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RSS is equivalent to East India Company: Delhi’s Women and Child Welfare Minister

Sandeep Kumar says: Main to apni wife ko heroine ki tarah rakhta hoon bilkul (I keep my wife like a heroine)


Sandeep Kumar

By Shilpika Srivastava and Ishan Kukreti (Staff Writers at NewsGram)

Sandeep Kumar, the youngest member of Delhi Cabinet, oversees the sensitive ministry of SC/ST Welfare and Women and Child Welfare. Though, being a first-time minister, Kumar has a lot to show in terms of his achievements.

From starting a mass awareness program on child sexual abuse to springing out development work in the highly neglected Tahirpur Leprosy Complex, Kumar is quite clear on his priorities.

In an exclusive interview with NewsGram, Kumar shared with us the phases of his life, the schemes that he started, the priorities and much more. Have a look:

Shilpika Srivastava: You graduated from DU and then went on to earn a degree in law from Charan Singh University. You’ve fought cases for the socially and economically backward classes for free. Then, how did politics happen?

Sandeep Kumar: I completed high school from my village before coming to Delhi in 1997. After finishing higher secondary, I got into DU’s Dayal Singh College, which is considered the nursery of political activities.

Although I was attracted to politics, I couldn’t participate due to financial reasons. However, it was during India Against Corruption movement of Anna Hazare that I came in contact with Arvind Kejriwal. And, when the Aam Aadmi Party was formed, I was given a chance to serve the people of Delhi.

SS:  And, we all know that you came out as a huge winner in Delhi Assembly elections. You’re the ‘giant killer.’

SK: One day, Arvind ji told me to find a decent candidate for Sultanpur Majra constituency, who could contest against Jai Kishen, the then INC MLA who was no less than a goon.

When I couldn’t find anyone, Arvind ji told me, ‘Why don’t you fight the elections?’

Today, I visit my constituency daily and listen to residents’ problems.

Ishan Kukreti: How are your policies different from that of the previous governments? What are you doing for the welfare of Delhi’s public?

SK: Earlier, it was believed that the Ministry of Child and Women Development was irrelevant. However, the reality is quite the opposite. My ministry is one of the most important and powerful ministries of the state. Almost 70% population of Delhi’s population comes under our umbrella.

Basically, Delhi’s internal system is so entwined with corruption that the prior MLAs and Nigam Parshad used to falsely increase the age of people on the Identity Cards in the greed of receiving the amount of pensions.

When we came to power, we realized that almost 1 lakh pensions were lying stagnant since Congress rule.

Aanganwaadi workers who went to people’s homes for verification used to ask for a bribe in lieu of verification. To curb this illegal system, we held camps and verified about 50,000 old-age pensions by mid-April and released the payment.

Our top most priority is to streamline the pension system to check fake cases and anomalies.  We have also taken a step in linking financial assistance schemes with Aadhar numbers.

Our ministry has also asked Akshay Patra Foundation to help the government in providing nutritious and healthy school lunch programs in the state.

We have started mass awareness programmes on child sexual abuse. Charts will be put up in classrooms educating children about ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’, in an appropriate and subtle manner. We are also providing the pamphlets to the children so that they could keep it in their bags and use it during the hours of crisis.

SS: What are the steps taken by your ministry for uplifting SCs and STs?

SK: There are numerous schemes and scholarships for children belonging from SCs and STs. However, corruption is a kind of a demon, which does not let the good schemes reach the needy smoothly. The red-tapism and corruption are making things difficult for students. To curb this issue, we organized camps and directly asked people about the problems they were facing. We invited the applications and everything is being done amid the public.

We are also planning to create a technical hub for children belonging from SCs and STs. We will provide free education to these children and the process will be completed as soon as possible.

SS: Aam Aadmi Party came in power with 70 promises. One of such promises was providing pucca houses to the population living in jhuggis and clusters colonies. Where are we on that promise?

SK: I will make Sultanpur Majra slum free in 5 years.

SS: Promise?

SK: Yes! We are in the process of creating housing complexes for those living in slums. The complexes will be equipped with every kind of facilities including schools.


IK: But DDA comes under lieutenant governor’s office, from where will you get the land for creating housing complexes?

SK:Government kiske liye hai? (For whom the government is?)’ There are 3 BJP MLAs too elected in the city by the people. Don’t they have any responsibility towards Delhi?

But, Delhi government too has portions of lands under its authority. ‘Agar neeyat saaf ho to bahut kuch ho sakta hai (Anything is possible if the intent is clear).’

IK: What about the ongoing war between Arvind Kejriwal and Najeeb Jung?

SK: I personally believe that the state authorities should come under the Delhi government.

Suppose, if there is an honest officer who wants to work with us and contribute towards the development of the state, the centre deliberately transfers that officer to some other place. The thing is that, Is sarkar mein imaandaar log khush hain aur beiman log dukhi hain (In this government, the honest people are happy and the cheaters are discontent).

I don’t know if it’s the irony of India because there was a PM who spent 10 years on silent mode and the one that has come now is always on flight mode.

