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A tough road ahead for transport minister

chandigarh Updated: Aug 31, 2014 14:46 IST
Bhartesh Singh Thakur
Bhartesh Singh Thakur
Hindustan Times

The only Muslim face in the state cabinet, transport minister Aftab Ahmed, 48, MLA from Nuh, which has the third worst literacy rate among all tehsils in the state, is known for bringing educational institutions to his constituency.

A third-generation politician, Ahmed's grandfather Kabir Ahmed was an MLA from the same constituency. His father Khurshid Ahmed was an MP and even a minister in Haryana cabinet.

Carrying the family legacy ahead, he entered the electoral fray in 1996 from Taoru and came third. In 2005, he fought from Nuh but lost the elections by a small margin of 4,300 votes. In 2009, he wrested the family fortress while getting double the number of votes than the runner up, a BJP candidate.

But in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress was third with just over 17,000 votes, while INLD candidate Zakir Hussain got over 69,000 votes from Nuh assembly segment. Though, it could be attributed to INLD fielding a Meo Muslim candidate and polarisation of votes in his favour. With INLD declaring Hussain as its candidate for assembly polls too, it will be a tough battle ahead for Ahmed as Meo votes which are in majority could be divided. "His candidature will not make any impact. Lok Sabha elections and Vidhan Sabha elections are different,"Aftab Ahmed said.

The transport minister is likely to get benefit from a number of projects which he got executed and made operational in the district since
2009. But he has to fight anti-incumbency, allegations of regional bias in development and favouritism to Jats.

"I have brought a number of educational institutions which included medical college, polytechnic college and JBT training institute. Also a lot of amount is spent on providing drinking water. Since, Mewat has been made a district, about Rs 4,300 crore is being spent on development projects," he said.

With just 8 months at wheel in transport department, he counted the feat of regularising over 8,000 employees of Haryana Roadways Transport Corporation (HRTC) as big achievement of his tenure. The contractual staff gets a monthly hike of Rs 4,000-5,000 but the labour union is still not satisfied. SS Punia, president of Haryana roadways union, complained, "They have just brought the salaries of the contractual staff at par with the regular staff. There are still pending issues of pay anomalies and recruitment of staff. People are retiring and there are no fresh recruitments."

The transport department caters to 12.3 lakh passengers daily with a fleet of 4,019 buses. Before Ahmed tookeover as minister, the transport department was never been free of irregularities. The recent CAG report pointed out road tax being deposited to other states without plying buses and in the last report close to 3,000 cases of irregularities and non-recovery of taxes on vehicles in 2012-13 amounting to Rs 4.91 crore was pointed out.

Speaking to HT, Ahmed said as far as achievements are concerned there is hardly anything which he wanted to do but couldn't achieve, barring a court's stay on stage carriage permit policy.

The Gohana rally announcement made in November 2013 of free bus travel for girls studying in schools, colleges and other educational institutions was implemented and was well received. The e-payment of road tax, SMS facility regarding intimation of fee deposited at registration and licensing authorities, facilities for training of drivers, computerised driving test, amnesty scheme on road tax to truck owners are other achievements of the transport department.