sulabh swatchh bharat

Thursday, 20-June-2019

PRAHLAD PATEL - “I don’t think deforestation is a problem”

Prahlad Singh Patel represents Damoh Lok Sabha constituency. In this interview to Harrsh Ranjan, Patel spoke about his current political status, his preference for development over the environment and why there’s nothing wrong with defecating in the open.

MPs’ attendance in the House is an issue of concern. It’s a common complaint that MPs after getting elected, don’t show up in their constituency till the next elections. But you have a good record on both counts. How do you manage it?

It’s all about the time management and the honesty with which one wants to perform. I try to be methodical. If you are methodical there is always ample time for all the work and assignments you can think of. I was first elected to the Lok Sabha during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure as prime minister in 1989. Atal ji always used to tell us: “This Delhi is like a mayanagri. When and how do you want to sell yourself, this you have to decide. There is a cost involved in your every move. You even pay for your absenteeism in Parliament.”

No other leader has said this with so much of clarity. Atal ji also used to say that MPs should only sit on their allotted seats in the House. They should create within themselves the inner capacity to attract the Chair and the House when standing up to speak. The Chair should know that the person speaks with facts and knowledge, and always be to the point, finish your speech within the time limit.

In the monsoon session, your presence in Parliament is over 98%. In your constituency it is always 100 %. What are the major problems and challenges in your constituency? Is deforestation resulting in floods?

No, I don’t think deforestation is the problem. Actually this is need of the hour for our region. There are plenty of forests, in fact much more than what is required for ecological balance. It is hampering development. After the Modi government came to power in 2014, development has been fast tracked. The major problems of our region are drought and availability of drinking water.

Are you saying deforestation is good?

No I am not trying to justify. I am not saying that forests should be cut. I am only trying to tell you that we should strike a balance between preserving forests and development. One should not oppose deforestation process only for the sake of opposing it. See, every jungle is not good for us. If there are no animals there and the jungle comprises dry tree and woods, it can result in forest fires that are very dangerous. See what is happening in some forests in Australia and America. You said drinking water and drought are two major problems.

What is being done to resolve?

We are in the process of setting up water treatment plants, for different purposes. Also, the Narmada is the major river of our area. Our relationship with Narmada is that of a mother and son. We don’t even bathe in the Narmada nor wash our clothes, because we believe in keeping the river clean. We have undertaken a Narmada cleaning project over 137 km in Narsinghpur district, my birthplace. It has delivered wonderful results and people in adjoining districts have also got motivated for Narmada cleaning mission.

Damoh is a comparatively backward district. Defecation in the open is also a major cause of concern. Are you building public toilets or toilets in homes?

No, I am not doing anything to end the system open defecation. I just told you about water scarcity. We cannot afford to use five litres of precious water for each flushing. How can we build toilets and allow people to (mis)use water for flushing. It is better to go in the open to answer nature’s call. Whatever I am telling you reflects practical ground realities. I don’t need false appreciation.

As MoS, you have not been given any portfolio this time. Does it hurt you?

See, this is the prerogative of the prime minister to make you a mantri or to see you as an MP. I respect Modiji for his vision. I knew from the beginning that I would not be made a minister. I was elected MP after a gap of 10 years.  I also didn’t want to become a minister because I wanted to prove my capabilities on the floor of the House,  in Parliament.

You deserted the party for a short period along with Uma Bharti. Is that why you did not get a Cabinet berth?

Yes, I did leave the party but never harboured any ill feelings about it. I have been here since my student days. I believe in the party and Sangh ideology. But, yes correct, once you leave and rejoin any organization you have to prove yourself.

Who is your political guru?

In politics there are leaders. Atalji was my leader and he will remain so.

If you have to describe Narendra Modi in one word, what would your answer be?

The right person in the right place. He is a mass leader of great social commitment. In his endeavours, it is possible that some decisions will be taken that you or I may not like, but in the larger interest of the nation everyone should support his stand.