‘Cong doesn’t need an ally in Haryana’; Is it true?
Surjewala: People of the state want to get rid of the BJP government; the INLD-BSP coalition is unholy
Is the state Congress ready for the Assembly elections in Haryana?
Yes, the Congress is ready and the people of Haryana are more ready to throw out the BJP government for all its incompetence. The BJP government has disturbed our social fabric, hampered economic progress and put the state into a swirling debt trap. The election results will show that the BJP will not have seats in double digits.
The block and district units of the Congress are not in place and the party is afflicted with factionalism. Don’t you think senior leaders need to come together?
I don’t agree that the party is divided. You will have different leaders who seem to be working in different directions but as elections approach, they will become one; like our five fingers that come together to make the hand. We will work together. There can be a difference of opinion on the approach to various issues but there are no personal differences. We will work as a team and the sole purpose will be to ensure that the Congress returns to power for the transformation of the state and fulfil the aspirations of people.
It is said that the Congress has more chief ministerial aspirants than workers. You yourself are one of them. Is it a good sign or a bad one to have so many?
In politics, it is not bad to aspire to become Chief Minister, to vie for a particular post, to expect to reach some position, or to be able to translate your dreams into reality. Of course, it should not become a hindrance in the growth of the party. I am 100 per cent sure that whether it is Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Ashok Tanwar, Kumari Selja or any other colleague, everybody will finally yield to the mandate of the legislators and what the Congress President wants. This had happened in 2005 when Bhajan Lal was the Congress president in Haryana and I was the working president but the party decided to appoint Hooda and everybody accepted the decision.
Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar and former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda are constantly at loggerheads. Does this hamper the prospects of the party?
There has been a difference of opinion between the PCC president and a section of leaders, including Hooda. Politics is an art of ironing out all creases in the political set up. These are smaller creases that can always be ironed out for a higher goal; that is to save the state from the clutches of the BJP and its incompetent non-delivering state government.
How is the Congress top leadership intervening to iron out these differences among senior leaders?
The Congress believes in conversation and the party leadership permits it. We may disagree with each other but we will agree to disagree and finally reach a point where all of us will act in tandem to achieve the higher purpose, putting aside personal acrimony or difference of opinion. That is the beauty of the Congress and that is what sets us apart from the dictatorial and autocratic set-up that runs in the country or what the INLD did in the state.
Are you a contender for the Lok Sabha ticket from Haryana or would you rather contest the Assembly elections?
I would definitely like to contest the Kaithal Assembly seat. In adverse political circumstances when the Congress lost from Sirsa to Yamunanagar to Panipat, it was only the people of Kaithal who re-elected me and that too with a higher margin. I believe I owe them to go back and serve them all over again, speed up the pace of development that the BJP has hindered and correct discriminatory treatment that the government has meted out to Kaithal.
You have been practically absent from the Haryana Vidhan Sabha since this term began. Is it fair to the people of Kaithal?
I am the wrong person to be answering this question. This question should be put to the Chief Minister. The Assembly session is not even held for 30 days in a year. The Assembly, which was to be sacrosanct for discussions on people’s issues, for legislation and holding the government accountable, has been relegated to a space where it is just a constitutional formality. So, I raise the voice of the people of Haryana and also of the people of Kaithal through public meetings and demonstrations. If you check with the people of my constituency, I am sure they will tell you that I am one of the few MLAs who are there two days a week.
The UPA government at the Centre and the Hooda government in the state did not implement the Swaminathan commission report. Why do you term the BJP as ‘anti-farmer’ for failing to do so?
The UPA government had increased the minimum support price (MSP) from 12.5 per cent to 27 per cent every year, bringing prosperity to ordinary villagers. We also implemented MNREGA so that the landless have an alternative avenue. The UPA government headed by Manmohan Singh had brought nearly 14 crore people out of poverty. What has the incumbent Prime Minister done? The average growth rate, which was 4.2 per cent during the UPA rule, has come down to 1.2 per cent — a 3 per cent drop. The average increase in the MSP has been between 3.4 per cent and 4.5 per cent. If the Prime Minister wants to double farmers’ income in next few years, up to 2022, he will have to have an agriculture growth rate of 14.5 per cent, which is impossible.
