Organising the Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj is one of the many achievements of the Yogi Adityanath, and his government is spearheading major administrative and economic reforms.
When you see, hear, or read about Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a brisk no-nonsense monk in saffron robes, you may not be immediately reminded of his bachelor’s degree in mathematics. Following relentless mischaracterisation in the media, you may think he uses ‘cow politics’ to cover up for failed governance. If you are a fan of the man hand-picked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the landslide Uttar Pradesh assembly elections to lead the state, you might think his focus is on cultural issues.
In both cases, you would be wrong. For, while Adityanath flawlessly organised the Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj, the biggest gathering of (more than 24 crore) human beings on the planet, his entire focus has been to pull the state out of the fugue of bad administration, monumental corruption and laughable law and order situation. You must also remember, if UP were a country, it would be the fifth most-populated nation in the world.
From the time he assumed office in 2017, Adityanath has carved out a firm policy based on tight central support and cooperation. It relies on the pillars of strong infrastructure, access to bijli-pani-sadak, access to healthcare, restoration of law and order, female empowerment and socio-cultural rejuvenation through tourism. His laser focus has been on execution, implementation and smoothed processes so that public and private investors continue to flock to UP.
The Massive Investment In Infrastructure
Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has laid the foundation for highway projects to the tune of Rs 11,595 crore in western UP. Gadkari has also unveiled a 50-km-long four-laning of Garh Mukteshwar Road to Meerut worth Rs 1,500 crore, six-laning of National Highway (NH) 24 from Hapur Bypass to Moradabad at a cost of Rs 2,140 crore, broadening the Meerut-Sonipat-Baghpat road and four-laning the Meerut to Najibabad road worth Rs 1,022 crore. Fulfilling the long-standing demand of the people, Gadkari sanctioned three sewage treatment plants for Rs 214 crore to keep the Kali river clean.
The Centre is heavily invested in boosting UP’s connectivity with the rest of the country if the state is to become a manufacturing hub. The Prime Minister’s pet projects include the two national highways — Varanasi Ring Road Phase-I and four-laning on NH-56 — and an inland waterways terminal on the river Ganga (PepsiCo dispatched India’s first post-Independence inland-waterways container consignment).
During the UP Investors’ Summit, 1,045 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) worth Rs 4.28 lakh crore were signed with more than 1,000 private and public sector companies. It is no small feat that by March 2019, about a year later, Rs 1.25 lakh crore of that will have been inaugurated.
In July 2018, the Prime Minister launched 80 projects worth Rs 60,000 crore and by today (8 March 2019), he would have laid the foundation for projects worth Rs 65,000 crore. The Prime Minister had called on UP to compete with Maharashtra to become the country’s first trillion-dollar economy, and Adityanath has personally committed himself to works towards it.
The prime benefactor of this will be Kanpur, the erstwhile jewel in the industrial crown of UP, poised to be restored to its primacy. Along with Agra, Meerut, Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Prayagraj and Jhansi, Kanpur is also being gifted with a metro rail project. All this is due to the relentless focus on execution of these projects and clearances granted on time by the Chief Minister.
The crowning glory of all infrastructure investment has been the foundation of the Bundelkhand Defence Industrial Corridor in Jhansi, costing Rs 40,000 crore, taking the commitment of the Centre and state government to develop the most backward and arid area of the state.
For its part, the state Public Works Department (PWD) isn’t far behind. Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, also the PWD Minister, has laid the foundation stone for 11,927 roads covering 18,486 kilometres, to be constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 2,262 crore.
The state government has promised to construct link roads, named after each of the 15 Pulwama martyrs from UP. Maurya has also started work on connecting 4,600 villages with main roads, with the intention to connect all villages with a population of 250 and more people.
Sadak is done. What about access to bijli-pani?
All this would be meaningless without a state with a comprehensive power roadmap. In the financial year 2017, domestic consumption of power stood at 41 per cent, and agriculture at 18 per cent. The installed capacity of power was 22.6 gigawatt (GW) in 2017. Since the Adityanath-led government has significantly reduced procurement costs and raised efficiency, in two years, it’s at 28.9 GW, an impressive 27 per cent growth.
In terms of alternate sources of power, in line with central policy, Adityanath’s government is committed to increasing the total non-solar capacity (including bio mass) by 2021 to over 5,000 MW and total solar capacity at 4,029 MW. Adityanath also committed to more solar parks and investment in bio-energy.
