At the beginning of his tenure as the minister for road transport and highways — Nitin Gadkari had set an ambitious target of constructing an average of 40 kilometres of roads every day. However, three years down the line, the government is yet to meet that target – in fact the pace of road construction stands at 23 kilometres per day.
Watch Network18s Marya Shakil catch up with Nitn Gadkari to find out what’s holding back the ministry from meeting its targets?
Below is the verbatim transcript of the interview.
Q: I am looking at the numbers. Your government, you in particular have built, on an average, 23 km of roads every day. You had set a target of 40 km, of course, 23 km is much more than what UPA did, because their average was around 6-9 km. Did you get too ambitious when you set that target of 40 km per day?
A: The target is ambitious, but anyone who is committed for some historical transformation, his ambition is higher. But I am confident that next March end, we will complete that 40 km a day. Again, I want to add one thing. Last year, we awarded the road contract for 16,800 km and that is a world record. It is for Guinness Book of World Record, now we are applying for that. First time in the world, in a country, in one year, there is a road construction contract for 16,800 km. It is a great achievement for our government.
Q: What is the reason for this delay? Is it because of land acquisition or are there some states which are not cooperating with the centre? What is the reason why these projects are getting derailed?
A: Everywhere in road projects, we need cooperation from the state government. Land acquisition, we are giving compensation, but the acquisition is with the help of state government. Then environment forest clearance, we have to take it from the state government. Encroachment, we need state government cooperation. So, somewhere we need store, sack, we need permission for that.
Today, what my feeling is in our whole country, I am not talking politically, we need development oriented approach. Development of country is not a political agenda. It is an agenda for the country and some time, I feel it very bad. The attitude, the approach in the system, I am not blaming politically. It is even in the BJP government also there are some things are there. We are sometimes, people fed up. Some bureaucrats, the system, they do not want to take the decisions. The delays are there.
Q: You were recently at the London Stock Exchange where you talked about Masala Bonds. Do you think investment in your area that is road and transport is a big challenge?
A: Not a big challenge. Total world investors are ready to invest in India. The credibility of India, the credibility of leadership of Narendra Modi, credibility of Indian government has increased. People have a lot of expectations in the world. When I met with the pensions fund owner, insurance fund owner, bankers, investors, there is a great aspirations and they have great expectations for Indian economy. The fastest growing economy in the world, I do not have a money problem, I do not have technology problem.
Q: So, where is the problem?
A: My problem is in my system, this government system because this system is not ambitious. They do not want to take this fast track decision making process. The delays are there. The committees are there and there are a lot of negative approach people are there.
Q: You have pitched the Motor Vehicles Bill as the Save Life Bill and you were lauded for a very comprehensive bill by your colleagues in parliament as well. This linking of Aadhaar, the sceptics are saying that this is some kind of intrusion to their privacy.
A: Not at all. You know that, I am very sorry to say, but it is my duty to tell you the truth. We have 30 percent bogus licences. Is it good for the country? A lot of accidents have taken place, do you know that? The most easiest thing in the world in India is to get licence. You cannot get a licence in UK, you cannot get a licence in USA. The system is very hard and now, in India, anyone can take licence without giving the test for driving. Is it good? So, this is the time for the country, we have to save the life of the people.
Every year, in India, we are facing five lakh accidents, 1.50 lakh deaths and that is the reason that we have to improve the system. Driving training system we have to improve, we have to improve road engineering, we have to identify the black spots, we have to improve system related to the RTO, we have to improve the system with car registration, we have to improve automobile engineering, we have to improve the driving licence system. By efforts of all this thing, we can save the life of 50 percent of the people of this country.
Q: Is this pitch for Save Lives also something to do with your own personal accident that you feel that there is a need for greater safety on roads?
A: 100 percent. I have faced a big accident. My total family was there. My leg, there were four fractures in my leg. A rod is there. It is only because the thing is that on the road, National Highway, I am a Minister for this, from Ramtek to Nagpur, on that road, there was a tree and because of red tapeism, the government, the collector and the forest department not giving the permission for that and there was cataract to my driver, the police driver and that day, the accident took place. It is not good.
I am very sensitive about it. I have faced the problem. One year, I was in the hospital and that is the reason that I am not going to compromise with anything. And I am telling you one thing. Whatever the road construction may be there, whatever the record may be there, I am not satisfied. I will only be satisfied when at least I save the lives of 50 percent of the people. 1.50 lakh deaths, five lakh accidents. It is so painful for me.
In the whole world, we are highest in accidents.
Q: One of the efforts of your government which is being appreciated a lot, which you have managed, of doing away with red beacon lights. But what do you do with that sense of entitlement which is almost engrained in the Indian polity? I am talking about what happened with your colleague and what your colleague did in Maharashtra, Ravindra Gaikwad. Even today, he is completely not shameful. He has not apologised for his actions, of the manner in which he misbehaved, assaulted the Air India crew.