Even the latest MSP announced, half of which will be given when he had demitted power, falls short of the cost plus 50 per cent price that he had promised. Agrarian stress, rural indebtedness, farmers’ suicide, Prime Minister insurance scheme (farmers got Rs 5,600 crore while seven insurance companies got Rs 14,800 crore) and the acute agrarian and rural difficulties are what the Prime Minister have unfolded. I’m sure that the Congress will undo all this and propel the agriculture sector on a growth trajectory.
Does Congress president Rahul Gandhi have it in him to steer the party to victory? Can you tell us about his working style and his plans for the party?
Absolutely! Rahul Gandhi has the mettle and it has been tested multiple times. Rahulji led the Congress party in the run up to the 2014 elections and we won in many states. But not once did he say that he was the chief campaigner. In 2014, when he was not part of the government, when we lost, he said that “I’m accountable for it as I was leading the campaign and not Dr Manmohan Singh or Sonia Gandhi”. That is what his confidence is all about. Whenever we lose, like it happened in 2014, he takes the blame. Whenever we win, like we did in Punjab, he gives the credit to the state leadership and workers. On the other hand, the BJP had 282 seats but in the last two years it has lost every parliamentary byelection. No wonder that its seat tally is now down to 269. People are waiting to throw the BJP out of power at the Centre and in Haryana.
You were inducted into the Congress Working Committee recently. What in your opinion ails the party?
I will put this question little differently — what are the challenges that the Congress faces. In the 21st century, when the Central government is out to denigrate democracy, suppress dissenting voices and demolish institutions, trample traditional, constitutional as well as social values to retain power, I think the Congress is the only insurance policy or the only political party that can protect democracy.
The Congress believes in democracy and constitutional principles are part of our foundational ethos, which are intrinsic to sustaining our country as a homogeneous unit despite various castes and languages. I think that is an onerous responsibility that the Congress must fulfil and that is where the challenge lies. Wherever we are weak, we need to strengthen; wherever we are strong and can take the BJP head on, we need to work in national interest. We need to save democracy and the country from the clutches of the BJP.
In Haryana, what are the chances of the INLD-BSP combine?
There is an apparently unholy alliance between the INLD and the BSP. The INLD is a supporter of the BJP. The proof of the pudding lies in its eating. The fashion in which INLD MP Dushyant Chautala and the Sirsa MP refused to vote against the NDA government on the no-confidence motion has let the cat out of the bag. They will have seat adjustments and then post-elections they will come together. They are one. The Congress doesn’t need any ally in the state. In any case, the BSP does not have a large base in Haryana. The INLD, a sagging and defeated party as it is, entered into the alliance with the BSP to give itself a boost.
Where do the INLD and its leadership stand in Haryana?
The INLD lost the battle of Haryana’s minds and hearts when Om Prakash Chautala was Chief Minister. He lost in Narwana and the INLD was decimated in Haryana. The reasons for it are many. Rampant irregularities in job appointments were one of the reasons that disillusioned the youth. The policies and the mindset of the INLD are contrary to modern, urbanised Haryana. The days are gone when they could garner votes in the name of Chaudhary Devi Lal. People seek accountability that the INLD lacks. Today, you can’t suppress Dalits, you can’t ignore urbanites and you can’t promote ‘goondas’. And this is why the INLD has now little political space left for it in Haryana.
You have been the party’s face when it comes to taking on the BJP. How do you rate the BJP government in the state?
The BJP government virtually scores a zero. I don’t think it deserves any marks. Perhaps, it is the most incompetent government ever in the history of Haryana. It is classic that BJP workers say MLAs don’t listen to them, ministers complain that the Chief Minister doesn’t listen to them and the Chief Minister laments that his ministers and the bureaucracy do not listen to him. Who has been governing the state for the last four years in absolute anarchy is a secret that needs to be unravelled. You will find that Haryana is a state with zero governance, zero delivery and zero competence as far as the political executive is concerned.
What is the biggest failure of the BJP that will go against it in the 2019 Assembly elections?
