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Steering Lucknow, Cow Politics and UP Elections

‘Policy Pulse’ interviews Dr. Dinesh Sharma, one of BJP’s favoured bets for CM in 2017 UP polls

Rishi Majumder
Publish Date: Sep 13 2016 1:41PM | Updated Date: Sep 13 2016 1:47PM

Steering Lucknow, Cow Politics and UP Elections

 Having won two consecutive elections, Dr. Dinesh Sharma has been BJP's Lucknow Mayor for the past 10 years. He is also the party's Vice President and Prabhari (in-charge) for Gujarat and, since 2014, been considered a likely CM candidate for BJP in Uttar Pradesh. Here he discusses running the Lucknow Municipal Corporation (LMC), Central, State and Municipal Government equations, cow vigilantism of the kind the country witnessed at Una, and which has been reported from Lucknow as well, and whether BJP should have a UP CM candidate at all. ‘Policy Pulse’ interviews one of BJP’s favoured bets for Chief Minister in 2017 Uttar Pradesh polls, the current Mayor of Lucknow.

 
Challenges and achievements in your two terms as Mayor...
 
Lucknow is growing very fast. In the past 10 years the surrounding rural areas have been incorporated into the LMC’s jurisdiction, earlier largely comprised of urban areas. Providing infrastructure to such areas was a challenge – areas like Chinhat, Telibagh, Jankipuram, Sarojini Nagar... where we have successfully instituted basic facilities such as parks or roads. Today these areas are more or less at par with the previously urbanized areas under the LMC in terms of these basic facilities.
 
Then, because Lucknow is the state capital, people from various districts of UP, especially the neighbouring ones, visit the city. This has its own issues - the pressure on traffic and the transportation system being the least of them.
 
Providing facilities to and creating rules for visiting hawkers is also a challenge. There were rules made for hawkers. The previous state government removed existing rules and placed hawkers under the jurisdiction of the District administration instead of the municipal corporation. Previously the Mayor was the Chairperson of the Hawker's/Vendor's Committee.
 
It is no more so. Now whenever we remove hawkers who are operating illegally there is a new encroachment the next day because the concerned police station doesn't feel the need to be enforce the corporation’s orde
 
That is why we had demanded an umbrellasystem whereby under the Municipal Corporation there would be various offices. There was a provision for this in law as well, whereby various departments like the Lucknow Development Authority, the PWD, the Jal-kal Vibhag, Jal Nigam, Transport and Tourism departments would cooperate with one another while operating under the umbrella of the LMC. But this hasn’t been implemented.
 
Despite these challenges we have managed to create projects such as the Kanha Upvan (a 68-acre wide animal shelter) under which we have rehabilitation and care centres for cows, bulls, dogs and monkeys too, and the Siddharth Pashu-pakshi Upchar Kendra. Besides this, our achievements include the Kargil Shahid Smriti Vatika (Garden to pay homage to Kargil Martyrs), Ismail Degree College and the Traffic Training Park – which is one of its kind in Asia. We have also undertaken the beautification, construction and renovation of various parks, roads, nullahs and sewerage. There are also small achievements, but very significant for the common man, such as setting up over 1500 hand pumps. These are some of the areas where we successfully met our targets. Door-to-door garbage collection has been initiated too. But I am not satisfied with the process. There is still a lot ofwork left to be done.
 
Lucknow is being developed as a smart city, perhaps UP’s only smart city currently. Various departments will be involved - the District Administration, the Police Department, the PWD, Tourism and Transport. Hence, coordinating between and achieving the consensus of so many different departments is in itself a challenge. We are striving to create an atmosphere of cooperation,of samanvay between various departments in this context.
 
There was recently a move to shift 500 factories out of Lucknow. How do you balance growth with sustainable development?
 
The industrial area for Lucknow is separate -just outside the city. So pollution from the industrial area does not have much impact in the city. In the field of production/industrialization, in and around Lucknow, there is still a shortage. But in the city itself, some big offices have moved in.
 
And Lucknow has become an educational hub. You have the educational college, management institute, medical college, PGI etc. Various other institutes have also been set up, creating avenues for employment.
 
But, in terms of industry, while there have been some units set up outside Lucknow, there is the need for much more. The State-Centre coordination will determine how this plays out. There are various Central Government schemes, such as Start-Up India or Make-In-India, through which youngsters can find employment opportunities. The scope for industrial parks and infrastructure is there. Future projects – whether they relate to sewerage, the city’s beautification or setting up medical centres – have been outlined.
 
There’s a line from a poem by Yogesh Praveen which translates into: “Not just Gumbads and Minars, Lucknow is the city where you will find the farishtey (angels) living still.” Truly, the sabhyataa (etiquette), sanskriti (culture), the mel-jol (intermingling) of people in this city is unique in a way. The antiquity of Lucknow, the history of of this place, the craftsmanship of chikankari workers, the Dussehri aams (mangoes), the chaat, bataashe…these would charm anyone.
 
