Farm loan waiver has exposed banking, Aadhaar deficiencies; Elphinstone one of lowest points of my career, Fadnavis says at OTC.
In line with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s philosophy backing smaller states, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that he and his party still stand for carving out a separate Vidarbha from Maharashtra to boost development in the region.
Fadnavis made the comments on what remains a politically contentious issue at ThePrint’s ‘Off The Cuff’ in Mumbai on Wednesday.
“Yes, we made demands for a separate Vidarbha when we were in the opposition. Vidarbha has lagged behind in development for years. I support the creation of a separate state of Vidarbha and so does my party,” Fadnavis said.
“My party’s philosophy is to have smaller states. Having said that, I cannot take any action being a CM as it is under the Central government’s purview.”
Fadnavis, who completed three years as chief minister on 31 October, was in conversation with ThePrint’s Editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta, Associate Editor Manasi Phadke and Contributing Editor Mahrukh Inayet.
While the decision on creating Vidarbha awaits movement, his government has been giving special attention to the region’s development to compensate for the years of neglect, said Fadnavis, who belongs to Nagpur.
“Often we have to face criticism from the other side that we are only focusing on Vidarbha,” the CM said.
Asked for his preference of the state he would like to lead if the demand for a separate Vidarbha state does go through, Fadnavis said in a lighter vein: “I am a hardcore Nagpurite. I would like to be whichever side Nagpur goes.”
The division of Maharashtra and statehood for Vidarbha has been a long-standing one, but a politically controversial demand with all major parties in Maharashtra, except the BJP, opposing it.
The demand is one of the strongest ideological differences between the BJP and its bitter ally, Shiv Sena. Last year, Sena leaders even joined the opposition in stalling legislative proceedings demanding that the BJP-led state government, in which it is a junior partner, pass a resolution that it supports a unified Maharashtra.
The party later backed down after the CM’s assurance that there is no proposal for a separate statehood within Maharashtra for now. Similarly, earlier last year Advocate General Shrihari Aney had to resign after all parties raised an uproar over his remark for a separate Marathwada.
Fadnavis also spoke about how the Aadhaar-linked identification of farmers as part of the Maharashtra government’s farm loan waiver had thrown light on deficient data from banks and possibly dummy or void accounts. He said that despite all the challenges, his government aims to finish 75 percent of the disbursement to farmers by 25 November.
“There were so many flaws in the 2008 loan waiver that we decided to do things scientifically with the help of technology. The banks first quoted a figure of 89 lakh accounts, but when we started verifying the data they brought down the number by 13 lakh. If we had disbursed without verification, these 13 lakh accounts could have been ghost accounts or accounts not belonging to farmers at all.”
When the government started juxtaposing the bank’s data with data collected from farmers it realised there were one lakh farmers with a single Aadhaar number, he added.
“Once we complete the task at hand, we plan to take these deficiencies to the Central government and the Reserve Bank of India and show them how banks are actually working,” the CM said.
Calling the stampede at the Elphinstone railway station in September one of the lowest points of his career, Fadnavis said that the Army will complete the task of building three crucial foot over-bridges, including the one at Elphinstone within two months.
“I have seen many highs and lows, but when 21 people die, I would say that this was one of the lowest points. It is not that the state government cannot build the bridges, but there are some set time-consuming processes that the government has to follow and we can’t let any more tragedies happen in the meanwhile,” Fadnavis said.