There have been three big failures of the BJP government. First, it has disturbed the societal fabric of Haryana by dividing people on caste and communal lines. What hasn’t happened in 50 years, took place in three years of the BJP rule. Haryana burnt thrice and they will pay a heavy price for it. Secondly, they have pushed the state into a debt trap. When we demitted power, there was a debt of Rs 60,000 crore, which has grown to Rs 1.60 lakh crore. Where has this money gone? It is the money that the government raisedfor the welfare of people. Thirdly, the Staff Selection Commission is guilty of ‘selling’ jobs and compromising the future of the youths.
The Congress does not approve of the GST in its present form while it had been advocating for it strongly. Why?
The Congress had proposed the GST but Narendra Modi, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj opposed it for years together. The GST we had proposed was a single tax with ‘a plus’ for luxury items and ‘a minus’ for essential goods. Nobody could imagine that the NDA government would tax agriculture. There used to be zero tax on fertilisers but now it is 5 per cent. There is 12 per cent tax on pesticides, tractors and agricultural equipment and 18 per cent on tractor tyres. They urge farmers to grow vegetables and flowers but the cold storage equipment are now being taxed at 18 per cent as are various essential commodities. Out of one crore registered assessees on the GST portal, not even 50 per cent of them file returns. None gets refund and nobody gets input credit. How do you propose to reform the gigantic tax machinery of India by putting it in such a mess?
Secret kitchen for VIP convicts in Bhondsi jail, two suspended; Is it wrong to do so in jail?
End of party
A team of the National Human Rights Commission went to Bhondsi jail to review the living conditions of the inmates.
Rather than restricting its visit, the team went to every nook and corner of the jail.
It was around lunch time and food was being prepared in the kitchen when the officials stumbled upon a secret room.
A lavish spread was being prepared there by a man and two security officials stood guard there.
Two officials of the Bhondsi jail have been placed under suspension after a team of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) discovered a secret kitchen in the jail where lavish meals were being cooked for “VIP” convicts.
Two officials on security duty were suspended as despite repeated questioning by the team, they did not divulge details for whom the food was being cooked and on whose orders.
While senior officials did not respond to repeated calls made to them, sources revealed that the jail authorities were caught off guard when the team comprising the NHRC officials, administration and senior police officials landed in the jail.
The team was there to review the living conditions of the inmates. Rather than restricting its visit, the team went to every nook and corner of the jail. It was around lunch time and food was being prepared in the kitchen when the officials stumbled on a secret room. A lavish spread was being prepared there by a man and two security officials stood guard there.
“We asked them why was this special meal being cooked near barracks where some of the jail’s special convicts were lodged, the man cooking the food and both security officials stood quiet. We suspended them and an investigation was launched to nab others,” said a senior official of the team.
It may be noted that the Bhondsi jail has been notorious for illegal activities and sources claim that everything, right from SIM cards to smart phones to special non-vegetarian meals have been available here with the alleged connivance of the jail officials.
High alert in Yamunanagar district after rise in Yamuna water level; Has the alert increased the risk?
The district administration on Saturday sounded a high alert in the district with the water level in the Yamuna river reaching 4,24,763 cusecs at the Hathnikund barrage at 1 pm due to incessant rain in Himachal Pradesh and Haryana.
Yamunanagar Deputy Commissioner Girish Arora announced a high alert in the district after the water level crossed 2.12 cusecs mark at 9 am.
The flood-like situation is normally announced when the water level touches 2.5 lakh cusec mark in the barrage.
Arora said they also intimated the army and asked them to remain alert.
He said a team of National Disaster Management Authority (46 personnel) had already reached here.
“We also informed the administration of Karnal, Panipat and Sonepat districts and Delhi administration about the increase of water level in the barrage,” said Arora.
He said there was no report of damage to property or loss of life in the district.
He added that they had identified seven villages--Lapra, Bibipur, Odri, Kalanaur, Mandauli, Gagar and Mali Majra of the district--where floodwater might enter when the water level of Yamuna river crossed the mark of 3 lakh cusecs.
“The water level of the Yamuna has crossed the mark of 4,24,763 lakh cusecs; therefore, special vigil is being kept on the said villages,” the DC said.
The DC has asked officials to monitor the situation around the clock, especially in Chhachhrauli and Radaur blocks.