If there used to be a good politics in India, why would there have been a need for us to enter this battlefield?

SS: What about the child labor?

SK: You won’t see a child on roads after these five years.
Also, our ministry launched two mobile Anganwadi centres for street children on a pilot basis.

IK: The promises?

SK: I assure you that all the promises, for which we have got the huge public mandate, will be fulfilled in the coming five years. And, for whatever reason, the people have at least learned to protest, which is one of our major accomplishments.Earlier, there used to be an East India Company, a queen and their samants (nobility). Now, RSS is the East India Company, Mohan Bhagwat is the queen and the Adani and the Ambani are the samants, and people like us are the slaves.I don’t know why the centre fails to recognize the fact that we all have come to serve the public and not rule them. Had I been at the place of Narendra Modi today, I would have stood beside Arvind Kejriwal to work together in the public interests.BJP has issues with AAP, but do they also have issues with the janta? The fight is not between the Centre and Arvind Kejriwal. It’s the struggle between the centre and the public.

IK: But the constitution also states that LG holds the key power.

SK: Then, what is the need of elections? By the way, we have all seen the rule of LG during the emergency period.

SS: But, in this Jung-Kejriwal tussle, the bureaucrats are getting quashed. And, in the end, the loss is of Delhi’s public because no appointments are being made.

SK: Tell me one thing, aren’t the honest IAS officers working? They are working even in the adverse conditions. Those who are shouting are the ones who hold secrets in their hearts.  We have come to change the system. We are still leading the life of Aam Aadmi (common man) and deny any kind of special privileges given to us as ministers.

IK: I went to CP to find out the general public’s view regarding AAP’s governance. Most of the people said that they see no change and they hardly have any hope that promises you have made would be fulfilled.

SK: Hamare desh ki janta bahut bholi hai (Indians are very innocent). Things don’t happen instantly. They take time. Compare our 100 days with Modi’s 1 year, we stand far better than them on any given day. On the top of that, we are even working amid the chaos created by the central government.

SS: On a lighter note, you had love marriage. Tell us how your wife inspires you?

SK: I touch my wife’s feet daily in the morning. She was my junior when I was in college. And, in our 10 years of relationship, we never had even a single break-up.  We both come from different family backgrounds. While I lived around the slum areas of Sultanpuri, she had a big house in Defence Colony.

During my struggle face, she supported me with all her heart. There were times when we used to eat only chutney and roti, and not even once she complained.

I believe that a woman could inspire a man towards success. On the other hand, money, land, cars are nothing in life, satisfaction is everything.  She has done numerous sacrifices for me. Main to apni wife ko heroine ki tarah rakhta hoon bilkul (I keep my wife like a heroine).

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Indian Politics and Polity Shift to the Right and Away from Europe

India’s 2014 election was a clear rejection of the long serving Indian Congress Party and its soft socialism

Rahul Gandhi becomes president of Congress as mother Sonia Gandhi steps down
Rahul Gandhi steps in as President of Congress, Wikipedia

By Dr. Richard Benkin, Chicago

  • India is world’s largest democracy
  • Indian politics is always under international coverage
  • India is witnessing political shift due to its leaders and their transformation

The great democracy was electing its national leader.  It was a fight between the party in power with a leftist tinge; and the more conservative opposition with its upstart candidate. The media was rooting openly for the leftist candidate and would stop at almost nothing, even vilifying the conservative upstart as evil, not just wrong.  The candidate on the left seemed to feel entitled, that being head of state was all in the family.  And, as you probably have guessed, that candidate lost.  You might or might not have guessed that, despite the familiarity to American voters, this was not the United States.  It was India.

will also hold a meeting there with the Indian community. Wikimedia Commons
Narendra Modi’ win in 2014 elections stunned the whole nation. Wikimedia Commons

India’s 2014 election was a clear rejection of the long serving Indian Congress Party and its soft socialism.  Its candidate, then 43 year old, Rahul Gandhi, was the son, grandson, and great-grandson of Prime Ministers; and though India is the world’s largest democracy, not the world’s largest monarchy, it was “his turn” to take the nation’s top spot.

The similarities between the Indian Congress Party and the US Democrat Party stop, however, with how the two parties and their dynastic candidates reacted to their defeats.  While there is ample evidence that the Democrats are moving further to the left, India’s Congress, and especially its former candidate, seem to have taken the lessons of their defeat to heart.  Moreover, we too often gauge a polity’s position on the left-right spectrum by which major party dominates.  In the Indian case, however, we get a deeper understanding by examining changes in the out of power party.

Also Read: Rahul Gandhi Elected as President of Congress Amidst Celebration of Followers

The Indian National Congress Party was founded in 1885 and, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, was the principal leader of the movement that led to India’s independence from Great Britain in 1947.  It has ruled India for roughly 57.5 of its 70.5 years as a modern nation (81.6 percent of its entire existence).  Congress fashions itself left-center party with “democratic socialism” as one of the party’s guiding principles; and over the years, I have written a number of articles, criticizing what I believe to be weak Congress policies.  It has followed the lead of soft left European parties, in contrast with the Indian nationalism of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  Amitabh Tripathi is a well-known Indian political commentator.  I caught up with him in New Delhi in February and asked him about how the Congress Party was reacting to its crushing 2014 defeat.

