The Centrist Outlook presents its readers with “Right, Left, Centre” an interview column dedicated to gathering insights and eliciting opinions from public figures driving to be instruments of social change. It offers a platform to exchange ideas, discuss challenges and explore solutions to address legal, regulatory, societal and political issues.

Ask The Doctor! Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss On The Present State Of Tamil Nadu Politics, NEET And Much More.

This week’s column features an interview with the Former Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare and Presently Member of Parliament, Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss, the Youth Wing President of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and commonly hailed as the “Public Health Champion”.

1. Tamil Nadu seems to be heading into a debt trap. What measures do you suggest to pull Tamil Nadu out of the debt trap?

To shore up Tamil Nadu from debt straits, it is necessary to have prudent regulations for river and beach sand, granite quarrying etc. this will generate huge revenue to the state’s exchequer. Further, bringing in anti-corruption institutions like Lokayuktas, legislatingthe Right to Services Act, implementing various e-governance and m-governance schemes will scale down corruption levels to a larger extent. Dividing Tamilnadu into five Regional Economic Commissionerates headed by officers of the Chief Secretary ranks, primarily to draw investments with a target-based approach along with the creation of Government – aided or supported co-operative societies at village levels will not only improve the economic conditions of the State but will also diversify various economic activities with huge opportunities for employment generation.

With a sinking feeling, I say, Sooner we do, the better!

2. Don’t you think that improving the standard of State Board Education instead of opposing NEET is the ideal solution to the NEET issue?

Of course, this is my overdue demand, the standard of State Board Education should be increased much more than that of the CBSE, wehave been demanding this for the past 10 years. Instead of the sudden implementation of NEET, leaving the unprepared non-CBSE students in a lurch, a 5 year exemption to NEET should be given to the non-CBSE students in Tamil Nadu and equip them in the meantime, in order to ensure a level playing field. The present unilateral implementation of NEET is against Social Justice, Equity and State Autonomy, especiallyin the case of rural students. I have been demanding for long that the standard of our State syllabus should not only be increased on par with CBSE, but more than that of CBSE. But my plea fell on deaf ears. I hope at least hereafter the Tamil Nadu Government will act as a student-concernedGovernment.

3. What measures do you suggest for improving the lives and livelihood of farmers?

At the policy making stage, there should be a separate budget for agriculture. For the past 10 years, my party (PMK) prepares and releases a model agricultural budget document. At administrative level the present agricultural Ministry should be divided into three separate Ministries – (1) Ministry for the development of agriculture (2) Ministry for Horticulture and (3) Ministry for irrigation. My vision for the future include,

* A separate budget for agriculture will be introduced and suggestions of farmers will be included in the budget proposal.

* All agricultural aids like quality seeds, fertilizers and insecticides and motor pumps will be given free of cost.

* One tractor per panchayat will be given for free by the Government for farmers to use.

* The price of Sugarcane will be increased to Rs.4, 000 per ton and the price of paddy willbe increased to Rs.2, 200 per quintal.

* Agricultural loans will be waived off and a farmer’s pay commission will be created.

* An agricultural specific economic zone will be established in every district.

* Food processing units and export zones will be set up in all districts of the State. This will lead to increase in the quantum of exports and usher in new job opportunities.

* Tamil Nadu will be divided into four zones with an Agricultural University in each. A

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will be signed between the Israeli Agriculture department and these Agricultural Universities to introduce innovative techniques of cultivation and bring state-of-the-art technology to Tamil Nadu.

* Genetic crops will be banned.

* Centers for direct procurement of paddy will be established in large numbers across Delta Districts and as much required in the other Districts.

* Like in the case of Delhi and Bengaluru, Safal markets will be set up in Tamil Nadu as well

* Permission will be granted to process and sell PadhaNeer from Palm and Neera from Coconut Trees.

* The Government will take necessary steps to protect fertile land.

* A separate Ministry for Irrigation will be created with a full-fledged minister made in charge,

* A massive irrigation plan will be implemented at the cost of Rs.50, 000 crores in the next 5 year.

Besides, after my parents I consider farmers as Food-Offering God.

4. What is your view on the Tamil Nadu Government’s stand in Karnataka’s Megedatu dam project? Is there something else that the Government of Tamil Nadu could've done with respect to Karnataka’s Megedatu project?

