Shri Yogi Adityanath

Turning Uttar Pradesh Uttam Pradesh

Starting his political career by becoming the youngest Member of Parliament from Gorakhpur to be elected to the 12th Lok Sabha at the age of 26, Shri Yogi Adityanath has been consistently ranked as one of the most popular Chief Ministers in India. Dedicated to the selfless service of the nation, he has been leaving no stone unturned in turning the wheels of progress and prosperity in Uttar Pradesh with his unswerving dedication and relentless persistence

STRIKING FAST-PACED DEVELOPMENT

Q. Sir, we, at AsiaOne, appreciate the fact that under your able leadership, the Uttar Pradesh government has achieved a drastic improvement in law and order, investments, and infrastructure development in the state over the last four years. Your efforts to promote spiritual tourism with focus on Ayodhya, Prayagraj, Mathura and Varanasi are appreciable so are the various upcoming infrastructure projects such as 354-km Bundelkhand-Purvanchal Expressway project and 1050-km Ganga Expressway from Meerut to Prayagraj – the largest expressway in India. We also appreciate your goal of making Uttar Pradesh a $1 Trillion Economy.’ Please throw light on some of the other sectors on your government plans to focus with the agenda of making Uttar Pradesh as ‘Uttam Pradesh.’ In fact, it is a matter of great pride that Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji lauded you and your government for the pace of the development despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

A. You have aptly mentioned about our government’s effort in transforming the law and order situation, tourism and industrial sector of the state. In the coming 5 years we will have completed the construction of the Noida International Greenfield Airport and half the work on Ganga Expressway. We have further boosted the health infrastructure and education infrastructure in the state.

ALIGNING STATE GOALS WITH NATIONAL GOALS

Q. Sir, what are your views on Hon’ble PM Modi ji’s call for ‘vocal for local’ and ‘Aatma Nirbhar Bharat’? How is your government planning to further this agenda?

A. “One District One Product (ODOP)” launched in 2018 is the flagship programme of Government of Uttar Pradesh (GoUP). The objective of the programme is to preserve, develop and promote local arts, crafts and traditional skill of communities spread across each district of Uttar Pradesh. For example, the artisans’ of the old wood carving industry of Saharanpur needed training. Now under the ODOP initiative, we are providing training facilities to them. This will not only improve the products, but will also improve efficacy. Additionally, the programme aims to add to the income and local employment and is in line with Hon’ble PM’s clarion call of ‘Vocal for Local’ and ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.

Loans to the tune of Rs 10,390 crore to 3,54,825 MSME units and tool kits to 5,000 artisans under ODOP were given during a special online loan mela organized by the government. 3,24,911 new MSME units have been given loans of Rs 9,074 crore under various central and state government schemes like PM Rozgar Srijan Yojana, CM Yuva, Swarozgar Yojana, ODOP, Mudra Yojana and Atma Nirbhar Bharat. Under Atma Nirbhar Bharat, 29,914 existing units were given Rs 1,316 crore in loans.

BOOSTING EMPLOYMENT

Q. Sir, owing to your dedicated efforts, Uttar Pradesh has emerged as the biggest contributor to employment generation in the country. The state has ensured employment to more than 57 lakh unskilled workers who are now engaged in various projects under MGNREGS – contributing 18 per cent of the total employment in the country under the scheme. In fact you are a role model for the youth of the nation who identify with you and look up to you for inspiration. What’s your message to them?

A. My message to the youth is to keep working hard, take pride in being from Uttar Pradesh and become brand ambassadors of the state. I would further like to encourage them to not just be a job seeker but also be a job generator i.e. learn about entrepreneurship.

The Uttar Pradesh Government is focused on generating employment and achieving its goal of reaching $1 trillion economy. Our special campaign “Mission Rojgar” aims at providing jobs to 50 lakh youth by March 2021 and so far has employed 21,75,443 youth in the state. In the past 4 years, more than 4 lakh youths have been given employment within the government. Uttar Pradesh has been ranked first in the country for generating 10 crore man days under the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan to support migrant labourers who came back to the state during the pandemic.

The Uttar Pradesh government did not only manage the return of about 40 lakh migrants from all over the country but also took up the onerous task of providing them employment. In a first, the state government did skill mapping of about 36 lakh migrant labourers/workers to enable them get job as per their skill set. 4 lakh youths have already got government jobs and about 15 crore youths got self-employment by way of various schemes of the Centre and the State.

Uttar Pradesh has also found place among top five states of the country for providing employment under the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) during Corona pandemic. In a recent report of Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Uttar Pradesh has secured a place ahead of Karnataka, Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana and Telangana in the list of top 10 states.

The state government also signed MoUs with various industries for creation of 11 Lakh jobs within a year. While FICCI and IIA will account for three lakh jobs each, realtors’ body NARDCO and the Laghu Udyog Bharti have agreed to provide jobs to 2.5 each to migrant labourers.

PROMOTING TOURISM

Q. Your government has been promoting tourism with the tagline of “UP nahi dekha, toh India nahi dekha” (If you have not seen UP, then you have not seen India too). Please elaborate.

A. Uttar Pradesh has a myriad of tourism attractions spread across wildlife & nature, historical monuments, heritage & culture, vibrant cities, cuisine, art & craft, music & dance, adventure, spirituality and religion. Such diversity spread across all districts of Uttar Pradesh makes for an unforgettable tourism experience. And therefore, the tagline because Uttar Pradesh is a must visit place. Uttar Pradesh emerged as the top destination for attracting the highest number of domestic tourists in 2019. The Indian Tourism Statistics (ITS), 2020 announced that as many as 53.6 crore domestic tourists visited Uttar Pradesh in 2019 which was much higher as compared to 2018.

With the objective of improving the basic tourism infrastructure across all our destinations (popular and new), development projects to the tune of INR 630.45 Crore are being implemented under the ‘Swadesh Darshan & PRASAD Scheme’. In addition, infrastructure development projects of INR 857.20 Crore are also being implemented from the state government funding.

The projects sanctioned under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme includes the:

  1. Development of Sravasti, Kapilvastu and Kushinagar under the Buddhist Circuit;
  2. Development of Kalinjar Fort (Banda), Maghar Dham & Chauri Chaura under the Heritage Circuit;
  3. Development of Ayodhya, Chitrakoot & Shringverpur under the Ramayana Circuit;
  4. Development of Gorakhpur, Devipatan, Dumariyagunj, Banda & other tourist sites across the state under the Spiritual Circuit. Mathura and Varanasi are also being developed under the PRASAD Scheme, along with new ‘River Cruise’ project at Varanasi.

Major works include development of tourist facilitation centre, façade lighting of monuments, signage, landscaping, drinking water kiosks, solar lighting and toilets. In addition to the above, Uttar Pradesh Tourism Policy was launched in February 2018, to attract private investments and develop tourism infrastructure.

Till now, the state has received multiple project proposals for new hotels, resorts, convention centres, wellness centres, adventure tourism projects and other facilities with investment intent of approximately INR 18,753 Crore. Tourism destinations have been categorized across 12 tourism circuits like Ramayana, Braj, Buddhist, Wildlife & Eco Tourism, Bundelkhand, Mahabharata, Shakti Peeth, Aadhyatmik, Sufi, Jain, Craft and Swatantrata Sangram.

244 tourism investment proposals have been received in these tourism circuits, which will assist in the overall tourism infrastructure development of the region. One of the major fiscal benefit offered under the tourism policy is the ‘Capital Investment Subsidy’ in the range of 1020% of the eligible capital investment, which encourages the private entities to establish new tourism units. Furthermore, the state government is planning to develop camping infrastructure and adventure activities at various eco-tourism sites. As part of public & private sector collaboration to train local young community, over 200 young people in Ayodhya were trained by sector specialists, under the ‘Ayodhya Guide training Program’.

DEVELOPMENT OF FILMCITY & JEWAR INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

Q. Your Government has recently announced a film city of over 1,000-acre plot located just about 6 km from the proposed Jewar International Airport. The latter will be the first net-zero emissions airport in its class, setting a new standard for sustainable aviation. Please throw light on the vision behind these initiatives.

A. Uttar Pradesh has played a pivotal role in the rise of Indian cinema. The idea behind the Film City in Noida is to develop the state as an important centre for the production of films and promote our tourist destinations. We already provide huge subsidies to film makers and lately, UP have been buzzing with film shooting activities in the past few years. The Uttar Pradesh government last year cleared subsidy worth over INR112.4 million for 16 Hindi and six Bhojpuri films.

The Noida International Greenfield Airport will become a global brand and the pride of India and will cater to 12 million passengers. The site clearance for the airport has already been done. Over the past three years, various clearances, including security, environment, bidder, etc followed and international organisation Zurich Airport International AG will be developing the airport.

Architecture firms Nordic Office of Architecture, Grimshaw, Haptic and consultants STUP will design a carbonneutral terminal. A goal of carbon net-zero and a LEED Gold standard certification has been set for the airport terminal, which will have the capacity to serve 30 million passengers per year. Carbon net-zero, also known as carbon-neutral design, is a term for buildings that seek to remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they put in.

MISSION SHAKTI INITIATIVE FOR THE SAFETY, DIGNITY & EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN

Q. Please throw light on the Mission Shakti initiative launched by your government for boosting gender equality in the state.

A. Mission Shakti is working aggressively for empowerment of women. Notable steps have been taken for success of the Mission Shakti campaign that aims at ensuring women security, self-reliance and dignity in Uttar Pradesh. Distribution of dry ration among women is being done by Bal Vikas Evam Pushtahaar Vibhag and Food and Civil Supplies at the anaganwadi centres in the state. And to raise awareness about several welfare programmes of the government and also about the helpline numbers such as 1090, 1076, 1098, 108, 102, 112 and others. The SHGs also used rangolis as a means to spread the message about women empowerment and helpline numbers among the villagers.