Lucknow has always been an educational centre, but now students from all over the country come to study here. Some of the new areas which have been developed in the city are not in any way inferior to those in an Indian metro. The heritage properties have also been restored. Religiously, it’s often called choti Kashi - there’s Sita ki Rasoi, a temple which is said to have been built byLakshman or one where Hanumanji is said to have rested. Or the Ramlila and Idgah created by Wajid Ali Shah and Asaf-ud-Daulah… by the Nawabs of Lucknow. Lucknow is an example of a city that boasts a mixed, symbiotic culture and heritage.
 
Lucknow’s politics too is removed from that of other places, removed from the politics of caste and religion.
 
Old Lucknow was built in an unplanned way. So building a modern infrastructure there is difficult.
 
But our sanskriti and sahitya (literature) is entrenched in Old Lucknow. Even while planning Lucknow as a smart city, we have thought of aiding Old Lucknow’s development differently and planned new urbanization schemes in a more logical structured manner. The new urbanization schemes aim at providing facilities for residence and business in the same place. Suppose someone stays at Alambagh and he or she has to travel to Hazratganj to buy goods, they will incur many transportation expenses. Our aim will be to provide schools, medical facilities, malls and shops near the residential areas that are being developed. This is the essence of the new urbanization schemes.
 
You spoke about Centre-State relations. How have your own collaborations with the UP State Government worked out? For example, with regard to Lucknow’s Metro Rail project or the banning of polythene?
 
This is a democratic dilemma of sorts, seen throughout the country. You often have different parties ruling at the Centre, state and local levels. But the desire for votes shouldn't come in the way of smooth coordination.
 
I’ve tried to coordinate well with the Sate and Central Government. For instance, for the polythene ban, I wrote to the CM that it was a noble initiative, but its implementation rests on officials. When we, at the LMC, instituted such a ban – on plastic below 40 microns – the officials who could have implemented it were transferred to the district Government. We could have helped the State Government implement this but we don't have the capacity to do so.
 
After elections all parties must come together to fulfill a common aim - development.
 
Thanks to the Home Minister (Rajnath Singh, Lucknow MP), two major city projects have received funding. These are the Outer Ring Road, a project worth thousands of crores which will decongest traffic in the city – and save travel time – and the metro rail. But black clouds were hovering over the metro rail. Despite most of the funds coming from the Centre, the UP State government started it without notice to the Central Government. It has made a habit of taking schemes the Central Government is funding and rebranding them to claim credit. Eg. 'Swachchta Abhiyaan' has become 'Clean City, Green City'. There should be laws that ensure the schemes are implemented and party politics don’t come in the way of development.
 
But what motivation will a party have to implement another party's scheme if it can't claim credit?
 
If two brothers work on something then both have a right to credit. If 60 to 70% of a scheme has been funded by the Centre and this isn't even being acknowledged publicly then it isn't fair. It is also unfair if the implementation for Central schemes is stalled. For the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Kyoti Yojana the Central Government has been trying to set up infrastructure for electricity- but the State Government isn’t working to implement the scheme. For the Bima Yojana, funds have been released from the Centre, but the State Government hasn’t appointed an agency to implement it. The people being harmed are the farmers who should have benefited.
 
For sugarcane farmers the Centre is ready to transfer aid – over Rs 6000 crores to their bank accounts, but the State government isn’t providing the Central Government with the necessary records for the transfer. This is because the State Government doesn’t want the Centre to get credit. The desire for 'credit' is something that has the potential of blocking development.
 
The LMC has declared a fine of Rs. 500 for multiple things... one of them to prevent the collection of water outside people's houses to prevent the spread of Dengue.
 
Dengue isn't a huge issue here. The dengue mosquitoes breed in clean water. Malaria mosquitoes breed in the dirty water that collects outdoors. Private and Government hospitals have been prepped to deal with the disease. Measures for protection are being advertised widely.
 
We penalize people with a Rs. 500 fine for throwing or burning garbage in a public area, urinating or defecating in a public area, disobeying parking rules.
 
But what motivation will a party have to implement another party's scheme if it can't claim credit?
 
If two brothers work on something then both have a right to credit. If 60 to 70% of a scheme has been funded by the Centre and this isn't even being acknowledged publicly then it isn't fair. It is also unfair if the implementation for Central schemes is stalled. For the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Kyoti Yojana the Central Government has been trying to set up infrastructure for electricity- but the State Government isn’t working to implement the scheme. For the Bima Yojana, funds have been released from the Centre, but the State Government hasn’t appointed an agency to implement it. The people being harmed are thefarmers who should have benefited. For sugarcanefarmers the Centre is ready to transfer aid – over Rs 6000 crores to their bank accounts, but the State government isn’t providing the Central Government with the necessary records for thetransfer. This is because the State Government doesn’t want the Centre to get credit. The desire for 'credit' is something that has the potential of blocking development. 
 
