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UTTAR PRADESH

26 January 2015

2

World Business Times is a leading global provider of business intelligence and insight

T

HE

challenges facing Uttar Pradesh

(UP) are both exciting and daunting.

Trying to bring the state into the

modern world with all the myriad

of opportunities that it presents is

a massive undertaking indeed. It would be easy to

overlook how difficult a task it must be to become

the modern face of politics in a nation as steeped in

tradition as India. But it is a challenge that Yadav has

taken on with boundless enthusiasm and energy and

a skin that is far thicker than his tender years would

suggest it should be.

The keen cyclist, cricketer and football enthusiast

is used to obstacles and since being in politics used to

criticism. It is the Indian way: stoicism in the face of

carping naysayers. When asked about the criticisms

and daunting tasks at hand Yadav in his calm and

cool style simply smiles and says “it comes with the

job. My only goal is to focus on the work that needs

to be done for the people and my state.”

Despite the challenges and criticism Akhilesh

has a relentless determination to keep moving

forward and working on behalf of the millions who

have put their faith in him. His vision for UP over the

next three to five years is what allows him to keep

soldiering on. “I was elected in 2012 by people who

wanted their Government to work for them. Prior

to that the Government was of a different ideology.

They were more focused on wasting money on

memorials, parks and the like. When we came

into power, we had an agenda, a manifesto that we

had promised to the people of UP so I had a very

clear mission to implement the manifesto of our

Samajwadi Party. When I presented the first budget

in the house, I had the opportunity to outline policies

that were very pro-poor.”

Yadav is determined to not fall into the same trap

of politicians making promises and not keeping them

and seems equally determined to deliver on his pre-

election commitments. “Our Government budgets

have all promised that the maximum amount of

funds will go to the poor and help the farmers. There

were other schemes in the budget also covering the

social sector despite the fact there was less money

available to me than the previous administration had.

The budget was limited. In the first budget presented

I tried to deliver everything that was in my election

manifesto. That was the big challenge.”

With a genuinely different agenda from that of

his immediate predecessor and both an old guard

within the party and a burgeoning bureaucracy

resistant to change persistence, determination and

hardwork have been the only realistic avenues open

to Yadav. Breaking new ground has made him as

many enemies as it has friends. Some of his plans

have been bold indeed: “We decided we would make

irrigation free for farmers. And there was a laptop

scheme where all students in UP who passed grade

12 would get a laptop from the state Government.

Education is key to our state’s success. Finding so

many laptops was a challenge in itself, but we had

an international tender and HP won. We distributed

1.5 million laptops within a nine-month period. That

was the biggest tender HP had ever had anywhere in

the world.”

Initiatives such as providing IT hardware to

students is something that most progressive western

Governments could not afford to undertake and yet

UP became something of a trail blazer and pulled off

a major coup with HP as a partner in the process.

This education and technology initiative was an

indication of the progressive and visionary thinking

of this tech savvy young Chief Minister.

One of his sharpest areas of focus, however, has

been on improving infrastructure. “Funds from the

budget were also given for infrastructure projects like

highways and a feeder project that would distribute

separate power to the industrial and agricultural

sectors. This involved a lot of spend on substations.

In the health sector, we had to make medicines cheap

and affordable for the poor, so we have also invested

in that,” says Yadav.

If this sounds rather idealistic and as if Yadav is

simply trying to make the world a better place, or at

least UP a better place, then that would be the case

because he is. He is persistent, patient and passionate

about improving the lives of the people of UP and

empowering those less fortunate with the tools and

resources to succeed.

“UP is the biggest market in India,” says Yadav.

“We have a population of 200 million people. It

is the heartland of India and we produce the best

wheat, milk, potatoes and vegetables. Our youth

population is huge, 65 per cent of the population is

under 35 years of age. The challenge is to have the

best infrastructure: this is an area that is lacking at

present. With good infrastructure, the other sectors

will follow: industry will grow, agriculture will

grow, and people will get jobs. It will all flow.”

Yadav is making sure that he has all of his ducks

in a row with infrastructure, supporting industry,

supporting education, supporting agriculture and

tourism. “The challenge was how to develop

infrastructure in UP so I took out money from the

budget and prioritised roads and now we are building

four-lane highways, and building the longest

expressway in India that will connect Agra with

Lucknow. We are connecting all the cities in the 75

districts in UPwith four-lane highways,” says Yadav.