Efforts are also being made to help the most underprivileged women of the groups through the welfare schemes of the government so that they are able to support their families. The police officers make it a point to interact with the women to inform them about their rights. Under the welfare schemes, the women are told in detail about the Kanya Sumangala Yojana, Ujjawala Yojana, Ayushman Bharat, how to open bank accounts, Pradhanmantri Jeevan Jyoti Yojana, and Pradhanmantri Suraksha Beema Yojana.

The Mahila Shakti Kendra team of Rupapur, Pratapgarh reached out to women and girls to spread the message of women empowerment under the Mission Shakti campaign. The WCD department has sensitised more than 5 crore citizens of the state about issues women face. Platforms like Shakti Samvad and Haq Ki Baat are being used to redress the grievances of both rural and urban women. To acknowledge the contribution of women and girls in different fields, events such as Nayika Mega Event, Gender Champion are being held on regular basis. The government has helped 27.95 lakh women through the Nirashrit Mahila Pension scheme while 5.80 lakh girls have received the benefits of Kanya Sumangala Yojana. As many as 51,25,579 girls have got the direct benefit of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ scheme. Through the Rani Lakshmi Bai Mahila Evam Samman Kosh Yojana, 4,937 victims of violence have been supported.

The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition Of Unlawful Conversion Of Religion Ordinance 2020 was passed as well. The ordinance was passed as in recent times a lot of cases were being registered where the women complainants complained about how they were being forced to change their religion and on refusing to convert, were being harassed. We realised that this situation had to be dealt with in order to protect the interest of women/ minors and ensure safety and justice to them by giving them the right to complaint against any deceit and harassment. It is a duly constituted law and law per se isn’t discriminatory. The law isn’t a means to stop any inter-faith marriages from happening but rather to protect the marriages whereby the woman has been duped/lied by the man into an inter-faith marriage.

The law aims to prohibit unlawful conversion from one religion to another by misinterpretation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage. The law aims to make inter-faith marriages null and void if, upon investigation, they have been found to involve forced conversion or harassment. The law also looks to impose a jail term of between two and seven years where forced conversion involves minors or women belonging to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe.

SAFEGUARDING THE INTEREST OF FARMERS

Q. Please shed light on some of the initiatives related to welfare and the growth of the agriculture sector in Uttar Pradesh. Please state some of the measures undertaken by your government for the welfare of farmers during the lockdown and the various schemes launched for the prosperity of farmers.

A. Farmers are the backbone of the Uttar Pradesh economy and their welfare and the growth of agriculture sector has been the state government’s top priority since 2017. Prior to 2017, farmers in Uttar Pradesh faced innumerable challenges and were distressed as government procurement was low and realisation of MSP was low and therefore, the income was meagre.

The new government in 2017 under the leadership of Yogi Adityanath realised the distress which farmers were facing and immediately waived off farmers’ loans worth INR 36,000 crore that benefited more than 56 lakh farmers and chartered a holistic strategy which established longterm goals and guided the intervention which included providing new technology and other complementary farming assets. Yogi Adityanath’s deft knowledge of farming methods (at Gorakhnath math he was responsible for ‘farm to shop’ sale of the produce) has proved as an asset.

The agriculture budget of the state registered a record hike from INR 4,096 crore in 2017-18 to INR 10,378 crore in 2018-19 and settled at INR 6,231crore in 2019-20 afterwards.

About 58 percent of the population is dependent on the agriculture sector but agriculture and the allied sector contribute only 26 percent to the state’s gross domestic product (GDP). On the basis of the data, the focus of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was to increase agricultural production in the state and to give the farmers a fair price for their crops via farmer-friendly policies. In order to empower farmers economically, the underlying causes were addressed by the government.

Uttar Pradesh remains the top state when it comes to sugarcane production. Over 47 lakh sugarcane farmers in Uttar Pradesh have been paid overdue payments of the last government of more than INR 1,15, 000 crore between 2017-2020. This cane price payment is much more than the cane price payment of INR 95,215 crore paid during the five year tenure of the previous government from 2012-2017. The previous government sold 21 sugar mills at throw away prices in Purvanchal wherein the current government has opened sugar mills in Gorakhpur and Basti which were closed in 1999 and can now process four times more sugarcane. The government currently operates 119 sugar mills in total.

Previously, water wouldn’t reach till the canal tail end and farmers were forced to draw water from tube wells. The state’s irrigation department ensured that the water reached till canal tail end to help farmers. The irrigation projects which were stalled for past 10-15 years were restarted and completed. Water has reached every farm under the Prime Minister Agriculture Irrigation scheme.

Also, the government decided to empower farmers by ensuring power in the villages for 18-20 hours. Furthermore, PM Gram Sadak Yojana has completed several phases and most of the villages have been connected via this scheme which has eased the commuting of the farmers. Recently, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath also inaugurated various projects under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.

TECHNOLOGY UPTURN

The state already has four agricultural universities. Recently, a central agricultural university was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi Ji in Jhansi. Presently, 89 Krishi Vigyan Kendras are working in Uttar Pradesh with a resolve to double the income of farmers with the help of new concepts and technologies. The previous government had refused to take these 20 Krishi Kendras from the center.

More farmers have been provided ‘Kisan Credit Card’. In 2016-17, 100.42 lakh farmers had KCC but as of October 30 this year, 161.08 lakh farmers have the KCC.

A centre of the International Rice Research Centre, Philippines, has been opened in Varanasi and efforts are also being made to open a centre of International Potato Research Centre. In the last three years, about INR 300 crore has been given to Krishi Vigyan Kendras and other agricultural institutions.

Weather-based crop insurance for protection of crops is being provided at a mere 5 percent premium and mandi fee has been reduced from 2 percent to 1 percent. At least 50 percent grant is also being provided on construction of poly houses.

In addition, 80 percent subsidy is being provided on agricultural equipment like sprinklers under the `Per Drop More Crop’ scheme. Such equipment saves water and also increases the production of crops.

With the aim to promote horticulture, vegetable and fruit farming in the Purvanchal region as it is very effective in doubling the income of farmers of this region, the government has given vegetable seeds free of cost to over 20 lakh farmers.

The horticulture sector has immense potential in Purvanchal. In this region, while cereals are ready in six months, vegetables take 2-3 months to reap. Farmers are being made aware of such technology so that they can earn maximum income from horticulture.

Boosting Farm Exports

The UP Export Policy 2020-25 has been approved by the state cabinet which aims at doubling the income of farmers and increasing exports from the agricultural sector.

Chandauli, known as the rice bowl of the Purvanchal, is now exporting black rice to countries, including Australia and New Zealand. Two mango packaging houses have been constructed in Amroha and Varanasi at a cost of INR 9.90 crore each. During the coronavirus times, about 2,000 quintal mangoes have been exported from this region.

Eastern Uttar Pradesh is one of the potential areas for export of fresh fruits and vegetables, such as green chillies, okra, bitter guard, green peas, brinjal and mango and guava etc. and they have been exported to countries like Dubai and Europe.

Under ‘One District One Product’ initiative of the government 45 districts have been identified. Agricultural products will be selected on the basis of agro-climatic zone, product quality, taste, aroma, nutritional and medicinal properties, and export potential. Farmers of the respective districts have been recommended about growing specific crops.

Products like ‘Kalanamak rice’ of Siddharthanagar, banana fibre of Kushinagar, banana of Kaushambi, jaggery of Ayodhya, aamla of Pratapgarh, pulses of Balrampur and Gonda, desi ghee of Auraiya, handicraft made of wheat stalk in Bahraich, wooden toys of Chitrakoot, wooden artifacts of Saharanpur, Basti, Bijnor, Rae Bareli etc. are included in the ODOP scheme.

The government is working to ensure global branding of Kala Namak variety of rice on the lines of Basmati rice. A project for promoting Kala Namak rice had been prepared in association with the International Rice Research Institute at Varanasi, Indian Agriculture Research Institute and Acharya Narendra Dev Agriculture University of Ayodhya.

Attracting Industries

UP is the largest potato producing state in the country. Potatoes are sown in an area of 6.1 lakh hectares in the state. Last year, UP produced 147.77 lakh tonnes of potatoes till November 2020 and farmers received a good price of potatoes. It is predicted that this time the state will set a new record in potato cultivation.

It has been estimated that at least 26.50 to 27.50 tonnes per hectare of potatoes have been cultivated. The figure is expected to reach 30 tonnes per hectare next year.

Till a few years ago, potato farmers did not get fair prices for potatoes, but now potato farming in UP started to be a profitable deal for the farmers as the quality of the yield has improved. Not only here, multinational Food and Beverages company ‘PepsiCo’ is also going to set up a new (greenfield) potato chips production unit in the state with an investment of INR 814 crore.

The unit will be set up on about 35 acres of land provided by the State Industrial Development Authority (UPSIDA) in Kosi-Mathura. Starting in 2021, over 1000 people will get direct and indirect employment from this chips factory. This is the first time that a greenfield project is being set up by PepsiCo itself in Uttar Pradesh and by the time production starts from this factory, Uttar Pradesh will also become the first state in the country in terms of potato production.

During the COVID19 lockdown when globally farmers suffered, farmers produce procurement was carried out directly from their homes by the government and it was made sure that shop selling seeds and other farming items remained open. As the Rabi crop in UP got ready for harvesting amid the lockdown, the state government set up 6,000 procurement centres to help farmers sell their produce and these centres functioned successfully adhering to all precautions. These centres procured 36 lakh metric tonnes of wheat.

Even during the corona pandemic, when all the industries were facing closure, the sugar mills of the state continued crushing operations. It was the commitment of government for safeguarding the interest of farmers, that the supply of their sugarcane remains uninterrupted during the lockdown period. Though the sugar sale remained negligible during the lockdown, but in spite of that, cane price payment of Rs 5,953 crore was made to farmers in that period.

