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The Rediff Special

'A mafia of environmentalists are impeding Maharashtra's development'

What are your government's achievements in the last two-and-a-half years? Do you get angry if someone asked you this?

I used to get angry till a few months ago. Not now. Considering the hard work done by the alliance government, I am of the opinion that many schemes have come to fruition.

For example?

I am really surprised at the speed with which Sureshdada Jain is working after we appointed him as housing development minister. We are trying to change the face of Dharavi. Within the next two years we will change the face of Dharavi. The minister himself meets people, tries to understand the problems. He is striving sincerely to provide free housing to slum dwellers and taking necessary steps to implement these policies. Those who have alleged that this scheme is a fiasco will not get any chance to repeat their allegations.

You were going to provide free housing to 500,000 slum dwellers in the very first year...

Not the first year. We said this year. The scheme is not a flop, but it gets delayed due to litigation. We are planning a six-lane highway from Bombay to Pune. Good people have come to power. They will invest their money. And they are not expect any returns for the next 10 years. They are here to implement long-term projects. But these environmentalists are creating a headache.

Many people from Bombay are sitting on the Central Environment Board. They malign our good intentions. So the central government denies permission. Why don't you highlight this mafia of environmentalists?

They are impeding Maharashtra's development. They shouldn't teach us environmental complications. They have no problems when we take a farmer's fertile land for construction purposes. But they protest when their bungalows are at stake. Their bungalows are illegal. They have been developed by builders who give these plots to the rich people and their bungalows spring up in no time to act as an impediment.

Are you taking about the 'megacity' project on the Pune highway?

Yes, I am talking about the megacity and other such projects stalled by litigation. When we construct an expressway shouldn't we have petrol pumps, hospitals and other much facilities? There is nothing on the Bombay-Pune highway. No drinking water, no hospital, no hotels, nothing. Let Marathi people take the initiative. Let them undertake to run motels, petrol pumps. We will provide these only to Marathi people. But let them take the initiative.

Is this a fight of local sons of the soil...

Why are you stressing on this? Do you want to jeopardise these projects? Some vested interests and politicians are afraid about their future if their implementation is successful. So they are trying to scuttle them.

What about unemployment?

Now the central government is enacting a good law. Only people having two children will be eligible to run for elections. Nobody is prepared for family planning on their own volition. Countries like China and America have such laws. They are developing at a faster speed than India. In India, people are expert in the production of children!

Some foreigners ask me about what we can export? In a lighter vein I say, "We can export children. But you don't want them." Population is the most important problem in India today.

What is the latest development on your employment schemes?

Before asking me this, you first take care not to impede such projects with unwarranted litigation. We are setting up new industries in Maharashtra. We are planning to employ a large number of people here. When we strive for this, some vested interests comes up with litigation. Raj (Thackeray) is trying to provide employment though his Shiv Udyog Sena. He is very serious about it. And I am constantly in touch with Raj.

You have published a white paper on corruption, but did that stop corruption?

When? Just a day or two before. How can you expect it to end immediately? Do you think we have an Alladin's lamp? Publishing a white paper is just a means to end corruption, not an end in itself. How can you talk like that? It takes nine months to conceive a child.

But your government has almost finished two-and-a-half years in office.

Yes, we have. Why don't you ask for accountability for the 35 years when the state was ruled by the Congress? And tomorrow you will have the audacity, the chutzpah, enough to elect the same people.

The state government has extorted a lot of money over the sale of mill land...

How can you say that? Is the CM a fool? He has come forward with appointing a enquiry committee. We will also discuss the matter. Myself, Pramod Mahajan, CM, Uddhav, Raj, Gopinath Munde we all will sit together and take a final decision. People are out there trying to defame and malign us. They are trying to split the Sena-BJP alliance. But this will not happen.

Transfer orders are emanating from Matushree (Thackeray's bungalow in suburban Bombay). The newspapers are relentless about these allegations.

Newspapers were never our well-wishers. I have not lived according to a rag's principles. When they ask me such questions I often reply in yes-no. But I have never given any order for transfers. People come to know the truth. After all, who are these journalists? They are more of manipulators than reporters.

You once said that 'Journalists stoop before those in power. Tomorrow if I came to power they will stoop in front of me also.' Why aren't they stooping in front of you now?

I don't remember if I have made such arrogant statements. Everybody bends in front of the rising sun. Journalists are no exception.

What is your idea of ideal journalism?

They should fight for the truth. Why do I need to start a newspaper? I know many people have a grudge against the Shiv Sena. If I don't start a newspaper I will be a sitting duck for these people. They won't highlight our achievements, my ideas. They will malign me. They will always try to embarrass me. So I started my newspaper. You cannot find a professional journalist. Everyday they criticise us. They think we can't do anything good.

Kind courtesy: Saamna. Translated by Prasanna D Zorey.


Bal Thackeray, continued
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