Great roads and railways would be of little value

unless there were people and industries to use them

and this is the next focus of Yadav’s Government.

“The second biggest focus has been power, followed

by agriculture through organised farmers’ markets.

There was a lot of wastage because farmers were

disorganised and this meant higher prices. We are

managing assets and people to help organise this,”

he says.

It could be seen as a dream scenario: a big home

market and a well-educated labour force but there is

a sense that nothing is ever very easy in India. The

trick seems to be in carving a different kind of path

that plays to the strength of the state and turns a

deaf ear to critics and cynics alike. Yadav remains

positive throughout: “UP can grow faster than other

states because we have everything. We have fertile

land; we have more universities, and more medical

centres. We have huge reserves of human resources.

If I put all the sectors together then we can build

something great and this will lead to opportunities

for international companies to come and do business

here, ”

How did Yadav develop his leadership style and

overcome the resistance to change that he comes up

against? “I am a very simple leader. I ride a bicycle.

I spend time with the people because that is the

strength of democracy. Everybody wants change. All

types of media are now here from TV to social media

and people are demanding change. I have seen what

the west has done and if we can learn from this then

we can achieve similar results in UP,” Yadav says.

“Previous Governments were too involved in social

structures and negative politics and I am trying to

bring a focus on development and positive change. I

am showing people that if the development is there,

then growth will come automatically. When I show

them what has happened overseas it helps them to

buy into the vision and want to be part of it and

change.”

In the west it is easy for politicians to lose sight

of the plight of the needy because they are often few

and far between. But in a nation like India that is

really only at the start of its growth curve there are

constant reminders of the need for change. “When I

look around and see so many people who don’t have

houses, and can’t buy good clothes, they are still

poor. This makes me determined to work for them

and for my party. If I am in power then I know that I

can help poor people. With small efforts, their lives

will change. That is what motivates me,” says Yadav

with that characteristic fierce resolve.

Yadav is no stranger to politics and comes from

a family with a track record in Government. His

father is none other than Mulayam Singh Yadav,

whose political career spans almost 50 years having

served three times as the Chief Minister for UP, as

well as India’s Defence Minister. Despite some

commentators saying that Yadav junior is somewhat

standing on the shoulders of a political giant,

Akhilesh has emerged from his father’s shadow and

is very much his own man. Many in India’s political

circles give Akhilesh credit for taking his party to

victory in the previous election.

Akhilesh is fully aware of how the political

scene has changed since his father was CM. “My

father started very early in politics and he had no

prior experience since his father, my grandfather was

a farmer. He went from that point to become Defence

Minister for India. He worked hard and also tried to

help poor people all the time and that became his

strength. His focus was on rural India but times have

changed and urbanisation has taken place so I am

trying to strike a balance between urban and rural.

People living in both environments need support

from the Government,” he says.

Striking a balance between urban and rural is

only one of the juggling acts that Yadav has to be

proficient at. “Farmers need water, electricity and

medical support. Urban dwellers have different

priorities. We are focused more on villages because

if they grow then their purchasing power increases

and the economy will boom.”

Despite the picture of relentlessly positive

development, a very strong cultural bias exists in

India and in UP of a women’s role in society and

treatment as second-class citizens. While this kind

of narrow-minded thinking is hardly unique to India

and the subcontinent, it does pose real developmental

challenges for all modern Governments, especially

those in fast-developing regions.

Yadav is acutely conscious that issues impacting

and affecting women such as cultural and traditional

bias, safety and security, education and employment

are not ones that can be solved overnight. “Women’s

issues will always remain. I need to keep trying

and to bring positive change. In UP and in India,

incidents have happened which made people angry

with the Governments. In UP if any incident does

happen then it is highlighted in a big way. The media

doesn’t focus on remedial steps we implement or

actions I take they only focus on the negative events.

I try and take immediate and stern action against

any incident against women that I become aware

of. I am a father of two young girls and the safety

and security of women in my state and my nation is

important to me.”

So what has Yadav done in practical terms

to start solving these problems? “I have started a

number of initiatives to tackle these problems such

as the phone hotline 1090. Any female who gets a

threatening or inappropriate telephone call, message,

email or is being harassed in any way can call 1090,

file a complaint and there will be immediate action.