Farmer-friendly Initiatives

Soil health cards were provided to millions of farmers by the state government. Thousands of farmers have been provided 40 to 90 per cent subsidy through a custom hiring centre for purchasing agricultural machinery — this amount has been transferred directly to the farmers’ bank accounts. The government has already announced a policy for FPOs (farmers producers organisation) and the process of constituting the FPOs at block level was underway.

Farmers also needed assistance to develop the capacity necessary in order to increase their incomes. For this, a vital first step is to provide them with training as well as agricultural inputs and credit so that they can produce more, aggregate their crops, and market them collectively. It is noteworthy that through “The Millions Farmers’ initiative farmers have been given training in improved farming at the Nyaya Panchayat level. MFS, also popularly known as Kisan Pathshala, is an extension program that the government of UP initiated in 2017 with a view to encourage the use of modern farming techniques, to make farming more profitable, sustainable, and resilient.

Unlike traditional extension services, MFS integrates various facets of agricultural knowledge into a packaged format, and delivers it through village-level trainings across all districts in the state. Printed materials—booklets, pamphlets— with such information are also distributed among participants.

The key objective of the MFS is to impart agricultural knowledge and techniques to farmers, which in turn can enhance agricultural production, improve soil health, and promote integrated and diversified farming systems.

Fourteen new Krishi Vigyan Kendras have been established in the state. Six new science centres are proposed. The minimum support price, which was a far-fetched dream during previous governments, has been implemented and farmers have been given benefits at the grassroots level for pulses and oilseeds along with wheat and paddy.

Under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi, INR 22,000 crores has been sent directly to the accounts of farmers. During the lockdown, the government ensured proper channels where they could sell their produce as well. Generally, around 5 to 6 lakh metric tonnes of wheat/paddy sale happened in UP annually but as soon as we came into power, we put a system in place and within 4 months there was a sale of 35 lakh metric tonnes.

During the last 3.5 years of Yogi’s tenure, the state government has bought 180 metric tonne of paddy and 162 metric tonne of wheat from the farmers, transferring more than 60000 crores to their accounts on accounts of these purchases. We have also included Battadars (share croppers) also in the beneficiaries list of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana.

Previously, farmers were being used as ‘vote banks’ but after assuming power, my government has been working on ensuring ways to ‘double farmer’s income.’ The UP government has reduced the Mandi tax and has strengthened government procurement as the leadership understands that only if the state’s rural economy is strong, the state can become strong. Moreover, the government has continued its outreach program and has reverberated its willingness to always resolve any issues faced by the farmers of the state. The cobwebs of lies and misinformation which the opposition is trying to constantly impose on the innocent farmers of our state are being removed now. Our government recently launched the Kisan Kalyan Mission for farmer welfare to double the farmers income of the state.

ENSURING SOCIAL SECURITY

Q. Please state some of the schemes and initiatives launched by your government for senior citizens, destitute and differently-abled and needy sections of the society.

A. The state government is committed in ensuring welfare for all its citizens especially those who need special attention. Uttar Pradesh has created a record of giving assistance to 51 lakh senior citizens under Vriddhawastha pension. Furthermore, we are planning to link workers and labourers with the Ayushman Bharat Scheme and CM Jan Aarogya campaign to ensure a social security net for them. 27.95 lakh women have availed the benefits of the Nirashrit Mahila Pension Scheme.

Shri Kiren Rijuju

Leading by Example by Taking the Fitness Route

A youth minister to whom the youth of India looks up to, Shri Kiren Rijuju is extremely passionate about ‘Fit India Movement.’ As a really popular icon on the social media, he continually inspires and motivates the nation to adopt a healthier lifestyle. He has been efficiently leading some of the great initiatives under the Modi Government to promote sports and youth empowerment

Q. Hon’ble minister sir, you are a minister to whom the youth of India looks up to. You are really popular on the social media where you consistently inspire and motivate the nation to adopt a healthier lifestyle. You are also working on some great initiatives under the Modi government to promote sports and youth empowerment. Please throw some light on your ministry’s strategy to contribute towards Fit India Movement.

A. Our objective is very clear; we have to engage the youth of India. We always say that youth are our assets but until or unless we engage them gainfully and utilise the energy of the youth, we won’t be able to reap the benefit, the… huge huge population, which we have in India into nation-building. So, we are looking forward to create an atmosphere where the youth will play a very critical role in nation-building. We have launched some important programmes like Khelo India, Fit India Movement, this will create an enormous situation in our country where the youth will drive all the important programmes of the government. And Fit India Movement is something, which I take very close to my heart. Honorable Prime Minister Modi ji had launched Fit India Movement and I am driving it. When I drive it, I enjoy it also because youth are becoming very conscious of their health, fitness. So, I think now majority of the youth are turning into fitness as a part of their daily regime. At the same time, Khelo India is the programme to create sports as a way of life, to make sports as a culture and which is very important and in the days to come – our aim to transform India into a global sporting powerhouse will be met with the sporting culture which we have able to create so far.

Q. What is your vision for Hon’ble Prime Minister Modi ji’s call for Vocal for Local and Aatmnirbhar Bharat? Under your able leadership, how the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports would be contributing to it?

A. See ‘Vocal for Local’ is basically to create confidence amongst ourselves. If we identify our own talent, our own potential, then only we will be able to strengthen ourselves. If we don’t identify or we don’t realise our potential, how do we drive ourselves? So, for example, we have indigenous games, we have to identify those indigenous games. I am trying to bring up the local Indian talents, coaches. Of course, right now we are dependent on the foreign coaches for the high-performance directors and for some of the coachings and subsequently, my aim is to have more or less, you know, Indian coaches in our system of training the educating the young athletes. So, these are some of the steps from my ministry where we will be contributing to the Aatmnirbhar Bharat, which Prime Minister had launched; means we have to be self-reliant, we have to depend on our own indigenous local talent. So, whether it is a product, commodities, or human resources, we have to ensure that we identify local talent, local products and on top of that, my ministry has 75 lakhs, youth volunteers, under the Department of Youth Affairs. So, I am utilising these 75 lakhs, youth volunteers, to drive the Aatmnirbhar Bharat launch by the Hon’ble Prime Minister. And our youth are going to the extreme level to all the nook and corner of the country, to galvanize the youth of the nation to reach out to every part of the country, to ensure that we all must become self-reliant and that is the theme of Aatmnirbhar Bharat.

Q. Sir, we, at AsiaOne, really admire you as a leader who leads by example. As I stated earlier, you are one big motivational force for the youth of India and we really appreciate your efforts towards motivating each and every citizen of the nation to adopt any physical activity of their choice and you have been so active at the social media platforms. You yourself post your physical activity videos and you have, Sir, off late, emerged as a really popular youth icon. What’s your message to the budding young entrepreneurs, aspiring sportspersons, and all others who look up to you for inspiration?

A. See, as a public person, we have to be an example to the younger generation. As a minister, as an elected person, we are something, so we have to show everything with our own right approach. So, I am trying to lead a very normal life and show it to the younger generation. For example, my daily routine life – despite my busy schedule, very-very intensive touring programmes and all, I try to show that no matter how busy, how occupied you may be but you can do certain things to make your life better, your life more disciplined and focused. So, there is a regime which you follow every day. So, I try to tell the youth that adopt, don’t forget to maintain your fitness level. So, that is all about, you know, making your health better, your thinking process positive, so that you can become a useful citizen for your country. A youth cannot be a burden to the nation. A youth has to be strength of the nation. So, there are certain things which I have done, for example, reaching out to the youth, interaction with the athletes, all the sportsperson, all the stakeholders. I make myself available to those who want to interact with a minister. So, I cannot be inaccessible to the people. So, I try to show that I lead a very simple, very-very easy life. So that, you know, people will learn something basic from a minister. And at the same time, I would like to tell the youth of country that problems are there, issues are there, challenges are a part of life, but that should not discourage in any manner in your progression in life or in fulfilling your dreams. All the problems and all obstacles are, if tackled in a positive manner, then you will overcome everything. That is how I have come from a very small remote village in Arunachal Pradesh and be in the parliament, I am able to convey my feelings in a bigger platform and at the same time I try to ensure that I remain relevant all the time, to new challenges in the life challenges before the nation. So, these are certain things. My message to the youth is that only think positive. Don’t bring negative thoughts in your life. Because there are positives, both and there are negatives. But if you think only positive then you will do positive things but if you start giving importance to all the negative things then you might end up doing all negative stuff. So, be positive and lead a successful life. When we talk about making India a great, prospering nation, it will only be possible if youth of India think positive and do positive.

Q. What do you feel about this new series by AsiaOne Magazine titled ‘Greatest Brands and Leaders,’ considering the fact that AsiaOne has been consistently promoting Asian brands and leaders throughout the world and our aim is to counter the perception that western brands are superior as compared to their Asian counterparts. And what’s your message for AsiaOne Magazine and Mr. Rajat Shukal?

A. First of all, I would like to compliment Rajat Shukal for coming out with this AsiaOne Magazine which is itself telling AsiaOne. We have to build the brands of our own, the Asian brand, the Indian brand and need to say that 21st century is going to be Asian century. So, the magazine is starting on a very very positive note and I think with this positive mindset and approach the magazine, your all the efforts, will bring a tremendous change in the way we look at things and to influence the youth. So, my best wishes to the entire team!

Shri Hardeep Singh Puri

Giving Wings to the Dreams of a Rising India

A popular leader, Shri Hardeep Singh Puri has been effectively spearheading numerous projects for national development namely Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Urban Smart Cities Mission, AMRUT, the Swachh Bharat Mission and National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM), which have holistically impacted the lives of millions of Indians residing in the urban centers of the nation

Q. Sir, as Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs, what all initiatives have you undertaken to strengthen the infrastructure sector of the nation?

A. Through the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Urban Smart Cities Mission, AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation And Urban Transformation) , the Swachh Bharat Mission and National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM), we have been able to holistically impact lives of millions of Indians residing in our urban centers. 10.7 million houses have been sanctioned against the demand of 11.2 million under the PMAY Urban, 6.7 million have been grounded and 3.6 million have been completed. 5151 smart projects worth were in $ 27 billion have been identified in urban smart cities and are at various stages of implementation today.

