“People don’t want to wait much. Infrastructure projects, like the new airport, need to be built fast,” said Maharashtra Governor Kateekal Sankaranarayanan (78) in an exclusive chat with Hindustan Times .
Sankaranarayanan, a veteran Kerala politician who completed six months at Raj Bhavan, said he has directed the University of Mumbai that he would not tolerate delays that would affect students. Excerpts.
Need to build new airport soon
Mumbai desperately needs a second airport as the current one is congested. But the proposed international airport at Navi Mumbai is stuck in environmental clearances.
“Of course, protecting the environment is important but we should find a solution. Currently, planes burn a lot of fuel circling over the airport before they get to land. Isn’t that a waste of precious fuel and damaging the environment?” asked Sankaranarayanan.
“In fact, whether it is an airport or a sea link or road, projects should be built fast. People want quick results. I think that’s what the government should keep in mind.”
No room for suspicion on VC’s appointment
The appointment of the vice-chancellor of the University of Mumbai was mired in controversy with doubts being raised over the selection of Dr Rajan Welukar.
But Sankaranarayanan, who is also chancellor of the university, defended the appointment. “I have full faith in the experts’ panel that shortlisted the nominees. The decision was taken on the basis of merit and the selection made in a transparent manner. I don’t think there is any room for suspicion,” he said.
The governor said he has asked Welukar to ensure that conducting examinations and declaring results are not delayed. Sankaranarayanan stressed that he would not tolerate corruption or corrupt practices in the field.
Experts’ panel to monitor development in neglected areas
Recently there was a controversy over the allocation of funds for removal of backlog of backward areas. As constitutional head of the state, the governor is responsible to ensure that government makes efforts to remove the backlog.
“I have decided to appoint a committee of experts to suggest as well as monitor the process. I have already discussed this with the chief minister,” the governor said.
“I am also devising some mechanism to ensure that the benefit of government plans reaches the poor in the state. I will talk with the chief minister on the same.”
No confrontation with those running the government
The tiff between the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Karnataka and Governor H.S. Bhardwaj has become an issue of debate. Sankaranarayanan, however, insisted that he does not believe in confrontation.
“I have cordial relations with the government. I believe that all matters can be solved in cordial manner. I don’t believe in picking up quarrels.”
Development should be out of coalition politics
In Kerala, Sankaranarayanan is known as the convenor of the Congress-led coalition, who managed to keep the parties together for a long time.
In Maharashtra, both the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party blame coalition politics as one of the reasons for the failure of government on certain fronts. Sankaranarayanan, however, has a different view. “We ran a coalition for 16 years. The coalition partners should be unanimous on developmental issues. That should not be affected either by coalition politics or even politics over local issues,” he opined.
Would like to return to active politics
With the assembly elections in Kerala barely a year away, would he be interested in returning to active politics?
“As long as I am the governor, I am politically neutral. If you ask me whether I am interested in returning to active politics, I would say yes.”