The LMC has declared a fine of Rs. 500 for multiple things... one of them to prevent the collection of water outside people's houses to prevent the spread of Dengue.
 
Dengue isn't a huge issue here. The dengue mosquitoes breed in clean water. Malaria mosquitoes breed in the dirty water that collects outdoors. Private and Government hospitals have been prepped to deal with the disease. Measures for protection are being advertised widely.
 
We penalize people with a Rs. 500 fine for throwing or burning garbage in a public area, urinating or defecating in a public area, disobeying parking rules...
 
But isn't charging someone Rs. 500 for water collecting outside their house a bit much?
 
The only people fined are those who dig a hole, for instance, to fix/ place a sewer line, and leave it open. Those who are guilty as per specified rules.
 
You mentioned a need for more LMC workers at the beginning of your second term as mayor- there being only 3000 to 5000 when there should have been 16000
 
The LMC needs a minimum of 14,500, ideally 16,000 to 17000 workers for us to fulfill responsibilities and provide the requisite facilities.
 
We have had around the same number of workers since 1980 even though now, with the inclusion of rural areas, the jurisdiction has expanded. But the State Government will have to release funds for that. Still, we are making up for the shortage of manpower, meeting targets, by working with contract workers and, where possible, with machines and technology.
 
Like the incident at Una, Gujarat, a State of which you are the prabhari, there have been incidents of cow vigilantism reported from Lucknow too, recently.
 
There is no such problem in Lucknow - no such distinction between Dalit and savarna when it comes to the municipal corporation and its workers. The safai karmcharis (sanitation workers) have a good relationship with the nagar nigam (municipal corporation) and its officers.
 
The LMC is known to maintain its own Goshaalas (cow shelters) so its workers aren’t seen as being against cow welfare. We have auto-lifting for dead cow carcasses, with the use of machines.
 
There are vehicles for this work with the LMC’s name written clearly on them. The carcasses are taken to a specific place designated for this purpose. So there’s little scope for someone catching, harassing or getting physically violent with an LMC worker who’s taking a carcass away.
 
So you’re saying news reports alleging cow vigilantism and workers being beaten up are false?
 
There’s no question of them being true because such feelings of animosity don’t exist against the LMC.
 
We run the Kanha Upvan Project with an air conditioned facility where over thousands of cows have been operated upon and the plastic from their stomachs removed.
 
At Jankipuram we look after 900 cows and about 1000 buffaloes. Ours is the first nagar nigam which pays for fodder for cows out of its own funds. When the nagar nigam is doing gau sewa, why would anyone attack its workers?
 
What about what happened at Una?
 
What happened at Una was truly tragic. Those beaten up were completely innocent. The culprits have been caught and they are being punished and they will be punished so severely that they’ll remember the punishment for lifetimes to come.
 
But it is being made into a political stunt. The incident itself smacks of conspiracy. The fact that a video was made and circulated online points to this. It is likely that the culprits were actually paid workers out to defame our Government.
 
The fact that the Prime Minister has worked for the Dalits has become a cause for concern for the parties in opposition. Today at Mudra Bank, it has become compulsory for every bank to give loans to a Dalit and an adivasi. Dr. Ambedkar is being paid tributes to, not just in India, through announcements like the Panchteerth, but in England as well – so that people may know how India’s foundations have been strengthened by a Dalit leader. The PM has brought Dalit industrialists and entrepreneurs together and announced schemes so that they can benefit from greater opportunities. Then there have been various schemes – such as the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana – which have provided training and employment opportunities to Dalits particularly. People have begun to feel that the PM isn’t just playing caste politics but is actually working for the economic betterment of the Dalit community.
 
Do the safai karmcharis at LMC have protective wear and equipment for their work?
 
They have masks as well as other protective equipment – especially those who go into the sewers. There have been one or two incidents where this was violated and the engineers in charge were suspended. As per rule, if someone is found to be violating this protocol they will be suspended and it will be difficult for them to continue in their jobs.
 
There has been talk, from 2014, of you being apossible BJP CM candidate in the upcoming UP state elections…
 
I am a simple party worker. There are a dozen odd people in Uttar Pradesh, in the party, who are above me. I believe in working, not hankering after posts. Jahaan par kam vahaan par ham (wherever there is work left to be done, that’s where I’ll be to do the needful). I will work according to the directions given by the party’s central command.
 
But don’t you think a CM face will benefit the party?
 
The party’s strategy will vary from state to state. There was no CM face in the Haryana, Maharashtra or the Jammu and Kashmir elections,where BJP won…
 
The ‘Modi Wave’ was in full flow then…
 
…in Delhi there was a CM face but the party didn’t fare well.
 
Perhaps the CM face wasn’t appropriate…
 
In Assam we won with a CM candidate. So the strategy varies. A party works as per its ideology too. A party’s work isn’t just to try to win an election somehow. It is also to increase the party’s connect with people, whether or not it is in power in a State. It is also to prepare itself and determine how it can work better than the previous Government.