Through AMRUT, we have provided 8.1 million household water tap connections, 4.6 million sewer connections, 7.75 million conventional street lights have been replaced with energy efficient LED lights. All 4324 local bodies in India are today completely open defecation (ODF) free except for 48 ULBs in the state of West Bengal. 1306 cities have been certified as ODF+ and 489 cities have been certified as ODF++. Solid waste management capacity which was at 18% in 2014 now stands at 67%. More than 6.6 million individual household toilets and over 600000 community and public toilets have been constructed. National Urban Livelihood Mission has brought 4.9 million urban poor women into self-help groups, livelihood created for more than 1.8 million individuals through skill training and affordable credit.

Q. Sir, please throw light on the various measures adopted by your ministry for social welfare especially with regard to the current pandemic.

A. During COVID-19, through PM’s SVANidhi or Prime Minister’s Street Vendor’s AtmaNirbhar Nidhi Scheme, over 600000 loan applications have been received out of which over 143000have been sanctioned and over 40000 disbursed. Self-help group members have been engaged in running over 250 community kitchens across the country catering to the food requirements of the homeless and migrants in our cities.47 integrated command and control centers created under the smart cities mission are serving as crisis management war room helping monitor the on-ground situations in cities. We have also launched the affordable housing complex scheme for migrant labour and urban poor to provide them ease of living in our cities.

We are promoting group and individual micro enterprises, 520000 beneficiaries have been assisted through the NULM till now to supplement the strong entrepreneurial spirit of Indians. Companies based in India like BEML, Alstom, Bombardier, etc. have bagged orders of more than 1200 metro and RRTS (Rapid Rail Transit System) coaches costing around $ 1.3 billion for different metro projects. Day NULM self-help groups have complemented the fight against COVID -19 pandemic by manufacturing more than 55 million facemasks 250 liters of sanitizers and more than 150000 personal protective equipment (PPE) kits. Through the Vande Bharat Mission, we have brought back more than 1.3 million stranded Indians back home, though the life Udaan Mission nearly 1000 tonnes of medical and essential equipments was transported across the country.

Q. We, at AsiaOne, appreciate your sincere and dedicated efforts owing to which you reached the pinnacle of glory. We value your contribution towards the Indian economy and society. There are a number of young aspiring entrepreneurs who look up to you for inspiration. What is your message to them?

A. My message to all the aspiring entrepreneurs is that today India is going through rapid socio economic policy changes. There are innumerable possibilities that are being brought forth in technology, construction, mobility, hospitality, etc. sectors that should be capitalized upon. But it’s also important for our young entrepreneurs to recognize that growth stable and long term when you work towards benefitting the society by providing innovative solutions to existing problems. Practicing universal altruism as a philosophy will benefit upcoming entrepreneurs who keep people & society at the centre of their business models. It is always good to make business practices people centered and with the welfare of the people that we served foremost in the designing of our business strategies.

Shri Arjun Munda

Bringing Tribals into the Mainstream

Having garnered immense popularity as the former Chief Minister of the Indian state of Jharkhand, Shri Arjun Munda has been actively working for the welfare of tribal communities across the country. Actively engaged with various plans and projects, he is bent on making tribals self-dependent and bringing them into the mainstream, thereby ensuring a bright and prosperous future of the nation

Q. Sir, you have been a core functionary in helping the tribals across the country and enabling them to become selfdependent & get better job prospects. Your contribution to the domicile movement came as a defining movement in the history. All your efforts are worthappreciating as they are creating a robust socio-economical ecosystem for the country. Please highlight some of the key strategies that you have employed during the current Modi Government to bring the tribal force to the forefront?

A. Our ministry, who works for tribal society, tribal areas, and all such people living in India and who has been, for years believed in their rights, cultures, specialties, and societal arrangements, given dream of overall development and how to move forward, has given thought and took initiative to make India a strong nation.

And in the same episode, we have launched various plans and projects for backward areas and tribal people, through which we will provide better facilities, bring them into the mainstream, provide them with basic amenities, and thus ensuring to improve the future of India. A few days ago we have taken an important decision through the medium of TRIFED (Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India) thereby ensuring that majority of the areas where tribal people, schedule tribes, and ethnic groups who are residing in the jungle, get benefitted by providing resources according to them so that they can become self-dependent, help grow economy and move forward firmly with their cultural heritage.

For the same, we have decided the MSP (Minimum Support Price), and approximately for more than 70 products, I have finalized the rates to ensure good returns are generated without any cheating. So this work is happening effectively and all these products are continuously available through Amazon, Gem Portal, and are working with other such types of organizations so that they get a good marketplace and along with better employment opportunities.

Hon’ble Prime Minister firmly stated that Indian products must be developed well for which he has given a slogan of ‘Atmnirbhar Bharat’ and ‘Vocal for Local’. Our efforts must be such so that we can give more importance to our products. From this point of view, we are ensuring that most of the tribal communities must participate and move forward with a holistic approach.

I am happy and delighted that we are carrying on this project. We are also keeping in mind its educational, health, and other parameters. We are also ensuring that the development programs in their areas are implemented effectively. So a large number of programs are operated and I feel that in the coming days we will get the expected results. And we are witnessing that a pandemic like COVID-19 that has been extended to those areas where tribal people are residing, so how can they stay safe and use this as an opportunity, I feeling delighted that in this pandemic our tribal people are aware and vigilant and have attention on how to win over this sensitive matter.

Q. Sir, what are your views on our Hon’ble Prime Minister’s “vocal for local products” call? How will it further support the tribal communities of the country?

A. The pledge our hon’ble Prime Minister Modi Ji has taken is to enlighten the nation. It is the responsibility of our Ministry on how well the tribal societies have understood this and completes this. And through this medium, the dream of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ will be realized and our Ministry is working on this. In this matter, I would like to invoke the business community to come together along with tribal society and that the concept of Vocal for Local given by our hon’ble Prime Minister, the dream should be fulfilled collectively. There are many products that are centre of attraction for the world. We should encourage and develop such products and expect from the business community to play a fair role in it. Tribal communities, on behalf of ministries, will make efforts to make these efforts successful.

Q. We, at AsiaOne, value your contribution towards the tribal community and the promotion of their skills in the labour market. You surely are an inspiration for the entrepreneurs who are working in the field of rural and tribal arts. What is your message for the business community who looks up to you?

A. I must congratulate Rajat Shukal ji who initiated the “Asia’s Greatest Brands and Leaders series” and also AsiaOne Magazine for promoting the greatest leaders of the nation have been working for the prosperity of the country and driving it towards a glistening future.

Shri Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi

Working Day and Night for an Inclusive Nation

Counted among the most successful and popular leaders of the nation, Shri Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has been dedicatedly working for the welfare of minorities. He has numerous valuable initiatives to his credit for the inclusive growth of India such as the creation of ‘Hunar Haats’ all across the country which have provided more than 5,00,000 jobs to craftsmen, sculptors, artisans, and the related workers

Q. Hon’ble Minister Sir, you are the most successful and popular leader of the Minority Affairs and under PM Modi’s agenda of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas,’ there are various important and valuable steps that have been undertaken by you for the benefit of minorities. Please elaborate.

A. First of all, for our Prime Minister Narendra Modi Ji, the outlay of development has never, was never and will never be a business for votes. In 2014, it was the resolve of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ when the people gave their public mandate. And with the resolve of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas,’ we work towards the direction of development without discrimination and empowerment without appeasement. And PM Modi Ji’s government had worked continuously and actively for all the sections of society including poor, weaker sections, backward sections, and minorities so that they can see and witness development, feel happiness in their eyes and bliss in their lives.

When our government came into power in 2014, at that time, for example, the dropout rate of school-going girls in the minorities section was 72-73%. This means that these girls were leaving their schools after attending it for a few standards whose major reason was their economic adversity and due to this they left their schools. So our Prime Minister said that we have to work in this regard and we started scholarships. Earlier scholarships were distributed a little bit and were handled by the middlemen. In the last five years, we have given approximately 3.75 Crores scholarships and from them, 60% were given to girls. And as a result, the previous drop-out rate of 72-73% comes down to 30-32%. In the coming days, we are going to make it zero and we are working on this.

Q. What are your views on the ‘Vocal for Local’ call of our Hon’ble Prime Minister and what measures or strategies your ministry has adopted to further this agenda?

A. India is a land of rich culture and heritage. If you watch our craftsmen, sculptors, and artisans, you will find plenty of fabulous and lively heritage spreading from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari and from Attock to Cuttack. But this rich cultural heritage is disappearing slowly. And as a result, these craftsmen, sculptors, and artisans who are carrying on their family business started leaving their business and gets involved either in some other work or started doing other menial jobs.

We have provided these craftsmen, sculptors, and artisans suitable opportunities and marketplace and for this, we have offered them an effective and perfect platform with the name of ‘Hunar Haat’. And through this ‘Hunar Haat’ we have provided more than 500000 jobs to these craftsmen, sculptors, artisans, and related people. So, this is the resolve of ‘Vocal to Local and Local to Global’ through our ‘Hunar Haat’ that covers PAN India’s craftsmen, sculptors, artisans whether they are involved in clay sculpting, brass work, zardozi work, cotton work, or any leatherwork.

Prime Minister had visited the ‘Hunar Haat’ and stayed there for a long time. Moreover, the surprise personal visit by the Prime Minister surprised and overwhelmed these craftsmen, sculptors, artisans who came across India. A few of them started crying that they had never imagined the personal presence of not only India’s but the world’s greatest leader for encouraging them and they got big inspiration from him.

We are supporting through these ‘Hunar Haats’. Apart from this, we also provide market linkage and financial support, at a large scale, to these craftsmen, sculptors, artisans, and related people who are related to our centuries-old crafts so that they can strengthen it, gives an edge to it, reinforce it according to market requirements. We are getting it done through various banks, National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation, and our scheme of USTTAD.

