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.
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?
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).