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Roots of progress: Planting trees for Gujarat’s holistic development

Dear Friends,

Tomorrow on the auspicious occasion of Pavitra Baras in the holy month of Shravan, I will inaugurate this year’s Van Mahotsav. In the last few years, the annual Van Mahotsav campaigns in Gujarat have added a totally new meaning to concepts of social forestry. It also brings out our determination and commitment to ensure that our future generations inherit a greener planter from us.

To inaugurate this year’s Van Mahotsav I will travel to Mangadh, a beautiful hill village located in Panchmahal’s Santrampur Taluka. It is the soil of Mangadh that produced some extremely brave Adivasi heroes who sounded the bugle of revolt against the unjust colonial imperialism. Back in 1913 the British mercilessly killed 1507 Adivasis when they had assembled to protest endless exploitation, reminding us of the brutal Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. It was for the first time since the First War of Independence in 1857 that the spark of patriotism was ignited among the people of Gujarat with so much intensity, dedication and idealism.

The Adivasis were led by Govind Guru, a beacon of bravery and inspiring leadership. Through his spiritual teachings, he worked for the cause of freedom, rights and self-respect of Adivasi communities. He tirelessly worked towards creating awakening among his people so that his community can develop at par with the rest of the society. 

Govind Guru was a man truly ahead of his time. The contribution of individuals such as Govind Guru remains edged in the memories of time and is something that simply cannot be erased from the annals of history. The people of Gujarat will never forget the mammoth contribution of its proud sons such as Govind Guru in taking the nation on the path towards freedom.

Today when we commence the Van Mahotsav 2012 from Mangadh, we are paying our wholehearted tributes to these brave individuals who sacrificed themselves at the altars of truth and justice. A Govind Guru Smriti Van with 1507 trees along with various exhibits will be set up as a tribute to these heroes. The oneness that our Adivasi friends have with nature is very well known and I am certain this step will enable many others to get inspired not only by the likes of Govind Guru but also the importance one must give to conserving our forests.

It is our firm belief that every initiative of the Gujarat Government must be a full-fledged mass movement! There is nothing more sacrosanct than the complete and active involvement of people power. In this regard, we ensured that all major Government initiatives are held not from the confines of the state capital but out there among the people. The Van Mahotsav is no exception- you would be interested to know that since 2005, the Mahotsav has been organized in different parts of Gujarat that is blessed with a distinct cultural and historical significance. There we strive to leave behind a permanent memory in the form of a ‘Van’ that serves as a cultural and tourist spot in its own right be it ‘Punit Van’ in Gandhinagar (2004), ‘Mangalya Van’ in Ambaji (2005), ‘Tirthankar Van’ in Taranga (2006), ‘Harihar Van’ in Somnath (2007), ‘Bhakti Van’ in Chotila (2008), ‘Shyamal Van’ in Shamlaji (2009), ‘Pavak Van’ in Palitana (2010) and ‘Virasat Van’ in Pavgadh (2011). This truly becomes a unique opportunity to explore our culture and strengthen our roots with history.

Gujarat is leaving no stone unturned to enhance the green cover across the state. Just a week ago, I was extremely pleased to read a newspaper report that said that Gandhinagar is India’s tree capital. Latest figures show that 53.9% of Gujarat’s capital is covered with trees which means there are 416 trees for every 100 people in the city. In our country geographical area under tree cover is 2.82%, while for Gujarat the number stands at 4%. In 2003, we had 25.1 crore trees outside the forest cover and by 2009 the number went up to 26.9 crore; in the next ten years we are working towards taking it to 35 crore. Infact, I am delighted to share that Gandhinagar, Vadodara and Bhavnagar are cities that are greener than most green cities of the country.

Friends, worshipping Mother Nature is an integral part of our rich culture. In our culture we believe that God resides in the trees! I am sure that this effort of Van Mahotsav will go a long way in creating a greener and more beautiful Gujarat. We must plant as many trees as possible- Infact very often I tell parents to plant 2 trees on the birth of a girl child.

I am attaching a copy of a book on Govind Guru and a report “Status of Tree Cover in the Urban Areas in Gujarat”. I congratulate the Forest Department in bringing out such an important report on tree cover in our cities. I am sure you will enjoy reading these fine pieces of work.

 

Yours

Narendra Modi

 

E Book- Mangadh Kranti na Nayak- Shri Govind Guru

E Book - Status of Tree Cover in the Urban Areas in Gujarat 

 

 

Govind Guru Smriti Van - Watch

Vave Gujarat Campaign – Watch

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Reforms by Conviction and Incentives
June 22, 2021
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The Covid-19 pandemic has come with whole new set of challenges to Governments across the world in terms of policy-making. India is no exception. Raising enough resources for public welfare while ensuring sustainability is proving to be one of the biggest challenges.