A: I will tell you one thing about Ravindra Gaikwad. I know him. There is a source of mistake from his side. The way in which this total incident is exaggerated, I feel that you are doing some injustice with him.
Q: He himself accepted that he used his slippers to beat the Air India crew.
A: I do not want to enter into the controversy, but I am telling you. This is the time for the politicians that they should understand that there is a hatred about the politicians that belong to different political party in the mind of the common man. Why this hatred is there?
Just today, I was coming from Nagpur to Delhi, I was in line. I was with police officers, with the people and people was telling me, please go ahead. I said no, I am queue, I will come by the queue. People appreciate. I am a common man. Why I am enjoying this privileges? And as investor in democracy, in UK, in Canada, in USA, how the people behave.
It is not good for me to tell you, our toll income has increased by 5 percent. It means that there was the people who are using this red light, they are not entitled for that. That was bogus cases was there. I do not want to take the name of the states, but there are a lot of people in every district, using that magnet red light, take it on the car, not paying the toll, going to the police station, there is a board, he is a president of this party, he is a president of this board. Is it good?
And that is the reason that people have hatred for the politicians. This is the time that our Prime Minister and our government has taken a decision and this will create respect regards for the politicians in the mind of the people that they are behaving like a common man.
Q: Let us stay with Maharashtra a little more and talk about your equation with the Shiv Sena. Do you think it was important for the BJP to send that message to contest along in the BMC and prove that you can stand on your own feet in Maharashtra? But the equation with Shiv Sena continues to be that of love and hate.
A: I feel that in politics, every political party has right to increase their political peers. Shiv Sena has right, BJP has right. And any compromise, any alliance, it is always with the consent of both the parties. Actually, in sheet sharing issues, some logical issues, some corporation issues, there was dispute and that is the reason that our party, our chief minister had taken a decision to contest alone.
So now it is the time for all the political parties to accept the grass roots reality. If you are not ready to accept it.
Q: So Shiv Sena is not ready to accept that BJP has become an equal partner in Maharashtra?
A: Actually, in the past, they were number one, we were number two. Now, because of new political development, we are number one, they are number two. They are not in a position to accept their position as number two. And that is the thing that always disturbs them. But, what my feeling is, Shiv Sena and BJP has a natural alliance and it is in the interest of Maharashtra. It is in the interest of the people of Maharashtra. So, in a wider political interest, we should have a reasonable, good understanding and that is the need of Maharashtra. This is my honest feeling for that. Ultimately, the future of the alliance is depending upon the leaders of both the state parties. I am not in state now.
Q: You have got a great equation with Uddhav Thackeray though.
A: I have got a great equation with everybody. Every politician, I have got a great equation. Even a person who criticises me is my good friend because I always like a friendship with everybody.
Q: You are talking about great equations, I am talking about someone with whom you have very good equation, Rajinikanth, when is he joining the BJP?
A: I have got a very good relationship with Rajinikanth, whenever I go to Chennai, I meet with him and I like him. His wife also, many times coming to me in Delhi and he is a charismatic actor. But most important thing, he is a great human being. When I discussed with him, he has got a lot of hesitation about joining polity, he said, I am not fit for politics.
Q: But now he has indicated in the last few days that he is perhaps ready.
A: Still he has not taken a decision. But as a good friend, if he is coming in the politics, I like it, it is a good thing and he is welcome in the politics. And probably, my request to him, he want to join politics, he should think about BJP, there is an appropriate place for him in BJP.
Q: What is this appropriate place? Will he be the face of the BJP in Tamil Nadu? Will he be the Chief Minister face? Will he be someone that you think is needed for that grand entry that the party is hoping in Tamil Nadu?
A: These are all important political questions. Neither I have authority, neither I am a decision maker now. This, the party president and the party parliamentary board will take a decision.
Q: But why do you think Rajinikanth is important in politics because one gets that sense, after talking to BJP leaders that he will be able to fill that vacuum that has been left after the demise of Jayalalithaa and you also met him in Chennai.
A: You cannot imagine what is the support to Rajinikanth from South India. I was telling the incident. One of my friends, my colleague came with me to Rajinikanth’s house. He is an IIT engineer and he just shook his hand. He was telling me, Nitinji, please take me in. And he met with Rajinikanth and shook his hand. Three days, he was just like that that this hand, I shook Rajinikanth’s hand. So, this is the craze of Rajinikanth in the mind of the people.
Rajinikanth is a good human being and he is Marathi, he is from Kolhapur, Maharashtra. And in his house, my God is Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, and I am very committed to Shivaji Maharaj, I am inspired and motivated from Shivaji Maharaj. In his house, just in the entry, there is a big photo of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
Q: So many connections, so I am sure you are reaching out to Rajinikanth to say that he should join BJP. He will be the face of the BJP.