Since these craftsmen, sculptors, artisans manufacture very beautiful and good quality of items in Hunar Haat, and when people visit these Hunar Haat from various parts of India and around the world, they get surprised with the kind of magic done by our Indian master craftsmen and artisans. But these items are not packaged. We have a very old saying of judging the book by its cover. Nowadays, it is an era of packaging. Therefore the packaging institutes of the central government are giving them training in packaging. Training is started for those in making the items of brass like glasses or jugs or if one is manufacturing any earthen items or any item of glass but there is no packaging and is displayed with it. Moreover, these government packaging institutes set up stalls in ‘Hunar Haat’ and provides training to these craftsmen, sculptors, artisans in addition to other kinds of help.

Apart from this, there is the GEM Portal and we are about to launch our own ‘Hunar Haat’ portal through which we will see how market and opportunities are provided to them. As well as, we endeavor to provide training to them through USTTAD and forming self-help groups. We are also providing training and preparing females as more than 50% of craftsmen are females in our ‘Hunar Haat’. And you will be surprised that during these last 5 months of Corona, a large number of craftsmen in Assam have manufactured items of cane. And they are contacting us that they have utilized this time and based on our PM’s invocation, worked with an affirmation of turning disaster into opportunities. And today, a large number of craftsmen along with their 100-150 artificers have produced a large number of indigenous products. For them, we have also announced that we are going to re-launch ‘Hunar Haat’ on a large scale again in the month of September 2020 in various parts of the country so that the large produce can get their market.

There was a huge gap when we talk about inclusive development and empowerment by touching all bases. We have to think that one part of society shouldn’t be deprived or untouched of development in inclusive development and the other part/section of society keeps on growing. So for inclusive development, there must be schools and colleges in every area.

Therefore, when we talk about inclusive and all-around development, every section of society must believe in the development. And to partner with development, all the facilities are needed that are required by the section of society. PM Modi said that there are around 150 areas that are aspiring districts and there are minority-dominated areas where there is poverty-stricken by lack of basic facilities like schools or colleges or hospitals.

So in the last five years, we have provided more than 34000 schools, colleges, it is, hospitals, hostels, drinking water facilities. All this happened in just the last 5 years as compared to 18000 by previous governments since independence.

And as a result of this, there are revolutionary changes and transformations in terms of children are going to schools, hospitals in the immediate vicinity for medical, hostel facilities for students, and the opening of Navodaya Vidyalaya and Kendriya Vidyalaya in various parts of the country.

Currently, the Ministry of Minority Affairs is a very sensitive ministry according to our current government. This is because of a perception that has been made that we are anti-minority. But today, those who made this perception don’t speak that about discrimination of any section of the society based on socio, economic, educational empowerment or development by PM Modi’s government.

And that’s why today we said ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’, we lived up for ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ in the last 5 years and after it, people believed it. And that is why we invocate ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas’ and we are moving on and growing.

Q. Sir, you are very popular among young and the youth of India consider you as their ideal. What’s your message to them?

A. Our country is full of opportunities and today if there is an emerging power in the world, then it is India. The entire world is understanding and accepting the opportunities in India and we have to strengthen these possibilities through evenly sharing and participation. During this pandemic situation, our Prime Minister took a big pledge. You must have known that more than 3 dozens reforms have been done whether it is related to social, economic, educational, or agricultural or related to space sciences or aviation. And as a result of these reforms, ease of doing business, ease of doing production or agriculture, and all related things are now at ease.

Therefore, our youth, within the country, must partner firmly and intensely and contribute to the development and advancement of our country by becoming a rider and driver of journey of Make In India, StandUp India, StartUp India and Vocal for Local.

Q. What is your message to AsiaOne Magazine and Mr. Rajat Shukal for our initiative started with CNBC TV18 and ZEE TV Middle East.

A. I would like to congratulate Mr. Rajat Shukal and his initiative that he has started a persuasive effort and I am confident that the result of his efforts will be visible shortly. This initiative is all about showing and inspiring those people who become partners and contributors for the development of India whether these are related to industry vertical or sports or agricultural or political or societal or any other areas.

Shri Ramesh Pokriyal Nishank

Ushering in a New & Golden Era in Education

A Poet, Social Worker, Writer and an Education Enthusiast, Shri Ramesh Pokriyal Nishank is a multi-talented leader who has given a boost to the E-learning in the country by initiating numerous initiatives and programmes such as ‘Bharat Padhe Online’ campaign. The recently launched New Education Policy (NEP) is one of his significant endeavours towards leading India to the top

Q. Sir, under your able leadership, E-learning in the country is currently thriving by turning adversity into opportunity. We, at AsiaOne, appreciate the fact that for promoting innovation in the online education ecosystem in India you recently launched a weeklong ‘Bharat Padhe Online’ campaign for crowdsourcing of ideas from some of the best brains in India to overcome constraints of online education while promoting the available digital education platforms and reviewed the suggestions personally. Please share some insights on the success of this campaign.

A. The unprecedented crises of COVID-19 have led to a paradigm transformation in education. The education institutions were closed in the second week of March even before Lockdown was imposed. All Exams and evaluations got postponed. The Ministry of Human Resource Development came forth to mitigate the impact of school closures and found ways to make sure that ‘Learning doesn’t stop’. Adapting to the multi-modal delivery of transactions of the curriculum including digital learning helped us to lessen the impact of the crises. We stood advert to our commitment to provide education based on the foundational pillars of access, equity, quality, affordability, and accountability as outlaid in the Draft New Education Policy.

As a step forward, we initiated a campaign a week ‘Bharat Padhe Online’ for crowdsourcing of ideas for intensifying digital education in India. We have received more than 10, 500+ suggestions from students, teachers, academicians, and scholars. The suggestions have been analyzed by NCERT. The valuable suggestions are being incorporated into the guidelines and implementation of digital education. Recently, we have also launched PRAGYTA – guideless for digital education which provides a roadmap for carrying forward online education to enhance the quality of education.

Q. Sir, what are your views on PM Modi Ji’s call for “Vocal for Local” and “Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan.” How are you planning to further this agenda?

A. The ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ vision of the Honourable Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi will make India a selfreliant nation among the global powers. I along with the whole Ministry of Education will work for achieving his mission in a mission mode manner.

The higher education institutes have come forward to solve the myriad of challenges with innovative measures to tackle the pernicious situation which has made an unparalleled impact globally. From research to the rescue, our HEIs have shown a great degree of responsibility by contributing to different dimensions to combat the CoVID-19 challenge. To up strong the challenge and their participation, we are conducting various hackathons such as Drug Discovery Hackathon, ‘Fight Corona IDEAthon’, and Smart India Hackathon.

I am delighted to share that we have launched COROSURE – a testing kit of COVID-19. Researchers at IIT Delhi Kusuma School of Biological Science (KSBS) has developed a detection assay for COVID-19 which has been approved by ICMR. The assay has been validated at ICMR with a sensitivity and specificity of 100%. This makes IITD the first academic institute to have obtained ICMR approval for a real-time PCR based diagnostic assay. The frugal CoVID-19 testing kit developed by IIT Delhi is a great example of PPP.

Be it ventilators, testing kits, mask production, sanitizer units mobile-based contact tracking applications, various webportals for resource mobilization, our HEIs have done world classwork. IIT Roorkee has developed a low-cost ventilator PranaVayu. IIT Kanpur has started an indigenous mask production facility. Covid19 Test Bus developed by IIT Alumni has been launched in Maharashtra. I am certainly proud of the ample work being done across IITs, IIITs, NITs, and IISERs.

I am also thankful to the Union Finance Minister, Ms. Nirmala Sitaraman for announcing various transformative initiatives for transformative education under the Economic Relief Package. The initiatives include PM E- Vidya, Manodarpan, expansion of online education in higher education, and decision on the initiation of National Curriculum and Pedagogical Framework and A National Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Mission.

Q. Sir, you are a multi-talented leader with a Poet, Social Worker, and Writer all rolled into one. You have numerous publications to your credit and have also been actively associated with various social activities such as `Swaran Ganga’ drive. Despite hailing from a humble background, you have risen to a position of prominence, owing to hard work and dedication. You are an inspiration for umpteen aspiring students and others who aim to make it big. What’s your message for the youth of the nation who looks up to you for inspiration?

A. As propounded by Swami Vivekananda, education should not only be a collection of information, but something more meaningful; it should strive to achieve ‘satchitananda’ (existence, consciousness, and bliss). While gaining knowledge the students should widen their horizons to incorporate the learnings from the Indian traditions, culture, morals, and ethos.

The righteous knowledge should be a blend of the traditional system and the advancement of the 21st century. I am sure that the teachers are working hard for the same.

Keeping a foresight on the global transformations that are taking place and abiding by our movement towards ‘Aatmnirbhar Bharat’ I am expecting a magnificent contribution from the youth for a prosperous development of the society. The youth of the country has to lead the country with solutions for the transformation of the education system, economic issues, climate change, poverty, health, and other traversed global issues.

Trust me, I am counting on you to emerge as the world leader!

Q. Sir, what do you feel about this new series by AsiaOne Magazine titled “Greatest Brands and Leaders” and what’s your message for AsiaOne Magazine and Mr. Rajat Shukal?

A. I congratulate AsiaOne Magazine & Mr. Rajat Shukal for this new series titled “Greatest Brands & Leaders” which showcases awe-inspiring success stories of top Asian brands and leaders from across the globe who have enabled Asia to acquire a unique and distinguished status in the world.

This would certainly inspire and motivate the aspiring young Asian entrepreneurs, sportspersons, socialist activists, philanthropists, and achievers in various spheres to follow the footprints of these greatest leaders and enable the Asian continent to acquire a position of prominence on the world map.

Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat

Serving the Nation with Relentless Dedication

The learned and well-read leader, Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat has been dedicatedly working towards providing safe and adequate drinking water through individual household tap connections to all households in rural India by 2024, under the Jal Jiwan Mission. Through various schemes and initiatives, he has been efficiently leading the nation towards sustainable development

Q. Hon’ble Minister Sir, we, at AsiaOne, appreciate the initiatives undertaken by your ministry to strengthen the water resources of the country. Be it the ‘Clean Ganga Mission’ or taking water to even the remotest of the areas, your ministry has been a great support to the central government. Please throw some light on the initiatives that you are undertaking to contribute to the sector further.

A. Thanks and I would like to thank AsiaOne Magazine for its continuous support. The topic of water has become extremely important for mankind and the whole world. And it’s more important for all of us in the context of India as out of the total potable water available in the world, only 4% of it comes in our share. India has 18% of the world population and almost the same percentage of cattle population. So the percentage proportion of water as compared to the proportion of the population is less. And along with it, due to the clear and present dangers of increasing climate change, our challenges have grown even more.

Q. Sir, what are your thoughts on the “vocal for local” initiative of the Modigovernment? How is your ministry planning to contribute to that?

A. The world is going through a period of pandemic and all the big and small economies of the whole world are shaken by this Coronavirus. All the big economies of the world are trying to get back after the initial bolt from this pandemic. But we are all fortunate as the way India managed and handled the natural calamity, under the leadership of our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi Ji, and have helped other countries of the world, our country’s image has enhanced and we have emerged as a global champion.

Whether it is related to managing the impact of this pandemic to prevent its spreading to reducing the death rate to increasing the recovery rate to strengthening the infrastructure to increasing the testing facilities to ensuring the supply of gears needed such as PPE kits or masks to ensure the supply of oxygen and along with manufacturing of medicines and vaccines, no one could imagine that a developing country which is facing such a big disaster with an even bigger challenge of one of the largest population at the time when all those countries that were boasting upon the strength of their infrastructure started stumbling, that country can handle this situation and become the first to make the most affordable and effective vaccine and also efficiently drive vaccination campaign and the world will be looking towards it to fulfil their needs for the vaccine. This is definitely a big step towards making India self-reliant.

As far as the economy is concerned, the impact of the economic package that Hon’ble Prime Minister gave for selfreliant India, the package of 27 lakh crores of rupees, which is 20% of the GDP, is now available. All the parameters for measuring the economy or improving the health of the economy such as PMI index, tax collection, growth of exports, toll and freight collection, consumables like power or electricity or consumption of hydrocarbon fuels, indicates that on every scale from every point of view, India’s economy has recovered the fastest in the world. Considering this disaster as an opportunity with the Prime Minister’s vision to work based on vocal for local in global markets, we have started working on this ideology.

As far as the Ministry is concerned, the exercise of providing drinking water to every house, first for the rural area and then for the urban area after this budget, an investment of about Rs. 700000 crores is going to be done in this direction in the next 4 years. When such a program of drinking water operates at such a wide scale, many activities happen at the same time.

Pipe manufacturing, cement required for making water reservoirs, steel, plastic or HDPE material for making pipes, digging of pipelines, construction works, creating of reservoirs, strengthening and augmentation of resources, manufacturing of motors, commissioning of pump sets, manufacturing of taps, operation of ancillary industries for tap manufacturing, and thereby leading to the creation of market buzz and due to the work done at the base level, employment is created.

Therefore, employment generation and manufacturing of the country is going to get a huge boost through it. When the Prime Minister, on August 15, 2019, announced Jal Jeevan Mission in the series of action plans to bring about a change in the lives of common people in his speech at the ramparts of the Red Fort, he quoted that the work done by the previous governments of the country for the last 70 years, whether regional or local governments, only 16% of the rural housing has the facility of potable drinking water. For the rest 84%, women have to go out of the house to fetch drinking water. If we talk about figures, out of 19 Crores rural families, drinking water had reached only 3 crore 23 lakh families across the country. We all know water is a matter of state and being a matter of state, the responsibilities in the form of design to DPR preparation to implementation to augmentation to operation and maintenance lies with the state government.

We realised the challenges in India, being a country of different geographical conditions, divided into various states, and the different circumstances in different states. Thus, we issued guidelines, after discussions and extensive consultations for 3 months with states, on 25th Dec 2019 on the eve of Good Governance Day, under the exemplary leadership of the Hon’ble Prime Minister.

So we started working from December 25, 2019 and exactly 3 months later, on March 25, the lockdown was imposed. All of a sudden everything came to a halt. We also thought that maybe our work will be interrupted. We used the time of lockdown to complete all the work that could be done over the table. We discussed issues with states, repeatedly connected through video conferencing, discussed at the level of engineers, secretaries, ministerial level, and with Chief Ministers and it resulted in our preparation at the ground level. The moment the process of unlocking started, we started working at a fast pace.

Today, I can say with great pride that, under the leadership of the Hon’ble Prime Minister, in this 15-month period, from December 25, 2019 to February 26, 2021, we have been able to give 3 Crore 70 lakh new connections as compared to the total connections of 23 million households or 16% of the population in the last 70 years.

I am proud to say that more than 2 lakh connections are being given every day, the coverage which was 16% has increased to 35%, and two states, Goa and Telangana, have a hundred percent saturation rate. I am proud to say that out of 700 districts of the country, there are 52 districts that have become 100 percent saturated and in more than 75000 villages, not a single mother or sister has to go out of her house to get water. We are working with the goal of 2024 but many states have set for themselves the goals of 2021, 2022, and 2023. Under the leadership of the Hon’ble Prime Minister, the path we are moving forward, we are sure to succeed.

Q. Hon’ble Minister Sir, India’s rich water resources can be tapped efficiently for a lot of industrial uses and have a lot of scope for entrepreneurial opportunities around it. What is your message to the entrepreneurs who are either working or are aspiring to work in the sector?

A. As I said in response that about Rs.7 lakh crores investment is to be done by the central and state governments in the coming 4 years and when the work starts in the water infrastructure sector, then the multiple industries get benefitted like the core industries including cement, steel, but also plastic, and pipe manufacturing, tap manufacturing, motors manufacturing, and motors ancillary manufacturing.

If we roughly calculate the capital cost is viz-a-viz labor cost, both of them have more than 60-40 ratio. So, if the investment is of Rs. 7 lakh crores, then surely an industrial opportunity to the tune of Rs. 4 lakh crores is going to be created. A golden age has come for people who are working in this field, and the people who are interested in work in this field.

Q. Sir, would you like to give any message to AsiaOne Magazine?

A. I am thankful to AsiaOne Magazine for the efforts, for giving recognition to the people who have brought the change in the lives of the people of Asia and I suggest that there is only one name which can be considered for that, that is our beloved Prime Minister Modi ji. He has brought a change in the behavior of 60 Crore people through sanitation mission and has enlightened more than 4 Crore households by providing electricity, and has reinforced the dignity of the women (almost 30 Crores) by giving them toilets in their homes and is working to bring life to almost 16 Crore households or I may say 64 Crore people of the country by giving them tap water and indirectly ensuring a better life for all of them.

Shri Anurag Singh Thakur

Inspiring a Positive Change in the Nation

The popularity of the young, energetic and multitalented leader Shri Anurag Singh Thakur can be assessed from the fact that he has been elected as a Member of Parliament (MP) from Hamirpur constituency for 4 times in a row. He has been working day and night to support India’s economic growth. Leading by example, he inspires the youth of the nation to rise and shine in their chosen spheres

Q. Sir, your ministry has done a commendable job to manage the financial crisis that our country could have faced because of the COVID-19 lockdown. In fact the Aatm Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (‘ANBA’) package has been a big relief for the business community and the common man in general. We, at AsiaOne, appreciate the fact that your ministry has been working tremendously well to support India’s economic growth and have introduced a people-friendly budget with no Covid Cess. Please throw some light on the various initiatives that your ministry has undertaken to boost the economy under the current Modi Government.

A. Let me first thank you for recognizing the efforts taken by the Modi government. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it wasn’t an easy task. The world was facing a challenge of COVID-19 pandemic. The choice was whether to save lives, livelihoods or the economy. Now in that situation, our first priority was to save lives. After the lockdown, we built our capacities, whether it involved manufacturing PPE kits, or through the COVID-19 vaccine. From net importer of PPE kits, we have become the largest exporter of PPE kits, as well as the COVID-19 vaccine to the world! At the same time, the steps taken during the COVID-19 was the Pradhanmantri Garib Kalyan Yojna, which involved providing food grains, pulses, to the poorest of the poor, to around 800 million people, for eight months free food grains, pulses have been provided by the government of India that is the Modi government. At the same time, thousands of crores of rupees have been transferred to the accounts of needy people who required it. At the same time to help the business houses, the small entrepreneurs, we have asked the banks to come forward and we have given more than three lakh crore rupees under the emergency credit line guarantee scheme, which has held the entrepreneurs. At the same time, we have refunded more than two lakh crore rupees from the income tax refund.

We have also reduced the TDS and TCS by 25%, which has actually helped the small entrepreneurs to have more capital in hand, to more cash flow in hand. You see the steps taken by the Modi government were the largest reforms which have taken place in India during the COVID-19 pandemic – opening up more sectors, coal mining, agriculture, defense production, and the space sector. When others were thinking what will happen, we brought out more reforms and opened up more areas. Now the effect of that, as you could see in the GST collection in the last six months, the average collection is more than 1 Lakh crore rupees, which is the highest ever in the month of March and has grown to 1,30,000 Crore rupees. In the recent budget, we have again focused on the capital expenditure. There is an increase of 34.5% on the capital expenditure. That means it will see additional two and a half times more on the capital expenditure. It could see the investment coming at the same time, the government is focusing more on the healthcare. The budget has been increased by 137%. We have given more funds to the road, rail, and water infrastructure. At the same time we have come out with the production linked incentive schemes for the manufacturing units, so that more manufacturing takes place and more export happens, and India should become the hub of exports. As a hub for manufacturing, India should become the world’s largest skilled workforce. So our focus is on that. So on one hand we’re looking at economic revival and most of the agencies globally and locally have predicted that India is going to grow in the financial year 2021 to the tune of 12%. It is highest among all the big economies in the world.

