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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)

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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.

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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?

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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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Copyright 2015 NewsGram

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Then It Was Emergency Now It Is Democracy

The Emergency happened 43 years ago and both, Mrs Gandhi and the Congress, lost power because of it in 1977

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Then It Was Emergency Now It Is Democracy
Then It Was Emergency Now It Is Democracy. Pixabay

An all-out war of words broke out last week between the BJP and the Congress on the 1975 Emergency. Observing June 26 as a ‘black day’, several BJP leaders targeted the Congress at events held across the country to highlight the Emergency’s excesses. Leading the charge with a sharp attack on the Congress was Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Addressing BJP workers in Mumbai last Tuesday, the prime minster said the country still refers to June 26 as a ‘dark period during which every institution was subverted and an atmosphere of fear was created’.

Without naming the Nehru-Gandhi family, Modi said the Constitution was misused at the behest of one family. He further went on to say that the mentality of the family had not changed even now after 43 years of the Emergency. ‘Whenever the family feared loss of power, it keeps shouting that the country is in crisis,’ the prime minister added. Expectedly, the Congress hit back with equally sharp criticism of the Modi government, equating Modi to Aurangzeb. It alleged that the prime minister was even crueller than the Mughal emperor as Modi has “enslaved democracy” in the country for the past 49 months with an “undeclared emergency”.

The 21-month period from 1975 to 1977, when the then prime minister Indira Gandhi had declared Emergency, was indeed a dark chapter in India’s democratic history. This was the third national Emergency – the first one was in 1962 when China invaded India and the second was in 1971 during the war with Pakistan – and the only one to be declared citing the “internal disturbances”.  During the 1975 Emergency, opposition leaders were arrested, civil rights curbed, elections postponed, anti-government protests crushed and press censored. It shook India to its core as the freedom to liberty, dissent and express ceased to exist. All this is well-known and in public domain. Therefore, what was so special about the 43rd anniversary of Emergency that the BJP observed as ‘black day’?

Bringing back memories of the Emergency days was clearly aimed at striking at the Congress’s weak spot. It was also meant to neutralise Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s frequent ‘murder of democracy’ gibes directed at the Modi government. This was not entirely unexpected in a pre-election year; neither was the Congress’s equally sharp response by likening Modi to Aurangzeb. As 2019 general elections approach, not only the political exchange between the two parties will gather momentum, but over the next 10 months, election-driven rhetoric, name-calling, inane allegations and historical debates will increase. Reminding Congress of the Emergency is just the beginning.

Congress on Friday promised to create one crore jobs across the southern state
Congress- wikimedia commons

While terming the Emergency as an ‘aberration’, the Congress has never expressed any remorse about the dark chapter in its history or condemned it. Claiming that during Emergency, Mrs Gandhi targeted the rich, black marketers, hoarders and zamindars is no justification for curbing civil liberties and press freedom and neutralising the opposition. The hesitation to admit Emergency as a major mistake has denied the Congress an opportunity to reassert its commitment to democratic values, though it was the primary builder of democracy in India after independence.

The Emergency happened 43 years ago and both, Mrs Gandhi and the Congress, lost power because of it in 1977. Since then, the Congress has ruled at the Centre several times without resorting to emergency measures. On the contrary, it has shown its commitment to democratic order and liberal values far better than the current BJP-led government. The Emergency of 1975 and the violations of civil liberties and press freedom were all real. But its parallels can be drawn with the contemporary situation, which is marked by erosion of institutional independence and integrity, rising intolerance and increasing mob violence which stems from the ideological support of the ruling party.

The right-wing assaults on constitutional institution and individuals’ democratic rights are for real, though there is no Emergency in force in India today. While conventional opposition leaders and parties have the liberty to become more than conventional Opposition and there is also the rising wave of resistance to right-wing assaults on individual rights and institutions, it is also true that there are whiffs of Emergency sentiments in the air and the strains of the Emergency doctrine and pulsations of fear are quite obvious. The Congress is not entirely off the mark when it accuses the Modi government of ‘undeclared emergency’ as the freedom of the media, people’s freedom of expression and their right to live without fear have come under new kinds of threats.

There is no overt press censorship but the government has tried to muzzle and manipulate the media through various means. A section of the media has either caved in to the fear of administrative power or fallen for the lure of money-power. Apart from the media, there have been sustained attempts to weaken and misuse other constitutional and non-constitutional institutions, including the judiciary. Interestingly, all this is happening when the BJP is in power and questioning the Congress’s commitment to the principles and practice of democracy, while the BJP has diluted its own commitment to the philosophy of parliamentary democracy, liberal values and press freedom.

This is quite surprising because while the taint of Emergency continues to haunt the Congress, the BJP, despite its proud status of a party whose leaders were at the forefront of the struggle against the Emergency 43 years ago, is not deterred to misuse the levers of power against its political opponents, ‘difficult’ sections of the media, and independent or ‘inconvenient’ voices that question the government on various issues. With scant regard for critical debate and plurality of views under the current ruling dispensation, what we are seeing now is some kind of a role reversal. Mrs Gandhi subverted institutions to retain power. The BJP is trying to do the same by weakening the same institutions.

Also read: India sends Emergency Fuel Supplies to Sri Lanka

The Emergency should serve as a warning to political parties: threats to democracy and people’s constitutional rights – either directly or indirectly – create resentment and negative public opinion against government. The Emergency created a unity among opposition parties that never existed before and became the cause of Mrs Gandhi’s defeat. It is too early to say whether the Modi government’s attempts to misuse democratic institutions for his party’s narrow interests and the right wing attacks on institutions and rights of citizens will help create similar kind of opposition unity, which will determine the outcome of 2019 elections. (IANS)