Ensuring a transparent and people-oriented governance system is my topmost priority as head of Jammu and Kashmir, the Governor Satya Pal Malik said on Tuesday, and assured that he would listen to public grievances frequently and address them swiftly.
In an exclusive interview with Kashmir Post at Raj Bhavan here, Malik, who replaced NarendaNath Vohra, said that he wanted to make his own office accountable to the people.
“I have kept the doors of Raj Bhavan open for the public. They can come and meet me any time,” he said, adding that he won’t hesitate to meet people even at midnight.
He said that he would “respectfully” listen to the complaints and grievances of the general public.
“I have acted on complaints received by me on Whatsapp. When I went to New Delhi after taking the oath, I received a complaint that there was problem of waterlogging in Mustafabad area. I immediately directed officers to look into the issue. Thanks to deputy commissioner Srinagar, he got the area de-watered within two days. These small things make a big difference,” he said.
Malik, the first career-politician to be appointed as J&K Governor, said that people-oriented projects started by Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah-led governments won’t be stopped.
“No project will be stopped. I will do everything to get all projects completed,” he said, adding that shortage of money will never come in the way of completion of any project.
In its meeting on September 5, the state administrative council headed by Malik approved Rs 8,000 crore for completion of all incomplete projects in the state.
Detailing out measures in pipeline to ensure transparency in governance, Malik, who has also served as Governor of Bihar, said that officers and engineers will be asked to make details of their assets public.
“Two to three corrupt officers have already gone to jail,” he said, adding that weeding out corruption from the governance structure was amongst his top priorities.
The Governor said that he will make “special efforts” to reach out to the youth of the state.
“There is craze for sports among youngsters of Kashmir. Why can’t we set-up our own world-class football clubs? Why can’t we host IPL matches?” he asked. “I sympathise with the youth of Kashmir. They don’t have any avenues for leisure and entertainment after 6 pm. Therefore, J&K will form its own IPL team and also host matches in the state itself.”
As Governor of Bihar, Malik is credited with undertaking a slew of reforms in the education sector and student activities.
Governor Satya Pal Malik on Tuesday said that addressing the “ anger and alienation” of youth in Kashmir was a big challenge for him, even as he asserted that the remarks by assistant solicitor general Tushar Mehta in the Supreme Court that Article 35-A was “gender discriminatory” were unfortunate. He also said that the boycott of upcoming civic body elections by J&K’s mainstream parties was their “political posturing” for the Assembly elections.
‘I DON’T ENDORSE MEHTA’S REMARKS’
In an exclusive interview with Kashmir Post at Raj Bhavan here, Malik said that the remarks by Mehta were unfortunate. “I don’t endorse them. There was no need for making such comments,” he said.
“I have come to know that he (Tushar) had not made these remarks as submissions to the court, but only when a judge had asked for details of the case from another lawyer,” Malik said.
Appearing on behalf of the state government in the Supreme Court on the last hearing of the Article 35-A case on August 31, Mehta had said that the constitutional provision was “gender-discriminatory”, evoking widespread criticism from political parties in Jammu and Kashmir.
Malik said that he wanted the hearing on Article 35-A deferred till an elected government was in place in the state. “I cannot represent the sentiments and feelings of the people in a manner an elected government can,” he said.
‘NO IMMEDIATE PLAN TO DISSOLVE ASSEMBLY’
The Governor hinted that there was no immediate plan to dissolve the state Assembly which has been put under suspended animation after the imposition of Governor’s rule in the state on June 20, after the BharatiyaJanata Party withdrew its support to the Mehbooba Mufti-led government.
He also made it clear that there was no plan to form an “underhand government” in the state.
“Neither any attempt was made (to form the government), nor there are any such plans,” he said, adding that the House will be dissolved only when a decision is taken at the highest level to hold the fresh Assembly elections.
‘POLL BOYCOTT NOT IN ANYBODY’S INTEREST’
Without naming any party, the Governor said that boycott of civic body polls by political parties was their “posturing for Assembly elections.”
“It is pure, pure politics for Assembly polls. It is not in the interest of anybody,” he said, adding that boycott of elections “doesn’t even suit separatists.”
Both National Conference and People’s Democratic Party have decided to boycott the elections beginning next month, citing “assault” on Article 35-A which protects state subject laws in the state.
Asked why he did not convene an all-party meeting before announcing the schedule for civic polls, Malik said that these exercises don’t yield results.
“I have reached out to every political leader individually. These issues are not decided in all-party meetings. What happens is that people take and change stances during these meetings because of the presence of others,” he said.
“In my presence, Farooq Abdullah twice said that these elections are not for New Delhi or the state government but for the people of J&K. Was not Article 35 A an issue when all of them participated in Kargil Hill Council elections? These elections are for the people of J&K.”
He said that they have to make a beginning from somewhere to “put the wheels of democracy back on the track.”
“If we are able to hold these elections, then we can also hold MLA elections,” he said, adding that he has asked the political parties to rethink their boycott call.
Malik sounded optimistic about participation of people in the civic polls.
“People will fight elections. Nobody wants to leave space for their rivals. I don’t have any political party. I am not asking you to elect people of any particular party,” he said.
‘ALIENATION, ANGER A CHALLENGE’
Malik said that addressing the “anger” and “frustration” of the youth in Kashmir was his biggest challenge.
“I am not worried about political parties, or even Hurriyat. I am worried about Kashmiri youth and their future. There is a need to address their anger and frustration,” he said. “They (youth) don’t trust anyone. They don’t have faith in anybody including Pakistan, us or them (political parties). These fragile minds are indoctrinated.”
The Governor said that those who are angry with the system should come and fight elections.
“I can guarantee you that till Prime Minister NarendraModi is in New Delhi, there will be free and fair elections in Kashmir,” he said.
‘FAMILIES OF MILITANTS WON’T BE HARASSED’
When asked about reports that families of militants are being harassed in southern Kashmir districts by the police and army, the Governor said: “If somebody joins militancy, his family is not to be blamed for that. His father, mother won’t be harassed. I don’t believe in either picking up their children, or abduction of children of our officers.”
He said that no civilian would be harassed but “they should also not create hurdles during discharging of duties by our forces.”
“Everybody has civil rights. When our forces are facing bullets from the other side, they (youth) come and pelt stones on them. This shouldn’t happen.”
ON ENGAGING SEPARATISTS
He said that the government of India has to decide on holding a dialogue with separatists. “It is not my brief. My brief is to run the government in a better way,” he said, but added that he “respects everybody.”