`All anti-people policies will be reversed'

Print edition : January 02, 2004

Interview with Dr. Raman Singh.

For Dr. Raman Singh, the new Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, the biggest challenge will be to restore the credibility of the political class in the State and bring political activity back to normal from the level of anarchy to which it had descended. He may not find the going easy, having to grapple with the likes of Dilip Singh Judev in his own party and Ajit Jogi, who is nursing his wounds for the present.

His government would accord top priority to development and handle the naxalite problem with firmness, he said. Conversion to Christianity by missionaries was seen by the BJP as a major problem in Chhattisgarh under Jogi, but Dr. Singh has no action plan to stop the activities of missionaries or set up a committee to look into the BJP's complaints. Excerpts from an interview he gave Purnima S. Tripathi:

During campaigning the BJP had made conversion a big issue against Ajit Jogi. Do you plan to set up a committee to look into the cases of conversion during Jogi's reign?

There are no plans to set up a committee for this. We have the anti-conversion law, which will be implemented effectively. We cannot take action unless someone voluntarily comes to us to complain about forced conversion

What are your government's priorities?

Rural development and the development of infrastructure facilities like roads, power, irrigation, education and health will be our top priorities. We have got a massive mandate in the tribal areas, so development of these areas will top our priority list. We have to live up to the people's expectations in terms of development because that was why the new State was created in the first place. Three years of the Jogi government belied people's expectations. Now we have to earn the people's faith and re-establish the government's credibility. This is our biggest challenge.

In the last few months, politics in Chhattisgarh had stooped really low. Does this worry you?

It is one of our main concerns. Political degradation will have to stop, there are certain political norms that will have to be followed. No matter what, we will have to draw a line.

You are talking about restoring the government's credibility and about political norms. Are there not already double standards visible in the treatment of the corruption cases involving Judev and Jogi?

No, the two are different. In the case of Jogi, there is tangible evidence, while in the case of Judev that evidence is missing. But both are with the CBI now, which will follow the law.

Before the election you had criticised the Jogi government for opening 100-odd private universities and three-year medical courses. Are you going to reverse these decisions?

We will review these decisions. All anti-people policies will be reversed.

Are you going to talk to naxalite groups because in the past they have offered to hold unconditional talks? Have you asked for a special package from the Centre to deal with the problem?

Bullet and ballot cannot go together. We shall talk to those who shun the bullet and follow the ballot. But naxalism has flourished because of the lack of development, and we will tackle the problem by addressing the root cause. Development in the tribal areas will be given top priority.

Jogi had initiated the groundwater recharging system, which came to be known as Jogi dabri and became popular. Are you going to review this scheme?

This scheme will continue. It is a very old technique for recharging groundwater. We shall make the ponds bigger so that they can take care of drinking requirements and irrigation and also promote fisheries development.

How do you propose to restore the government's credibility, especially with a bureaucracy which even the Election Commission described as "partisan"?

The government's credibility can be restored by making both " neeti and niyat" (policy and intention) of the government look honourable. In Jogi's case, while his "neeti" was good, his "niyat" was not. That was why his government got discredited. As for the bureaucracy, it was partisan to Jogi because he was in power.

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