Lok Sabha Elections 2019: UDAN has been a unique and successful scheme for our country, says Jayant Sinha

Harvard -educated Jayant Sinha needs no introduction in India’s political circles. A latecomer in politics, he contested his first general election in 2014 from Hazaribagh, replacing his father, Yashwant Sinha, but took little time to make a mark for himself in the Modi government.

Courtesy his impressive academic profile, followed by his vast experience with various multinational companies dealing largely in IT and investment solutions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the last five years used his services in the two important ministries of finance and aviation.

Reposing faith on his leadership and performance abilities, BJP has fielded him from his home town of Hazaribag. The opposition Grand Alliance has not announced its candidate yet. So far, ex-MP and Left front candidate Bhubaneswar Mehta has jumped into the poll fray to contest against Sinha.

In an interview to B Vijay Murty, Sinha spoke on how the aviation ministry has performed in the last five years and his plans for Hazaribag.

What are Jayant Sinha’s priorities for his constituency?

The most important priority for the next five years is to finish the number of important projects underway. One of them is the railway line from to Patna, which is a major investment of Rs.5,000 crore. The project is already in process and we have to get that completed. We have to ensure that high quality trains are operational to Patna.

Another important project is the medical college and hospital. We have a 150-seat medical college that is now completed and ready to begin intake of students from September this year. We also have a 500-bed hospital coming up. It will take 2-3 years to get fully completed and staffed.

The third priority project is the Akshaya Patra kitchen, for which we have put in place CSR commitment of Rs 20 crore from the Airports Authority of India (AAI). The upcoming modern and technically advanced Akshaya Patra kitchen will provide nutritious midday meals to one lakh children in Hazaribagh.

Another project in the pipeline is the Hazaribag airport. The groundbreaking ceremony for the project has been done. We want to make sure that in the next two years, the airport is ready for flights to Calcutta and Patna.

Hazaribagh has fast emerged as an education hub. You are also planning a knowledge city in Hazaribag, I am told?

Between the medical college and Vinobha Bhave Vishwas Vidyalaya, there is 15 acres of prime land which we can be converted into a knowledge city. We can have offices available for knowledge company startups, IT centres, business offices, science and research institutes, which will enable Hazaribag to become Jharkhand’s knowledge hub.

How do you plan to create jobs? Youth from Hazaribag are forced to migrate to other cities and states as employment opportunities are scarce.

A) Several initiatives to create jobs are underway. Employment is going on in medical, textile and mining fields. We are going to set up a food processing plant and food cooperatives across Hazaribag and Ramgarh. Many garment factories are also coming up, primarily in Ramgarh. The medical complex (college and hospital) will also create thousands of high quality jobs. Construction work will also generate employment.

One unfulfilled target, which you feel, should have been accomplished in the last five years?

The Akshaya Patra kitchen should have been completed. Malnutrition is a major problem in Jharkhand and the best way of addressing it is by supplying nutritious food which enhances physical and mental development, and increases cognitive process.

Why have flights under UDAN not started operations from Darbhanga?

The Darbhanga airport is an Air Force airport, which has a very long runway for fighter jets, but not sufficiently strong enough for commercial jets to land. Finding a contractor to strengthen it was taking time but now the stone laying ceremony is done and we expect the airport to be operational by the end of June. Spicejet, which is operating the airport, is going to fly multiple flights from Darbhanga to Bangalore and Delhi. The airport will make north Bihar more accessible.

Even when flights operate around June, it will be a seasonal airport because flights will be unable to operate during peak winters as the government has not ensured adequate navigation aid there. Your comments?

There is a demand for improving the instrumentation navigation. That will be done by June.

Why only major airports, which were profitable, have been privatised, leaving the loss making ones with the government?

No that is not entirely correct. At present, we have moved for privatisation of six airports. We are awaiting approval from the Cabinet. As soon as our government is formed, we will move forward with the privatisation of those six airports.

The Regional Connectivity Scheme (RC) under UDAN has failed to serve its purpose because of erratic operation of flights by airlines. What has the government done to check it?

I disagree. UDAN is held in the world as an incredibly successful regional connectivity scheme. We have connected 30 networks within two years. This has never happened in India before. It has transformed cities like Belgaum, Bikaner and Kanpur. Places like Darbhanga will be connected by air soon. The only part of UDAN which didn’t work well was Air Odisha and Air Deccan. UDAN has been a successful and a signature scheme for our country.

Air connection in east, especially Bihar and Jharkhand, is poor compared to other parts of the country? What has your government done to improve it?

In Bihar, we are doing tactful improvement to perk up convenience at the Patna airport, which is one of the 13 most critical airports in India. We have got land from the state government and that will enable us to build a spectacular world-class airport. We have also planned to expand the Bihta airport, and the Darbhanga airport is nearly operational. We are looking into improving the Gaya airport as well, as it is centrally located and happens to be an important Buddhist destination. In Jharkhand, we are soon going to have six airports, one each in Daltonganj, Hazaribagh, Bokaro, Chakulia and Dumka, besides the existing one at Ranchi. The number of flights flying in and out from Ranchi airport has gone up to 32 from 12.

Is your father, who doesn’t concur with the Modi government’s policies, supporting you?

I always have the blessings of my parents.

The opposition says that the present BJP regime is not treating party’s old time leaders well? What’s your take on this?

All our senior leaders are highly respected.

Several senior leaders like Shatrughan Sinha, who is family to your father, have quit and are now in rival camps. Does this augur good for your party?

I think this is what is wonderful about democracy. Everybody is independent, everybody has the right to choose whichever political path or ideology serves them best. This is what makes our democracy vibrant. We have to take constructive criticism from everyone. I welcome debates and constructive arguments because that makes us stronger.

Which of the two ministries you have served in the last five years, would you like to handle again, if the Modi government is voted back to power?

I am a loyal party worker. I do whatever what the party asks me to do. I am pleased with all opportunities and responsibilities. I was new to politics in 2014. The opportunities I got to contribute and serve the country were extraordinary and I am thankful to the President, Prime Minister Modi, Suresh Prabhu ji and all senior leaders.

First Published:
Apr 15, 2019 15:54 IST

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