‘Welfare aimed at needy people; freebies for gaining support at polls’: Bhagwanth Khuba

During an interaction with the TNSE editors and staff, Khuba also speaks about BJP’s prospects in the state and initiatives taken by his departments.
Union Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers and New and Renewable Energy, Bhagwanth Khuba.
Union Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers and New and Renewable Energy, Bhagwanth Khuba.

Pointedly clarifying the difference between freebies and welfare schemes, Union Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers and New and Renewable Energy, Bhagwanth Khuba, cautions that freebies (as in guarantees) could hurt growth and result in unemployment in the state. He also points out that the Congress government in Karnataka has become unpopular as there is no development in the state.

During an interaction with the TNSE editors and staff, Khuba also speaks about BJP’s prospects in the state and initiatives taken by his departments.

Excerpts

What are the major initiatives taken by your ministry?

In Chemical and Fertilizers, we have become ‘atmanirbhar’ in the production of fertilizers. After the Modi government came, out of six government fertilizer units that were closed, five are opened and each of them can produce 12.7 MT per annum. By 2025, the entire urea production will be sufficient for the country. The nano urea has been developed by Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative, which is cost-saving, high efficiency and environment friendly. Four of the units have started and a few more will be added.

There are reports that nano urea has no effects on crops, what do you have to say?

It is a false propaganda. Only by getting positive results after the ground experiment on nano urea technology, was it allowed for production and sales. In earlier days, farmers were hesitant to use it and it is quite natural for any product. But the agriculture department is creating awareness.

What is the status of the availability of fertilisers?

For the last ten years, there has been no shortage of fertilisers across the country. Even the crisis of the increase in prices and the shortage in production in the international market has been well addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he, through his influence on the world leaders, tackled the situation. Many leaders from other countries supported us. We managed the situation very well right from importing the fertilisers and raising the raw material prices. The cost of the fertilisers increased four times compared to 2021 but the PM ensured that the farmers would not get affected as the price was not hiked. The subsidy given in 2022 was Rs 86,000 crore which has been hiked to Rs 2.6 lakh crore in 2023-24.

What about pharma?

In pharma, price control has been achieved and we have started 10,000 Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadi Kendras which provide generic, good quality affordable medicines for poor patients. Our target is 25,000 Jan Aushadi Kendras in the next five years. In the last 10 years, around Rs 25,000 crore has been saved by poor patients by buying medicines from Jan Aushadi Kendras. Medicines are available for 50 per cent to 90 per cent less cost compared to the market. There are around 1,000 in Karnataka. After the Covid-19 pandemic, in the chemical sector, the world is looking at China's Plus One policy and the ‘Plus One’ country will be India. We have brought a good policy for companies to invest in India. India will become a global hub for chemicals and pharmaceuticals. In developed countries, if they buy four medicines of which at least one will be from India. Covid has taught us good lessons in the health sector. The PM has given directions to manufacture critical medicines in India. In future, the country should not suffer due to a shortage of medicines or raw materials. Around 40 critically required medicines are manufactured in India. We are importing many surgical instruments from outside. We have now allowed them to start production here. Many have come forward.

Are there any plans to increase the number of medicines and equipment in Jan audhad kendras

Presently, 856 medicines and 256 surgical equipment are available. We are adding more.

What is the status of the renewable energy sector in India?

Since the last two to three decades, there has been a dialogue on climate change. In the Conference of the Parties 15 (COP- 15), PM Modi had set a target of producing 175 GW of energy by 2022 through non-fossil fuels. Many did not trust this, but we have achieved it. In COP 26, the PM has set a target of 500 GW of power production by 2030. We will achieve this as well. We have rolled out the Production Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI) for the manufacturing of cells for other products, many big players are there. The GOI has also brought a new Green Hydrogen energy policy. Many big manufacturers are showing interest in investing in green hydrogen energy.

How is the response to Viksita Bharata Sankalpa Yatra?

Before Modi became PM, governments brought many social security schemes, but due to lack of government regulations, and policies, involvement of the public and officials not showing interest, most of the schemes had not reached people. PM Modi believes in Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas & Sabka Prayas. Because of this, we have reached 81 crore people. Still, Modi feels some of them might be left out of availing the benefits. This yatra will go through around 2.7 lakh gram panchayats, and 4,800 urban areas. Many schemes are made available on the spot. The response of the public is huge. In Karnataka — and wherever there is a non-BJP government there — they have decided not to cooperate with this yatra. The CM in Karnataka has directed officials concerned not to cooperate. However, it has become successful.

Why are they not cooperating…?

They are scared that this yatra may increase Modi’s popularity. In Karnataka, within six months, the Congress government has become more unpopular as there is no development. They fear, if we cooperate with this yatra, people will praise Modi.

There is an allegation that the Central government is not cooperating with the State in releasing relief funds. CM Siddaramiah is looking at releasing Rs 2000 each to eligible farmers from the state government. What do you have to say?

Siddaramaiah has announced it very late. When BS Yediyurappa was CM, he announced and released funds from the state government even before the Union government released them. Later, GOI released funds that were compensated.

