Dr Raman Singh, former Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, was the longest serving CM of the state. The National Vice President of Bharatiya Janata Party in a conversation with Free Press Journal gets candid about his journey as a CM and speaks on work he did as people’s representative.
Here are some excerpts from FPJ’s freewheeling conversation with national VP of BJP, Dr Raman Singh.
You were the Chief Minister of the state for 15 years. The Congress is in fourth year but the development in the state seen is different. Why?
Regional imbalance led to the formation of Chhattisgarh in 2000. When I became CM in 2003, the state faced two major challenges–zero infrastructure and mass migration due to starvation, malnutrition, high MMR, and poverty.
We decided to tackle these challenges and implemented the Food Security Act (FSA) through a unique PDS scheme, providing rice at Re 1 per kg. 70-75 lakh poor people in the state were not only provided rice but also lentils, salt and other commodities. The scheme was so good that it continues even today.
We provided jobs locally which helped us tackle the migration and moreover agricultural loans were made interest free and paddy procurement was set higher at 75 lakh metric tonnes from earlier 5 lakh limit. These provisions encouraged farmers to produce more paddy. Most of the roads, buildings and infrastructure were built in my tenure.
In the previous Congress government, lawlessness and loot were at the peak. The public suffered and changed the government in three years. A similar fate awaits the present government.
You carried out Vikas Yatras. CM Baghel is also conducting Bhent Mulakat; what is the difference?
Most of Baghel’s Bhent Mulakat programs are stage-managed and plain propaganda. Hired people are planted in the crowds to create the illusion of good governance. But in several places his flaws are exposed when the public raises questions. He tries to silence them by issuing threats and humiliating them.
Walking on stilts does not increase the stature of a person. To earn the respect of people, Baghel has to work seriously and be humble.
How does your party plan to tackle the challenge posed by the Congress government?
We ahave been reaching out to the public and achievements made in the last eight years under PM Modi, the achievements we garnered during my tenure as CM and failure of the current regime in comparison works in our favour.
You started the paddy procurement programme. The Baghel government claims farmers are happy because of its direct benefit transfers. Do you have anything to say?
Nearly 90% of the paddy procurement scheme, even the bonus they distribute to farmers, is supported by the Union government. The Baghel government is just making a false claim. The Baghel government is disbursing sums to the farmers in installments. Even at year-end farmers do not get the full bonus and are forced to buy substandard organic manure.
The government is opening Atmanand Schools. What is your opinion?
The Congress government is creating an illusion and cheating the public by opening such schools. There are no regular appointments of teachers or officials.
The government has only upgraded the old schools into new ones. A recent national-level educational survey report says Chhattisgarh stands second from the bottom in school education.
The Congress alleges that the Modi government frequently targets Baghel by sending agencies like ED, Income Tax, and others. What do you have to say about it?
If they extort Rs 25/tonne in coal transportation through the district collector of Korba on a daily basis and a list of Rs 300 crores worth of ill-gotten assets is presented in court, then agencies like ED, Income Tax will definitely carry out raids. These agencies were formed to curb corruption.
Why are you personally targeted? Congress claims to have evidence against you?
Baghel cannot sleep until he takes my name thrice a day. I have dared him several times to show me the evidence and take me to court. He has been in government for the last four years and controls every agency.
What is your opinion about religious conversion of tribals in Chhattisgarh?
The Congress government is encouraging religious conversion in tribal areas.