Since you are in the public life for nearly 35 years – first an educationist and then an MLA, minister and prominent politician of Delhi – what is your opinion about the good governance?
Good governance for me is a mission which I have, in fact, delivered and shown through my work in my capacity as the finance, planning, excise and taxation and higher education minister of Delhi in the past. This is the reason that I have been awarded as the best planning minister of the nation by Pranab Mukherjee, the then Union Planning Minister, and twice as the best MLA award in Delhi Vidhan Sabha. I must appreciate Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiatives for good governance in the country and setting up a Gujarat model of development. Good governance for me is a mission which I have, in fact, delivered and shown through my work in my capacity as the finance, planning, excise and taxation and higher education minister of Delhi in the past. This is the reason that I have been awarded as the best planning minister of the nation by Pranab Mukherjee, the then Union Planning Minister, and twice as the best MLA award in Delhi Vidhan Sabha. I must appreciate Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiatives for good governance in the country and setting up a Gujarat model of development.
You are said to be instrumental in reforming the economy of Delhi as a finance, planning, excise and taxation minister. How do you look back?
When I took charge as the minister, there was the highest evasion of tax in Delhi, roughly 80-85 per cent. As I was a professor of the Commerce department in Delhi University where I used to teach Taxation, I found it an opportunity to implement my thought of the subject. I had set a target of curbing the illegal business. After much deliberations with traders, I went on to cut the rate of tax for better compliance and implementation. And that resulted in the revenue collection that Delhi hadn’t seen before. However, it was not an easy job. I faced a lot of hurdles as the Delhi government was not empowered to alter (reduce, hike or exempt) tax. My proposal was even
turned down by the then Union finance minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, but finally after much argument and reasoning I was able to convince him with some proof I had gathered. I showed him how people enthusiastically
contributed bank drafts in advance. He was baffled and allowed us to implement the same. Interestingly, the revenue in the next year increased manifold, whopping 300 per cent on some items. From the next year, I exempted tax on 36 items and heavily reduced tax on 63 items. And I increased Delhi’s revenue with the ever highest rate in the country i.e. 27 per cent the very next year. Subsequently, I prepared the 9th Five Year Plan for Delhi which was 250 per cent more than the previous plan. It is a record in the country. Besides, I also encouraged the small savings to a record level. I had also prepared a scheme, Kalpvriksh Bachat Yojana, which is still popular today.
The credit of banning lottery in the country goes to you. How did it come?
The given issue is very close to my heart as it was a sort of social evil during those days. The bad culture of lottery was spoiling life of youth and people were committing suicides out of debt. Businessmen used to keep their shutters down and everyone wanted to become rich overnight. The situation was so pathetic and chaotic that mothers were wary of their children going wrong way. I started a campaign against the menace and also took help of six neighbouring states. Taking the lead, I totally banned all sorts of lotteries in Delhi, although I had to face some resistance in the beginning. Taking the movement forward, I met Lal Krishna Advani, the then Union Home Minister, to bring a central legislation to ban the ‘single-digit’ lottery across the country. Thankfully, he obliged me. I must call it the biggest achievement of my life.
How did the idea of increasing ‘dry days’ in Delhi come to you?
As I also had the department of excise, I know how the liquor lobby and mafia works. Taking support of an article in our constitution that states “Every state government shall endure to curb the consumption of liquor in its area”, I decided within myself to discourage its consumption by increasing the number of dry days. Instead of caring about the huge revenue that comes from liquor sale, I decided not to issue any fresh shop licence in my tenure. Setting a target of curbing the drinking culture in order to save the next generation, I put some restrictions that liquor shop cannot be opened in industrial and resettlement areas, where there is major consumption of alcohol. Going ahead, I increased the dry days from 27 to 43 that chiefly included 18 days of religious importance i.e. festivals across religions. I also put a ban on any form of liquor publicity.
Delhi’s Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University happens to be your brainchild. What was its need?
