Union Minister Nitin Gadkari delivered a scintillating report card, full of facts and figures, for the achievements of his various ministries, at the Republic Summit in Mumbai on Wednesday. Gadkari holds one of the longest list of portfolios. He's the Minister of Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
On developmental vision:
'As far as the future of our country is concerned, we are a rich nation with a poor population. The basis problem is wrong economic policies, bad and corrupt governance and vision-less leadership. You can donate eye but you can't donate vision.'
'The most important thing with our government under PM Modi is that he's given a very appropriate vision for the development of the country'
On road construction:
'I am in charge of road construction. When I became minister, road construction was at 2 km/day. In March it became 28 km/day. In the coming March it'll become 40 km/day.'
'We are giving special focus to the North-East.'
'We are going to start work on 12 Express Highways. First are the Delhi Ring Roads which are going to reduce pollution by 50%. Delhi Meerut express highway -- 14 lane -- is open.
'Green alignment is going to reduce the distance between Delhi and Mumbai by 120 km. It'll be only a 12 hour journey. The cost of the new alignment will save Rs 16,000 crore on land acquisition.'
'We don't have a resources problem in my ministry. Highways' story and roads' story is a success story. Our contribution in growth is remarkable.'
'We've started waterways in the Ganga. We have 20,000 km river length and 7,000 km seafront. This can be a gamechanger. The cost of logistics is too high. If it's Rs 10 for roads, it's Rs 6 for rail, and Rs 1 for river transport. We're expecting 2 lakh tonnes transfer on Ganga.
'We're connecting a river from Tripura to Bangladesh. That'll be a gamechanger.'
Even in Navi Mumbai, at the airport, work is going on. We're trying to create a massive economy in India for cruises. Thousands of people will come to India by cruise.'
'Our idea is to connect airports to waterways. For Navi Mumbai, technical and economic approval has been granted.'
On linking different means of transport:
'Air-boat can also be a gamechanger. We will start services from Varanasi to Prayagraj. Waterways are very important. My suggestion to investors is that this is very lucrative. We've finalised rules and regulations for amphibious seaplanes. There's a big need for investment in catamarans, hovercrafts...'
'For the first time, for a port that is in NCLT, a government port has given a bid. Our position is that strong.'
On tackling pollution and on river issues:
'Water pollution and air pollution is a big issue. We've already started work on the Ganga. 10-15% work is already completed. We're also working in 40 tributaries including the Yamuna. I'm confident that by March, 70-80% Ganga will be cleaned and by next March, 100% will be clean.'
'By providing giving drip irrigation we can increase production by 2-3 times. We have surplus of many agricultural items.'
'Everything I've told you is 100% a factual story.'
On farmers' issues:
'I work in agriculture. 60,000 farmers work with me in organic farming, biofuels, sugar mills. I hail from a sphere where 10,000 farmers have committed suicide. I have resolved that in my life I'll work for them, and that's what I do. I feel that 65% population that is in the field should get 65% weightage in media also.'
'Upon my meeting the Prime Minister over duties imposed on certain agriculture goods, MSP was increased.'
Since 1947, I feel that we have neglected the agriculture sector. That's why we are in distress.
(Is agriculture crisis the reason for the BJP's loss in Hindi heartland states?) Agriculture crisis shouldn't be politicised. When we became independent, becoming socialist and communist was in fashion. I'm not criticising Pandit Nehru, but Russia's socio-communist inspired him. What we did is inject capital investment in big industries. When I became minister, and started BOT and PPP projects, big leaders asked me, 'why don't you leave the running of the government also on the BOT model?'. I said the PPP model gives more priority to the rural and agriculture sector. I put tolls on many big roads including the Mumbai-Pune expressway. Using this money I connected 16,000 villages in Maharashtra with pakka roads.
Speaking for PPP (Public-Private-Partnership) Projects:
'Why should government pick up electricity projects? If government power costs Rs 4.5 and the private players provide at Rs 3, why should government invest in capital? Why must government build hotels? So many hotels we built -- many are shut. He whose king is a businessman, his subjects are poor. Government's business is to make policy, not to do business.'
'Dhirubhai Ambani was once unhappy with me for rejecting a tender. He said, 'Nitin I want to build such a nation that if someone grows tomatoes in Nasik and sets out on the road, he'll call Mumbai and Pune for rates, and wherever he gets a better rate, he'll direct his produce there'. I asked how that could be done. Back then, trunk calling used to be expensive... now look at the mobile telephony rates. Look at air ticket rates. More competition, more benefits to the consumer. If it decreases rates for the consumer, then why should government invest?'
On the Three Cs of politics:
'Politics is dominated by three Cs: Cash, Caste and Criminals. We have nothing to do with that. We want to do politics on our terms and our convictions. We will not do politics on caste. Our conviction is that a person doesn't become bigger by their caste, they become bigger by their deeds. Problem is that our image and perception is that people think we're casteist. The biggest problem in the country is poverty and hunger. The plank on which people voted for Modi is development. Our vision is eradication of poverty.'