Union Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Nitin Gadkari spoke to RSTV in an exclusive interview.
Here are some edited excerpts from the interview:
Q: Is the new portfolio of water resources not an added responsibility apart from your over busy transport ministry?
A: It’s an added responsibility. This subject is very close to my heart. Agriculture is related to water. Water is a big problem. Modi ji has given me a chance to prove myself.
Q: In terms of deliverables what will you show in water resources ministry at the end of two years?
Water problem exists in states like Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Telangana. There is also the problem of floods. We are working on river connectivity. It’s already successful.
Q: Is there any contradiction between water resources and the transport ministry?
A: There is no contradiction. Inland waterways is about dredging and allowing five star cruises to move in water. Water transport will be cheaper and decongest the traffic. Varanasi to Haldia project has been sanctioned. We are not making barrages. Between Varanasi and Allahabad there is no water. Allahabad to Varanasi we are planning something big. Water transport can start for Kumbh.
Q: Before general elections can Mr. Nitin Gadkari rejuvenate the dying Ganga river?
A: Big corporations, 89 projects are there where recycling plants have been set up. Ganga will be saved from pollutants. Varanasi project is already launched. We have to make ghats, plantations and Mokhsadhams. Whatever Democratic People’s Republic is there we will go ahead. We will appeal to banks, corporates to come to fore. Private parties will be open to come and invest. Before March next year we will start all the projects. Certain decisions also have to be taken by Uma Bharti. Latest technology will be used. People like Ramdev Baba, Sri Sri Ravishankar can take up 1000 villages and villages around Ganga will be developed. Government will also contribute to funds and some funds will be taken by the society. All forest ministers will plan mass plantations, in universities, paramilitary forces and NGO. I am confident before end of March all projects will start.
Q: Sewage treatment plants were installed on the basis of payment linked to performance model, what is going to be the new focus?
A: Technically pollution in Ganga is because of sugar mills, distilleries, textile mills and tanneries. There will be a zero discharge policy, on the basis of that if they invest; government will also bear some cost. It will add to their profits.
Q: What about things like online monitoring which has not taken off?
A: Officials are already collecting water samples and gauging their quality with the help of environment ministry. First we will force to industry to zero discharge, then quality of water, and then we will use different technology this will help in monitoring.
Q: Environment activists say dredging is detrimental for the health of rivers?
A: Economy, ecology and environment are prime focus for us. Countries like USA, UK, and France etc. construct barrages that are the way they maintain their rivers. Barrages will help in containing floods. It will improve the quality of water. There are certain people spreading misconceptions. Barrages are there to maintain the river. Barrage will not create problems.
Q: Central water commission report says 70 percent rivers are dead? When there is no water how will the rivers be interlinked? Is it not like transferring the blood of one river to another?
A: When water is surplus then we will divert, when there is no water then no diversion will take place. Inland water ways will change the water economy, blue economy. It will be in the interest of the people. Employment will be generated.
Q: On the economic front top political minds within the BJP have spoken about the economic challenges which the country is facing, have we gone wrong somewhere?
A: After independence demonetisation and GST have been the biggest reforms. It’s too early to make any comments. For any reform to roll out successfully you need a year. Whatever problems are coming we are ready to make adjustments, this Diwali will be good for traders. We are trying to fix all the problems. We are open- minded. We have stopped the generation of black money. Everything is on records. Number two economy will collapse. People should wait for six months
Q: The way Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie have made comments what do you think is the indication?
A: Opposition anyways has never been generous. It’s their dharma to criticise the government. Yashawant Sinha and Arun Shourie are senior economic minds but they should have raised the matter with the party president rather than going to the press. We are the fastest growing economy. There are some problems in banking but with the cooperation of all we have taken important decisions. Cabinet is very positive.
Q: Senior leaders have whipped up a negative perception about the government, don’t you think there is a need for the people from within the government should speak to them. There is a perception that they are speaking against the government because they have been sidelined by the present BJP dispensation?
A: I don’t want to make any comments but without giving any solution to the party r the prime minister you talk to the press. It’s not the right step. Government is open to all good suggestions. We consider all decisions. We are changing the system.
Q: Private investments are lowest, GDP is falling, there are no jobs are we going to see any stimulus package?
A: There will be side effects to the two big reforms, we are improving the systems, and we are considering all suggestions from industries. Government should be given six months, situation will improve, GDP will improve, and transparency will improve.
Q: Six months waiting can be a political risk as well?
A: People are with us. Business community is facing the problems but we are improving the systems. It’s a big economic reform; results will not come in two months or five months. Growth rate will improve. Our focus will be increase the number of jobs.