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Need to make agriculture profitable to improve lives, says Shivraj Singh Chouhan

Business Today catches up with Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on what makes his state tick and the state's phenomenal agriculture growth story.

twitter-logoShweta Punj | April 17, 2015 | Updated 09:02 IST
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan (Photographs by: Pankaj Tiwari)

As the debate around cooperative federalism heats up and states slug it out for investments and growth, Shweta Punj catches up with Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on what makes his state tick, the state's phenomenal agriculture growth story and his plans for industry. Excerpts:

Q. What is your vision for the state? Every state is looking at focusing on manufacturing, but your policy has been very agriculture-driven. What is MP's model of development?

A. When I came to power in MP, there was no infrastructure. My first priority was to build roads and supply power and water. There can be no industry or agriculture without power or roads. I am proud to say we are working towards providing our villages with 24/7 power. We have 14,000 MW of power [generation capacity], it was 2,900 MW earlier. We have built about one lakh km of roads. Then I thought we need to strengthen agriculture in the state. Until we increase productivity and make it (agriculture) a profitable business, lives of people will not improve.

I said agriculture should be about profit business. We decided to increase irrigated land-from 7.5 lakh hectares to 27.5 lakh hectares. Seed replacement has increased to 30 per cent, we decided to give zero per cent interest loans, farmers were given bonus, we dug three lakh wells, we decided to change the crop pattern-flowers, commercial farming, vegetables. We supplied good quality power, which gave a boost to our irrigation efforts. Last year, agriculture grew at about 20 per cent. This year, agriculture is growing at 24.5 per cent. Now, we are moving towards food processing so that we can do value addition on our produce. Along with that our priority is to get investment in the state. I have to increase employment, quality of life of people, increase income - for that we have to focus on investment alongside agriculture.

Q. What about investments?

A. For investment, to invite domestic and international companies, we organised a global investor summit. We made investor-friendly policies, liberal policies. Every sector has a different policy. We took advantages of MP's strengths - we have land, skilled manpower, 24/7 power, single-window clearance. We are trying to get one big investment. And we have been getting positive indications.

We are encouraging our entrepreneurs, we are encouraging SMEs and the youth to be job creators and not job seekers.

We have started schemes - if someone wants to start a small business we give a loan of up to Rs 10 lakh and the state is the guarantor. Our second scheme is for youth who wants to set up small industry - for that bank will give a loan from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore. The state will give the guarantee, a five per cent interest subsidy, we will give technology and help in marketing and branding of the product.

Our dream is that every district should have at least 15-20 such youth who set up their own industry, setting an example for others.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan
MP's culture has been to just go for secure jobs. We want the youth to come out and be entrepreneurial. But we are evaluating candidates before giving out assistance.

It's not free-for-all. We will tie up with banks, we will look at what every district has to offer and work accordingly. I have to create skilled manpower. Industry wants skilled manpower. For that we have opened ITIs, running ITIs on PPP mode, we have opened skill development centres. We want to create so much skilled manpower that industry does not have to go anywhere.

From agriculture to investment to skilled manpower, income of poor goes up. Our philosophy is that earth is made for all; all natural resources are for everyone, but there are some people who are poor and some who are rich. We tax the rich and help those who need assistance. We are giving medical aid for free, subsidised food grains, scholarship for children, we are building homes for the poor.

We want to empower women; there are women who are financially empowered and they yet they don't have any standing. Our goal is also to improve health and education. We want to improve tourism also; 2016 will be a tourism year in MP.

Q. How will you tackle the three most crucial issues - land acquisition, labour laws and GST?

A. We have agreed that we will only use government land. We have identified 26,000 hectares of land and are developing industrial estates. If there is demand for a specific area, for instance, if an IT company wants land close to Indore, then we will make the farmer a stakeholder. If the farmer is compensated well, we think that he would be happy. That's our model for land acquisition.

We have kept a balance in labour laws that the labour and industry both benefit.

On GST, we wanted clarity on the revenue losses, how will the state be compensated for it. We need a mechanism for tax sharing. We didn't want to go around asking for our share. We raised these issues under the UPA, Arun ji [Finance Minister Arun Jaitley] has assured us our issues will be addressed.

Q. What is the philosophy behind the new BJP?

A. I only speak of MP; rest, Amit ji [BJP chief Amit Shah] will tell you in Delhi.

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