A: Already in my private discussion, I always request him if this is time for him to come into politics.
Q: Why BJP?
A: Because I am in BJP. I am a well-wisher of Rajinikanth. When I was president of the party, at that time also I discussed with him. Everytime, when I visit Chennai, I go to his house and he is such a gentleman.
Q: Why now?
A: Not now. Still I do not have any meeting with him. But suppose he is thinking to enter into politics, he is welcome and BJP is appropriate party for him, this is my honest opinion.
Q: You are saying that he is a Marathi. Your party colleague, Dr Subramanian Swamy has said that he is not a Tamilian and that he is a misfit in many ways. He has said that he does not have qualifications to be the Chief Minister and that in case if Rajinikanth, he will stay away from the Tamil Nadu politics.
A: I do not know. Swamyji has got his independent opinion as a person. But I do not want to make any comments on it, but as a person, as a human being, as an actor, I have tremendous regard and respect for him. And if a good person, if he wants to join politics, either he wants to go into any party, ultimately he has to take the decision.
But if I feel, as his friend that BJP is an appropriate party for him, this is my feeling. Our party president, our parliamentary board, our party will take the decision.
Q: CBI raids were conducted on Karti Chidambaram, IT raids on properties linked to Lalu Yadav and his family. They are saying that this is political vendetta because your government has little to show after three years. What will be your response?
A: I feel that there is no vindictive politics. I feel that the law is taking its own position. Ultimately, I do not know but I also have faced the problems and it was certified by Uttar Pradesh that anywhere I was involved, I have to face the consequences unnecessarily and it was a politically vindictive agenda at that time. But I am sure that our Prime Minister, our government is not vindictive, we are very judicious, impartial with all the people and, the courts are there, they have all rights to challenge the things. Again, one thing which I want to assure you that our government is not vindictive about any political party or about any leaders.
Q: The charge is that you are using, law enforcement agencies such CBI, IT to target the opposition.
A: This is baseless.
Q: And what will you tell Lalu Yadav who tweeted recently by saying that he is being targeted by the BJP?
A: I am sorry, he is not targeted by the BJP.
Q: Over the last few weeks and months, it looks like cow vigilantes have been emboldened because of the BJP government in various states. There are multiple instances that are being reported.
A: As a BJP, as our government, we do not have any relationship with such people. Our Prime Minister, our party, our Chief Minister of UP, everyone criticised this. And taking law into hand is not good.
Only one thing which I want to clarify that whatever these people are doing, they are not with us, they are not related with us and we are not supporting all their activities. And unfortunately, the section of media and section of politicians, they want to paste all these things with the party and our government. I only want to clarify that we do not have any relations with them and we are criticising all these type of activities. We are fair, judicious, transparent and we have a feeling that no one has the right to take the law into their hands. That is the clear cut version of our party.
Q: Where are the jobs because UPA, second term was essentially seen as jobless growth era. If we look at the numbers, even then, they managed 10 lakh jobs created for 3-4 years. It is down to two lakhs now when you had promised two crore every year.
A: I feel that in the economy, we are the fastest growing economy. There are some sectors which are doing good. Now, infrastructure we are growing fast. We are the fastest growing economy. But in the situation, in the IT sector is not good, situation in steel is not good, some sectors are good, real estate is very bad. So this is the time for our government to encourage investment, foreign investment and without investment, we cannot create jobs.
So, we need the economic approach by which we will invite capital investment and creating more jobs in tourism, in infrastructure, many sectors there are a lot of opportunities. In my department we have just awarded more than Rs 6 lakh crore. And as per the expert committee report, when there is a works order for Rs 1 lakh crore, we are creating 10 lakh jobs directly. So in my own department, we have created 60 lakh jobs in three years.
Q: As the highway man of India, what are the misses? You have talked about your achievements. In the last three years, what are the misses? Somethings which you could have done which you could not? So when you look at the road map of two years, what do you think?
A: One thing is very painful for me and it is the most negative point of my ministry and probably it may be a failure for my ministry and I accept it that I have taken charge as a minister, the road accident number has increased by 4 percent and it is very painful for me. Now we have all taken action. We identify 786 black spots on National Highway. We have sanctioned an amount of Rs 11,000 crore. We are improving taking the traffic signals, road marking, crash barriers and everything and my most important target is how we can save the lives of the people.
I am trying for that, but presently, I am missing this issue and I feel very bad for that. Even I do not have any hesitation to accept that I want to expose my department for that also that after taking charge as the minister, the accidents have increased by 4 percent and it is really a bad thing for me. I am very much unhappy about it. I want to, my target is, road construction is an important target for me, but more important than road construction is after completing five years, I want to save the lives of 50 percent of the people who are facing death in the road accidents and that is my highest priority. Vernon Davis Authentic JerseyShare This