Two-time Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda is a man of few words. The Rohtak strongman, however, stood up to a barrage of questions from Hindustan Times journalists at the leaderspeak@ht on Thursday. The posers covered a wide range of issues, including violence at Maruti’s Manesar plant, the recently launched land pooling scheme, river waters dispute and the Rohtak shelter home sex abuse case.
Haryana has remained in the news for wrong reasons. There is growing interference of khap panchayats, which make life miserable for young couples.
The media has also played a role in creating a wrong impression. Give me a single case where khaps hanged someone. Who is responsible for these honour killings? The parents of the boy or the girl. They are the ones who should be punished.
But khaps, by issuing diktats, using coercive tactics and interfering in the lives of people, contribute towards creating a hostile environment.
It is not like that. I know instances where khaps have opposed bad rituals and customs in our society, such as dowry.
But do khaps have legal sanctity?
No, they don’t. But khaps and honour killings should not be linked.
Is it not the government’s duty to protect the right to life of an individual?
The court has directed us to set up protection homes for runaway couples and we have done that.
The recent violence-arson at Maruti Suzuki’s Manesar plant would have shaken the confidence of entrepreneurs and industrialists. What is the government doing to ensure that such incidents are not repeated?
This was not an incident of labour unrest. The actual cause of violence will be known only after the special investigating team (SIT) gives its report. Maybe it was planned, but let the SIT report come. This untoward incident has been condemned by one and all.
Government agencies such as the labour department, the intelligence and the local administration were caught napping and had no clue about the simmering tension between employees and management of Maruti Suzuki. However, no heads have rolled so far.
Whenever there was a demand from Maruti, the police was sent to the plant. If there is criminal negligence on the part of any official, we will take action.
Haryana has often been quoted as a model state by the Centre as far as its land acquisition policy is concerned. You recently introduced the land pooling scheme, giving an option to land-losers to have developed plots in compensation. However, there are widespread protests every now and then.
It is a case of people having higher expectations (regarding land compensation). There is nothing wrong in people aspiring for more.
But you were quick to concede to demands for shelving a proposed industrial model township in Ambala. Was it due to protests by farmers?
Whether I shelved that project because of opposition by farmers or not is an aspect I don’t want to go into. There were other factors as well. I won’t like to discuss individual cases.
It is still not clear whether the land pooling scheme will apply to ongoing acquisition.
I have asked my officers to look into this. Wait for 5-7 days, we are coming up with a detailed policy paper on this matter.
The Centre has proposed that the issue of river waters be shifted from the state list to the concurrent list. Will it help in equitable distribution of water?
This issue needs a detailed discussion before it is decided whether river waters should stay in the state list or included in the concurrent list. I will not like to publicly express my views on this issue. I may have my individual views on this matter, but at the same time I can have a different opinion as a chief minister or a Congressman. If you actually want to know my views, you will have to go through the Lok Sabha debates between 1991 and 1996.
Haryana and Punjab have spent crores of rupees on fighting protracted legal battles in courts over the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) and Hansi Butana canals. Why can’t the two states sit across the table and sort the issues?
On this issue, all I want to say is: give us our share of water. Any dialogue is welcome if it is organised to give Haryana its share of water.
But what about Punjab’s share of water, which is based on the riparian law, which says that states through which the river water flows will have the first right on it?
Every issue has been settled by the Supreme Court while deciding in favour of Haryana.
You recently wrote to the Centre for making a request before the Supreme Court to expedite the presidential reference on the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act. Why is the matter getting delayed inordinately?
I don’t know (why the matter is getting delayed). Yes, I have written to the Centre also on this matter… I am trying my level best and hope the hearing will take place soon. Why is only this reference pending? I want the media’s help to highlight it.
Recently, we had a meeting of northern zonal council of states in Chandigarh, where several inter-state disputes were discussed. Do you think such platforms really help in resolving such issues?
Sometimes, it does help. But not every time.
The Rohtak Apna Ghar sex abuse case was a shocker. One fails to understand how such nefarious activities continued for so long with no one in the district administration, women and child development department, and the intelligence wing getting a whiff of it. Government agencies only woke up when the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) raided the shelter home.
It can happen at other places also. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is inquiring into it.
How about setting up a state Child Rights Commission since so many instances have come to light now?
I have no objection to this.
When is the Haryana government likely to constitute the State Human Rights Commission?
The process is on. The search committee has already prepared a panel. The selection committee could not meet because Leader of the Opposition Om Prakash Chautala was away.
Will it be set up this year?
Maybe the commission will be in place later this year. Haryana and Delhi are locked in a dispute over supply of water to the Capital. While Delhi is demanding an additional 80 MGD (million gallons daily) water from the Munak-Haiderpur concrete-lined channel, Haryana is no mood to part with it. Delhi is our national capital. Haryana is supplying almost double of what we are supposed to provide to them.
There seems to be ‘ad-hocism’ in many areas. The power sector is considered critical by the government, but for the past four months, the government has not cared to appoint a full-time managing director of power distribution company Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam (DHBVN). In Gurgaon, which is vulnerable to labour unrest, the seniormost labour officer is an HCS (Haryana Civil Service) officer having the additional charge of subdivisional magistrate. How do you justify all this?
The person holding the additional charge of DHBVN is doing a good job and performing well. There is no ‘ad-hocism’. These are all administrative decisions.
You spoke about the revival of the Kamraj plan at the recent Congress Working Committee meeting. Are you and your ministers prepared to make the sacrifice?
I will not discuss what transpired at the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting. As for the Kamraj plan, I will be happy to make the sacrifice.
What are your views on the Jats’ demand for quota in jobs?
I support their demand for reservation in central jobs. I recently met then union home minister P Chidambaram. I have set up a commission to prepare a report on the demand of Jats, Rors, Tyagis and Bishnois, who wanted reservation in jobs.
There has been a lot of discussion on Rahul Gandhi assuming a greater role in the Congress or the government set-up. How will it help the party?
The younger generation has to come forward. They are our future leaders.
‘Won’t blame anyone for the grid collapse’
Haryana witnessed unprecedented protests over power shortage. What went wrong?
Such protests happened everywhere, not just in Haryana. The power demand has shot up. The Centre and Punjab have blamed overdrawal by Haryana for the Northern Grid failure. I’m not going to blame anyone. All I can say is that they need to find the reason for the collapse. The proposed nuclear power plant in Fatehabad district is being opposed by villagers whose land is being acquired. Former army chief VK Singh has termed the idea to set up an N-plant “foolish”.
Is there any scope for a re-think on the project?
I think the country needs nuclear plants. Grid failures and depleting coal stocks strengthen my argument. The options are nuclear or solar energy. Many, including the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC), are also opposing this even though their leaders (Devi Lal and Bhajan Lal) earlier wrote letters in support of an atomic power plant.