Not ‘low-key portfolio’ but ‘developmental concerns’ was the reason behind resignation

Imran Ansari2 (2)“Assurances by CM only partly fulfilled”

Molvi Imran Raza Ansari, honorable minister of information technology, technical education, youth services and sports had earlier resigned from the ministership in the beginning of this year which media reported extensively citing ‘low-key portfolio’ as the reason behind his resignation. Although the minister re-joined the same portfolio after assurances were given to him by senior PDP leader and parliamentarian, Muzaffar Hussain Baigh that his ‘demands’ will be given meticulous attention. How­ever, several cabinet reshuffles have been observed since February, 2017 but the promise of Ansari’s elevation has not taken concrete shape yet. The Junior Ansari, after the death of his multi-faceted personality father, Molvi Iftikar Ansari, became the de-facto president of ‘All Jammu and Kashmir Shia Association’ which added new responsibilities over his shoulders apart from the political liability. The ‘chief-cleric’ title had won him exemplary veneration and huge public support which his party, PDP perhaps fails to recognize and capitalize. The Indian political history and the experience have taught us that the political parties are largely centered on ‘individual leaders’ and PDP after the death of veteran politician Mufti Mohammad Saeed, seems in a splintered mode, which calls for such an ‘individual leader’. The Shia community in the state views him as their representative in the state government and they did vent their resentment over giving him ‘low-key portfolio’. Wining with over 10,000 votes from Pattan constituency in 2014 Assembly elections and helping the party in garnering higher vote shares in other constituencies as well is viewed by his supporters as the basis of, somewhat called ‘logical positivism and logical empiricism’ for his elevation in the party as well in the state functionaries. It was learnt from the sources inside PDP that the Junior Ansari is now being consulted in all the important decisions regarding the state. Kashmir Magazine special correspondent, Hamid Rather tried to get answers to all these questions, amongst others from the honorable minister and chief-cleric. Here are the excerpts from the exclusive interview with Molvi Imran Raza Ansari, honorable minister of information technology, technical education, youth services and sports and chief-cleric of shia faith.

 

The Kashmir valley is under contin­uous turbulence. The youth bear the brunt of this turbulence. The youth form the protesting mobs, schools and colleges witness violence, they get killed at the hands of Indian forc­es ……. Do you view sports as viable instrument to engage the angry and disgruntled youth to guide their pas­sions and energies towards produc­tive activities?

Well, definitely sports can be one of the tools that can extinguish the anger that is brimming in the youth. I feel that the youth in Kashmir are in distress and there are no major avenues to engage them. Youth ser­vices and sports can provide them some platforms where youth can uti­lize their precious time in different sporting activities which they love, can deviate their minds from their problems and pessimistic miseries. Sports have a role of ‘deviating factor’ in the prevailing political discontent in the state.

What are your preparations in this regard to play the role of ‘deviating factor’?

Through mass advertising and one-to-one contacts we have been encouraging the youth to join the sports disciplines they love. The department of youth services and sports is ready to provide them all the facilities. The devastating 2014 floods have almost cent per cent damaged the sporting facilities in the valley. Whatever minimum fa­cilities we have we are upgrading them and building new ones. We got Prime Minister’s Development package that comprises of upgrading two major stadiums in the state. The upgradation of these two stadiums amongst others is going on and will take some time before they will be handed over to the respective associ­ations. The facilities in the form of in­frastructure and services are not up to the mark as seen in the rest of the country. I have one more problem that the capex (capital expenditure) for the sports is very less. When we talk about engaging youth and pro­viding sports facilities I don’t know what the previous regimes were up to. I have six odd crore rupees for the sporting activities for the whole state of Jammu and Kashmir. This odd amount of 6 crore is nothing. If to­morrow I want to do a mega tourna­ment it will at least cost me 2-3 crore Rupees. So I have spoken to honor­able Chief Minster who is usually very keen in the sporting activities, she did release some contingency funds but still we are running short of funds to provide the higher stand­ard sporting facilities to engage the youth productively. The Government of India had committed us funds in this regard and in the near future we will be able to provide the world class sporting facilities and avenues to our youth to showcase their talents.

