Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar today said that while Gujarat has done very well in industrialisation, it will need to do some catching-up in the health and education sectors. Kumar met Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and senior state officials here. “Gujarat’s achievements in education and health are not like those in other areas like industrialisation, infrastructure and energy….it lags behind in these two (health and education). I talked about this with the state government,” he said, speaking to reporters after the meeting. He was happy to learn from the government that budgetary allocations for health and education have been increased for 2018-19, Kumar said.
He was told that the state is planning “big success this year itself” in the health sector, and district collectors have been asked to pay special attention to child malnutrition and the maternal mortality ratio, he said. The Niti Aayog will help Gujarat set up the proposed Coastal Economic Zones which aim to spur economic activities along the state coast, he said. “The issue of Coastal Economic Zones between Kandla and Jamnagar was raised, and I believe this can be a very good initiative. If these (Zones) are formed, I can talk to relevant departments of the Central government to take it forward,” Kumar said.
“The chief minister laid a lot of emphasis on the need to take up (creation of) Zones, and I will see how this can be made possible. It will be a big step towards industrialisation in the state,” he said. Kumar further said that the Niti Aayog will help the state government in disposal of around 8.5 lakh tons of groundnut procured from farmers at a price higher than the Minimum Support Price (MSP). The Aayog has also requested the state government to share details of its desalination plant project, so that it can be replicated in other coastal states, he said.
“We will see how it can be improved further in Gujarat and implemented in other coastal states to make it cost-effective. If the desalination plant runs on solar energy, the cost will drop further,” he said. The Aayog will offer a three-scheme package to the states and each state will be free to adopt one of the three schemes to ensure that farmers get an MSP which is at least 1.5 times the production cost (as assured by the prime minister yesterday), Kumar said. The Niti Aayog is committed to ensure that farmers get MSP as per this formula from the Rabi season itself, so that it is fully implemented from the coming Kharif season, he said. He also expressed satisfaction over the implementation of the Centre’s apprenticeship scheme in Gujarat, and said the Aayog is trying to ensure that the stipend under the scheme is increased from the existing Rs 1,500 per month.
“We are trying to increase the stipend of Rs 1,500. If it is increased, Gujarat will increase the number of apprentices to two lakh from (existing) one lakh,” he said.