Q. What are your views on the Hon’ble PM Modi ji’s call for being “Vocal for Local” and “Atmanirbhar Bharat”? In which ways has your ministry been furthering these objectives?

A. I think you have raised a very important question. ‘Vocal for Local, self-reliant India, Atmanirbhar Bharat’ – now everyone is talking about it. Why so? Because, India has the capacity to do anything. And we see a lot of entrepreneurs in India, and your magazine features them as well. AsiaOne has been featuring a lot of entrepreneurs who have done extremely well. You recognize their efforts, their achievements. And in that line, Prime Minister Modi also took a decision that we are not going to import the PPE kits and that we will manufacture these in a couple of months time from nowhere, we started manufacturing more than five lacs PPE kits every day, rather than looking at the world for PPE kits or for the COVID vaccine. We have built the COVID-19 vaccine in India, manufactured it and supplied it to more than 75 countries that clearly showcase our efforts and what India can do. And that is why in that area, we have taken all these steps ‘vocal for local,’ whether it is ‘kadha’, our other Ayurveda products or selfhelp groups involved in the handicrafts, handlooms or maybe the pharmacy of the world, India has been engaged everywhere. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have provided Hydroxychloroquine to more than a hundred countries and at the same time PPE kits, now we are providing COVID-19 vaccine. We are coming out with such plans to have the bulk drug parks here, mobile devices and diagnostic centers, manufacturing units here, and a lot of parks will come up in that area and the production linked incentive scheme to boost more manufacturing in India. And also we have cut down the corporate tax rate from 30% to 15% for the new manufacturing units. That clearly gives an opportunity for companies to come in and invest in India and to make India grow in the manufacturing sector and take the advantage of lower corporate tax rate.

Q. Sir, you are an extremely popular youth icon and many young entrepreneurs and investors besides others look up to you for inspiration. What is your message for them?

A. I think they should look at the possibilities available in India and globally. You know, 10 years back, when I used to go to Israel or other countries, I used to see a lot of young entrepreneurs. They are into research development, come out with the startups and all. And I always used to think we have such bright brains in India, why is this brain drain happening? If Indians can go abroad and can lead the top-most companies in the world as CEOs and other top-most positions, why can’t they do it in India? Prime Minister Modi gave a platform of StartUp India, and we have seen young entrepreneurs started doing so well. So many companies from being startups have become unicorns. This in the past three months, we have seen many coming to that level. And what I’m trying to say for the younger generation today is that they don’t look up for the government jobs only. They want to become entrepreneurs.

Through self-employment they want to look at various options or the possibilities available locally and globally. And they’re making a big mark in that. We are so proud of the young Indian generation from Paytm to Byjus, to Ola, to other companies who have done extremely well. And there are many coming up Flipkart, Snapdeal and all they have done extremely well. We have so many youngsters who are looking at these areas from nowhere. They are becoming the billionaires, from Zerodha to others. I can name many companies, but all I’m trying to say that in every sector, we are seeing a huge opportunity – from yoga to Ayurveda, from IT to other sectors. These are the soft powers of India. From meditation to religious activities, I think India can heal the world, not only through the medicines, through this meditation and other practices as well, from Ayurveda to others. And I see huge possibilities and potential in these areas.

Q. AsiaOne attempts to bring to fore Indian leaders in particular and Asian leaders in general and show how they are helping not only the economy of the world but the society as well. So what is your message for AsiaOne Magazine in this regard?

A. Through AsiaOne magazine, I would like to say to the people that India, as Prime Minister Modi says, Vasudeva Kutumbkum, that is ‘the world is one family.’ During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have given medicines, we have given PPE kits. We have given the knowledge and we have given the COVID-19 vaccine as well. We have not restricted it to ourselves to treat only Indians. We have given a helping hand to our neighbors and to other countries of the world. And when we see other countries shying away to share the technology or technology transfer, I mean, they should look at India as an example where we are talking about self-reliant India, Atmanirbhar Bharat for the greater economy and for the more facilities in India, making India their manufacturing powerhouse, but at the same time, creating wealth, not only for India, but for the entire globe, for the future generations. And that is why India has given a leadership when others failed or shied away during the inter Solar Alliance or during the Paris agreement time. And again, India under the leadership of our Prime Minister Modi ji has shown the courage and rarely leadership, which the world admires today. And that is why Prime Minister Modi is one of the top rated leaders in the world today, and is among the finest leaders and most popular leaders today.

Shri Gautam Gambhir

THE YOUNG & ENTHUSIASTIC CHANGEMAKER

From garnering numerous laurels for the nation as a popular Indian Cricket team player to an admired people’s representative (MP) and a dedicated social worker, the national youth icon Gautam Gambhir has come a long way. He believes in the notion that every change should begin from home and that we need to cultivate a positive mindset in children with regard to issues pertaining to gender equality. Under his able leadership, The Gautam Gambhir Foundation has been consistently undertaking various socially beneficial endeavours.

Q. Sir, we at AsiaOne, really appreciate the various socially beneficial endeavors undertaken by your organization, ‘The Gautam Gambhir Foundation’ under your exemplary leadership. Please throw light on all the initiatives, which your organization has undertaken especially during the pandemic, especially the recent ones.

A. See, first I want to start off with from where we started this foundation, the base of this foundation was to serve the martyrs family – children, because as you all know, I’ve always wanted to be in the army. So we started this foundation supporting 16 families of the Sukma victims, and then later on then, now we sponsor 100 children of all the paramilitary forces. So whether it is BSF, CRPF, CISF, all the paramilitary forces.

And at the same time, the second initiative which we took was to sponsor the 10 girls of the sex workers. And that is something which is very, very close to my heart, because the most important thing when you sponsor the education of a sex worker, the girl from the sex workers family is that you can’t disclose the identity. I, myself, don’t know the girl, to be honest. I don’t even know the identity or anything. So that is something which is very, very satisfying.

And then the third thing which we did was starting this community kitchen, which serves 1100 people every day at Rupee One. And the quality of food which we give is probably anyone can eat – I can eat, you can eat, all of us can eat. And I go there randomly just to check the quality of food. I believe that food should be served with respect. And that is the reason why we’ve kept one rupee. So, when someone enters that kitchen, or that canteen, he should feel proud of himself. Because self respect is probably the most important thing. Yes, you want to give free food you want to give free water, free electricity, but you got to give it with self respect as well. So that is the reason why we had kept one rupee for community kitchen. And at the same time during the pandemic, the foundation actually gave around 50,000 ration kits. So we had distributed 5,00,000 kgs of ration, especially to people who were in desperate need of it. And then we had supplied PPP kits, we had supplied masks, sanitizers, all such essential things. All that happened through the Foundation.

So, I think that the base of the foundation is the Martyrs family. We try to support as many children as we can! Having started with 16, now, we have around 100-150 children, which we support from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. There are children from different places, and we look after their studies. Until the time they want to study, they can obtain education. Plus they can choose the school as well. You know, 90% of these children are studying in convent schools or public schools, and some of them are even studying in boarding schools. At the same time, we sponsor their stationary, we sponsor their uniform. At the same time, we counsel their mothers as well; because counseling the mother becomes equally important. So this is where this Foundation started. And we are all very proud. It is not, again, my individual effort, it is the team effort, which has actually taken this Foundation to where it is now. But the most satisfying thing is that when we started these 2 community kitchens, and when we see people come out there and eat quality food, and with respect, that is something which is very, very satisfying.

Q. Sir, you are a social icon, a youth icon, in fact, the national icon. The youth of the nation, look forward to you for inspiration! As a youth icon, and a young leader dedicated to nation building, what’s your message to the youth of the nation?

A. See, my message has always been very clear. I think when people talk about good people should get into politics, I absolutely believe in it. They should get into politics. Till the time good people will not get into politics, I think this country will not change. When you get into politics with only one mindset and the intent is to give it back and not taking anything from the people and that is something which is very important and then you get that contentment and satisfaction when you try and serve people because you can have loads and loads of money, but this effort or this belief of giving it back to your own people is what makes you a true human being. This is what actual nationalism is all about when people talk about what is nationalism; I believe nationalism is everywhere. Nationalism is serving someone food, nationalism is probably when you’re coming back from the airport at 2 o’clock in the morning or 2 o’clock at night, following the traffic rules, stopping on red light even when you know that there is actually no one looking at you. Not throwing litter on the road, respecting women, which is very important. Yes, we can make use of the CCTV cameras – all these technologies are very important. But behavioral change is far more important, I believe. We must respect women, whether it is at home. So all of us, we have to go to start respecting our mothers, grandmothers, wives, and children. So that is how behavourial change will happen. And that is when the crime against women will start going down.

So my message to all the young people is that I think nationalism is everywhere. Just follow it and be proud to be called as Indians because this country is giving you the biggest thing that’s your identity, that’s your name. And no one else can give you that. You go to anywhere in the world; you’re not known by your name, you know, but by the name of your country. And you feel proud when you call yourself as Indians. Every minute of my life, I feel proud to be called as an Indian. And I’m very, very proud!

Q. AsiaOne magazine has also forayed into the digital media from print during the pandemic, taking a cue from PM Modi ji’s call of ‘turning adversity into opportunity.’ So what’s your message for this “Greatest Brands and Leaders Series” by AsiaOne magazine in which we aim to bring to fore those leaders who have not only made an impact on the economies of India and Asia but also on their societies?

A. First, I want to congratulate AsiaOne for this new venture at the same time, I feel that it’s a great initiative when you try to bring leaders to the fore; interview them and get them into the main front, when they deliver for the people of this country, when they do something really impactful. So I really want to congratulate you all and I hope AsiaOne grows even stronger in future! And it’s just the start hopefully, there’s a lot of success in the coming years. Thank you so much!


