Pratap Vikram Singh | July 6, 2015
A 1978 batch IAS officer, Alok Ranjan is driving the development agenda of the Uttar Pradesh government in the run-up to 2017 assembly election. In an interview with Pratap Vikram Singh, Ranjan talks about administrative reforms in the state.
How far have you succeeded in tackling the power crisis?
We are allocating maximum budget to the power sector for generation, transmission and distribution. I am holding review meetings every 15 days. We have a vision to ensure 24-hour power supply to all urban areas by October 2016. The district headquarters will get 22 hours of power supply and rural areas 16 hours. We are working according to our plan and hope to realise our goal in time.
Isn’t it very ambitious, given the current state of affairs?
Yes, it is. Even today we are maintaining 10 hours of [power] supply in rural areas and 18 hours in district headquarters. We have worked out a month-wise plan for each activity. We have arranged for the funds. I am sure that we will achieve our targets.
There are reports that more and more relief cheques for farmers are bouncing. Your comments?
UP has been affected the most by untimely rains. The damage estimate that we sent to the centre is around Rs 7,000 crore. We haven’t failed. In fact, the UP government has done a tremendous job in providing relief. Right now Rs 1,435 crore has been given from the exchequer. I have sanctioned another Rs 500 crore. We got nothing from the centre except for Rs 253 crore in SDRF [state disaster response fund]. The rest of the money has been taken out of development schemes and the contingency fund. Massive camps have been organised across the state. The relief distribution has been perfect. There is no allegation of corruption. For deaths we are giving a compensation of Rs 7 lakh per person. We have succeeded significantly.
There was just one case in a village of Faizabad where a cheque of less than Rs 1,500 was given. Otherwise, there has been a clear order that the minimum amount for a [relief] cheque has to be Rs 1,500. Such a small error can happen in a state the size of UP. There was one incident of cheque bounce in Mathura. But that was not because of the fault of administration but because of the bank. We have cautioned banks that nothing of this sort should be repeated.
Farmers are losing hope as their problems – low yields, high interest loans and lack of land redistribution – are not addressed.
Irrigation has never been a problem. Eighty percent of the state is irrigated. Fertiliser availability is very high. Productivity enhancement has increased year on year. Yes, small land holdings and land fragmentation do impact the income of farmers. Land distribution has happened, but the population is so much that the landholding is getting smaller day by day.
UP’s poor development indicators compete with those of Sub-Saharan African countries. What is being done to address this?
As part of the development agenda approved by the CM, we have set targets for reduction in MMR [maternal mortality ratio] and IMR [infant mortality rate]. For instance, our ambulance services 108 and 102 have been very successful and have reduced incidences of IMR and MMR. In terms of education, we have adequate schools and teachers. The quality, however, has to improve. So the quality of education is a major focus area. We have developed a matrix by which teachers and education department officials will be held accountable. We will monitor the quality of teaching, punctuality of teachers, attendance, lesson plan, and how much children have learned and grasped. If students are not learning then teachers will be held accountable.
How are you addressing inter-regional disparity?
We want to set right the regional imbalances. We are trying to give priority to Bundelkhand and eastern UP. For instance, we are working on agricultural development in eastern UP. There is a big gap between productivity rates in eastern and western UP. I am glad to tell you that the gap is narrowing now.
For Bundelkhand, we are coming up with special schemes. Horticulture, agriculture, animal husbandry and other allied industries can come up there.
There have been repeated incidents of communal violence in the state.
I really don’t know how you are saying this. In fact, there has hardly been any incident of communal violence as far as UP is concerned. A communal incident happens only when there is a riot. Any kind of law and order situation where, by chance, members of two communities are involved... I don’t think we can call it a communal situation. I have been in-charge in UP for more than a year now and only one incident, in Saharanpur, happened after my joining. Even the recent incident in Shamli can’t be called as a communal clash.
Crime against women is on rise. What action is taken in that regard?
Our 1090 helpline system has worked so beautifully that any case of harassment of women is now being immediately attended by police through mobiles. More than five lakh women have benefited.
We have also set up a Mahila Samman Kosh. In this initiative, the government has allocated a fund for treatment, rehabilitation, and livelihood development of the victim. A corpus of Rs 150 crore has been set aside for this initiative. We are also setting up Asha Jyoti centres, a single window system for the victims, where all facilities are provided under one roof: medical facility, psychological counseling, rehabilitation, lodging of FIR and action on FIR.
What is the state’s vision related to smart cities?
When the guidelines are released [by the union ministry of urban development] we will prepare our plans accordingly. While we plan for physical infrastructure we also have to plan for funding. It is not possible to arrange resources internally for any ULB [urban local body]; except property tax they can hardly raise anything. That is definitely a challenge.
As far as the centre’s contribution is concerned, Rs 500 crore in five years is not going to be enough in anyway. Even if you take sewage treatment plants its construction itself requires several hundreds of crore.
In every city we are coming up with new projects. We want cities to have all basic facilities, proper road network, services network, etc. We are doing whatever we can with our limited resources. For instance, projects have been planned for Lucknow. Metro, Janeshwar Mishra Park, a convention centre and IT city are under construction.
How do you plan to attract further investment in the state?
We have a very forward-looking policy. We have introduced a single window system ensuring ease of doing business. We have got the best systems across the country where most of clearances are online. There is a single point centre, Udyog Bandhu, where a person can apply for clearances and can himself monitor it.
We are facilitating industry to the best possible extent. We have a mega project policy and many industries have responded positively. Projects worth Rs 8,700 crore are due any moment.
Small and medium enterprises are coming up on a regular basis. DMIC is being developed as a major industrial hub. Trans-Ganga area in Kanpur and Naini area in Allahabad are being developed. The entire eastern front corridor is being developed. The results will be visible in two to three years.
How well is Uttar Pradesh using ICT in governance?
The use of technology in governance and monitoring is a must. Significant work has already been done. The commercial tax department has done excellent work [in automation]. We have leveraged the online system for the distribution of pension and scholarships. That’s how we have unearthed a lot of fraudulent activities in these areas. First, we are identifying those areas [departments] which have massive public interface. Land record is one such area. Now you can get a copy of khatauni [land records] online. So is the case with caste, income, birth and death certificates. I have also identified groups in all departments which are working in this regard.
Do you think sea-planes can be used to improve air connectivity?