You opposed the Balco deal. Today, you want fast-track privatisation in Chhattisgarh?
Who says I was against Balco? I was never against Balco, or for that matter, the bidders. I was only against the pricing. I still maintain it was a dishonest deal and the price managed by the government was nothing compared to what Sterlite got it for. I told the Centre—give me Balco (for one extra crore of rupee) and I'll run the show. But they did not respond. I always knew Balco would be a success story. See the plant and its workers today. They are doing excellent work. I'm all for privatisation and not against it. And, by the way, my state is giving all cooperation to Balco.
So what is the new focus?
My immediate thrust is getting good infrastructure and turning Chhattisgarh into India's power state. We are India's largest power-surplus state. We have a large number of recently-found coal deposits. Chhattisgarh is one of the largest producers of coal in the country, a fact which increasingly encourages us to launch power reforms on a war footing. The cost of power transmission is extremely low. We are getting into distribution agreements with states like Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka and Haryana. We are telling them it makes much more sense to buy power than purchasing coal. Another focus is on education. We intend to achieve 100 per cent literacy among children up to 14 years and have made English compulsory from Class I. Thanks to the Net, all districts are linked to Raipur and ministers have live video-conferencing to hear grievances of people from various districts. Every day, as many as 100 complaints and other issues are handled by my cabinet members. This means we are in constant touch—both with the people, and also ground realities.
What about new business?
We are offering sops to both domestic and multinational companies to set up base here. To cut red tape, we've set up a State Investment Promotion Board by a legislative Act. Chhattisgarh is the only state to do so. A proposal not cleared in a fortnight will be deemed granted to the investor. We'll also start work on a grid of six and four-lane corridors (two in the north-south and four in the east-west) to facilitate transportation. Almost all the top Indian companies have shown interest. I am sure multinationals will not lag behind. In fact, routine presentations are being made to woo them in various strategic sectors like power, telecom, health and roadways.
But why close down state PSUS?
What's wrong with that? We just don't need them. That's why we avoided taking those 32 state PSUs from Madhya Pradesh when Chhattisgarh was created. Don't you think there should be less of government power? The government should not be in the business of running buses, building houses or printing textbooks. This state will not have more than five PSUs. We are larger than Tamil Nadu. But they have 329 bureaucrats, we have just 89. And we are functioning more efficiently than Tamil Nadu. I think it's time the nation takes a lesson from what happened in Kerala.
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