ULBs are important pillars of democracy: Singh

In a free-wheeling interview with Kumar Dhananjay of Urban Update, Dr Raman Singh talks about his development agenda and the initiatives of his government to improve lives of the people living in urban and rural areas of the state




Dr Singh this is your third term in office. What has been your vision for the state and how satisfied are you so far as the development of the state is concerned?
Chhattisgarh, in last 13 years has achieved so much as a state. It has empowered its residents and leads the nation in various metrics of socio-economic development. However, only when we can together make Chhattisgarh as one of the most developed states in the country will I be satisfied.

Development or Vikas has become the buzzword in political discourse today. Can you reflect on it in terms of human development index? How much have you achieved in terms of that?
Our government has done exemplary work in all the three indicators that comprise HDI. The per capita income has increased more than 750% in last 13 years. Our endeavor to provide employment has made sure that we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, which is evident in Economic Survey 2016-17. We are 4th in the nation in “Ease of Doing Business”, which reflects on the state´s ability to provide infrastructure and invite investment from private sector, which will translate into higher per capita income.
CG Food Security Act and complimentary schemes such as MahtariJatanYojna, AmritYojana, etc. that help in providing complete nutrition have brought down IMR and MMR drastically. I believe that it is not about providing Food Security, but about providing Nutritional Security.
There are 21,600 schools and more that 50,000 anganbadis in the state. Not only have we build schools but also our endeavor has been to ensure that children are motivated to enroll and study. Prayas, Saraswati Cycle, etc. have produced astounding results.

Its seventeen years now that Chhattisgarh was created. A state which was struggling, there was so much of poverty. How did you chart your course of action to alleviate poverty and create employment and bring dignity to the life of people?
Chhattisgarh has been endowed with tremendous natural resources. However, the biggest strength we have is our people. I have always believed that empowering the people of this State is the most important part of development.
Effective utilization of natural resources, equitable integrated development and protecting the heritage of the State were essential to State´s development. The Government´s role is to provide a healthy ecosystem, whether it is for agriculture, education or industry. Agriculture is still the primary source of employment for rural CG, hence we have tried to focus on giving our farmers basic requirements such as water, electricity, etc. and ensured that their produce is sold. Moreover, we have minimized the input cost and we procure on support price.
Similarly, we have provided industries base infrastructure, so that they can flourish and provide employment to the residents of the State

Cities are engines of growth. You have embarked on a mission of smart cities. Some in central list and some have been initiated by your government. What is the time frame you are looking at to achieve the desired results?
The State Government is in mission mode when it comes to creating smart cities. Both Raipur and Naya Raipur smart city development is happening at a fast pace. The BRTS is already operational between Old and New Raipur. We have started schemes to keep our cities cleaner and greener. Modernization of Government service delivery, from power to law and order, via IT has been implemented. We already have the first operational integrated smart city of the country, Naya Raipur, and I am confident that in the next five years, all the approved cities in the list will be truly smart.

How do you see the role of urban local bodies in providing services to the citizens and how do you think they can become financially independent? How do you propose to empower them?
Urban local bodies are pillars of our democratic system. With rapid urbanization, their role is becoming increasingly significant. Urbanization is putting stress on existing infrastructure and we are carefully planning their upgradation. Since it is difficult to halt a city, these developments take some time.
Financial inclusion and digitization of transactions is a great step towards making urban local bodies financially stable and independent. We are helping in upgrading the system of collection of local body taxes and deploying IT infrastructure to ensure increase in the number of taxpayers

It has been seventeen years that the idea of New Raipur came into existence but still a lot of work remains. Houses are built but the occupancy rate is so low. Nobody is willing to shift there, rather they prefer to commute from ‘old Raipur’ as we know it now? Where do you see the problem?
“Old Raipur” has renewed itself too, and even though the population has increased many folds, Raipur has managed to sustain and upgrade to give a good quality life to its residents. If you travel around Raipur, you will still not feel it is overcrowded!
However, to answer about Naya Raipur; It is being developed as an integrated smart city for the future, which can provide high quality life to a much larger population than Raipur. Migration of people from one city to another is not an economic decision, but an emotional one. For someone who has spent their lives, built their family, their home, seen their kids grow up in Raipur… It is difficult to leave those memories behind. Some of the housing colonies are fully occupied in Naya Raipur and with the new dreams of the new generation, I am sure Naya Raipur will soon be populated.

How will you respond to the criticism that New Raipur is built for the elites?There is no place for the lower rung of the society and the city in not inclusive?
I urge you to visit the residential areas in Naya Raipur. Both Central and State housing schemes are operational in Naya Raipur and it is a stellar example of low cost housing. The rents are low and there is very affordable public transport operational in the city. The city is designed to accommodate people from every stratum and has already started to populate itself, especially the LIG and MIG type houses.

Dr Singh, I was in Rajnandgaon during my trip to Chhattisgarh. Roads are in bad shape. Lake water is so dirty and there is so much of pollution. It is your constituency. It is on smart city project list as well. Still things do not seem to be moving at all?
Connectivity has always been the State´s priority. Even remote areas like Sukma and Bijapur have excellent roads. However, we are in the process of upgrading the existing infrastructure in many parts of the State. Temporary inconveniences are inevitable.
The Lake in Rajnandgaon has transformed from a washing area to a tourist location. As I said before, there is rapid urbanization and Rajnandgaon is also experiencing the same. This presents us with unforeseeable yet temporary issues, which are efficiently taken care of by the local bodies.
We have established 27 District level laboratories and mobile laboratories to improve the quality of drinking water. Mission Clean City Scheme has been launched for solid waste management and I am confident that you will see Rajnandgaon leading the smart city list soon.

All the states are joining the smart city bandwagon. How will Chhattisgarh be different and retain the cultural heritage of its cities?
For Chhattisgarh, urbanization doesn’t imply forgetting our roots. If you travel in Raipur, you will see that the sites or monuments of cultural and historical significance are still in their full glory. From Dudhadhari Math to Vivekanand Ashram, the heritage of the city has been preserved. TelibandhaLake is the best example of how the city furthers its heritage through beautification and preservation.

Do you think environment protection should be the key agenda of urban planning after seeing the bad state of urban environment in cities like Paris, London, and Beijing and in our National Capital? Raipur is also among one of the most polluted cities. Your plan of action…
Pollution control is indeed one of the major challenges in a fast developing state like Chhattisgarh. There are two sides to make our cities cleaner and better. One side is the Government, which is trying its best by implementing schemes like Mission Clean City for Solid Waste Management and providing easy and cheap public transport to minimize air pollution. We are the leading state in distribution of LPG cylinders under Ujjwala Scheme and have further subsidized it in Chhattisgarh. Burning of wood and charcoal as a fuel is a health hazard and adds to pollution too. According to CPCB data, Raipur´s air quality has tremendously improved and we are striving to better it further.
The other side is the people of the city. And I am proud to say that the people of this city and voluntary organizations have been changing the face of this city. However, the people of the state should be sensitive about using plastic disposal and minimize burning of fuel. We can only fight pollution together, and I am sure that both the Government and the people will keep supporting each other to keep our habitats pollution-free.

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