Don’t oppose elevated corridor for sake of opposing: CM

Don’t oppose elevated corridor for sake of opposing: CM

Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy speaks to DH in Bengaluru. DH PHOTO/Janardhan BK

The JD(S)-Congress coalition government completes 100 days in office on August 30. Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy has had to face political rumblings and challenges in this period. In an interview with DH’s PM Raghunandan and Vijesh Kamath, Kumaraswamy asserts that his government will last a full five years, and health, education and urban and rural development will be priority areas for it. Excerpts:

How have your nearly 100 days as chief minister been?

I am satisfied. I have received full cooperation from my cabinet colleagues and would like to congratulate them. I have been chief minister before – 12 years ago -- but this coalition government has been a new experience. The priority of the government has been to serve the people. We have taken several strides in this direction.

You have talked about coming out with a blueprint for development. What is your vision for the state?

We will soon be coming out with a concrete plan to find permanent solutions to problems in key sectors like rural development, health and education. Just give me 3-4 months and we will bring out a solid plan of action which will give clarity on our approach to development. There is no dearth of funds for improvement of the state. We took a historic decision of coming out with the biggest crop loan waiver in the history of the state. The Karnataka Debt Relief Ordinance will provide total relief from indebtedness to small farmers, landless agricultural labourers and those from the economically weaker section. From now on, I will be touring the state extensively.

Congress leaders want even small issues like transfers of officials to be discussed in the coordination panel. Has it been difficult to run the administration?

As I said earlier, I have been getting full cooperation from the Congress. I have given a free hand to my ministers to run their respective departments. Some ministers have expressed opinions openly and I have taken them positively. Somehow, there is a perception in some quarters that the JD(S) is taking unilateral decisions in matters like transfers. That is not true. For instance, my brother (PWD minister) HD Revanna has been accused of being the de facto chief minister and running the administration. But the facts are otherwise.

You have been accused of giving priority only to JD(S) strongholds like Hassan, Mandya and Ramanagara.

This is nothing but a misinformation campaign by the BJP. Figures speak. The total outlay of the budget for 2018-19 is Rs 2.18 lakh crore, of which only Rs 517 crore has been allotted for Hassan, Mandya and Ramanagara. The BJP even tried to create a divide between North and South Karnataka for political gains. But people saw through it. The bandh call for separate statehood for North Karnataka did not even materialise.

You have said all ‘bhagya’ schemes of the previous government will continue. How will you mobilise funds?

It is possible to sustain them if there is optimum utilisation of the funds allotted to departments. On average, only 60-70% of grants given to a department is spent. We plan to take this to above 90%. For this, we are putting in place a mechanism to ensure proper coordination between the finance department and other departments.

With so much money going into crop loan waiver, is there any scope for new programmes?

New programmes and schemes will be announced in the coming months. We are anticipating a 24% growth in revenue. If this happens, the government will be able to reimburse banks the crop loan waiver amount within two years. If I make all announcements in one go, I will be accused of promising the moon. If promises are made, they will have to be implemented.

You have been accused of burdening the common man by imposing a slew of taxes in the budget.

It is only a negligible amount and not something unaffordable. The taxes collected will help in economic growth.

There is a perception that you are neglecting urban development.

I am looking at the overall development of the state. The budget has allotted grants for addressing traffic gridlocks, bad roads, restoration of lakes in Bengaluru. The government intends to build six interconnected elevated corridors in Bengaluru in the next four years. Five new manufacturing hubs have been announced to attract investment. We will revive plans to develop satellite townships around the city to ease the pressure. Besides, work on some projects like Outer Peripheral Ring Road will be expedited. My request to the people is not to oppose projects like elevated corridor just for the sake of opposition. We have a long-term vision for Bengaluru.

What is your view on splitting BBMP into multiple smaller corporations?

There is this proposal of dividing BBMP into multiple corporations and a committee headed by former chief secretary BS Patil has submitted a report on this. But my question is: will doing so help solve the traffic problem or the garbage menace in Bengaluru? If the answer is yes, I am ready to form 10 corporations in Bengaluru. What we need for Bengaluru is both a long-term and short-term vision which has to be prepared by taking all stakeholders into confidence and by having an open debate with people. I have requested the committee members to come out with solutions in this regard.

What are you doing to clear encroachment of lakes in Bengaluru and restore them?

Lakes across the state, including those in Bengaluru, have to be protected. We will take some strong decisions in the coming months. Due to good rains, the ground water table has been recharged. However, restoring lakes, including desilting, should not become a money-making programme. The involvement of committed and dedicated officers is required, and I will give them full support.