On a day he completed 12 years as chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan today said announcing “instant total prohibition” was not a solution to end the drinking menace in the state and stressed the need for adopting a gradual approach. While he counted his government’s flagship schemes like ‘Ladli Laxmi’, which aims in improving the status of girl child in the family and society, and the increase in the area under irrigation as major achievements in the last 12 years, Chouhan admitted that a lot need to be done in the health sector. “We have never said that we will go for the total prohibition. We have definitely said that liquor is not good. We will raise awareness in the society about (evils of liquor) and encourage people to quit it (drinking) and become liquor-free village,” Chouhan told PTI in an interview.
The BJP stalwart is the longest serving chief minister in Madhya Pradesh. He had assumed office as the 18th chief minister on November 29, 2005. “In my opinion, instant announcement of total prohibition is not a solution. It (liquor consumption) cannot be wiped out completely till people are aware about its harmful effects,” he said. He said his government was trying to reduce the number of liquor shops every year. “We reduced the number of liquor shops last year also and will bring it down further this year as well.”
Chouhan underlined that raising awareness on liquor consumption is the only way out “because even if total prohibition is implemented, people devise ways to consume alcohol illegally”. “Raising awareness on the issue is the only solution that will lead the state towards that direction (total prohibition),” he said. When asked about the inconvenience caused to the people, especially women, due to liquor shops operating in residential areas, Chouhan said he had issued directions for identifying and removing them from the places where women, including college girls, are facing problems.
On his government’s achievements in the last 12 years, Chouhan referred to the ‘Ladli Laxmi’ scheme, rise in the area under irrigation from 7.5 lakh hectares to 40 lakh hectares and the CM Meritorious Students Scholarship programme, which he said gives him a lot of satisfaction. However, he admitted that more work need to be done in the health and education sectors. “We have to work a lot in the health sector. There is a shortage of doctors. We are not getting doctors. We have opened seven new government medical colleges in the state to deal with this problem. Besides, we have also raised salaries of the government doctors, ensured availability of medicines and provided dialysis facilities. But, still I feel that a lot need to be done,” he said.
Chouhan blamed the erstwhile Congress government for the “collapse” of education sector in the state. “Education sector collapsed totally during the previous Congress rule. Teachers were appointed with the titles like ‘Guruji’ and ‘Shikhsakarmi’ on a meagre salary of just Rs 500,” he said. Chouhan said his government has addressed this problem and is paying them Rs 30,000-35,000 per month. “We are also developing school infrastructure,” he added.
Chouhan said the state’s budget size has increased in the last 12 years from Rs 80,000 crore to Rs 1.20 lakh crore and the state has come out of the “BIMARU” (laggard) category.
“We have successfully came out of the BIMARU category in the 12-year period. Our GDP is maintained at double-digit while the agriculture growth rate remained at 20 per cent since the last five years which means doubling of production,” he said. On the infrastructure front also, the state has done a lot in the areas of power, water and roads, according to the chief minister. Chouhan sought to justify his recent statement that roads in Madhya Pradesh are better than those in Washington. “I have not said out of the blue that our roads are better than Washington. It was a fact that our super corridor road from the Indore Airport is better than that of the US capital’s aerodrome stretch,” he said.
Chouhan said the state has also done a lot in tourism sector and has been bagging the “Best Tourism State” award for the last three years. When asked about the Assembly elections, due in the state next year, Chouhan said the BJP has set a target of 200 plus seats. “The BJP has also coined a slogan ‘Abki baar 200 paar’. I can only say that people of Madhya Pradesh have always showered their blessings and love on us. I can feel it wherever I go across the state,” he said. Responding to a query on likely anti-incumbency against sitting MLAs, Chouhan said it would be premature to talk about it at this juncture. On the possibility of Cabinet expansion, he said it will be done but without any major change. “It will be done. We will think on it soon. There will not be a major change in it,” he said. Madhya Pradesh currently has 29 ministers including the chief minister. The Cabinet has five vacancies.