Over the past year, Rajasthan has pressed the accelerator on reforms, amending multiple Acts including the Industrial Disputes Act, Factories Act and Contract Labour Act. Though it’s early days yet, the step is expected to reap dividends for a state that, until not too long ago, was nowhere on any investor’s agenda, despite being among the leading tourist destinations. Chief secretary CS Rajan spoke to Anup Jayaram on the state’s achievements in the second tenure of Vasundhara Raje. Excerpts:
Rajasthan has amended multiple Acts of late. Has this resulted in attracting fresh investments?
These are early days. It’s been 7-8 months since labour reforms were carried out. So it’s difficult to establish a causal relationship. But we’ve had a huge spurt in investments; I am not sure if it can be attributed only to labour reforms. Many things have happened that would have contributed towards this renewed interest in investing in Rajasthan.
What are these things?
There are, of course, labour reforms. Our reform effort is based on three planks—social justice, effective governance and job creation. In social justice, we believe economic growth is not an end in itself. It enables us to undertake basic social reforms. That’ll help us address issues of social justice. There are three areas—education, skill development and financial inclusion programme Bhamashah—under social justice. In education, we’ve proposed amendments to the Right to Education (RTE) Act on the lines we proposed in the amendments to the Industrial Disputes Act, Factories Act, Contract Labour Act, Apprenticeship Act—all of which we carried through with the Centre.
What changes are you bringing in the RTE Act?
We’ve attempted amendments to the RTE Act, but haven’t reached a stage where we can approach the Centre. But these will soon reach the state Cabinet. Once approved, it will be tabled on the floor of the House. Then these will be submitted to the Centre.
We have announced PPP in school education. In government schools in remote areas where we cannot have adequate teachers, we’ll partner with the private sector to fill those gaps. A model school will be set up in every panchayat; we have about 10,000 panchayats. We have covered 2,000 panchayats so far. In these schools, investment is taking place in infrastructure upgrade. We have ensured the teacher-pupil ratio is restored to the level as prescribed under the RTE.
How about Bhamashah scheme?
Bhamashah was conceived in the fourth year of the previous tenure of Raje. It is a family-based, financial inclusion plan. The woman is the head of the household and an account is opened in her name. All family-centric benefits of the government are transferred into that account. Since she receives benefits, it empowers her.
We have linked government services including PDS, scholarship, pensions and MGNREGA payments. Against a target of enrolling 90 lakh households (70% coverage), we have covered 86 lakh so far. All family members are being issued Aadhaar cards. We should reach the 90 lakh target soon. This month one block in each district will be fully covered. We hope to cover the remaining blocks by December. Enrolled households will have a Bhamashah card, an Aadhaar card and a RuPay debit card.
While the Centre had to backtrack on land acquisition, Rajasthan has managed to push through the Bill. How critical is this for growth?
The central land Act has been amended and lot of changes have taken place. The Centre’s ordinance has addressed many concerns of states. The legislation that the Rajasthan Cabinet passed is in the state legislature, which has referred it to a state committee. The committee report will come up in the ensuing monsoon session. Only then will it go to the Centre.
While Rajasthan State Electricity Board has accumulated losses of R81,000 crore, the state is looking at private participation…
We inherited this situation. Over R60,000 crore was from the five years of the previous government. The balance is of the period prior to that and after. It can’t be resolved in a short period. There was an FRP taken up by the previous government. It was a three-year programme. That period is over but things have only gone from bad to worse. We have undertaken distribution reforms and identified some cities to be given out on distribution franchise. We are setting up a power trading company that will, among other things, sell power when we have surplus. We are surplus in the night, when Delhi needs it. The Cabinet has cleared the power trading company.
We are inviting the private sector to invest in generation and distribution. Generation bids will be released for one of our lignite-based power plants, which we want to disinvest. We’re also holding an exercise for larger disinvestment of the generation company.
We have the largest solar installation. A solar power plant in Rajasthan will be efficient as we have 300-325 sunny days a year. Insulation is also high. We have the largest barren land available. All this makes us the ideal destination for solar plants. The PM announced a plan to achieve 100 GW by 2019. We announced a policy last year and the response was overwhelming. For our 25 GW solar power plan, we have MoUs for 36 GW. This is accounted for by 6-7 major players. Adani has 10 GW, Reliance has 6 GW, IL&FS has 5 GW, Essel has 4 GW. Then there are SunEdison and Azure. The response has taken us by surprise.
How is the DMIC progressing?
Of the Dedicated Freight Corridor, 40% passes through Rajasthan. Land acquisition has been completed. Railways has placed the work order and contractors will begin laying tracks.
Every state today has its own version of investor summits. How successful is Resurgent Rajasthan?
We are not competing with other states. All MoUs are not going to be executed on the day of the summit. We announced that all MoUs which are executed in the one year between the launch of Resurgent Rajasthan and the actual event will count towards Resurgent Rajasthan. Over Rs 2,000 crore for setting up 20 textile units has already been mobilised. These are investments where land has been arranged. The investment figure is substantial, which we will announce in Resurgent Rajasthan.