Potential for growth'

Print edition : February 25, 2011

Gen. Joginder Singh: "There is an untapped potential for social-economic development." -

Interview with General J.J. Singh, Governor.

BORN into a military family hailing from Marwah village in Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir, General Joginder Jaswant Singh joined the National Defence Academy in January 1961 and was commissioned into the 9th Maratha Light Infantry on August 2, 1964. He served as the 22nd Chief of Army Staff from January 2005 to September 2007. In the last year of his service, he held the additional responsibility of Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee of the Armed Forces. After his retirement, he was appointed Honorary Colonel of the Maratha Light Infantry. He has been decorated with several Seva medals. Joginder Singh has also been awarded the prestigious Sikh of the Year 2007 by the Sikh Forum in London, the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008 by the Mother Teresa International & Millennium Awards Committee, the Punjabi Rattan in 2009 by the World Punjabi Organisation and the GPS Achievers Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011 by the Global Punjabi Society.

In January 2008, he was appointed Governor of Arunachal Pradesh. Apart from his special constitutional obligation with regard to maintenance of law and order, he has been taking a keen interest in the developmental activities in the State. His concern for, involvement with and vision for Arunachal Pradesh have earned him the sobriquet Soldiers' General and People's Governor.

In an e-mail interview to Frontline, General Joginder Singh spoke on a variety of issues. He thinks that there is a huge and untapped potential for the socio-economic uplift of the aam aadmi in the State. Excerpts:

Arunachal Pradesh is a sensitive border State. What are your special concerns in this regard?

Arunachal Pradesh shares boundaries with three countries Bhutan, China and Myanmar. Therefore, concerns about security and stability assume greater importance in this State than in those in the hinterland. The Governor of Arunachal Pradesh has been given a special responsibility for the maintenance of law and order under Article 371(h) of the Constitution. I have, therefore, to oversee the coordination of civil-military measures for ensuring security. The law and order situation is by and large peaceful except for the two districts of Tirap and Changlang, which are adjacent to Nagaland. Spillover effects of the situation in Nagaland and rivalry between the two NSCN [National Socialist Council of Nagalim] factions have, to some extent, vitiated the security environment in these districts.

How do you propose to resolve the different, sometimes conflicting, tribal interests that beset most of the northeastern States?

Arunachal Pradesh has 26 major and over a hundred sub-tribes, all living in perfect harmony. The Arunachalee people converse in their tribal languages and dialects, but they are mostly Hindi-speaking, too. They are fiercely patriotic and the recent poll conducted by India Today has truly brought out the overwhelming nationalistic fervour of the people. I have often emphasised that the beneficiaries of the historical development taking place in the State should be the people of Arunachal Pradesh, who should be made partners in the growth process. There are very few institutions of higher and technical education. We need professional colleges offering medical, engineering, management and IT [information technology], law, mass media and hotel management courses. Representation of people from Arunachal Pradesh in the armed forces needs to be increased. We have been able to raise the first battalion of Arunachal Scouts and three more are expected to be raised in the near future. This will be a force multiplier for the defence of this region. Discrimination and crimes against people belonging to the northeastern region, particularly women, in Delhi and some other places, needs to be dealt with with an iron hand. This will facilitate socio-economic integration of the region with the rest of the country.

A ROAD LEADING to Tawang town near the Sino-Indian border. Road construction on a major scale has enabled the State to enter the growth trajectory.-

You have time and again emphasised the importance of better connectivity in the State. What concrete measures have been taken in this regard?

The Prime Minister announced a massive development package of over Rs.20,000 crore when he visited the State in January 2008, soon after I was sworn in as Governor. This package includes an airport, a railway link to the State capital, Itanagar, a greenfield airport, a four-lane highway from Guwahati [Assam], a trans-Arunachal highway of over 1,500 kilometres connecting most of the district headquarters, and a number of hydropower projects. In addition, upgradation of eight existing landing grounds and some helipads is also under way to enhance the air connectivity within this relatively larger State. Furthermore, quite a few roads are being constructed in rural areas and 414 habitations have already been connected in the last two years. This initiative has enabled the State to enter a new trajectory of growth and development. Besides these, the push given by Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu for the realisation of various development projects is commendable.

After my visit to Vijaynagar, one of the eastern-most points of India, the road connectivity up to Miao was given the go-ahead, and is now being executed on a fast track. It is likely to be completed in a month or two and will save the people from an arduous six-day trek, which they have been enduring for decades. With the completion of this project, their journey time will be reduced to just a few hours.

What in your opinion should the government do to speed up the socio-economic development of the region?

As the head of the State, I see myself as the gaon bura [village head], too. Besides the major development projects, there is a huge and untapped potential for the socio-economic uplift of the aam aadmi.

This can be addressed by focussing on proper use of natural resources, particularly in sectors such as hydropower, organic farming, floriculture, apiculture, handicrafts, horticulture and manufacture of bamboo and cane products, and in related small-scale units. Tea production has proved to be a viable enterprise and source of employment.

A number of initiatives have been taken by the State government and Raj Bhavan to encourage people to create self-help groups or start small-scale enterprises and make use of the natural resources. An important Raj Bhavan initiative for socio-economic development in rural areas has come up in Poma village, where value-added products of bamboo and cane are being produced and considerable employment is being generated.

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