“This time my focus is on water”—Bhupinder Singh Hooda
Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda is a lawn tennis fan. He begins his day at 6 AM and plays tennis till 7.30 AM. Thereafter begins his day of gruelling public meetings and administrative work which carries on till almost midnight. He is a law graduate who joined the Congress party as a youth leader from Haryana and over the years holding several positions within the party he rose to become an MP from Rohtak and in 2005 for the first time became Chief Minister of the state. In 2009 he again led his party to victory and was re-elected Chief Minister of the state. The opposition as well as detractors within the party have been trying to drag him down on various issues like an attack on Harijan family in Mirchpur by the upper caste people of the area; or the khaps and the spate of honour killings, but he has managed to handle all these issues dexterously avoiding any damage to his administration. In a free-wheeling interview with Uday India, he disclosed his strategies that helped him stay on in power, how he is overcoming the basic hurdles of severe power and water shortage and how he is making Haryana the numero uno state in attracting global investment and development. Excerpts:
Normally in Haryana, Chief Ministers do not return consecutively for the second time. But you have come back to power. What would you credit this to? The work you had done or was it the wave in favour of Congress-led UPA, during the 2009 state assembly elections?
Yes it is true the anti-incumbency factor works against the ruling parties in Haryana. Except maybe in 1971 when Bangladesh liberation war happened that Congress returned to power in the state. And perhaps again in 1985.
Is this largely because there prevails what is called anti-Congress sentiment in the state?
No. It is basically anti-incumbency which works against the ruling parties. However in my case I would say both reasons helped me. People were very happy with the policies pursued by the Congress party and at the same time they were happy with the work done by my government for the state.
What Congress policies are you referring to?
A very large number of farmers benefited from Congress-led UPA’s loan waiver schemes; the MSP policy; the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and other schemes.
How have you managed to push through your investment and development policies given the severe shortage of power in your state?
My government created greater opportunity for increased investment and development in the state. When I assumed office in 2005, I inherited a huge power deficit. So I decided to focus more on power generation and have put the target of electricity generation up to 5000 MW.
What is the total demand for power in the state and what is the total production at present?
At present the power production is 4,200 MW and demand for power is from 7,000 MW to 8,000 MW and this demand is likely to increase to 9,000 MW. You see being the number one industrial state in the country there is very high demand for power. We are well on course to not only meet our power requirement but also become a power-surplus state by 2011. Four new power plants have been commissioned and this will enhance the power generation capacity in the state by an additional 5,000 MW. Forty years since Haryana was created in 1966, not a single power plant had been added in the state. In two years, we will be in a position to generate surplus power.
While the 600 MW Yamunanagar power plant has started generation, the 1,200 MW Khedar power plant near Hisar will be completed by December this year. Two other power plants coming up are Jharli I and II in Jhajjar district.
Are you also installing a nuclear power plant?
Yes Nuclear Power Corporation experts have inspected the site and formalities are being worked out for setting up a nuclear power plant in Haryana at Fatehabad. It will generate 2,800 MW.
What are the initiatives you have taken to invite greater investment?
In the last 40 years since the state was created in 1966, an investment of about Rs 40,000 crore had taken place. Whereas in the last five years alone we have had investment worth over Rs 55,000 crore in the state. Further, the state is expected to have over one lakh crore more in investment. At present, every second car on the road anywhere in the country is manufactured in Haryana. Every second two-wheeler motorbike on the road anywhere in the country is made in Haryana.
How did such major investment come about in such a short span of time?
When I assumed office in 2005, we initiated a New Industrial Policy which changed the perception of investors towards the state. At that time Haryana was ranked as 14th state in terms of industrial investment and today we are ranked number one.
As a result of the new Industrial Policy, the state has received about 100 proposals for setting-up of SEZs (special economic zones) in the state, which envisages an investment of Rs 2 lakh crore in the industrial infrastructure. These projects on implementation would create several thousand crores in investment in the industrial sector, besides generating huge employment.
Haryana has a large industrial base having more than 1,354 large and medium and 80,000 small scale units in the state. Haryana is the largest producer of cars, tractors, motorcycles, bicycles, refrigerators, scientific instruments. It is the largest exporter of Basmati rice to the overseas market. Panipat handlooms and carpets are known all over world, besides the famous pachranga achaar.
But have you not faced labour unrest due to creation of these SEZs like what happened at the Honda factory where several workers were lathi-charged and beaten up?
No. We did not face any major labour problem. We adopted a labour policy, which ensured that the minimum wage paid was fixed. In fact the minimum wage in Haryana is the highest in the country. As far as the Honda factory worker issue is concerned, it was a localised agitation. The electronic media had blown the issue out of proportion. The issue was sorted out amicably to every one’s satisfaction
How have you handled this sensitive SEZ issue seemingly without any major repercussions? In many other states like Bengal, Orissa, Chhattisgarh it has caused massive protests.
Soon after I took over as Chief Minister my government adopted a fixed floor rate policy for acquiring land by the government anywhere in the state.