Youth services include more than sports. It includes dance, drama, the­atre, music, etc. In our schools and colleges especially in the valley there is almost no presence of such youth services or other such avenues in the public sphere. Why so?

That is cent percent right. I won’t disagree with that. But most of such activities are taken care of by cultural department. But there is an impor­tant need of convergence between cultural department and youth ser­vices department in such areas. I have spoken to my ministry to revive youth services like dance, drama, theatre, music, etc. in schools and colleges.

Water sports, snow and ice sports, football, cricket, martial arts, and other conventional sports the department is doing well. What about the mountaineering sport as the state has the huge potential of becoming an international venue for such adventure sport?

After setting correct the conven­tional sports we are slowly moving to the adventure sports. First we are trying to revive the ‘popular sports’ keeping in view our financial con­straints. There are many takers in cricket, football, martial arts and mountaineering sport touches a very small segment of the people. In fact, we assign funds to all the sports and during late Mufti Sahab’s regime highest funds were allocated for water sports. Mountaineering is a special sport and it requires multiple facilities for the safety of the climber enthusiasts. We will definitely look into this sport and will work hard in converting the state’s potential of be­come an international mountaineer­ing venue into reality.

Several talents from the valley, for instance, Parvaiz Rasool, a crick­eting star, don’t get the opportunity to represent the country at the in­ternational level. A perception has developed in the people of Kashmir that the talents from the valley get ‘step-motherly’ treatment. Rasool’s Coach had earlier vented such re­sentments. How do you view this?

No. I don’t view a step-motherly treatment to the state by the national selectors in different sports in this re­gard. Let us be very frank about this. Talent can’t be hidden under the carpet. Now there are multiple plat­forms where the talents are picked by the national selectors to represent the country in international events. For Instance, IPL has showcased the talents and they were later picked up by BCCI. When Kashmiri can be­come the IAS, IPS and IFS officers, pilots, ministers in the union govern­ment purely on the basis of the talent and there is no concept of ‘regional disparity’ when it comes to the nation­al prestige and honour.

You have encouraged the individ­ual sports enthusiasts like Qudsiya, a woman football trainer who trains fe­males in Srinagar. However, Mohi-ud-din Pala, national champion in several sports from Banghdara village blinded by pellets was offered no support?

Was he a wrong person at the wrong place?

Yes.

No such case has come before us. Now, you have brought the case in our notice we will definitely look into the case and ready to support such sport­ing stars.

New surrender policy of 1997 of J& K government provides upgrada­tion of two training centres at Reasi and Manasbal to provide skill-based training in trades like radio and TV mechanic, repair of home appliances, welding and motor mechanic, etc. As of now no such surrendered militant has joined such training centres. Who are the trainers there and who is the trainee?

These training centers are not ex­clusively for the surrendered militants. The skill-training programmes are offered at such centers to other peo­ple as well to increase their self-em­ployability. It is up to the surrendered militants whether they want to join such training centers or not. We nev­er closed the doors of these centers to them.

Rehabilitation Policy, 2010 of Jam­mu and Kashmir government provides that skill based training will be provid­ed to ex-militants who returned from Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) to increase their self-employability. No such training centres exist or no such training is being provided to the re­turnees under the policy. What is your take on this being the technical educa­tion minister?

That is true. The previous govern­ment said that it is going to rehabilitate the ex-militants but failed in taking any concrete steps towards that. I can say that the government is negligent to­wards their rehabilitation. I suppose that honorable CM handling the home portfolio definitely needs to revisit the policy and come clear on this issue.

The e-Readiness reports of Union Min­istry of electronics and Information in 2008, 2005 and 2003 have placed Jam­mu and Kashmir as “least achievers” which reflects that the state is lagging behind most of the states of India in IT services. E-readiness report-2008 puts J&K in level 5 in “Environment Sub Index”, computed on the basis of indicators like market environment, political and regulatory environment and infrastructural environment. In the Readiness sub index, computed based on the indicators like industri­al readiness, business readiness and govt. readiness and J&K is put at level 5. In the Usage (degree of utilization of ICT) sub index, computed based on the indicators like industrial usage, business usage and Govt. usage. The state is the poor informer in all these three areas and there is an urgent need for improvement in these areas.

