Three Years Is Very Little Time. There Is Backlog Of 70 Years: Dr. Nirmal Singh

TNN Bureau. Updated: 1/11/2018 2:47:56 PM Weekly Round Table

Senior leader of the Bhartiya Janta Party and Deputy Chief Minister, Dr. Nirmal Singh was recently our guest at The News Now for freewheeling discussion in the Newsroom Roundtable -our series with leaders from politics, academia, media, business, bureaucracy, security and art & culture. In nearly two-hour long frank and free discussion, he took a range of questions from editorial staff. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation:

ZAFAR CHOUDHARY: We have seen you as a scholar, a historian, a teacher and then you became one of formidable and very important politicians and number one representative of your party in the government. So what was it as you were growing up as a young boy, as an adult, so what were the thoughts that were coming up in your mind that you want to become -a scholar, a historian, teacher or a politician or what? Was there something great, career trajectory or was there something that was just happening to you and things moved on?

DR. NIRMAL SINGH: Basically I belong to a village and I came to the urban setting for education. Firstly, I was in a boarding school, my father was an ex-serviceman and he was a farmer. I was working with him. When I came up here for studies, I was in a boarding house and then ultimately I joined the College at Kathua and then in Jammu. During that period, I was associated firstly with RSS and then ABVP, so as a pass on, who has no financial background, who has no academic background, no political background. I was just like that. So there was no question of having a well thought out career plan for anything specific like politics. But I went ahead the way the destiny was taking me. Initially, I was interested in joining Army. I was in NCC and had "C" certificate but somehow I couldn't join then. Then I was carrying on my studies, after Graduation, I did my MA. In 1975, we fought against the Emergency. I was jailed. I was in Central Jail twice during Emergency. Then during Poonch agitation and Ayurvedic College agitation, I was again jailed. So that way for fighting for Jammu and fighting for the cause of people of Jammu or national cause, I was very active. So that was the initial awakening. Then after doing my M.Phil, I joined Arya College Ludhiana as a Lecturer. There was a period when militancy was on the peak in Punjab. Then I came here and joined Jammu University in 1989. After coming here, that was the period when there was displacement from Kashmir. Lots of people migrated from Kashmir and I was associated with their rehabilitation, for settling them. After that I was made as State President of ABVP. At that time, I remember, Sh Jai Ram Thakur, newly the elected Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, was General Secretary of the organization then, so I got a chance to work together for two years. After that I was asked to join BJP. Vaid Vaishno Dutt Ji was made as the President and I was made as his General Secretary. That is how things followed in politics.

ZAFAR CHOUDHARY: In the circles of BJP and its affiliates, it has been widely said in the decades on 1980s and 1990s there has been leadership vacuum in Jammu region after Pt. Prem Nath Dogra. Are you someone whom people could see as filling up that gap?

DR. NIRMAL SINGH: We are an organization, which works in a team. It is a question of who is put where. Because in Jammu and Kashmir, what we have seen and talk about leadership vacuum here, in Jammu at least. There is a reason behind that I would say. If you look at political setup here, in legislature the game is of numbers and if you see the difference between the two regions, 46 seats are in Kashmir, whereas 37 in Jammu. Earlier, the gap was more and I think the gap was of 12 seats. That is why centre of power will always remain in Kashmir. Jammu has been fighting right from 1953 and even before 1947. We had a great leader in Pt. Prem Nath Ji Dogra and ultimately a stage came when the people, they also looked for development because there was 1953 and then in 1967, when the student agitation was there. So the people of Jammu were fighting for their rights and you see all the institutions whether it is Medical College, Regional Engineering College, Jammu University, bravely got that after long struggle. Look at the history, people have sacrificed. In 1967, I was in a school, when students were killed in front of Science College, where a memorial exists today. So people fought and got everything. All these institutions have a history of agitations. After that people developed a sort of understanding that for how long they will struggle. So ultimately, the people shifted towards supporting the parties which they want to form the government and the opposition was marginalized. So that is the reason no leadership could develop here. We have leaders in attention in Pt. Prem Nath Dogra, Thakur Baldev Singh, Sheikh Abdul Rehman and others. So very few leaders came up and I think there is a historical background to this also. But definitely, we are working in a team and you will see that time has come when the people are elected from Jammu, they are playing their role. It is just the beginning. You will see the future that now the Jammu voice is heard, Ladakhi voice is heard etc and now, there is understanding between all the three regions coming up. Initially, it was all Kashmir centric but now it shall be State centric.

ZAFAR CHOUDHARY: If in our assessment, you could be the leader Jammu has been looking towards since Pandit Prem Nath Dogra, what are those key things you would promise to the people of Jammu?