In this back-drop of financial crunch seen across the world, do you know that Indian states were able to borrow significantly more in 2020-21? It would perhaps pleasantly surprise you that states were able to raise an extra Rs 1.06 lakh crores in 2020-21. This significant increase in availability of resources was made possible by an approach of Centre-State bhagidari. 

When we formulated our economic response to the Covid-19 pandemic, we wanted to ensure that our solutions do not follow a ‘one size fits all’ model. For a federal country of continental dimensions, finding policy instruments at the national level to promote reforms by State Governments is indeed challenging. But, we had faith in the robustness of our federal polity and we moved ahead in the spirit of Centre-State bhagidari. 

In May 2020, as part of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat package, the Government of India announced that State Governments would be allowed enhanced borrowing for 2020-21. An extra 2% of GSDP was allowed, of which 1% was made conditional on the implementation of certain economic reforms. This nudge for reform is rare in Indian public finance. This was a nudge, incentivising the states to adopt progressive policies to avail additional funds. The results of this exercise are not only encouraging but also run contrary to the notion that there are limited takers for sound economic policies.

The four reforms to which additional borrowings were linked (with 0.25% of GDP tied to each one) had two characteristics. Firstly, each of the reforms was linked to improving the Ease of Living to the public and particularly the poor, the vulnerable, and the middle class. Secondly, they also promoted fiscal sustainability.

The first reform under the ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ policy required State Governments to ensure that all ration cards in the State under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) were seeded with the Aadhaar number of all family members and that all Fair Price Shops had Electronic Point of Sale devices. The main benefit from this is that migrant workers can draw their food ration from anywhere in the country. Apart from these benefits to citizens, there is the financial benefit from the elimination of bogus cards & duplicate members. 17 states completed this reform and were granted additional borrowings amounting to Rs. 37,600 crores. 

The second reform, aimed at improving ease of doing business, required states to ensure that renewal of business-related licences under 7 Acts is made automatic, online and non-discretionary on mere payment of fees. Another requirement was implementation of a computerized random inspection system and prior notice of inspection to reduce harassment and corruption under a further 12 Acts. This reform (covering 19 laws) is of particular help to micro and small enterprises, who suffer the most from the burden of the ‘inspector raj'. It also promotes an improved investment climate, greater investment and faster growth. 20 states completed this reform and were allowed additional borrowing of Rs. 39,521 crores. 

The 15th Finance Commission and several academics have emphasised the crucial importance of sound property taxation. The third reform required states to notify floor rates of property tax and of water & sewerage charges, in consonance with stamp duty guideline values for property transactions and current costs respectively, in urban areas. This would enable better quality of services to the urban poor and middle class, support better infrastructure and stimulate growth. Property tax is also progressive in its incidence and thus the poor in urban areas would benefit the most. This reform also benefits municipal staff who often face delay in payment of wages. 11 states completed these reforms and were granted additional borrowing of Rs. 15,957 crores. 

The fourth reform was introduction of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) in lieu of free electricity supply to farmers. The requirement was for formulation of a state-wide scheme with actual implementation in one district on a pilot basis by year end. Additional borrowing of 0.15% of GSDP was linked to this. A component was also provided for reduction in technical & commercial losses and another for reducing the gap between revenues and costs (0.05% of GSDP for each). This improves the finances of distribution companies, promotes conservation of water and energy and improves service quality through better financial and technical performance. 13 states implemented at least one component, while 6 states implemented the DBT component. As a result, Rs. 13,201 crore of additional borrowings was permitted. 

Overall, 23 states availed of additional borrowings of Rs. 1.06 lakh crores out of a potential of Rs. 2.14 lakh crores. As a result, the aggregate borrowing permission granted to states for 2020-21 (conditional and unconditional) was 4.5% of the initially estimated GSDP. 

For a large nation with complex challenges as ours, this was a unique experience. We have often seen that for various reasons, schemes and reforms remain un-operational often for years. This was a pleasant departure from the past where the Centre & States came together to roll out public friendly reforms in a short span of time amidst the pandemic. This was made possible due to our approach of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwas. Officials who have been working on these reforms suggest that without this incentive of additional funds, enactment of these policies would have taken years. India has seen a model of ‘reforms by stealth and compulsion’. This is a new model of ‘reforms by conviction and incentives’. I am thankful to all the states who took the lead in ushering in these policies amidst tough times for the betterment of their citizens. We shall continue working together for the rapid progress of 130 crore Indians.