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Gujarat is ready for CAA and will implement it as per Centre's direction, CM Vijay Rupani tells Firstpost

Firstpost logoFirstpost 07-01-2020 Debobrat Ghose

Amid widespread protests that have hit campuses across the country against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani is determined to implement the CAA in his state, in line with his determination to implement social sector initiatives through his experiments in Gujarat.

Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani © Ramesh Pathania/Mint via Getty Images Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani

Rupani, who was holding the sixth edition of the informal interactive session — his pet initiative — 'Mukhyamantri Saathe Mokla Mane' (Interactive session with Chief Minister) with 65 fishermen from 15 coastal districts of Gujarat at his residence in Gandhinagar on Saturday, expressed that no state can ignore the CAA as it's a subject under the Union List.

Speaking to Firstpost on the sidelines, Rupani said the ongoing agitation was a result of rumours and wrong information being spread by the Opposition to bring an end to this act that would ultimately benefit the nation in the long run.

Edited excerpts follow:

Amid so much protest by the public at large and chief ministers from various states, how do you plan to implement Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Gujarat?

From Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal to Pinarayi Vijayan in Kerala — a host of chief ministers have opposed CAA and said they won't implement it in their respective states. First of all, it's a subject in the Union List and no state can take any independent decision, which is possible only for a subject in the State or Concurrent List. The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) became an Act only after it was passed in the Parliament. It's not just another regulation.

The abrogation of Article 370, the Supreme Court verdict on the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case and thereafter, the passage of the CAB — all these happened peacefully without any violence. This has made the Opposition panic and it is worried about its existence. These parties fuelled students and the common man with rumours and false information to create disturbances. Anti-CAA protesters are ill-informed about the Act.

The way the Centre decides on the implementation of the CAA is how we will do it in Gujarat and we're ready for it. We've created awareness about the  CAA in the state.

Also watch: Amit Shah conducts door-to-door campaign to create awareness on CAA (Video by The Times of India)

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In December, 219 infants died in government hospitals in Ahmedabad and Rajkot districts. Isn't it alarming given Gujarat's reputation of being a well-governed state?

I have instructed officials of the state health department to look into the incident and ensure that best facilities are provided to the newborn. In fact, the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) has reduced consistently over the past three years. Our collective measures led to a 50 percent reduction in IMR in Gujarat from 62 (per 1,000) in 1997 to 30 in 2017. The IMR has further reduced to 25 (per 1,000) by November 2019.

The unfortunate incident of infant deaths in Rajasthan's Kota was due to the negligence of state authorities. The Opposition is trying to digress the media attention by linking two separate and unrelated incidents. We have a transparent system to monitor data, which shows there hadn't been any rise in infant deaths in Gujarat. As we have more than 12 lakh births per annum in the state, we're providing good healthcare facilities to our people. Apart from the CM Dashboard, our medical officers, Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA), Field Health Workers and aanganwadi workers keep a close watch on pregnant mothers and infants.

How is 'Mukhyamantri Saathe Mokla Mane' (Interactive session with Chief Minister) yielding results?

Prior to this sixth edition of 'Mokla Mane', I had interacted with slum-dwellers, divyaangs (physically challenged), retired teachers, Aghariyas (roaming tribals) and salt workers to know about their problems and how we can redress their issues. In these interactive sessions, I got firsthand feedback from people at the grassroots and from deprived sections of society who shared their problems, views and ideas without inhibition. There’s no red-tape in between.

After the interactive session, the officials of respective departments work on the feedback and requests we receive from people. Thereafter, we take decisions in a meeting. This initiative is helping the government solve problems and make implementation faster and better. I hold this session with the representatives of various sections of the society on the fourth or fifth of every month.

Participants are mostly from the underprivileged and disadvantaged classes of society and there's no discrimination on grounds of religion, caste or sex to be a part of the programme. Those who are in power usually keep themselves away from the public and try to avoid them. These informal interactions help in solving problems, rather than making them complicated by not redressing them at all.

Have you taken any decision in this interactive meeting with the fishermen of Gujarat?

Yes. Based on the discussions as you saw, within a month we're introducing two bills for the benefit of the fishermen of Gujarat. The first bill relates to the issuance of permits to fishermen of neighbouring states for fishing in Gujarat's territorial waters. Unlike Maharashtra, there's no restriction at present for the outsiders to carry out fishing in Gujarat. Our fishermen told me that due to this policy, they were at a loss. If our fishermen carry out fishing in Maharashtra's territorial waters, they are penalised. After the bill is passed, no outsider — without an official permit — will be able to carry out fishing here.

The second bill relates to the issuance of the Kisan Credit Card to our fishermen. They are our sagar khedut (farmers of the sea) and therefore they too should get the benefit that a farmer enjoys.

We're also building nine new harbours, which is a Rs 1,200-crore project and it will be allocated in the next budget. We'll develop inland and marine fishery in sync with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call for a total revolution in fishing.

How has the CM Dashboard — another pet project of yours — helped in administration and governance?

It's a unique initiative of Gujarat government that ensures vigilance and efficacy of every activity of every department in the government by using more than 3,000 indicators on a real-time basis through this dashboard. It's not only important to initiate welfare schemes, but also important to ensure timely monitoring for better results. It provides us live updates of the movement of state buses, ambulances, daily attendance in schools etc. For example, if any bus exceeds the maximum speed, an immediate alert is sent to the driver.

Besides government schools, we are now going to monitor the attendance of students and teachers in private schools to bring in quality education. I visit the dashboard and the control room twice a day to take stock of the situation. There's a 30-member control room team and the staff speaks with 600 to 700 people daily from various districts. We learn about their problems, bottlenecks in the delivery system and also get suggestions. It is helping us immensely in delivering good governance.

Gujarat has recorded the highest rise in mangrove cover in the country, making it the second largest after West Bengal. How has it been achieved?

Our focus is on overall environmental sustainability. Over the past three years, the Gujarat government has been planting one crore saplings every year, which begins with the Van Mahotsav and the work continues throughout the year. We have initiated a dedicated programme for coastal development. And the result is there for us all to see. The mangrove cover in Gujarat has increased by 37 square kilometres, bringing it to 1,177 square kilometres in 2019.

Punsari village with 6,000 people has been declared 'Adarsh Gram' (model village). It has all the facilities of a metro city. Any plans to replicate the model across villages in the state?

The Gujarat government has connected 18,000 villages with water, electricity and proper roads. The basic infrastructure is well in place, with broadband connectivity under the BharatNet project. As Punsari was the first village, it came into the limelight, but there are other villages with similar standards like Akodara village, which has been declared a smart village. The technological adaptability is very high among people of these villages. Gradually, we're working on upgrading other villages as well.

Has the Statue of Unity been able to draw tourists in expected numbers?

The Statue of Unity has almost touched the visitor footfall of the Taj Mahal. During the 10-day period of Diwali, it registered three lakh tourists. On a weekday, more than 20,000 tourists visit the site and on any weekend, the footfall crosses 30,000. From the day the statue was unveiled to September 2019, more than 23 lakh tourists have visited.

We're developing the site as a major tourist destination and have started 18 more tourist spots like the Butterfly Park, Cactus Garden etc. The Children's Nutrition Park — a first-of-its-kind in the world — is a unique initiative. As the Statue of Unity is situated at Kewariya, a tribal belt in the Narmada district, we have provided direct employment to 5,000 tribal youths and given them training in various skills to help international tourists. The destination will grow in manifold ways in the days to come.

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