In my ministries, I have delivered on expediting the infrastructural development with private partnership. Many youths are getting employment opportunities in this process. The only area, which I have to focus now, is road safety. To bring down the fatalities in road accidents, public awareness and strict implementation of laws is must and all sections of the society should come forward to accomplish this mission.