Moving to households, readers will be pleasantly surprised to know that, out of 25,339,191 household electrification connections given in the country, UP has the lion’s share at 30 per cent (7,631,483 households electrified). A biofuel plant in Sitapur and Gorakhpur each will buy agri waste from farmers, reducing crop burning, environmental damage and getting green fuel.
There is now power supply to all district headquarters, 20 hours to tehsil headquarters and 16-18 hours in rural areas. This has directly impacted the agriculture yield. The UP government bought nearly 53 lakh metric tonne of wheat and paid farmers directly this year. The payment of Rs 44,000 crore to sugarcane growers is the highest payment to cane farmers in the country. Fourteen new dairies under the guidance of Amul and Banas, with a 3 lakh litre minimum capacity, are being built, to make up for the struggling Parag Dairy Cooperative.
Adityanath brought in nearly 2 lakh hectares of land under irrigation, and intends to make it to 20 lakh hectares by the end 2019. The most startling and heartening statistic is the availability of potable water across Uttar Pradesh. Of the total number of habitations in Uttar Pradesh, numbering 260,027 as of the third quarter, 2018, 256,303 were fully covered, ie supplied with 40 litres of potable water. Regarding building these habitations themselves under the PM Awas Yojana, UP went from 17th to number one, in rural areas with 11.5 lakh houses in rural and 7.5 lakh houses in urban areas.
The Healthcare Situation
At this point, if you are wondering if anything had been done at all in UP during the reign of Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav, wonder no more. UP was at the bottom in terms of access to healthcare. In 2017, the NITI Aayog asked seven states and 200 districts to pull themselves up in areas of human development that were affecting India on the whole.
UP, along with Assam and Karnataka, was pegged to improve infrastructure, access and delivery of quality healthcare to citizens. Measurable parameters included the infant mortality rate, sex ratio at birth, 24x7 public health centres etc. There was also the massive issue of infant mortality due to Japanese encephalitis, starting from the CM’s constituency of Gorakhpur.
Stung by harsh criticism and encouraged by Centre’s total support, Adityanath set out to eradicate Japanese encephalitis from the affected areas. The numbers speak for themselves. From 247 patients in the worst affected districts of Gorakhpur, Deoria, Kushinagar and Maharajganj in 2017, the number has fallen as on date, to three. It’s the number one statement of what resolve and dedication to public service can accomplish.
This was accompanied by a humongous drive to provide a toilet to every household. Uttar Pradesh had 20 per cent coverage against 44 per cent nationally, but under the personal directives of the CM, rural areas saw 2.5 crore toilets, and 8 lakh toilets in urban areas. In 2017, UP was 23rd in the Swachch Bharat Mission, but is at 100 per cent now, against the national average of 97 per cent.
It would further delight concerned citizens to know that UP has significantly ramped up its capacity in healthcare. There is a new All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Rae Bareli, medical colleges that Adityanath provisioned in Jaunpur, Hardoi, Pratapgarh, Siddharthnagar, Deoria, Mirzapur and Ghazipur, and new super-speciality blocks and institutes in Lucknow and Kanpur.
In all, nearly 30,000 new medical seats have been added. The Ayushman Bharat Scheme has received an infusion of Rs 1,800 crore, and entirely due to Adityanath’s efforts, almost 120 government hospitals have Jan Aushadhi Centres. A new ayurveda hospital will come up at Hapur. The CM has also made sure that 53 districts of the state have national mobile medical units, with a physician, paramedic and lab technician in each van for servicing remote villages.
Restoration Of Law And Order
A year into the Adityanath government, a survey conducted by Local Circles among 45,000 of its users, found that 70 per cent of respondents believed that law and order under Adityanath had improved. Over 50 per cent of these respondents found the government exceeding and/or meeting expectations, with substantial progress made in the areas of power, municipal services, healthcare and corruption.
With the isolated incident of a Thai Thai, where UP Police officers shot off their mouths, literally, to scare and apprehend criminals, Adityanath has been visibly successful in stanching the tidal wave of lawlessness in the state. Among other entertaining anecdotes, criminals surrendered rather than being encountered by the newly-charged up law enforcement.
There was, however, about 25 per cent who said they were happy with the state of female empowerment in a notoriously patriarchal state like UP.
