Chandigarh, April 24: He is passionate about only one thing and that is change and rejection of the degenerated and rotten system of governance that keeps people out of decision making as the government does not trust its own people. Bhagwant Mann, the Aam Aadmi Party MP from Sangrur and one of the well-known faces in Lok Sabha, maintains that when he enters the Parliament hall, he never forgets that he is the ‘janata’ and it is his responsibility to articulate the concerns of the people at this highest platform. He asserts that the AAP government to be formed in February 2017 would function taking into account collective will of the people. It is a tall promise but his earnest resolve leaves no scope for any doubt. One has to look straight into his eyes to grasp his obsession. He realizes that Punjab has a record of un-kept promises and is emphatic that all that would now be history with AAP going in for participatory governance.
He opened up in a free-wheeling interview with punjabupdate.com that follows:
Q: Your party is being criticized for the leaders from outside the state practically running the party affairs in Punjab.
A: Is Shrimati Sonia Gandhi from Ludhiana or Shakeel Ahmed from Khanna and Harish Chaudhary from Mohali?
I addressed 121 rallies i and organized 58 road shows during the Delhi Assembly elections. If I can campaign there, what is the problem in our experienced leaders from outside working here.
Q: How will your government to different from those that the people have experienced in Punjab over the decades.
A: We will not govern like rulers. Ours will be participatory government and decision making collective. We will break all those traditions associated with the rulers as we will not be the rulers like them but act only as custodian of the faith of the people.
Q: What is your vision of Punjab and how are you going to tackle issues like capital investment.
A: First of all, we have to create confidence. Punjabis are a success everywhere at the global level except in their native state of Punjab. We have now couple of other Punjabs in USA, Canada, Australia and UK. People sitting there are ready to fund our development efforts. They are convinced that we can deliver. Earlier, they dragged their feet as both the Akali Dal and the Congress governments suffered from trust deficit. About 50,000 of them are waiting to join our campaoign near the election.
Q: What makes you so much confident?
A: It is not a three cornered fight but a straight one, between those who represent the conscience of Punjab and those who are the money bags. Both the Congress and the Akali Dal represent the money bags and are no different.
It is the faith of the people in you that makes you confident. I move around as a common man, without any security. Why should be afraid of my own people? In case I feel threatened from my own people in the state, then I have no right to be in politics. I am not afraid of death as people are my best shield.
- How was your experience on the first day of Punjab Dialogue with the youth..
- Our effort is to talk straight and listen to ‘Mann Ki Baat’ of the youth and other sections at these interactive sections. Young people are worried about their future. We have not approached them with some pre-determined notions or questions. Moreover, the young people who participated were from every section and strata of society and that is all the more important. This is the section whose energy is not being channelized productively. We have to involve them in the decision making at this very stage itself by evolving manifesto based upon their suggestions, ambitions and aspirations.
- How would your government go about it…
- When a young man from the South goes to USA, he has a contract worth crores in hands. He goes to upscale sectors like information technology and research. When they come out of the airport, there is a big limousine waiting for him. On the other hand, when our youth land of the US soil, invariably, it is the handcuffs that await them as they try to enter illegally. We have not created the facilities for our youth to compete in the modern world. Our system has collapsed. We have gone down while Punjab should have been on the top going by the stage of development of this border state about three decades back. Our colleges are factories that produce the stuff that is unemployable in the modern market. The situation has changed fast during the last 20 years but we have missed the bus. Punjab has to be revived and this needs total commitment to the state, not to self. AAP is the party with dedicated people.
The day a student gets the degree, it is his/her the saddest day in view of the dark future. They need jobs. We have to gear up the system to make them employable and provide them with employment avenues.
- It is a gigantic task..
- It is the youth who themselves suggest the way out. At our first interaction at Mohali, a very practical suggestion came up. Our policemen and women remain on duty 24 hours. This also makes them irritable and rough. Why not have eight hour shift by recruiting more people? This would also bring in efficiency, besides creating jobs. This is just one example. The problems are not insurmountable.
- The farmers too are facing the worst.
A: You have to be pragmatic to deal with the situation. I will cite just one example. The Central Asian countries that were part of the erstwhile Soviet Union import vegetables from Brazil and the flight takes about eight hours. Why can’t we capture that market with Amritsar as the export hub from where these countries can be reached within 2 to 3 hours.
Q: This was the dream sold by Akali Dal stalwart Parkash Singh Badal to the farmers in the run up to the 1997 Assembly elections..
A: We will implement what we commit as this is going to be participatory government in real sense of the term. We will come out with a model for overall improvement and development of the villages. Why not appoint two farm specialists, say graduates from farm universities, in each village who can provide on the spot consultation and detect attack by pests immediately. Ironically, last year, even Panjab Agriculture University could not save its own cotton crop in its farm from white fly attack. This university has virtually collapsed where no reach is being done.
Q: Don’t you think that Punjab farming is over mechanized and is the state with lowest per acre use of tractor?
A: We can go in for Andhra type cooperative model and create self-help groups. The cooperative societies can lend machinery to the farmers.
Q: Education system too has collapsed..
A: Social sectors like education and health have been systematically destroyed. Our government would give priority to these sectors. We would provide best possible refresher courses to teachers and if need be, send them to some international institutions.
Q: Can the change in government make all this difference?
A: No. the issue is not just the change of government. It is the perception and approach that have to change. Development has to be a collective effort involving the people at large. The tragedy is that the Badal government would not like to involve even MPs from the state in this process and I am personally facing this problem. The sarpanches are told not to cooperate.
Q: Punjab passed through tragic period of more than a decade and a half but the closure has not been there so far. What is your take on this.
A: How can the closure be possible when the guilty are still to be punished. That includes those guilty of 1984 anti-Sikh violence and those from both the sides in Punjab. It is the common man who suffered. I have raised such issues in Parliament many times. Justice has to be given sooner or later.
I go to Parliament as a common person and raise concerns of Aam Aadmi.
Q: Punjab’s political dynamics is different from all other states. Suddenly, some issue crops up that overtakes everything else. This could be religious.
A: The youth are now aware that they have been exploited by these traditional politicians for their vested interests.