‘My priority is to make people feel there is a Govt working for them’
Srinagar: Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha has said that his priority is to make people of Jammu and Kashmir “feel that there is a government working for them.”
In a freewheeling interview published by Rediff on Wednesday, the J&K LG talked about his plans and way forward in the Union Territory. “I want to ensure people get a say in what they want. I am not one to make grand announcements,” he said.
Sinha, who replaced GC Murmu in August, may be new to Kashmir but is certainly a seasoned politician who is “ready to listen to and speak with everyone – within reason.”
“For far too long, people in J&K have felt the government doesn’t exist for them. My first priority is to make them feel that not only does it exist, it is also there to work for them.”
Sinha belongs to Ghazipur in eastern Uttar Pradesh. The violence-ridden and underdeveloped town saw some major development works while him as an MP.
Ghazipur got a new railway station, a four-laned highway with connectivity to both Lucknow and Varanasi, and an airport.
Sinha, as per the interview, believes what worked in Ghazipur must surely work in J&K as well.
All the bureaucrats in the state, he says, are back at work, pandemic notwithstanding. People are coming to government offices for domicile certificates, caste certificates and other paperwork. “I want to ensure people get a say in what they want. I am not one to make grand announcements,” he says. The district planning boards are going to be recast (they were dissolved in 2019) and panchayat elections will be held as soon as feasible. “I am arranging to send groups of panchayat heads to other parts of India to gather best practices in local government,” he said. “There might be initial clamour for boycott of panchayat elections, but I expect extensive participation; people know this will have an impact on development.” Sinha said he did not know he was going to be sent on such an important assignment to Jammu and Kashmir. Though he has not been in J&K long, he knows about the history of the region’s neglect, having studied it in some detail before going there. When asked by the interviewer what struck him most about it, he thinks and answers softly: “Projects were started 20, 25 years ago and are still not complete.” About Kashmiri Pandits, Sinha said he has assured them security if they want to return to the Valley: “All over the region, there are beautiful temples, thousands of years old, lying in ruins. If my ancestors had built those structures, I would have grabbed at the chance to rebuild them. I have made an offer to some wealthy KPs: ‘Come back and reclaim your heritage.’ I’m sure they will respond positively.” Sinha said he was bewildered at the wasteful, needless and feudal move of the Durbar (secretariat and government offices) to Srinagar in summer and to Jammu in the winter. All the documents are laden in trucks, and then convoys trundle down to Jammu and months later, up to Srinagar. “In this day of digitisation, do you really need to do this?” he said Sinha flags with enthusiasm all the things he wants to do: Offer sport to engage young people (Suresh Raina has been roped in to start cricket academies across the state), build better hospitals, craft a new industrial policy, revive local craft, open an examination centre for entrance to institutions like Aligarh Muslim University.