Thursday, June 09, 2016

Ghettoisation in Gujarat: There's "no discrimination" on grounds of religion, race, caste, claims Venkaiah Naidu

By Our Representative
Suggesting that there is no ghettoisation in Gujarat cities, including in the state's cultural capital, Vadodara, Union urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu believes that the Constitution – especially the right to equality before law and prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race and caste – “takes care of these things.”
Asked in an interview to a prominent national daily whether the Modi government is “taking a conscious call on increasing ghettoisation”, such as Muslims not “being allowed to move into a Hindu neighbourhood in Vadodara”, Naidu says, “There is no discrimination, whatsoever, on the basis of region or religion or caste.”
Asked whether there can be “a policy that there should be so many Muslims, so many Christians or this community or that”, Naidu refuses to get directly into the controversy, but replies, “But, at the end of the day, implementation has to be taken care of by the local people.”
The reference was the Gujarat law which prohibits transfer of property belonging belonging to a Hindu to a Muslim, and vice versa, in Gujarat's urban areas. Previously limited to Ahmedabad, under the Modi government the law was extended to the entire state under the pretext of stopping panic sale of property as a result of communal riots.
While critics believe this has led to unprecedented ghettoisation in Gujarat, refusing to answer on this, he says, “The only policy we made is that title deed of the house should be in the name of woman. And, beneficiaries have to be selected by the state government.”
Interviewed in Vadodara on the occasion of the Vikas Parv celebration of two years of the Narendra Modi government, Naidu brushed aside unrest in Vadodara related with evictions leading to clashes as “local”, saying, “You cannot rule Vadodara from Delhi. Land is a state subject.”
Saying that the Centre only “formulates a policy — housing for the poor”, Naidu insists, “If you want to remove slums and construct houses there, you can do it. The Centre will not interfere.” All that the Centre would do is to provide “Rs 1 lakh per unit directly”, Rs 1.5 lakh for group housing, Rs 2.5 lakh to “individual beneficiary” if he or she has land “upfront in form of interest subvention.”
Queried on whether the Government of India would interfere in case an incident like the riots in Mathura happened in Gujarat, Naidu says, “The moment the Centre interferes, you will say the Centre is encroaching upon the state’s rights.”
He adds, “The only way the Centre can intervene is Article 356. You want Article 356 to be used in Mathura? You cannot have both. Law and order is a state subject. Second, Mathura has nothing to do with government schemes. Certain people patronised by the ruling party encroached upon the land.”
On the selection of 100 Smart Cities, the senior minister said, “The Centre has no role”, adding, “There was a competition — their revenue, reforms, drinking water, sanitation, greenery, transparency, accountability were among the fixed parameters. Of the 100, 20 cities have been decided by international and national accredited agencies together.”
“Earlier, everybody was looking up: Dilli se kya milega, Ahmedabad se kya milega (What will we get from Delhi and Ahmedabad), but now they are saying ‘humko kya karna hai, how do we compete, how do we make our city green and how do we make our city creditworthy?’ If you want loan, you will get it only when you are creditworthy”, he claimed.
Without saying what a Smart City is – something about which the Central policy makers do not have clarity even today – Naidu said, “You want to become Smart City, you get into this. You don’t want, you remain in existing state. What is the problem? If the city wants to become smart, they have this option. It’s the Prime Minister’s word — lighthouse.”

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