Interview by Manoj Sinha: ‘Where is the contradiction between DDC and Assembly elections?’

Written by P Vaidyanathan Iyer |

Updated: December 15, 2020 7:34:17 am

Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Governor Manoj Sinha

In just over four months since he was sworn in as deputy governor of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir on August 7, Manoj Sinha has visited all 10 districts in Kashmir and six out of 10 in Jammu. His effort in this period has been to ensure that government programs and services reach people within specific time limits. At the same time he initiated the political process by facilitating elections to the District Development Councils (DDCs). Li spoke to The Indian Express on a range of issues from the untangling of the now repealed Roshni Law to the timeline for Assembly elections and restoration of 4G services.

Based on your four months as an LG, what gives you confidence?

For the last four months, I have been convinced that people in J&K have a new faith … commoners feel that they will hear well, and they will receive justice … We have made many decisions. The DC and SP were directed to meet the average person from 10.30am to 11.30am on all days except Wednesdays and Sundays. I’m glad that in about 16 districts, about 95-96 percent saturation – about works like updating ration cards with Aadhaar, Awas Yojana of prime minister, pension, etc. – has been achieved.

Every Wednesday, we have ‘Mega Block Divas’ – in each district, 3-4 blocks have been identified, where all senior officials are present from 10am to 4pm, to give information on UT and Central government plans and deal with people’s problems.

We have instituted ‘complaining compensatory me mechanism’, the first of its kind synchronized with the Government of India. Complaints made by people with the Center are immediately addressed to us. All of these are controlled by DC, the Chief Secretary and my office through a panel.

Voters during the DDC elections in Jammu and Kashmir

What was your impression when you first came to power?

I was a little disappointed. For example, the number of government employees here is more or less equal to that in Bihar. But if you look at the population of both, there is a huge difference (J&K: 1.25 crore, Bihar 9.9 crore). If you also look at the Budget, J&K has a budget of about 1 lakh crown, and is comparable to many other states. Considering these statistics, I think resources have not been utilized.

Have you met leaders of major political parties like Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti or Sajad Lone?

I met with the ex-deputies and ministers of most parties. I did not meet Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah. I spoke twice with Farooq Sahab on the phone. I don’t hesitate to talk to anyone. I listened to them on purpose, and tried to implement their construction suggestions.

What were their problems?

They don’t talk to us directly. But if someone proposed to build a separate road or bridge, then we tried to implement these.

How was the Roshni Act and its repeal by the High Court revealed?

The 1990 finance minister’s speech said those who have illegal occupation of government lands will be owned by paying a fair price. In 2001, 2004 and 2007, this was extended. For land ownership in 2001, the prevailing tax in 1990 was taken; also in 2004 the 1991 tax was set. The doctrine or theory behind natural resources, whether it is air, water, forests and government land, is that these cannot be anyone’s personal property at any cost. But these can be used for public purposes, or for the general public.

The Court of Appeal gave its judgment based on this theory. I welcome it, and its orders are carried out in spite of difficulties. I think this is the tip of the iceberg.

The signatories of the Gupkar Declaration came together as the “People’s Alliance for the Gupkar Declaration” to challenge the changes brought by J&K on August 5, 2019. (Express Photo)

But how do you differentiate between rich and influential, and poor and homeless?

Should we treat those who occupied large tracts of land along the same lines as those who bought a canal of land without knowledge? Can we equate wrongdoing with the two categories of people? We have asked the High Court that we intend to introduce a law on this and allow land ownership to the latter category at today’s prices. The Court of Appeal must decide. Is this wrong?

The Court of Appeal asked CBI to investigate the cases. But the UT government is not keen on that either.

We will give CBI the necessary help. But we asked that the UT government be allowed to set up a SIT (Special Research Team); and it should be reviewed by the high court. What’s wrong with this?

The government wants ACB to continue with cases that name many government officials. Reluctance to hand over these cases to CBI has raised questions as to whether the government wants to shield these officials.

There are only 19 cases when the Anti-Corruption Bureau has already filed an indictment sheet or is doing so. Delivering these to CBI will only cause delays. And delayed justice is denied justice. And as for the integrity of ACB, I will say it with the utmost responsibility – in the last four months, properties of many are attached, an action initiated against many corrupt people – that no one should doubt its credibility.

