As the Uttar Pradesh Infrastructure and Industrial Development Minister, Nanda Gopal Gupta finds himself holding one of the most crucial portfolios in the Yogi Adityanath-II government. On June 3, the CM and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for Rs 75,000 crore worth of projects, while the state has set a target of bringing Rs 10 lakh crore of investments in the next two years. Excerpts from an interview of Gupta, who held a crucial portfolio of Civil Aviation in the first Adityanath government as well, with Maulshree Seth
The industrial sector is one of the focus areas of the Yogi-II Government. Do you feel Rs 70,000 crore worth of projects or Rs 10 lakh crore investments are too ambitious?
We are going to achieve it. We have to believe in ourselves, and we will achieve the same as the perception about Uttar Pradesh has changed. For example, a common man might not have anything to do with Mukhtar Ansari or Atiq Ahmed… but when the bulldozer moves on illegal properties, then that common man praises Modiji and Yogiji. My point is that the kind of atmosphere that has been created is pro-industry. India has become a popular destination for industrialisation, and in India, Uttar Pradesh has become the most popular destination. The state has all the favourable factors required for the growth of industrialisation. One among them is population. While people talk about it as a weakness, we consider it our strength.
All the big companies want to invest in UP and we are creating that kind of environment for them. We are posting deputy SP-rank officers at industrial police stations to ensure professional working. Rs 60,000 crore worth of projects are already finalised for groundbreaking and we may very well go beyond the Rs 75,000 crore plan for June 3.
Mazboot (strong) governments at the Centre as well as state have also changed a lot of things, which will further ensure that targets are achieved.
Are some policy changes being made to facilitate industrialisation and ease of doing business?
While several initiatives have been taken in the past five years and have yielded results, we are going to have a more corporate-style approach now. I have told officers that we have to act like luxury car sellers. You visit showrooms or just show your intent to purchase a four-wheeler and they are after your life till you make that purchase. We have to act in a similar manner. If any industry shows an interest to invest, we have to give that inquiry our 100 per cent. Officials have been asked to appoint a nodal person for every inquiry, show them land that they might be interested in, ensure easy clearance. I have ordered that regional offices of industry should have a corporate look, they should be welcoming.
After the June event, I will personally reach out to industries in districts and hold special ‘industrial chaupals’ to resolve their grievances on the spot, like it is done for tehsils or other samadhan (resolution) days.
One of your first disciplinary actions has been against anomalies in NOIDA, which was regarded as an area that could not be touched. Industrial development authorities in the NCR region have long faced controversy for one or the other reason. Is it an indication that your government wants to fix things?
NOIDA, Greater NOIDA or YEIDA (Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority) are like three separate countries. If you have to build a road in Lucknow, you approach the PWD; you have to build a hospital, you approach the Health Department; like wise, for electricity issues, you go to the power minister. But in NOIDA and other industrial authorities in the region, ‘we are everything’. Our government has tried to clear many things in the region in the past, but a lot still needs to be done.
There is no doubt that we will adorn NOIDA, Greater NOIDA and YEIDA like the crowns of Uttar Pradesh. CEOs there have powers like those of the Chief Minister, so why not use those to create an ideal place? We would give such facilities, amenities and environment that people will feel the difference when they enter NOIDA from Delhi.
But why does NOIDA not have the appeal of certain other regions in NCR?
The answer to this is political. It should be written in black and white that Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav are responsible for the lost credibility of NOIDA and its adjoining region in Uttar Pradesh. We have tried to improve a lot in the past five years, but if someone loses credibility, no one wants to give them a loan. While cash has a limit and credit does not have any limit, credibility is what is required, and this is what NOIDA lost during their regimes. I am saying this with reason. Taking just 10% of the project amount, they gave rights to builders to sell flats, take loans from banks and also allowed them to pay the remaining 90% in 10 years. So, companies not worth even Rs 10 crore ended up getting Rs 100 crore worth of projects. Land was given at a rate of Rs 1,150 per metre, and about Rs 6,000 was taken as bribe…
We are working to restore credibility. Mark my words, once completed, projects like the Jewar International Airport in NOIDA would become one of the most revenue generating projects for Uttar Pradesh. There is also an understanding between Loudoun County, Virginia, in the US and Greater NOIDA to work as sister cities, and this would be strengthened further to mutually excel in the areas of culture, education, business, biotech as well as agriculture. This all will change the way NOIDA or Greater NOIDA is looked at.
Uttar Pradesh has developed a network of expressways, and work is also on for new ones. What is next?
We are working at a fast pace to complete the Bundelkhand Expressway and also start work on the Ganga Expressway. Industrialisation along expressways will be the next target. Mistakes of NOIDA, Greater NOIDA will not be repeated, such policies have been developed. We are making further amendments in policies to attract industries and also ensure that only those which are serious come. Moreover, a huge chunk of land in prime industrial areas of the state which was given on lease for mere hundreds of rupees and is lying unutilised… we are trying to resolve this so that this land can be put to more productive use.
Ministers have been asked to go on field visits. Videos of your visits had gone viral on social media…
People have a way of looking at things the way they want to… What is important is that I am giving my 100% to what my bosses ask me to do. They asked me to go to Dalit bastis and hold chaupals to understand the issues of locals. I stayed at the house of a villager in Bareilly, talked to villagers, ate with them, lived the way they did. My social media team may have shared pictures of how I lived like them, how they opened up with me about their problems… I bathed by the hand pump… A family confided in me that as they earn their wages in bricks to build walls of their kuchcha house, they are ineligible for government housing schemes. When the Chief Minister was reviewing the progress report this Tuesday, my viral video caught his attention and I shared the problem faced by villagers in getting benefits of the housing scheme. The result was, that very Tuesday, the Chief Minister ordered that all such people who do not have a pucca roof over their head be included under the scheme. So my doing 100% what my bosses asked me to do, living with villagers, benefited countless people across the state.