DR. NIRMAL SINGH: It is people who choose the leaders and our job is only to work for the people honestly. We have to work at both the levels i.e., emotions and also development, which has to be provided to the people of Jammu. Here all the people of Jammu are basically pro-Indians and they are nationalists whether they belong to any community. So definitely they will look at us from that angle but they also want development here. If you look at those days when all the political slogans were there and how many seats whether Jana Sangh or BJP, which had many people at the helm of affairs, and they were leading people of Jammu, they were winning at that time, two or three or four or maximum eight seats. It means that majority of people of Jammu they want there should be equal development and there should not be any disparity in any field. People of Jammu have always wanted that the national interest should be protected here and they sacrifice all of things when question of national interest will come. But we want to assure them that under no circumstances we are going to compromise on national interest in Jammu and Kashmir. The day we feel that we are not able to serve the cause, for which they have elected us, we shall leave the government or anything. Secondly, three years are very less but people have a lot of expectations from us. They keep 70 years on one side and these three years on another side, which is not possible. The administrative infrastructure, which is there and moreover, the mindset of bureaucracy, the people who move on serving a particular section of leaders, who have a particular mindset, that is the reason, we need to change that. We have to change the system and we are working for that and. But honestly, I will tell my people that we are working honestly and very cautiously so that their economic interests, unemployment and development issues are looked into. But definitely sometimes we see difficulties are there and we are fighting them.

S.SHEKHAR: Jammu was rocked by a series of protests over demand for declaring September 23, the birthday of Maharaja Hari Singh, as State Holiday and you also wrote to the Chief Minister in this regard. Why this demand was not addressed, despite of a huge emotive upsurge?

DR. NIRMAL SINGH: Actually Maharaja Hari Singh's role and his personality are very dear to the people of Jammu including us and we are for declaring holiday on his birthday. There was even a resolution in the Upper House for the same but ultimately this has to be done at the government level. We took up this issue with the government vociferously but as of now there is no consensus on the issue. You see, Maharaja Hari Singh doesn't belong to a particular community, religion or caste- he was the King of whole of Jammu & Kashmir. His works and reforms were not limited to a particular place or region but for all the regions of the State. Unfortunately, history was not fair enough to him like other Dogra rulers of the State but that perception needs to be dispelled. Maharaja has been projected as a demon in the history, which he was not, at all. What he has done should be recognized and he must be given a suitable place in the history. Those, who are posing against this demand, they are doing it for their political or vested interests. The false narrative has to be rectified. While State holiday as mark of respect to a personality, as great as him, is one aspect, a life-size statue of Maharaja Hari Singh is going to be installed at Tawi River Front in Jammu in early 2018.

DEEPAK KHAJURIA: Do you want to compensate the lacking of your government to sanction holiday on his birth anniversary with this statue?

DR. NIRMAL SINGH: No, it is not like this. I personally feel that Maharaja Hari Singh is having a larger-than-life image and he deserved much more than merely a holiday on his birthday. Definitely, there should be holiday on his birth anniversary, but there should be no politics on the issue. Very soon, the status of Maharaja Hari Singh will be installed at Hari Singh Park on the banks of Tawi.

AKRITI JAMWAL: As you said that governance and the development brought by your government will be your agenda when you go to field in the next elections. Being part of an alliance government, how would you segregate the achievements you will take credits for and the things you should be held accountable for?

DR. NIRMAL SINGH: Government in itself is a unit and not any party's arm, so it is natural to speak of its performance. Once we are in election arena, we will claim the accomplishments brought by this government and so will they. Only difference would be that we won't be criticizing each other like before (2014 elections). Anyhow, it is the people who will assess and segregate. Each part has an ideology so our role can also be based upon agendas we had before coming to power; fulfilment of such agendas would be deemed to be our success. It is important to point out here that a coalition government is based on an agenda too and being part of such government some of the agendas had to be kept aside. If only we had got a better mandate, more than 44- like we had asked for, our agendas could be completely worked upon. Therefore, in next election we will again have those agendas along with the development.

DEEPAK KHAJURIA: Does that party's core issues, Article 370 and discrimination with Jammu, will get sidelined by the development agenda in next polls?

DR NIRMAL SINGH: It is but obvious that we will highlight the development we have done during our tenure in the state, but yes, we will not forget our core and basic issue of abrogation of Article 370 from J&K. Following Prime Minister, Narendra Modi's mantra of development, the BJP-PDP alliance government is moving on with development angle and continuing as a unit, according to the Agenda of Alliance. But BJP will never ignore its basic and hardcore issue of Article 370 in J&K which will also be part of campaign in next elections in 2019 and 2020, in LS and Assembly elections. People are concerned about small things like construction of lanes and drains, but concerning issue is bigger and that is abrogation of Article 370. This is our core issue and we still think that Article 370 has done more damage to the state than benefits; it is the root cause of separatism and militancy in the state and the main hindrance in many other decisions.