Congress repeatedly accused 25 BJP MPs including the ministers of not doing enough to represent the state at the Centre which is why there was a delay in the release of grants, is that true?

Karnataka elected 17 BJP MPs in 2014 as well. If you compare the government of India flagship programmes, the infrastructure projects for the urban and rural areas and the funds we brought in a span of ten years to the state, to that of the 65 years prior to that period then the chief minister will realise what have the MPs done to the state.

Although after much delay, Karnataka BJP finally has a new party president and a Leader of the Opposition. What are the prospects of the party in the 2024 LS polls?

The new president BY Vijayendra has good experience on his back from the past 20 years in organising the party. Definitely, Karnataka BJP will scale new heights under his leadership. We will win all 28 seats. As for the LoP, we have a well-experienced senior leader (ex-Dy CM R Ashok) who will take up the issues of the people with the ruling government. I am sure he will emerge as one of the best opposition leaders. Vijayendra and Ashok lead the party’s fight both inside and outside the assembly.  

BJP always opposed dynasty politics targeting Rahul Gandhi, but now has appointed B S Yediyurappa’s son as party president. What is your take on this?

Vijayendra worked in the party’s organisation as general secretary and vice president and hence his elevation to president post cannot be dubbed as dynasty politics. But Rahul Gandhi, without serving the party, had inherited the post from his mother (Sonia Gandhi).

Will the five guarantees of the Karnataka government have any impact on the BJP and the 2024 LS polls?

In the last six months, the popularity of the guarantees has been on the decline. If you see the past LS polls the people of the state have proved themselves as very intelligent. When the polls for the assembly and LS were held simultaneously they chose one party for the state and another for the Centre. The people are nationalists by nature and their mindset, and in the interest of the country, they will certainly vote for the BJP to power. They will not get carried away by these fake guarantees.

In 2019 Congress-JD(S) alliance registered one each win. What is the prospect of the BJP-JD(S) alliance for the 2024 LS polls?

They thought that the votes of the minorities and others would consolidate in their favour, but it did not happen. But this time the BJP and JD(S) alliance will help both parties mutually.

Will the results of the five states’ assembly polls set a trend for the LS polls?

In India, there will be polls around the year but the media interprets them as ‘quarter-finals’, and ‘semi-finals’ before the LS polls. Of course, the results may reflect the mood of the people in those states. But the people have a different view on the general elections. Certainly, our vote percentage will improve in the five states and we are likely to win 2-3 states.

There seems to be internal bickering within the BJP, which is visible. What is your opinion?

BJP is a national party which has internal democracy. From the booth worker to the national party president, the party allows them to express their opinions. But that does not mean that there are differences. Everyone has a right to express his or her opinion in the interest of the party. It will be taken on a positive note by the concerned the party.

You come from the Kalyan Karnataka region and AICC president Mallikarjuna Kharge also hails from that region. What is the current status of the BJP in that region?

There was some setback for the party in the assembly polls in the region as we could win fewer seats. But under the leadership of BY Vijayendra, we will win all five Lok Sabha seats including Kalaburagi as he is going to tour the region which will boost the morale of the party’s cadre.

When will the candidates for the LS polls be announced? Will there be any changes?

The party's high command and the parliamentary board will decide at the appropriate time. For every poll, there will be a different strategy (about the change in the candidates) depending upon the situation. The party’s top brass will take feedback and make a decision.

Last assembly polls, the Congress made a head start by declaring the candidates and the BJP delayed announcing its candidates, which was one of the factors for the party’s drubbing

BJP is a party in which the activities will always be going on at the ground level. Now the party workers are engaged in making the ‘Viksit Bharat’ programme a success. After Vijayendra became president there will be a reshuffle of the ‘Mandal’ and taluk heads, which will be done soon. Already we have booth committees and page pramukhs who have worked in the previous polls. We will streamline the committees once again and it is a continuous process. Whereas in Congress and other regional parties, the activities start on the brink of the elections.

Despite Karnataka having the largest solar park, the state is facing a power crisis. Where does the problem lie?

Certainly, the crisis is because of the mishandling by the Congress government in Karnataka. The farmers were suffering as they were getting only two hours of three-phase electricity every day.

How is the PM ‘Pranam’ programme, which is aimed at promoting alternative methods for chemical fertilisers, doing? What is the quantum of the grants the state has got?

The government of India has launched many programmes including the PM ‘Pranam’ to minimise the chemical fertilisers in agriculture for the concern of health of the people. Apart from PM ‘Pranam’ we have programmes to promote traditional and natural farming. We will not allow the grants state-wise as whichever the state comes forward to utilise we will support them with more funds.

Infosys co-founder NR Naryana Murthy recently said that freebies should not be given. What is your take on that? How do you differentiate between welfare schemes and freebies?

Welfare schemes are to support needy people. The freebies are aimed at gaining support in elections. If a major part of the budget’s money goes to freebies it will hurt the growth and also result in unemployment. We should create opportunities for employment with financial back up to those who are in need. Jobs should be created either in government, private sector or through self-employment as it helps people, and they will be happy. Otherwise, their lives will become miserable.
 

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