Excerpts from an interview…
What was your most satisfactory work?
Initiating clean Ganga project worth over Rs26,000 crore that includes subsidiary rivers and Yamuna. Over 286 projects are under way as a part of that and it covers ten most highly polluting cities like Delhi, Agra, Mathura, Sonipat and Panipat. We’re working on a hybrid annuity model. Using the Nagpur experience (treated sewage water being sold to power plants), we are committed to clean the river by March next year.
How many seats NDA would win in LS polls? What will be BJP’s poll plank? And your views on city rival Nana Patole.
We’re going to win over 300 seats and Narendra Modi would again be sworn in as the prime minister. Though our manifesto is yet to be released, our main focus would be developmental works. We’re already doing it across the country. I don’t want to comment on Patole.
Speculations are rife that in case of NDA not getting majority, you will be the PM candidate on account of your good relations with opposition leaders.
I never worked for the post and am only interested in doing social work. I never wanted to be a chief minister as well. I am happy working out of Delhi.
The opposition leaders, including former Congress president Sonia Gandhi, have showered praises on you.
I worked sincerely for development, keeping aside caste creed and religion. I don’t fear anyone and haven’t made any accusations against anyone. Some people tend to fire from my shoulders to target Modi and party president Amit Shah. If they have the guts, they should do it directly.
How do you rate the performance of chief minister Devendra Fadnavis?
He’s doing a commendable work and has cleared projects worth Rs1 lakh crore in state. It includes 108 irrigation projects in Baliraja Sanjeevani Yojana and 26 under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana.
There are speculations that your ministry gets the highest share while others are neglected.
My ministry has a budget of Rs800 crore, but I am working on projects of over Rs16 lakh crore that includes the Sagarmala (using rivers and sea for transport), Rs1 lakh crore on irrigation and others.
You are known to criticize bureaucrats openly.
We’re constructing the Mumbai-Delhi highway which would be of ten lanes and would pass through many tribal areas of Rajasthan and others states. If you are honest to your work, the officers would surely obey your orders.
How many projects are currently under way in Nagpur?
I’ve initiated projects worth over Rs70,000 crore for the city. It includes the Ajni inter-modal station which is around Rs1,200 crore. It would be a state-of-the-art project and will stand out in the entire country. It would have rail and bus stations along with shopping malls and hotels. In the second phase, we will take up the Central Jail land for the project. I have tried to invite Tata Group to invest in mining in Gadchiroli district with a view to generate large-scale employment in the backward areas of the state. We’ve completed about 70% work of 24X7 water project in city.
Some projects like Shilpgram and Niper are still on paper.
Yes, we tried best for Shilpgram and its development project report is ready too. I have always promoted handloom and am keen that handicapped persons should be employed there. Regarding Niper, the delay was because the Maharashtra government failed to allot land. Recently they have finalized it on Wardha Road. I am also in favour of having a railway zone in city considering that headquarters of South East and Central Railways are located here.
Your views on the footover bridge collapse in Mumbai that killed five persons.
When a bridge had collapsed in Raigad earlier, where many people died, I had ordered structural audit of all 2.88 lakh bridges coming under my ministry. I told my officials to demolish those on the verge of collapse and build new ones. I also told them to classify those having life of three to four years, five to ten years and so on. In Mumbai, the humid atmosphere leads to corrosion of iron and steel used in bridges. Nowadays, a new technology has been developed where the iron is coated with aluminium to avoid corrosion, but the old bridges lacked it. There is an urgent need to conduct audit of all bridges close to the seashore. The new bridges should be built as per Indian Road Congress (IRC) norms.
People claim that only Nagpur is being developed while other Vidarbha cities are being neglected.
Name any city where I haven’t initiated works. In all cities, we’re strengthening the network of roads and highways and also clearing railway line proposals. Work on Nagpur-Gadchiroli highway is under way. I run 11,000 schools where over 18,000 students study in Naxal areas.
You’re making efforts to improve Nagpur University’s functioning and also trying to bring back old days of LIT.
I think we should be aware of our strengths and weaknesses and accordingly courses should be designed so that students get jobs. There should be courses in forest, tourism, coal and manganese, and research should be focused in these areas as they’re available in plenty in Vidarbha. I am working on making biofuel from bamboo for aviation. Recently SpiceJet flew its aircraft on 25% bio fuel. I also promoted organic plastic which could be recycled. Gadchiroli can be the hub of bio-aviation fuel. I am trying to convert bamboo oil into bio-aviation fuel.
But we lack courses in bamboo which would benefit the rural masses.
Those are not properly designed. Undergarments, shirts, pickles and even brief cases have been made out of bamboo. In Gadchiroli, we’re trying to set up unit of making incense sticks from bamboo. Tata Trust had done a laudable work on bamboo in Chiplun. I am also promoting the idea of storing urine and making methane gas out of it which would help in running CNG buses. We’ve developed this concept with the help of IIT teachers.
Your views on the proposed road from the forest patch in front of Bharat Nagar which will require felling of over 500 trees.
Roads are must for development and trees could be replanted. We’ve completed Agra highway where over 44,000 trees were felled, but we told their chief minister Arvind Kejriwal that we would plant ten times more trees and fulfilled our assurance. Planting of 10 trees behind cutting one should be the norm of punishment and even transplantation is another solution. We’ve taken ambitious projects of trees plantation and finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar had aimed to plant 34 crore trees. Technology is developed abroad where you don’t need to fell even a single tree. There should be coordination between ecology and economy.
A stretch of National Highway from Amravati to Akola is in extremely bad shape and people are facing tremendous problems while crossing it.
It’s part of the Amravati to Surat highway and only that portion till Chikhli is in a bad shape as the contractors, including IL and FS, left midway after facing financial losses. I’ve requested Oriental and other companies to complete the work and also held many meetings with them, but they’re unwilling to work. I will try my level best to complete it.
What are the issues for opposition according to you in coming elections?
They don’t have any issues other than caste and religion. We’ve brought all-round development keeping poor as the nucleus. Under Ujjwal Yojana, we’ve distributed over seven lakh gas connections and also made efforts to provide power in the remotest part. Under Jan Dhan scheme, we’ve opened over 34 lakh accounts and disbursed loans of Rs3.5 crore under the Mudra scheme. Under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, we’ve already started building over 50,000 homes and brought lakhs under the ambit of Ayushman medical health scheme.