While distributing relief packages among over two lakh families in Mahoba, Bundelkhand, who are in the Antyodaya category, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said, “Our priority is to give assistance to the poorest among the poor first.”
The Chief Minister also said the support offered by the Central Government was far less than what the state wanted at this moment. “I do not want to talk politics, but this is everyone’s responsibility. People will remember who all did not come forward to help,” he said.
Here’s what Akhilesh told to CNN-IBN in Chitrakoot:
CNN-IBN: You have announced this food scheme, but you have restricted it to those belonging to the Antyodaya category. What about the BPL category?
Akhilesh: Our priority is to reach assistance to the poorest among the poor first. For the rest, I have already implemented the food scheme (National Food Security Act) under which they will get food grains at 2 rupees and 3 rupees a kilo. In the first phase, it was important to target the poorest among the poor.
CNN-IBN: Can we hope that those belonging to the BPL category will also get potatoes and pulses?
Akhilesh: The priority of the government is to provide relief to the poorest among the poor. At least, they should be able to have food because now there is nothing in the land, farmers have suffered huge losses and this will also adversely impact labourers and many others. Even this shop, in front of which we are standing, will suffer losses due to decline in tourism. Therefore, the priority of the government is to target the poorest among the poor. We have provided potatoes, pulses, ghee, milk powder and oil to these families. We also have the Samajwadi pension and have expanded the ambit of the scheme. In Chitrakoot, where we are now, earlier 44,000 people were getting the Samajwadi pension. The money in this scheme goes directly into the accounts of women. In the entire state, 5 lakh people will be entitled to Samajwadi pension. Even in Chitrakoot, you will have new beneficiaries estimated between 25,000 to 30,000. Each beneficiary will get 500 rupees. This, too, is a help for them.
CNN-IBN: You are right when you say that you have targeted the poorest among the poor. But what about those who are just a notch higher – there is no work, MNREGS is not running at optimal levels, even when it is running, people are not getting wages on time, they are forced to migrate. There is no food in their houses, children are having roti and salt like we have bread with jam. What about them? Many don’t have cards also.
Akhilesh: This distress is due to hailstorm and drought. But poverty is not just because of these two factors. Poverty is a big issue and a big question. How we pull people out of poverty is a huge subject. We have implemented the Right to Food Act, we are giving Rs 500 as pension, under MNREGA we have increased the number of days from 100 to 150. And even when the Centre has not given us budget, we have sanctioned 300 Cr rupees so that MNREGA wages can be paid on time.
CNN-IBN: You were one of the youngest chief ministers of the state. There was a lot of hope riding on you. People also hoped that you will modernise the Samajwadi Party. When you are facing such a critical situation, do you feel you have done your best or, you could have done better? For instance, you give milk once in a week in midday meal schemes, maybe you could give it for all seven days because people don’t have access to milk?
Akhilesh: Even today, Uttar Pradesh has the youngest chief minister across all states. In the next elections, when we get elected and come back, Uttar Pradesh would still have the youngest chief minister. I can say after working for four years that the country’s fastest ever made greenfield express way- which is a 6-lane expandable to eight lane- is being built by the Uttar Pradesh government and Samajwadi people. This expressway will reach upto Balia and Gazipur. I don’t think any state government can do this with its own budget. When it comes to bring new schemes- we distributed 17,00000 laptops, we are still distributing laptops to meritorious students. I met students in Mahoba who said they should also be getting laptops. We were distributing laptops anyway but critics termed is ‘jhunjhuna’. BJP and BSP termed it as ‘jhunjhuna’. And at the same time, they were talking of IT, Digital India etc. We are giving Samajwadi pension directly into the accounts of people. If anyone has opened the largest number of accounts, it is the Samajwadi government.
CNN IBN: You could strengthen the mid-day meal scheme- provide milk every day
Akhilesh: In Lucknow, I have given it to Akshay Patra. I am taking the same to another five big districts. In the coming days, I will be providing fruit also in mid-day meal scheme in addition to milk. We are ready to give. We have already started this. In the coming days, if we have more money, we can provide more. We are giving uniforms and utensils also to children.
CNN IBN: Any long-term solutions?
Akhilesh: I am incentivising the dairy industry, focusing on infrastructure, increasing power generation, providing water through pipelines, in villages I’ve provided solar powered ROs. I have both short and long term solutions. Probably it will take time – six months to one year for results to show.