Full support of the police and the Government

is provided. I am very proud of this helpline, as it

has helped thousands of women in distress. This

helpline is a model for other states and other nations,”

he says.

Even though initiatives such as the 1090 helpline

address the issues once they have occurred, efforts

need to be made to stop them from happening

in the first place. “The second major step lies in

educating society and we have already implemented

projects to empower and support women. We have

introduced a pension where we give 500 rupees to

the female of the household. This pension used to be

given to the head of the family but I have changed

that to make it payable to females only. I have

supported education for women as well as giving

financial support to them by making education

free for all girls from underprivileged families.

They will also be given 30,000 rupees if they pass

grade 12. Any girl from a poor family who wants to

further pursue an engineering or medical education

will get support from the Government. We also

give them financial support for their marriage of

20,000 rupees.”

Another endemic problem that UP, like the

rest of the nation faces, is corruption. Again Yadav

is realistic: “I cannot finish corruption altogether. I

can reduce it. Every time I have heard of corruption

I have taken action.”And Yadav is certainly a man of

his word and takes no prisoners; back in November

he sacked 70 persons holding the Minister of State

(MoS) rank allegedly for non-performance and

serving their own interests.

Yadav is adamant that he won’t let corruption

affect potential overseas investment. “We do not

let it stand in the way of foreign direct investment.

We have set up a special cell for investors; we have

introduced a system of single-window clearance for

businesses that want to set up here. Full support is

given. That is the main aim. We can assure them of

security and speedy decisions and this has already

led to increased foreign investment in Agra, in

Lucknow and elsewhere.”

Job creation is a natural part of the UP growth

story. “In the health sector all the way from doctors

to paramedics, we have created jobs. Over 30,000

young people have been found new jobs in one

Government department alone. I have started

police recruitment that has led to 40,000 jobs. I

have employed another 20,000 teachers. Altogether

around 300,000 youths have been employed in the

past two years since my Government has come to

power. We are focusing on the youth of the state and

opportunities for their success.”

With our interviewing drawing to a close I

find myself having distinctly warmed to the young

CM. He has been sincere, open, frank and earnest

in his answers and seems genuine in his priorities to

improve the lives of those less fortunate. He comes

across as a man on a mission who is dedicated and

determined to make a difference with not a nuance of

wanting to enrich himself, which in India makes him

an exception to the norm. He is humble and sincere

despite the magnitude of power he possesses. He is

also fully aware of the mammoth task he has taken

to hand and despite the media backlash he receives,

he remains positive and focused on working

for the people of his state and bringing forward

change, efficiency, accountability, transparency and

governance reforms.

Akhilesh seems to have developed a unique

ability to connect with the masses and party members

both young and old. Even though progressive in his

thought he is acutely aware of the challenges and

struggles of the people in the state he leads. His

accessibility and availability are key to his success

giving him a continuous perspective of what ideas,

programmes and policies need to be implemented.

Only time will tell if this dynamic young leader is

successful but at present he is flying the flag for UP

on the world stage and in the process is making the

rest of the world stand up and realise that UP has

more to offer than just sight-seeing at the Taj Mahal.

To unwind Akhilesh is known to turn on the

iTunes shuffle and relax listening to his favourite

musicians, among which include Guns N’ Roses,

Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams and Metallica, A.R Rahman

and Mehdi Hasan.

Akhilesh’s other hobbies include football,

cricket and cycling. The latter of which played a

key role in his ‘energetic’ election campaign. Some

say that Akhilesh has learnt his politics while riding

his bike from one village to the next on the dusty

‘kuchcha’ roads of the state’s heartland. Earlier this

month he was quoted as saying, whilst taking part in

the Cycle Marathon at Saifai Mahotsav, that, “Both

life and politics are like riding a bicycle. One has to

maintain balance and keep on moving.”

Akhilesh Yadav, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, is a man

on a mission for his people, his state, and for his nation.

It’s little wonder that he is deemed a visionary, who is

determined, motivated and connected to the grassroots.

Paul McNamara

finds out his real agenda

UP can grow

faster than other

states because we

have everything.

We have fertile

land, we have

more universities,

more medical

centres.

The heartland

of India awakes