Murli Deora, Union minister for communications and information technology, asserted on Thursday that there was no leadership crisis in the Congress party. During his visit to the dna office he answered a wide range of questions with candour. Excerpts:
Q: Why is Mumbai in the dumps today? The railways, traffic, etc are in poor shape?
A: This is not a problem peculiar to Mumbai, but is something faced by Bengaluru and other cities too. The problem is that these cities grew first and now we are trying to create the infrastructure to match the growth. It is a case of putting the cart before the horse. Ideally, the growth ought to have been anticipated and the necessary infrastructure created accordingly.
Q: But, certainly something could have been done about the railways?
A: A good deal depends on the person heading the department in Mumbai. If he is dynamic then we see the re sults all around. But we cannot have a system which is personality-oriented. Abroad they have systems in place. These systems function smoothly irrespective of the persons at the helm.
Q: The state government had appointed T Chandrashekhar, IAS, first as municipal commissioner of Thane and then of Nagpur. This officer performed something short of a miracle in both these postings. Why can’t the government rope in persons like him for Mumbai?
A: Like what I said before, I would perfer a systemic approach to the problem of urban chaos rather than one which is highly subjective.
Q: Your portfolio includes shipping. JNPT was primarily conceived as a satellite port that will not only take the load off Mumbai port, but also over a period of time help close Mumbai port. Instead we find that the Mumbai port is being expanded, which is majorly adding to the traffic congestion. In fact, thousands of acres of Mumbai Port Trust land could have been utilised for affordable housing, open spaces and other facilities.
A: I entirely agree. As an MP, I had taken up the issue. But there were a lot of hurdles. Mumbai Port has already gone far ahead in terms of creating increased capacity for handling container traffic.
JNPT is also doing the same thing. In fact, a committee was constituted under the chief secretary to look into these aspects.
But, it appears that the unions and other local politicians have managed to have their way.
Q: But as minister of state for shipping you could have certainly stopped all these developments.
A: By the time I entered the ministry, lot of water had flowed down the river. The projects were already being implemented. There was nothing that I could do to reverse the trend.
Q: You are also minister for telecom. What is your take on cellphone radiation? Is the fear of radiation for real or is it imaginary?
A: As a minister competing interests approach me. I have to strike a balance somewhere. On the one hand we have seen a huge growth in cellphones and at the same time there is this fear of radiation which is not entirely without basis. Actually, we have prescribed radition norms which are ten times stricter than the norms specified by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Some countries like Austria have norms which are 100 times stricter than WHO norms. Nevertheless, our norms are more stringent than several nations in the West which has upset the cellphone service providers.
We have now appointed an inter-discriplinary committee which will go into all aspects of this controversy.Experts from different fields, including environmentalists will be on this panel. Indians are biologically less tougher in comparison to Westerners because of a variety of factors.
The committee will keep this in mind. In fact, it will even study the effect of this radiation on sparrows and other birds. We are awaiting the report of this panel before taking any further decision.
Q: Is there a leadership crisis in your party?
A: Most certainly not. It is the finest in the country. But, the problem, as I see it, is in communication. Communication forms 30 percent of an organisation’s functioning. We must be communicating about five percent, even though we have lot of achievements to our credit. This is one area where we need to improve.
Q: How good are the chances of Shiela Dikshit leading your party to victory in the upcoming elections in Delhi?
A: Some people have talked about the “fatigue factor’’ and have wondered if a new face would be able to do better. But, the reports which I have received clearly show that she is going to lead the party to victory all the way. I have no doubt that we will win again in the nation’s capital.