RB:  So, was the 2014 election a strong statement about traditional Indian politics?

AT:  Definitely.  Till 1991, Indian politics was at a status quo with socialist, leftist, and communist stances prevalent.  After 1991, right wing politics emerged as a political force.  Since then, Indian politics has shifted to the right; and from time to time for more than two decades, left and right engaged in direct political confrontations.  Congress led the coalition of leftists; and the BJP emerged as the leader of the right.  The BJP ruled the country for six years (1998-2004) and its policies swung to the right, including a vocal and unapologetic relationship with Israel, moving forward strategically with the United States, and exploring India’s role in the Indian Ocean to contain China and its imperialistic ambitions. When the BJP lost power to a Congress led coalition in 2004, the Indian polity again shifted left; and Congress became a complete replica of its 1960s self—a totally leftist party.

Rahul Gandhi becomes the president of Congress as mother Sonia Gandhi Steps Down
Rahul Gandhi traveled to many Hindu temples during the campaign (something he avoided in his unsuccessful 2014 run). It is believed he also did not go to any Muslim places of worship, which was unusual for any top leader from the Congress Party.

In 2014, when elections occurred, the Indian polity moved on to the right on issues from economics to culture.  Before the election, Congress did not read the undercurrent of the people and moved even further left on those issues.  This has been widely acknowledged as the reason for its crushing defeat.

RB:  So it was a real shift to the right among Indians, which sounds a lot like our own experience in 2016.  In the US, the losing Democrat party has reacted by moving further left.  Has India’s Congress tried to understand the reasons behind its defeat?

AT:  The latter statement is correct.  Immediately after losing the elections, Congress realized it was not simply an electoral defeat.  Its ideological stagnation led to the historical loss.  And it tried to rectify that and re-invent itself.

RB:  How have they done that?

AT:  I observed it on three fronts, three major decisions.  First, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, the former party President and current head of the dynastic family, took an almost “voluntary” retirement.  She had become the face of hard left and anti-Hindu policies.

RB:  Sounds familiar.  Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi has become the same here, but she does not seem to be going anywhere.

AT:  Second, in ten years of Congress rule, they openly flaunted themselves as very pro-Muslim, which irritated the majority Hindus in India.  But last year, in prestigious elections in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Gujarat), Sonia Gandhi did not address a single rally.  Plus, Congress Party Vice-President (now President) Rahul Gandhi traveled to many Hindu temples during the campaign (something he avoided in his unsuccessful 2014 run).  We believe he also did not go to any Muslim places of worship, which was unusual for any top leader from the Congress Party.  Some people might say it was an opportunistic political move, but I would say it was a well-calculated shift in the party to shed the tags of pro-Muslim and anti-Hindu.

Third, since the days of the freedom movement before independence, and during the rule of Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi (almost the entire period from independence to 1984); Congress followed the policy of demonizing the wealthy and glorifying the poor.  It seems, however, that Rahul Gandhi wants the population to know that he strongly favors the wealth generating middle class and capitalism; he opposes only crony capitalism.  He says the poor should aspire to become wealthy through greater opportunities and employment.

RB:  What about Rahul Gandhi himself?  Does he have a future in Indian politics?

AT:  Since 2014, we have watched his evolution from entitled politician to serious politician who understands the people’s aspirations and country’s need.  Perhaps most importantly has been his understanding of foreign policy and India’s role and responsibilities at a global level.  He has said that he’s ready to take the responsibility of the office of Prime Minister if elected, and he could make a formidable candidate.

Raul Maino
Rahul Gandhi can potentially cause a shift in Indian politics due to his transformation. Twitter

RB:  I’ve heard a lot of people talking positively about him and his growth in my time here.  I believe you also told me he has spent a lot of this time really listening to people from all classes and communities.  Thank you, Amitabh ji, it’s always a pleasure to hear your thoughts, and always a pleasure to be in India.

In a larger context, we have seen a reaction against decades of leftist overreach worldwide:  Donald Trump’s election; Brexit; and a number of elections in Europe rejecting the European Union and loss of national identity (most recently in Italy).  There has been little focus on Asia perhaps because it has not been in the orbit of traditional left-right equations in the West.  India, however, has become a major player on the world stage under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  It has historical conflicts with both Pakistan and China, and can be a major bulwark against Chinese expansion westward.  India also has strengthened its alliances with both the United States and Israel while maintaining relations with Iran.  The rightward movement there is highly significant in plotting future Indian geopolitical moves.

[Richard Benkin is a human rights activist and author with a strong concentration in South Asia.  Amitabh Tripathi appears often on Indian television and in other media.  He is also a contributor to What is Moderate Islam, edited by Richard Benkin.  This interview was conducted in New Delhi on February 27, 2018, while Benkin was there as part of a recently-concluded human rights mission.]