Economic setback temporary; Gujarat will be back on track in 6 months: CM

Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani
Gujarat is the second largest in Covid-19 casualties at 1,448, after Maharashtra (3,880). Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, tells Archis Mohan and Vinay Umarji that the state’s recovery rate at 68 per cent is one of the highest in India. Edited excerpts:

Covid-19 cases and fatalities are increasing rapidly in Gujarat. What are the reasons? The Opposition has said it is a failure of the ‘Gujarat model’.

The deadly virus has crippled the most developed nations and their economies. When leaders across the world are on their toes to curb the infection, it is not correct to target a particular government. In times like this, our prime aim should be to work for the betterment of the people irrespective of our political differences. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the number of patients discharged in the state is thrice the number of active cases. With 5,349 active cases and 14,735 discharged patients, our recovery rate is above 68 per cent today, one of the highest in India. These are a proof of Gujarat’s road to recovery.

What are the plans to revive Gujarat’s economy?

We decided to restart Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) from April 15, keeping in mind the safety protocols. This has not only helped farmers sustain themselves but provided the state with more than 10 million quintals of grains. We also decided to restart industries from April 20 and export units from April 23 in areas outside the municipal limits and within city limits, respectively, provided they are not in containment zones. 

More than 700,000 workers of Gujarat resumed their duties in more than 45,000 units within the first few days of the state’s decision to restart industrial units during the lockdown.

As things improved, we also provided permission for resuming economic activities in 156 municipalities from May 4, and we decided to resume economic activities in the remaining areas from May 19. Timely and phase-wise restarting of industries helped in raising positive sentiments among businesses, leading to an uptick in economic activities.

While the economy was slowly  coming back on track, we came up with a Rs 5,000-crore ‘Aatmanirbhar Gujarat Sahay Yojana’, immediately after the lockdown, to give stimulus to the state economy. Under this initiative, we are providing loans of up to Rs 1 lakh to small shop owners, traders, self-employed people at a nominal annual interest rate of 2 per cent and easy repayment options. We have introduced a Rs 14,000-crore revival package based on the suggestions by the panel headed by (former Union finance secretary) Hasmukh Adhia.

How will Gujarat pay for the measures announced under ‘Atmanirbhar Gujarat’ financial package?

Gujarat was adjudged the ‘best financially managed state’ according to CRISIL. We have successfully maintained a steady ‘loan to GDP’ ratio for over a decade. The state has come up with ‘surplus annual budgets’ for many years in a row. Gujarat accounts for the highest FDI for FY20, that is Rs 42,976 crore, according to the Department of Promotion of Industries and Internal Trade. Even during the lockdown, we restarted a number of economic activities in accordance with the MHA guidelines. At the same time, we have introduced a set of austerity measures to ensure judicious utilisation of finances. Purchase of new vehicles, procurement of new machinery  have been put on hold till March 2021. The setback arising out of Covid-19 is a temporary phase. I am confident that the state will on a fast-paced journey of development six months down the line.

How many migrant workers have left Gujarat? How does Gujarat plan to retain and bring back migrant workers?

In a crisis like this, when everyone would prefer to be with their near and dear ones, my government ensured the safety and well-being of migrants by arranging special Shramik trains in coordination with the Railways and the respective state governments. Gujarat operated the highest number of Shramik trains across India — nearly 1,000 trains to ensure a safe return of over 1.45 million migrants with safety measures. They were sent home with dignity. We provided them with food and water during their journey. 

What is the Rajya Sabha poll strategy and Congress’s accusations of poaching?

We have believed in fair practices when it comes to polls. The people of Gujarat have been supporting the BJP for over two decades now. Hence, the accusations of poaching are a way devised by the Opposition at a time when it has nothing on hand. The Congress has lost its credibility. It is operating in divided factions in Gujarat with no holistic agenda. I would refrain myself from saying more but all those leaving the Congress are  dissatisfied of the party’s policies. 

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