When I was given the additional charge of higher education during the last one year of my tenure, I was pained to see that there was no self-funded college in Delhi which forced local students from moving to other states for education. The idea was targeted at catering vocational courses like BCA, BBA, Law, Hotel Management, Paramedical, B.Ed. etc. rather than the regular one. I had deliberations with the then CM of Delhi, Delhi University Vice-Chancellor, and the then HRD minister, andmany other concerned people before constituting a panel and arriving on a concrete decision to bring a bill in the House in a time-bound manner. Although the things could not happen as I had planned due to change in regime, it’s a matter of pride that today we are running 112 colleges affiliated to IP University.
Some of your works were exemplary and set benchmarks of good governance, what is next on your target if the BJP comes to power and you become a part of it… who knows even chief minister?
Traffic jam happens to be a colossal challenge for Delhi. I have a plan for it. And the things on my mind are to start Mono Rail, extend Metro service, construct the third ring road and give a fresh lease of life to the ring railway, and connect all these with feeder bus service. I hope these modes of public transport will be of great help in boosting the hassle-free internal and external traffic. Most importantly, our aim is to encourage public transport and discourage private vehicles.
Please throw some light on your ring railway plan.
There is a plan for constructing five ring rounds touching Rewari, Rohtak, Palwal, Sonepat and Meerut, the NCR towns. While the Rewari route will touch Naraina in Delhi, there will be a connectivity between Palwal and Okhla and so on.
What way out you suggest to rout corruption in public distribution system?
I feel issuing coupons to poor people to get goods will play a pivotal role in eliminating corruption in PDS.
How do you look at the issue of full statehood status for Delhi?
The pace of development will increase once Delhi is granted full statehood, as it will bring to an end the issue of multilateral authority that causes chaos sometime halting developmental prerogatives. In some cases, even the MLAs in Delhi don’t know which authority is responsible for a given job.
What is your vision about the IT sector?
My dream is to develop Delhi as the WiMax city. I would also like to develop Delhi as the hub of the hardware industry, akin toBangalore which happens to be the software hub of India, so that we’ll be in a position to beat or
compete with China.
What is your/party’s vision about Clean Yamuna project?
The Congress government spent Rs. 1,800 crore for the cleaning of Yamuna but it became even dirtier. We have a three-phase plan for Clean Yamuna. In the first phase, we would prevent flow of polluted water into Yamuna by
setting up a sewerage treatment plant. In second, we would set up a drain parallel to Yamuna (which will go to Okhla) in order to store all the sewerage for treatment that will also yield fertilizer that could be sold further. And third stage is of channelization of Yamuna i.e. to build a 45km long reservoir after channelizing the river for navigation and clean drinking water. The fund for this will come from economic use of the land on the river bank. We’ll definitely work on it if came to power.
What is your take on the issue of drinking water?
Nearly 30 per cent of potable water goes waste in Delhi. So, our priority will be to save them and increase the efficiency of the Delhi Jal Board. This will definitely pave the way for water for all.
As you were also the in-charge of BJP’s good governance cell, what is its nature of work?
This (good governance cell) was created when Nitin Gadkari became the national president of BJP. Manohar Parrikar was made the convenor of the cell and I was its co-convenor. Later, when Parrikar shifted to Goa, I was given the charge of the cell, which also has senior retired bureaucrats on the board. The main objective of this department is to study and discuss initiatives related to good governance which we used to share with the chief ministers of BJP-ruled states for further deliberations and implementation. Chhattisgarh’s PDS system has set an example in itself.
How do you look at the image of police?
Our police should set an ideal for better policing. Simultaneously, there should be a fear of police in the mind of criminals and a sense of confidence among honest citizens. There is a need to change the image of police.
The increasing crime against women is a matter of grave concern. What is your take on the issue?
I do agree with you that crime against women is increasing and I must thank media for playing a vital role in exposing and highlighting this issue. There is a need to change the mind-set of people. The social and a religious
organisations will have to play a role for the cause.
What is your opinion about e-governance?
It’s a welcome trend which will lead to end of corruption. Modiji has implemented it successfully in Gujarat which should be replicated in other states as well for a transparent and speedy public service. It’ll be of great use in making and issuing the caste, death and income tax certificates. We’ll build a better structure for e-governance in Delhi.