We have decided that farmers, whose land is acquired by the Haryana State Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (HSIIDC), will be provided an annual compensation of Rs 15,000 per acre for 33 years in the form of royalty, besides giving them fixed compens-ation. The royalty would be increased by Rs 500 every year. Should the land be acquired for setting up SEZs, technology city and technology park, the annuity would be paid by the developers at the rate of Rs 30,000 per acre for 33 years. The annuity would be increased by Rs 1,000 every year.
As a result, a farmer, offering an acre of land for acquisition, now gets anything between Rs 12 lakh and Rs 32 lakh, depending on the area, against not more than Rs 3 to Rs 6 lakh they were getting prior to 2005 when my government came to power.
Thus the new land acquisition policy has not only hiked the compensation payable to the farmer for the land acquired but also laced it with a sort of inflation-linked royalty payable to him for 33 years. The annuity gets an annual hike too. The policy also has it that in case a unit is set up on the land acquired, one member of the farmer’s family will get a job. The policy clearly lays down the minimum floor rate, below which land cannot be acquired.
Don’t you think your government is going on with development work in Gurgaon ignoring the fact that its infrastructure capacity has saturated? In fact, there is severe shortage of power and water supply in the Gurgaon region.
We have developed a new Master Plan for Gurgaon. We will spend about Rs 700 crore to develop the old Gurgaon area. By the end of this year, a new water canal with 500 cusecs of water will be installed for Gurgaon and it will become self-reliant on both power and water fronts.
Why are the other areas of the state being neglected and getting step-motherly treatment compared to Gurgaon?
No. We are developing other areas as well. In Faridabad, Industrial Model Township (IMT) is coming up. IMT is also coming up in Kharkhoda, Rohtak, Ambala, Mewat and Manesar. Apart from this, we are building a Kundli-Manesar-Palwal expressway with an investment of Rs 2000 crore. This will create a large number of economic hubs all along the 135-km-long expressway generating new investment opportunities in the industrial and service sectors. We have identified 70 backward districts and are making special investment there as well.
Are you focussing only on industrial development and ignoring agriculture, health and education?
Haryana will soon become a global education hub. We have taken initiative to set up an International Women’s University, which will comprise among other things a medical college for women. We are setting up a defence university for higher studies in Gurgaon. A central university is coming up in Mahendragarh, a technical university in Sirsa, a Rajiv Gandhi Education University at Murthal, Panipat, which will be like Oxford University of the East, and an IIM at Rohtak. Besides these, a Food Technology Centre and Leather Institute is coming up. So soon you will see that Haryana will be a global hub for education.
We are also creating a global medical corridor to promote health tourism and attract tourists from all across the world. To facilitate mass transportation in the region we are going to have our own Haryana Metro system. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has already provided service upto Gurgaon and it has agreed to take it to Faridabad, Bahadurgarh and Kundli. Within Gurgaon we plan to have our own internal Metro system for greater and faster connectivity.
For the farmers we have waived all their electricity bills. We have set up an agriculture commission to suggest ways to develop agriculture, to increase agriculture production and milk production. Haryana is the largest producer of Basmati rice in the country and along with Punjab it is the main supplier of foodgrains in the country.
How do you propose to deal with the khap problem, which has unleashed honour killings in your state?
See this again is a media-generated issue. Do you people even understand the meaning of khap? Tell me what it means? Khap is not associated with any one caste, as it is described in the media. It is a broad cultural consensus of people living in villages cutting across castes. Again honour killings are misplacedly linked with khap. Besides, are not such incidents happening all over the country. I am a progressive person. But we have to also understand the views of people living in the villages.
Former Haryana Chief Minister and Indian National Lok Dal leader Om Prakash Chautala has demanded that amendment should be made in the Hindu Marriage Act to impose a ban on same gotra marriages. What is your stand on it?
A Group of Ministers (GoM) is examining this matter. I will give my view thereafter.
Your government had been criticised some time back in the wake of the attack on a Scheduled Caste family in Mirchpur. What steps have you taken to prevent such incidents and promote the interests of the dalits?
Law and order is strictly and fairly enforced to prevent any such incident. We are taking every possible step to protect and promote the interest of the weaker sections. We have given 100 sq yards plot to 4 lakh Scheduled Caste people under Mahatma Gandhi scheme for the poor. Drinking water is distributed free of cost. Our government gives monetary assistance of Rs 150 to girls and Rs 100 to boys studying up to class V. Similarly for higher education and technical education fee assistance is provided to Scheduled Caste students.
Haryana is facing another major crisis, that of severe water shortage. The underground water table has receded and all water bodies have dried up. Even Gurgaon, which is full of massive malls and IT institution, is reeling under water shortage too. How do you propose to deal with this water crisis?
In my last term, power was my focus. This time my focus is on water. We are taking steps to conserve water in as large a scale as possible. I have directed that monsoon and flood water must be conserved and not allowed to flow away and be wasted. Direction has also been given to protect all water bodies in the state.
By Bisheshwar Mishra