Swinging the list in the public domain has been selective and many point out that it was timed with the DDC elections, to tarnish those belonging to major political parties.

The High Court handed down the judgment on 9 October. It was very difficult to prepare the list. This has nothing to do with the DDC elections. We comply with the order of the High Court and when lists are compiled, these are published on the website without any prejudice or prejudice. This will continue.

J&K: Broadband, data services to be restored in Valley starting tomorrow There was a demand for 4G across the UT

All the main leaders were released, but then the government detained Mehbooba Mufti from leaving her apartment or holding a press conference. Why?

There is no moderation. On election day, will the government give her security or hold elections? This is India, democracy, and freedoms are for everyone. That’s why you can say whatever you want. She is a protégé, a former prime minister, and she wants to go out on election day. How can we afford it? We never stopped her from holding a press conference at any time.

There was a demand for 4G across the UT. Your predecessor GC Murmu also said UT did not object to restoring 4G services. Why has it not been restored yet?

The matter is before the Supreme Court. It has been restored in two districts. The government has also assured that it will be restored gradually in other districts. Given the sensitivity of the region and the issue before the Supreme Court, I don’t think I need to comment on this issue. We will move according to the government’s affidavit in the Supreme Court.

There are fears here elections for Assembly will remain after the DDC vote.

In his August 15 speech from the Red Force, the prime minister spoke about it. And everyone knows the fact that the Restriction Commission works, not only in J&K, but also four northeastern states. Once the report of the Commission is ready, then it is the task of the Election Commission, and the Prime Minister said it as well.

Which state does not have a DDC, either in southern India or in the north. And elections for Assemblies are also taking place. So where is the contradiction? Are we afraid that new leadership will be created?

You said you would have zero tolerance for corruption. But you, LG, have a Councilor (Basheer Ahmad Khan), against whom there are serious allegations of corruption. How do you justify this?

If corruption allegations are proven, let me assure you that the person will not stay here, whatever it may be. One thing is that first facie is an indictment, and another that investigations have revealed this as true. Let’s wait for the report.

Over the years, the gulf between the two sections of Kashmir and Jammu has only grown.

I think people need to think about the reasons for this. But I believe Kashmir and Jammu are our two eyes. Samaan bhav sey don kay vikas kay liye humein kaam karna hai aur don milkay hee iss UT ko aage badha sakte hai (We must work for the development of these two regions equally, and they can advance the UT only together). I think if the intentions of the administration are clear, and the government does not favor one over the other, then there will be no opposition.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah calls the main political parties in the region “Gupkar Gang”. Doesn’t it damage the political process?

This question must be put to the Minister of the Interior. But everyone must understand that the interior minister is also a party leader. As a party leader, he has every right to issue a political statement. If leaders in a political party can give some statements, then others also have the freedom to express their opinion. Constitutional post hum hold kar rahein hain, humko iss say matlab nahi (I have a Constitutional position, and I don’t care about it). I don’t need to comment on this.

With the change of country laws, do you care that people from outside will come and settle here?

There is no cure for imagined fears. Give me one example of any outsider who bought land here. As of August 5, 2019, tell me a single name. I challenge anyone to call one man from outside who bought land here. This is unfounded.

But many provisions have been changed, which causes this fear.

Old laws were outdated and in many cases regressive. We repealed 11 laws. For example, the ceiling of 182 channels set out in the Law on the Removal of Large Country Farms was suspended from 100 standard channels in Agrarian Reforms in 1976, yet both continued to exist, creating contradiction and confusion. Doesn’t this have to end?

Similarly, the old Agricultural Reforms Act banned a ceiling of land distributed to farmers even after 44 years. This has led to benami transactions and limited future generations. Doesn’t this have to end? Lease ended under Agrarian Reforms Act, 1976, but Lease Stay of Eviction Proceedings Act of 1966 continues. Doesn’t this have to end?

But aren’t there protections like those in other states like Himachal Pradesh? You also allowed contract farming.

No one outside J&K can buy agricultural land. In J&K, 90 percent of land is agriculture. Only 5 percent of land is government. Only 5% of land remains, based on which many claim that demographics will change. Really, we said the government will develop industrial farms in this. Without land, how can industries be set up? Why shouldn’t the simple man have access to a good hospital? We need an industry for employment.

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