The fact is that no thrust was given by the previous governments to the IT department. When I joined the min­istry, things were not clear as many of the IT projects financed by the union government and implemented by the state government have not met the important timelines. There have been changes in technology and many such projects were rendered obsolete. Al­though it is very late I tried to revive many of such projects but issues like gap in the funding, technology chang­es amongst others have made us ‘least achievers’ when the rest of the coun­try is far ahead of us. I am in constant touch with the government of India to help us in reviving the stalled IT pro­jects.

The IT policy of J&K has been in force since January 2004. The policy laid the foundation for e-governance and other IT initiatives and provides guidelines for all related areas. It talks of usage of IT in service delivery like setting up in­formation kiosks, etc. The IT has huge potential in plugging the leakages and distortion in the public service deliv­ery. However, IT readiness and service delivery mechanism is very poor in the state. We need to learn from other states in this front.

I agree with you that IT has the potential in simplifying the pub­lic service delivery and reducing administrative costs. We have started Community Informa­tion Centers (CICs) and Com­mon Service Centers (CSCs) to provide IT services to the people. We have already sent a proposal to the department of consumer affairs and public distribution regarding the usage of IT services to minimise the distortions in PDS. We have also helped Power Development Department (PDD) in its IT ser­vices. In our tenure, we will work to make the Public Distribution System (PDS) completely elec­tronic and IT enabled. We are also working with other depart­ments for making the service delivery mechanism more effi­cient and effective by increasing their ‘IT Readiness’.

Amidst technology changes, the IT policy of the Jammu and Kashmir Government needs a revision.

We are not yet able to achieve the targets set in the IT policy in force since Jan, 2004 and so there is no need of a new or revised IT policy as of now. But as need arises we will revise or bring a new policy.

In February 2017 you resigned from the ministership which media report­ed as “low-key portfolio” being the reason behind your resignation. On assurances from senior PDP leader, Muzaffar Hussain Baigh you re-joined the rank, but several portfolio reshuf­fles have taken place since then and you were not elevated. You won with over 10,000 votes in your maiden elec­tion. You are representing a communi­ty that forms a large vote share of PDP and a significant percentage of state population. You have helped PDP in getting higher vote share in other con­stituencies as well. The Shia commu­nity has also showed their displeasure over Miss Mufti’s portfolio allocation. Do you feel marginalised in the party served by your late father and you to the best of your knowledge and ener­gy?

Let me tell you about the resig­nation part first. I did not resign on grounds of not giving me a ‘fair port­folio’. I don’t endorse the view propa­gated by the media that I had resigned over a low-key portfolio. I resigned over the issues ranging from ‘de­velopment’ of the state and ‘up­liftment of the politrate’ I belong to. It was a personal reason and I conveyed it to the honorable Chief Minister. Secondly, Baigh sahib did tell me to re-join the rank but the assurances were given to me by honorable chief minister herself. The assurances given to me were fulfilled only partly.

So that means you don’t feel marginalised in your own party.

Why should I feel marginal­ised? Things are getting better. Assurances given to me by hon­orable CM have been taken due care, partly although. I am being invited over the crucial ‘develop­ments’ going on in the state.

 There are three petitions filled in the SC challenging 35-A. One of the petitions maintains that Gujjars, Bakerwals, Shias, amongst other are not against India. It sends out a message that such groups of people are against the ‘developments’ in Kashmir. How do you view it?

Article 35 A is given to us by the constitution of India. The people of Jammu and Kashmir enjoy dual citizenship. The petition­er gives an impression that several groups in Kashmir like Shias, Gujjars, Bakerwals, and other groups are not against against India. In fact, they stand with the state of Jammu and Kashmir as well as with the country. Individually, they are free and stand with the Kashmiris.

 

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