Rita Bahuguna Joshi is an Indian National Congress politician and ex-president of the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee.On contesting election from Lucknow as Indian National Congress candidate in an exclusive interview with Ali Hasan shares her thoughts for lucknow…
Que. What development do you see in U.P for last 20 years?
RB. What should I say, except growth of multiple parties in the state there has not been any progress in the economic or the social sector. Because we find that UP has slided down badly in the chart of socio economic development during the past 20 years. It used to be ranked as the eight best state when Mr Narayan Datt Tiwari was the Chief Minister in 1989. It has now slid to pitiable position of 17, 19 and 22 on different parameters in education, health, and other sectors. So the situation has deteriorated all around. Apart from the power cisis in the state, there are a lot of mafia elements disturbing the law and order situation, increase in rapes, unemployment, corruption and malnutrition cases.
Que. So these are the basic problems that you see?
RB. No these are not problems it’s just the standards of the state has gone down. It’s been 25 years since the last Congress ruled government in the state. Even the programmes provided by the centre and the money that comes from the centre is all pilfered away and is not utilized. In fact, the money is squandered amongst corrupt people. So whether it is the Mahatma Gandhi NAREGA, we have seen that murders have occurred, people have been killed, lot of cases are pending in different pogrammes. Besides this programmes, such as Right to Education are not implemented at all. Some of these programmes are actually a financial constraint to the centre and yet the benefits are not reaching the people. So the policy of the central government to empower every family in the country, or every village, in the country and through infrastructure and through other social programmes such as health has not helped the people because the delivery mechanisms of the states are very weak. Since we are a federal country, the delivery mechanisms are in the hands of the state governments. Since most of the state governments are beyond our purview the benefits are not reaching the people, especially in UP. And the corrupt governments whether it was the BSP or BJP or SP have all vied with each other in corruption.
Que. Where do you Lucknow on the Indian map?
RB. Culturally, Lucknow is a very famous city. Awadh culture guides the cultural psyche of so many states and so many countries. So the land, food, mannerisms, apt behavior of the city is well known. We are living in our cultural past and the people of Lucknow are well known for their culture and history. The history of the freedom movement, whether it was 1857 or 1942, we find that Lucknow played a stellar role. It is also the hub of lots of educational activities, it houses the secretariat of the state. In many ways Lucknow is a renowned city and is known more for its cultural activities than modern development.
Que. What about state of embroiders?
RB. Let me tell you one thing, the old city is dying. No modern facilities are reaching there. There’s a lack of infrastructure, whether it’s the street light, sewage, drains, roads, etc. So the level of infrastructure we see in the compratively newer areas or the VIP areas does not benefit the old Lucknow. It’s basically writhing in neglect. We are known for our chikan and zardozi work, but the plight of workers in these industries is extremely bad. They are working in extremely dingy conditions, have huge health problems, and are lowly paid. The marketing for the sector is also not good or rather not promoted the way it should be by the government. Central Government has provided the Rajiv Gandhi Artisans Health Insurance which could have done a great deal for those communities who work under bad conditions, whether it’s the workers in the carpet industry or other industries such as bangles, zardowzi, chikan and banarsi. All these people could have benefited immensely but unfortunately the state governments have not paid attention to the schemes. These programmes should have been promoted by the state government which it didn’t do. So, certainly all these handicrafts in our country are in bad shape, whether it’s Moradabad (brass work), Firozabad (glass work), Lucknow (chikan & zardowzi), Aligarh (iron work), Mau and Bhadoi (weaving).
Que. Chikankari in Lucknow is losing out to cheap Chinese products? What do you have to say to that?
RB. The Chinese goods can never match the local craft. See the craftsmanship of our workers who have been traditionally in this embroidery trade is far superior on all counts to those who imitate. For that matter anything and everything that is imitated and made in China is inferior in quality. But in terms of quantity and bulk pricing they are overtaking us. So both the Government of India and Government of UP need to protect these crafts because these are indigenous crafts. If these are not protected then the newer generations will not take to it. And if they don’t do it then certainly we will be the losers and this craft will either die out in our country o become inferior in its quality. It may also migrate to other countries who are imitating us.
Que. Coming to the Muslim community. Are you in favour of the modernisation of madrasas?
RB. I think certainly. They have to maintain their intrinsic value of imparting religious education (secular education also). But, those students who want to become clerics have to be connected to the real world with the help of internet and knowledge of modern sciences. The new generation has a very open mind. They will not accept anything that is not logical.
I think the minority community needs to be strengthened economically. You need to provide modern education on top of the regular curriculum followed in madrasas.
Que. Are you in favour of giving central or state government aid to such institutions?
RB. I don’t think there should be a board because in that case madrasas will come under the influence of Government and impacted. Supposing there is a non secular government in the country, it may trouble such institutions. Their roles should be such that they are autonomous with central aid, like many universities. There is no of section our activity which can function independently without aid. These are non profit institutions, you cannot charge the poor students rupees 500 to pay the teachers. Lowly paid teachers, bad infrastructure, and no modern facilities will turn them into those 15th century obsolete madrasas. If you really want the boys to familarise themselves with the world let them understand it. The madrasas definitely need funds to support themselves but without infringement to their autonomy.
Que. what vision do you have for Lucknow?
RB. I want to really renovate the old city. You must have seen the web of electric and telephone wires in the old areas, they should go underground. Then there is so much historicity which has to be made accessible to the outside world. I would like the tourism in the city to grow in a grand way. I’ll motivate the central government to set up a time frame in which to renovate the grand monuments of the city which are in bad shape. Our artisans especially the zardowzi and chikan workers needs a lot of patronisation. There’s an acute water shortage in the city. The only way water is currently provided to the citizens is through borewells, which are actually depleting water levels. We have to look for alternatives. I’m very sorry to say that water harvesting is not being accepted and implemented in the city so far. We will motivate people to use these practical ways to deal with water crisis.
Cultural activites are also to be promoted in the city. There is a lot of things that can be done right from the infrastucture to strengething the heritage of the city. That should be the priority for any candidates who wins.
Que. Are the real estate companies playing a satisfactory role?
RB. No. Land grabbing is the biggest problem for any city. This has been going on in Lucknow during the regimes of both BSP and SP. There is no organised extension of housing in the state capital so they are doing it randomly. There should be a scientific approach to the issue. See how Chandigarh came up. The government should open this area to the private sector who make the maximum profit and run away.