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BW Businessworld

‘Big Strides In Skill Development’

Chhattisgarh’s chief minister is pulling out all stops to make the state, now among the top four in ease of doing business, the most attractive destination especially in terms of talent

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Chhattisgarh’s chief minister Raman Singh, serving a straight third term, answers a wide range of questions in an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld’s editor-in-chief Anurag Batra and senior associate editor Suman K. Jha, and also explains why the Naxalite-affected region’s needs are different from those of other states. Edited excerpts:

During the election campaign for your state Assembly elections, people used to call you “chaur wale baba” — a leader who got them rice at an affordable price. How far have you come since then in your 12 year’s journey as the CM?
When we came to power, there was a lot of starvation, migration and malnutrition in our state. So, our first priority was to mitigate these pressing issues. We have constituted a wide-ranging Act to provide food and nutrition security to our people. We are the first state in the country to take such an initiative and this way we have covered 90 per cent population of the state. This has changed the situation dramatically and controlled migration, malnutrition and hunger problems to a great extent. This step has addressed various health issues also. All-round development of the state has paved the way for better income generation and betterment in human development indices.

You say you are changing the food security system in the state to nutrition security. What are your other big achievements?
We have addressed a complete food chain to improvise our public distribution system. We have reduced the cost of agriculture to farmers. We have made proper and transparent arrangements to procure paddy directly from our farmers and then made a strong and transparent system to distribute foodgrains. Our other achievements are enactment of Skills Development Act, women empowerment initiatives, providing energy security, agriculture budget, youth budget, first greenfield smart city project ‘Naya Raipur’, etc.

Chhattisgarh is among the top four states in the ease of doing business report. What measures are you taking to further improve the ease of doing business in your state?
We made several tax and labour reforms, conducted third party inspections, created online systems which were appreciated by the World Bank and Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion. Land, electricity, water, steel, cement, aluminium, human resources and better infrastructure are available here. The state government is second to South Africa in enacting a Skill Development Act. We have allocated Rs 6,151 crore to youth budget in the year 2015-16. About 2 lakh youth have been trained at vocational training centers.

How is Naxalism affecting the GDP of the state? What latest measures have you taken to curb this menace?

There is a lot of development in the Naxalite-affected regions. To some extent, the development is slow in these areas and their contribution to state GDP is hit, but the state is doing its best to lessen the impact of these activities. The Centre is co-operating in tackling the menace. After NarendraModi became Prime Minister, the central government has come up with strong commitment and active support to eradicate Naxalism from our state. In the last few months, an investment of Rs 24,000 crore has been assured in Bastar for commissioning ultra-mega steel plants, railway network and other industrial expansion projects.

A number of BJP-ruled states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and now Haryana are undertaking large-scale labour reforms. What is Chhattisgarh doing on this?
We have addressed 93 per cent of unorganised labour. For them, we have 48 welfare schemes. We have cut down on obsolete labour laws. Also, we are working not only for the organised sector, but we are running the country’s largest scheme for the unorganised labour force. We annually spend about Rs 600 crore on their healthcare, education, etc. There’s a health insurance scheme of Rs 30,000 for them. In fact, in the latest ease of doing business report, we rank second on the labour reforms index.

On the Land Acquisition Bill, the Centre has asked the states to have their own land laws. Is Chhattisgarh doing something on this?
We started this from 2008. The average price of land per acre then was Rs 1 lakh. We brought it up to Rs 10 lakh. You will be astonished that for Naya Raipur we acquired 8,000 hectares (about 30,000 acres) and there were no protests. In Bastar, for a Rs 16,000-crore steel plant — soon to start production— land was acquired without any problems.;

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 28-12-2015)