Owing deep regard and reverence to martyrs and taking responsibility to provide a bright future to their children, Gautam Gambhir has vowed to reach out to as many children of martyrs as possible to empower them to fulfil their dreams; dreams their proud fathers would have cherished for them. While this program remains the key project of the foundation. It has also identified other areas that needed immediate intervention including caring about adolescent girls from underprivileged homes and helping them in generating awareness on nutrition, health and hygiene.

GGF will also provide them with nutritious food. Last but not the least, it aims to plant unlimited trees in the cities to clean the air and give the future generation a better, healthy place, free of respiratory diseases. These areas of work have been chosen with careful consideration and research, focusing on critical issues where not much work has been undertaken. GGF needs your support in making a bigger mark on the lives of the children and the environment they breathe in.

A SALUTE TO MARTYRS

Behind every breath we take lie countless stories of valour and sacrifice by our soldiers. It is not easy task to leave behind your family to live in inhospitable areas to safeguard the sovereignty of the nation, and freedom of its citizens. The least we can do is to safeguard the future of martyrs’ children. It is an indeed a debt we owe for their sacrifice. The real identities of children and their families are not disclosed keeping their safety and privacy in mind.

EK ASHA, JAN RASOI: SERVING NUTRITIOUS FOOD TO THE NEEDY

In furtherance of the vision that the city’s poorest of the poor should not be deprived of nutritious and hygienic food, Gautam Gambhir launched Delhi’s first ever “Jan Rasoi ” EK ASHA, a fully developed private community kitchen, which provides food to those in need for just Rs.1, on 24th December 2020 in the country’s biggest wholesale market Gandhi Nagar, New Delhi. After the success of the first community kitchen, taking the implementation of the project ahead, the second EK ASHA JAN RASOI was launched on the 9th February 2021 in the hustling market of New Ashok Nagar.

Together, through both the kitchens the GGF is feeding 2000+ marginalized people like Daily wage workers, rickshaw pullers, rag pickers and all others in need on a daily basis. The rasoi is functional from 12 Noon to 2 PM from Tuesday to Sunday serving THALI EK RUPAY WALI. The menu varies everyday and we serve channa rice, kadhi rice, rajma rice, halwa, fruits, pulao, etc. The focus is kept on running the kitchen abiding all the COVID-19 safety protocols.

The seed of this idea was sowed back on 31st July 2017 as a 7-month long drive by Gautam Gambhir himself as Ek Asha Jan Rasoi programme in West Patel Nagar market of New Delhi to make sure that the underprivileged people in the area don’t go hungry.

The initiative aimed to feed the needy at free of cost from 1 PM to 3 PM, every day of the week with wholesome meal to eradicate hunger and malnutrition from the society. Every day more than 250 underprivileged received nutritious meal.

In its capacity as a Foundation, GGF is contributing towards the Sustainable Development Goal 3, regarding “Good Health and Well-being,” being one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations in 2015 and to be achieved by 2030.

PANKH: GIVING WINGS TO THEIR DREAMS

The condition of the daughters of FSWs is adverse and they are forced into prostitution because of the environment and surroundings they are living in. Their kids due to lack of aspiration and opportunities are following their mothers and often pick the same path. These children don’t have the access to quality education, nutritious food, and proper care and support from mothers which they require for their holistic development. Gautam Gambhir Foundation has decided to step in this process of development to provide the best environment possible for the growth of these kids. Gautam Gambhir Foundation will be working with 25 daughters of FSWs in Delhi under the programme “PANKH.” This programme started in 2020 and involves working on the holistic development of Girls to break the loop.

GGF is committed to safeguard the future of FSW’s daughters and break the loop for this generation. It continues to support their Education, Health, Nutrition, Counseling, Shelter, etc. with the long-term objective to support them in making their future and becoming independent women.

GGF provides 100% funding support to the daughters of FSWs for their holistic development.

It empowers FSW’s to support their daughters to break the loop.

Outcome of the Programme

  1. 25 daughters of the FSW’s will be benefited from this programme.
  2. They will receive complete academic support which can be monitored through their academic performance.
  3. Children will get Nutritious food which can be represented through their BMI Test.
  4. Children will receive Care, support, and Counselling for their mental, Emotional & Psychological development.
  5. Children will engage in Co-curricular activities which will develop their social skills.

EXTENDING ALL POSSIBLE HELP TO COMBAT THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

The speed and scope of the coronavirus crisis poses extraordinary challenges for the poor and the needy. Gautam Gambhir Foundation, has been extending extending support to the marginalized by assuring that our healthcare workers stand at the first line of defence. GGF has been able to accomplish ‘a drop in the ocean’ by the support of its valued donors. These activities involve the distribution of Ration Relief Kits, Cooked Meals, Personal Protective Equipment Kits, N-95 Masks, Nourishment Supplements, Bedding Kits, etc. Gautam Gambhir stresses, “We believe ‘Our Unity is Our Strength.’ So, we must come together to fight this pandemic, as a brighter and healthier future awaits!”

Gautam Gambhir, through his foundation, has distributed various COVID-19 related items, including oxygen cylinders, concentrators & Fabiflu. He has been also organizing free COVID vaccination camps in a month-long drive. This vaccination program has been organised by the MP from East Delhi for all those above 18 years. The target is to vaccinate 10,000 people. Gautam Gambhir Foundation is purchasing vaccines from hospitals and the jab will be given free to all. On an average, 150 to 200 people will be vaccinated every day

The Island of Crocodiles – TIMOR-LESTE

By Ms. Elisa Maria Da Silva, Chargé d’affaires (A.I.) of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste to the Kingdom of Thailand

A Southeast Asian nation occupying half the island of Timor, Timor-Leste, or East Timor is ringed by coral reefs teeming with marine life. It is bounded by the Timor Sea to the southeast, the Wetar Strait to the north, the Ombai Strait to the northwest, and western Timor (part of the Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara) to the southwest

Timor-Leste shares land border with Indonesia and maritime border with Australia. Unilaterally, Timor-Leste declared its Independence from Portugal on 28 November 1975 but was invaded by neighbouring Indonesia nine days later. It will commemorate its 18th Anniversary of Restoration of independence from Indonesia on 20 May 2020.

BRIEF HISTORY OF TIMOR-LESTE

Timor-Leste is also known as the Island of crocodiles as the shape of the island is like the shape of a crocodile. Timorese people believe that crocodiles are lulik – ‘sacred’ and they are their ancestors – often with the term: ‘Grandfather Crocodile’. As per the traditional myth, the crocodile sacrifices itself to create the land of Timor Leste, the mountains are his spine, a home for the boy who had trusted him enough to ride his back to a new land. Killing a crocodile is culturally a taboo as well as illegal in the country.

TOURISM OPPORTUNITIES

Timor-Leste has rich flora and fauna. It is a beautiful island and has incredible natural beauty, rich history, and unique cultural experience. TimorLeste also has clean and stunning beaches, mesmerizing tropical reefs and amazing marine life, and rugged mountains.

As an intriguing new tourism destination, it has been attracting an increasing number of international travelers, who are keen to experience its coral reefs, beaches, rugged mountains and heritage. TimorLeste has 13 municipalities. Each municipality has its unique beauty or characteristics. So, each municipality has something special to offer to the travelers. There are some special and popular municipalities that tourist can visit such as:

ATAURO ISLAND

Atauro Island is part of Dili, the capital. It offers world class diving and snorkeling in its fantastic reefs. Recent research shows Atauro Island has the highest diversity of reef fishes and coral species on the earth. It is also perfect for beach relaxing, swimming and hiking. It gives very friendly, hospitable and welcoming vibes. Boat access from Dili can be easily arranged and good accommodation facilities including small eco-resorts are available here.

TOWN OF BALIBO

It has an old fort which provides expansive views of the surrounding country side. Within the fort is a boutique hotel and restaurant. Guided visits to local villages and caves can be organized here.

MOUNTAINS OF RAMELAU & HATO BUILICO

A highlight for many of a holiday in Timor-Leste is a guided hike from the village of Hato Builico, located high in the Tatamailau range (2000m), to the summit of Mt Ramelau to watch the sun rise.

In all directions the views are stunning. Other guided hikes also can be organised in the surrounding valleys and to nearby traditional villages from the guest houses. A good 4WD vehicle or motorbikes are needed to access Hato Builico due to the steep mountainous terrain.

JACO, VALU & TUTUALA ISLAND

Jaco Island lies at the far eastern tip of Timor-Leste. Sacred Jaco Island is a tropical paradise. Its transparent waters teem with underwater life and offer fantastic diving, snorkelling and swimming opportunities. Besides diving, you will have the opportunity to view dolphins and whales in the wild – a totally exhilarating experience!

To access Valu Island, we need a small fishing boat. Accommodation at Valu ranges from eco-camping to guest houses. Guided trips through the forest to the local caves within the Nino Konis Santana National Park are another highlight. The drive down to Valusere from Tutuala is very steep in places and requires a 4WD vehicle.

At the top of the Tutuala escarpment from the local pousada, the views out to sea and across the forested ranges of the national park are stunning.

MAROBO HOT SPRINGS

The Marobo geothermal hot springs are located near Bobonaro in beautiful mountain country. Lying back in the hot water pools having a soak looking out over the valley is a very blissful experience. Most visitors travel up from their accommodation in Maliana or Balibo by motorbike or 4WD vehicle.

HOW TO REACH TIMOR-LESTE

To visit Timor-Leste you can either take a flight from Bali, Singapore or Australia or by land from the Indonesian side of the island, West Timor. From Australia-Darwin, it’s just over an hour, from Bali to Dili, it’s only two and half hours and from Singapore is about 3 and half hours by flight.

If you are interested in exploring unique cultures, different and new places and have an adventurous spirit, Timor-Leste is for you – come and visit.