‘Fundamental Problems Should be Resolved Expeditiously’

‘Fundamental Problems Should be Resolved Expeditiously’
15 Feb 2020


‘Fundamental Problems Should be Resolved Expeditiously’

 Forty-two-year-old Ganesh Ram Sing Khuntia had a long career as an engineer with the state government. During this period he gathered a lot of experience. He got to know the problems of people closely and also tried his best to solve them. This also gave him the opportunity to study the functioning of the government closely, to know its advantages and disadvantages. He was, however, convinced that common people required better services from a dedicated band of people. Khuntia believes that if both people’s representatives and bureaucrats are committed, then the state’s problems can be solved expeditiously and progress of people can be ensured. However, this, according to him, is not easy to achieve. His own experience as a legislator so far has been that bureaucrats are non-cooperative and keep problems lingering. He believes that irrespective of what plans the government makes and announces, the most important thing is their implementation on the ground. Khuntia, who was elected to the state assembly from tribal-dominated Jashipur on the BJP ticket for the first time in the 2019 election, is convinced that best of plans fail to have an impact unless they are implemented properly. He is equally emphatic about stamping out corruption which, he feels, is a problem plaguing the society and the government. Young and dynamic, he remains determined to fight such evils with all his might. He spoke to Ashutosh Mishra about his experience, plans and priorities.

You have been elected to the state assembly for the first time. What is the feeling like on getting this opportunity to represent your people in the legislature?

I am glad that people have given me this opportunity to serve them. There are many fundamental problems which should be resolved expeditiously. I have always been committed to serving people at the grassroots level. Unfortunately, the bureaucracy in not cooperative and that is making things difficult. The bureaucrats don’t even reply to letters. Letters from public representatives should at least be acknowledged by bureaucrats. This is all the more important in areas like mine which have a sizeable tribal population. Unless this happens, there is no point in having schemes like 5T and Mo Sarkar, for nothing can ensure transparency. The bureaucrats perhaps think that people’s representatives approach them only for contract work. But this way of thinking is wrong. We have no vested interest; all we want is that people should get the benefit of schemes and that their problems should be solved. There are problems everywhere. Be it drinking water or education, problems persist. Standard of education in government schools is so bad. All this has to change.

Why did you join politics?

I have spent 20 years in government service. When I was posted in Bolangir district, I saw good understanding between public representatives and government servants. The same thing I did not find in Mayurbhanj district. I felt this was obstructing the process of development. There was need for greater awareness and for officers to become more helpful. Having served in the government I had enough experience of how things function there. I thought politics will offer me the right platform to serve people and to bring about a positive change. I thought I would be able to change what is wrong and make things better.

You could have joined any party. Why did you choose BJP?

I was impressed by the transparency in the government being run at the Centre under the leadership of BJP. The government also has a vision and BJP has ensured long-term planning. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is leading the government, is committed to serving the country and protecting its sovereignty and integrity. He also has zero tolerance for corruption. Besides, he is a determined person and acts in the best interests of the country. All this made me opt for BJP.

Yours is a rural constituency and also with a preponderant tribal population. What are the typical problems of the constituency?

There are multiple problems – there are issues of drinking water, backwardness in the field of education, road communication and also irrigation. Lack of education is also responsible for under-development and poverty among the people. A large number of lift irrigation points are lying defunct. There is also lack of awareness among people about the Forest Rights Act (FRA) which is a key piece of legislation in a tribal-dominated area.

What were the main campaign issues for you?

For me the main issue was that during the last 20 years, implementation of schemes on the ground has been extremely poor. This is something elected representatives should reflect upon. Our area does not have any major industry and railway connectivity in the district, too, is very poor. There has been no major developmental initiative in the region. I sought to highlight all this.

State government claims to have implemented several welfare schemes during the last 20 years. It claims that people have benefitted immensely from these schemes which is the reason why people have been voting for it consistently in the elections. Do you think these schemes have actually made an impact?

The government might have launched schemes but their implementation on the ground has been extremely poor. Hence benefits of the schemes have not reached the targeted people. Besides, there has been corruption. If today there is an inquiry into the implementation of PM Awas Yojana in my area I am sure a large number of irregularities will be detected. We are pointing this out but unfortunately the guilty are not being punished.

But the Chief Minister continues to talk about zero tolerance for corruption?

5T and Mo Sarkar have just become slogans because the real issues are not being addressed. We keep raising these issues but there is no response. The government should inquire into complaints. Otherwise there is no point having schemes.

The BJP did extremely well in the last elections. It won eight Lok Sabha seats and 23 assembly seats and emerged as the main opposition party in the state. Now there is a perception that the lotus is blooming in the state and BJP is going to emerge stronger in future. Is this correct?

Yes it is right that BJP is growing in the state and it is going to do much better in the future. People have been impressed by the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, who has visited several areas where no other leader had gone in the past. He is working hard. Our party leaders in the state, too, are working hard because we want the party to become stronger.

The other important feature of the last election was the decline of Congress which has been reduced to a single-digit party in the assembly. What factors are responsible for the decline of the party?

Congress ruled the state for such a long time but it failed to bring about any real development. There was corruption during its rule which destroyed the image of the party. Hence the people did not vote for the party in the last election.

So if there was erosion of Congress vote-bank who benefited more from it, BJP or BJD?

See the chunk of disillusioned Congress voters who have been opposing BJP’s policies since long obviously voted for Biju Janata Dal. But the more flexible among them must have opted for our party.

What are the three qualities of Prime Minister Modi that you like most?

His transparent image, his hard work and his resolve to make India one of the foremost countries of the world are great assets. He has emerged as a popular leader not only in India but also at the international level. He has a vision for the country and his slogan of ‘sabka saath sabka vikas’ (development of all with the cooperation of all) has been widely appreciated. He is a determined leader who backs his decisions. That is a very important attribute in a leader.

Three qualities of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik that you appreciate

His vision for the development of Odisha may be good but it is not being translated into reality because of poor implementation. Bureaucrats do not appear to be lending expected support for the execution of developmental initiatives. Though the Chief Minister has been in power for last 20 years there are still villages with extremely poor road connectivity and drinking water problem persists in many areas. Many of the check dams which were constructed in the past now have no water in them. Schemes are not being monitored properly and corruption continues to be a problem.

What were your feelings when you stepped into the state assembly for the first time as an MLA?

It was a great feeling entering the temple of democracy for the first time. I thought of the great opportunity that I had to raise the problems of people. The feeling will remain with me for the rest of my life.

Has Odisha seen any positive change in the last 20 years?

I can’t think of good changes. In fact, during this period we earned a bad name at the international level with incidents like Kalahandi tribal, Dana Majhi carrying the corpse of his wife on his shoulders. There have been scandals like mining scam and chit fund scam. Cases of rape have gone up and corruption continues despite government’s slogan of zero tolerance towards it.

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