The district administration has also set up a flood control office in the mini secretariat and at all blocks in the district besides launching a helpline number for an immediate response.
The administration has issued warning asking people not to go near the river, canal and drains.
The DC said directions had been issued to all tehsildars, block development and panchayat officers and other officials to give regular reports about the situation and keep a close eye on the low-lying areas.
Dip in demand, govt shuts 9 power generation units; Are the people of Haryana feeling disturbed by Adani Power?
Owing to fall in power demand due to downpour this week, the state government has closed down nine power generation units of its thermal plants.
All four units – unit number 5, 6, 7, and 8 –of the Panipat Thermal Power Plant with production capacity of 920 MW were closed.
Sources said that these were the only units functional in the Panipat Thermal Power Plant as the first four units were already closed being obsolete.
Similarly, both the units of the Rajiv Gandhi Thermal Power Station of 600 MW each at Khedar in Hisar were also closed on Friday.
Both the units of Deenbandhu Chhotu Ram Thermal Power Station at Yamunanagar with capacity of 300 MW each were functional as also all three power stations of Gautam Adani’s Adani Power Limited’s having capacity of 660 MW each.
Of the two units of China Light and Power (CLP) group, one was functional while the other was shut down. Two units of the Indira Gandhi Thermal Power Station of 500 MW capacity each at Jharli in Jhajjar were also functional.
The units of the Faridabad Gas Power Plant had already been closed as being a gas-based project and it was run only in pressing circumstances, said the sources.
PK Das, Additional Chief Secretary, Power, said that the demand of power in the state came down to 1,550 lakh units from 2,150 lakh units during the peak demand days earlier this month.
The total consumption of power was 1,483.29 lakh units on Thursday with the maximum demand remaining 7,584 MW at 0.45 hours.
During peak demand period, the maximum demand crossed 10,000 MW this month.
Interestingly, while several power generation units are being closed owing to fall in demand due to rain, Adani’s power plants are rarely asked to shut.
“This is because Adani’s units provide us power at the cheapest rates. The company has supercritical units with the highest conversion rate for every tonne of coal consumed and hence provides power at highly competitive rates,” Das said.
Illegal adoption: 85 childcare institutions to be inspected; Should Govt. further investigate these cases?
Against the backdrop of the recent cases of alleged illegal child adoption reported from the Missionaries of Charity, a trust founded by Nobel laureate Mother Teresa, in Jharkhand, the Haryana Government has decided to conduct special inspections of 85 childcare institutions in the state.
The special inspections of the 85 institutions will also cover two children homes run by the Missionaries of Charity, the organisation which is in the eye of the storm for alleged illegal child adoption in Gurugram and Panipat.
Women and Child Development Minister Kavita Jain said based on the special inspection, a status report in compliance with Central Government’s directive would be sent in due course.
She claimed that the Haryana Government had adopted a “zero tolerance” policy towards the violation of any rules and regulations in the child adoption procedure. “All procedures mandated by the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) for child adoption are facilitated through the online website CARINGS,” she claimed.
Rakesh Srivastava, Union Secretary for Women and Child Development, in a recent communication to the state Chief Secretaries, had directed the states to comply with the guidelines, especially provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, about the child care institutions in letter and spirit.
“Considering the sensitivity of the matter, I would request you to issue instructions for conducting inspections of all homes run by the Missionaries of Charity and for immediate identification of other such potential institutions which could be involved in unlawful activities. Regular inspection of all institutions, as prescribed in the Act, may also be conducted,” Srivastava’s letter to Chief Secretary DS Dhesi said.
The states have also been asked to file status reports by July 31.
Sources said the Office of the Chief Secretary had sent the Central Government’s communication to the department concerned on July 25 for compliance.
‘Zero tolerance policy’
- The special inspection of 84 childcare institutions will also cover two children's homes run by the Missionaries of Charity, the organisation which is in the eye of the storm for alleged illegal child adoption in Gurugram and Panipat
- Women and Child Development Minister Kavita Jain said based on the special inspection, a status report in compliance with Central Government’s directive would be sent in due course
- She claimed the Haryana Government had adopted a ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards the violation of rules and regulations in the child adoption procedure