To address areas of female empowerment, the Adityanath government took some concrete steps. Their latest budget sets aside Rs 1,200 crore for carrying out various sops for the girl child in particular. Apart from this, an earlier programme called the Mahila Sashaktikaran Mission, relied on a neighbourhood dastak programme to make women aware of their rights.
The rescue helpline 181 and Asha Jyoti Centres in 75 districts (vis a vis 11 in the earlier administration) have helped women suffering domestic violence and forced abortions. The Nirashrit Mahila Pension Scheme gives a government aid of Rs 51,000 for widow remarriage, Rs 500 per month for widows and women affected with dowry violence, as well as Rs 10,000 as legal help for dowry victims.
The Kanya Sumangala Scheme launched this year, intends to provide girls with cash awards from birth, graded through schooling landmarks, and a final award at graduation. The Scheme for Adolescent Girls (SAG) will source pulses directly from poorer farmers from Bundelkhand, and allows girls between 11-14, who have dropped out of school, to take home a nutritious ration.
In the same breath, the Chief Minister increased the salaries of anganwadi workers to Rs 5,500 and of assistants to Rs 2,250, benefitting about 2 lakh such women, who are running six community-based programmes every month, to cover all women in their areas.
In the education sector, Rs 2 crore has been allocated for Atal Sushashan Peeth in Lucknow University and Rs 63 lakh for Gorakshnath Peeth at Gorakhpur University. Besides, Rs 10 crore has been provided for a new state university in Saharanpur. The state government has started 57 new polytechnics in the past two years, and the Chief Minister has sanctioned another 27.
While distributing laptops and commendations to over 300 polytechnic students, the Chief Minister insisted that merit was not the prerogative of the wealthy, and reasserted his personal commitment to making students’ lives easier through access to the latest technology and financial assistance.
In that sense, 15 polytechnics were allotted virtual classrooms, eight of them in remote locations received their own rooftop solar power plants, and 25 of them received new computer labs. Over 5 lakh youth in the state have received skill-based training, while the Chief Minister also instituted a training and placement cell that has placed over 2.5 lakh students already.
Socio-Cultural Rejuvenation Of An Exhausted Civilisation
UP is at the heart of dharmic tourism in the country, apart from the Sangam at Prayagraj, the Kumbh, the holy city of Kashi, Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Ram, and Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna, as well as India’s top tourism revenue generator, the Taj Mahal at Agra, are all located in the state. However, poor connectivity and pathetic public facilities reminded tourists that areas of dharmic excellence were grossly neglected.
In the latest state budget for 2019-2020, the Adityanath government has continued the good work of last year, including the grand Diwali at Ayodhya. The Kashi Vishwanath Path with widened roads and newly-discovered ancient temples, has netted over Rs 200 crore. A vedic sciences centre at Banaras Hindu Vishwavidyalaya has been sanctioned at a cost of Rs 16 crore.
A Mathura Vrindavan Auditorium, Ayodhya and Brij Bhumi beautification campaigns, and rejuvenation of nearly every big and small teerth of importance, including Naimisharanya and the Buddhist Circuit of Sarnath through Kaushambi, have seen a total of Rs 70 crore for the tourism department. Pro-poor tourism activities will see a proposed investment of Rs 50 crore.
The most stunning development in UP has been the successful completion of the near-inhuman feat of getting over 24 crore human beings to participate in the Kumbh at Prayagraj. In tourism, the state figured at number three. After the Kumbh, it will easily be at number three.
Beginning with the Ganga puja performed by the Prime Minister, the holy pilgrimage saw 192 countries, 6 lakh villages, 72 Hindu missions across the world, nine new highway flyovers, 22 pontoon bridges, 150 miles of road, 22,000 trash cans, 40,000 LED lights, 122,500 toilets, a new airport terminal and sophisticated apps developed in conjunction with foreign universities to track visitor movement and engagement at the Kumbh.
From nearly any view, this is a humongous achievement. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has declared the Kumbh as intangible cultural heritage.
A state now looks up to the sanyasi to lead it into the twenty-first century. In the words of Adityanath himself, “dharma educates people of their duty, morality and ethics, they are values of life. I find no difference between the objective of dharma and democracy. They are guided by the same principle. I have associated dharma with seva (service). Since I do my job in the spirit of seva (service), I also enjoy spirituality in this work. Life’s eternal values transcend barriers of time and space and are all pervasive.”