SUMIT SHARMA: The government ordered a social media gag on government employees and their families, stoking controversy. This issue is also likely to be taken up by the opposition during the budget session. What are your comments?

DR NIRMAL SINGH: The order has been issued for maintaining decorum as mentioned in the service rules. If one of my department's official posts comments on social media against the department or against me for the world to see, it means he is amusing at the system of which he is a part, himself. Wouldn't it be better if he comes to the concerned or even me, and apprise of the wrong doings done in the department for necessary action. The same is applicable to the employees of the other departments too. And as far as people are concerned, we welcome their criticism. After all, it is criticism which makes government aware and pushes it to refine its working.

DEEPAK KHAJURIA: On a related note, what will be the role of social media cells in Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister office?

DR. NIRMAL SINGH: A committee has been set up under the guidance of Director Information to work on the modalities of social media cells of CM, Deputy CM and Chief Secretary will be set up. These cells will look after all social media set up and also comments accordingly. These cells deals with entire social media of these figures and will set up soon.

RAHUL BANSAL: What is Power Development Department doing to reduce the Transmission and Distribution losses which are highest in India?

DR NIRMAL SINGH: The department has been making efforts day in and out to curb the Transmission and Distribution (T&D) losses in Jammu and Kashmir. When I took over the department, the T&D losses were over 60 percent. While J&K still have the highest losses across the country, they have been reduced by around 10% in three years time. However, I want to state that for effective reduction in such losses, it is required on the part of people of the state that they pay their power bills honestly.

SUMIT SHARMA: What initiatives have been taken by your department concerning the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in J&K? Again, what is your concentration on Satellite Town at Sidhra proposed way back in 1995?

DR NIRMAL SINGH: The department has been making consistent efforts in carrying on this significant initiative in the State, ever since it was launched. To further rejuvenate, a new mobile application has been launched wherein people could upload the pictures of waste material and litter thrown anywhere in the State and the department concerned will reach on the spot without wasting time and lift the same for its disposal.

Regarding the satellite town proposed at Sidhra, while I have heard about but couldn't find it in official files. Since you have raised the issue, I will inquire about it from JDA.

RAHUL BANSAL: The Jammu and Kashmir State Electricity Regulatory Commission (J&K SERC) is lying headless for over one and a half year now. When can we expect the government to pay attention towards the power tariff regulating body?

DR NIRMAL SINGH: The process of filling vacancies in the functioning body of State Electricity Regulatory Commission is underway. I assure you that the Commission will get its new Chairperson and other board members very soon.

SUMIT SHARMA: There is a resentment brewing within JDA on a number of issues including non-recruitment for past many years, non-absorption of daily wagers engaged in 1994, besides alleged partiality in terms of allotment of plots among employees of Srinagar Development Authority (SDA) and its counterpart in Jammu. What is your take on it?

DR NIRMAL SINGH: The process of the recruitment in JDA is on and government is processing the regulation cases of daily wager employees as I personally feel that meagre amount given to them is not enough for their sustenance. However, as far as non-allotment of plots to the employees of JDA is concerned, I will personally go through the files to find out why the JDA employees are left out at receiving end.

Further, through your medium, I will convey the government's sincere efforts in evicting the encroachers from the land for which many people had paid for years. My department, Housing and Urban Development Department, returned Rs 30 Crore to those persons who have been allotted space for shops at Channi Himmat by previous government. In fact, said place was meant for public parks where people can walk and do recreational activities. My other department, JDA, too have retrieved huge chunk of land from the land encroachers.

SAHIL RASGOTRA: BJP, since long, has been sloganeering against the dynastic politics, evident from 'Baap-Bete…Baap-Beti Ki Sarkar' in Jammu and Kashmir in 2014 to recent 'fight between development and dynasty' in December 2017 in Gujarat. In light of this fact, what is your take on your coalition partner inducting Tassaduq Mufti into the State Cabinet?

DR. NIRMAL SINGH: BJP's stand against dynastic politics remains as strong as it always was. We have always maintained that unless it is on the basis of merit, no political entry should be made on basis of family succession. As far as our coalition partner is considered, they must have inducted Tassaduq (Mufti) and (Javaid Mustafa) Mir after elaborate discussions and how far this decision is correct, remains to be seen in days to come. However, if any of our leaders gets his or her children in politics sans merit, you can question us.
Updated On 1/19/2018 1:06:35 PM
Updated On 1/19/2018 1:15:38 PM

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