To make matters worse, both the ruling and the opposition party of Tamil Nadu have miserably failed to stop the illegal construction of Megedatu Dam Project by the Government of Karnataka. The Union minister for Drinking Water and Sanitation, Miss Uma Bharathi guaranteed and promised to prevent and stop any such construction across river Cauvery at Mekedatu while replying to my letter wherein I raised the issue of whether the State government of Karnataka had unilaterally submitted a detailed project report on the Mekedatu project across river Cauvery to the Central Water Commission seeking clearance which is in violation of the final award of CWDT (Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal) and without obtaining the concurrence of the basin State of Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

The honorable Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation had committed in the past through a letter communication in response to my letter that such a project will not be allowed without obtaining the concurrence of the State of Tamil Nadu. It would be better if the government takes any constructive and concrete steps before the things "go from bad to worse".

5. What solution do you have in mind to resolve inter-state water disputes and water scarcity that Tamil Nadu faces today?

Because of the lethargic Government and the antagonistic attitudes by both ruling and opposition parties towards each other, the Cauvery issue is left unsolved. Immediate constitution of the Cauvery Water Management Board by the Union Government without any further delay is the only possible solution with regard to Cauvery issue. Further, nationalization of rivers as early as possible will be a major step towards resolving inter-state river water crisis. Also, I blame both the ruling and the opposition party's attitude of "crossing that bridge when they come to it".

6. Do you think industrial growth is possible without any social cost in the wake of protests against several projects like the Methane Extraction Project at Neduvasal?

The Government without industry is empty, employment without industry is blind. I myself make it very clear that my party is not against development through industrialization. At the same time, Destroying the Cauvery delta region, Granaries of Tamil Nadu in the name of petroleum, shale gas exploration or methane petro Chemical Park. etc. is complete injustice and is unreasonable for 100% economic growth and development is possible without any social costs. PMK, as a party, advocates sustainable, integrated and holistic development. Food Security is much more important than energy security and it can’t be compromised. The present Kathiramangalam and Neduvasal, Cuddalore (PCPIR) will squarely destruct the eco system and livelihood of farmers, fishermen and other economic activities. A comprehensive land use policy, water policies and environment policies at state level at par with International standards can bring in eco-economic growth and development. Nature has for everyone's need but it doesn't have for everyone's greed.

7. Can you elaborate whether abolition of Triple Talaq will bring any significant improvement in the rights of women in India?

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it “- Voltaire. Matter of religion is one's own personal concern. As per our Constitution, the minority rights have to be protected but at the same time, modern democratic gender rights have to be balanced with minority rights, especially personal law. We will only oppose those things which are very dogmatic, irrational and irreligious, like Rajaram Mohan Roy, Periyar, Dr.B.RAmbedkar, etc.

8. Don’t you think leading political parties in Tamil Nadu failed to capitalize on the political vacuum created by the demise of former CM Jayalalitha? Do you think there were some other agents that helped contain this vacuum?

The saying "when the cat's away, the mice will play", may be applicable to some agents or parties, but in the assembly election held last year, when both Late Ms. Jayalalithaa and Mr.Karunanithi were in full swing, our party single handedly came out as the third largest party in Tamil Nadu. Some media houses fail to show us (PMK) as a viable alternative.Fifty years of Dravidian parties rule has polarized the fourth estate (media) as well. Therefore, a manufactured perspective of political vacuum is created, anyone who follows Tamil Nadu politics very closely will appreciate the fact that majority of our promises in our election manifesto was plagiarized by both the Dravidian parties, especially DMK. This in itself shows that we are the force reckoned by the people of Tamil Nadu who have lost trust on the inefficient Dravidian parties which are driven by personality whereas PMK has brought in a paradigm shift in the political sphere i.e. issue-based politics (prohibition of alcohol, free- health, free education, employment).

9. Don’t you think the surge in linguistic nationalistic groups in Tamil Nadu is a danger to the harmony of the society?

Home is where our language is. One should not forget that in 1956, the State Reorganization Act provided for the creation of States on linguistic basis. Even the imposition of Hindi by the Union in mid- 1960’s was fought tooth and nail by the people of Tamil Nadu and thwarted it in order to protect our cultural rights which was guaranteed in our constitution. As long as the linguistic nationalist groups are democratic and their activities are in line with our Constitution, it is not a danger and at the same time, unity in diversity which is a foundational value of our country should not be compromised at any cost, rather it has to be protected. India is a cooperative, accommodative, and inclusive Democracy.

10. Don’t you think the nominated Lieutenant Governor KiranBedi should show restraint in interfering with the day to day administration of the elected Government at Puducherry?

 Both the Constitutional Heads of the Union Territory of Puducherry i.e. the LG and the CM should ensure that their respective Constitutional obligations are satisfied in both letter and spirit in such a way that one should not tread on other's toes. In fact, both LG and CM shall compliment and supplement each other’s role in administering the Union Territory. LG should play as a bridge between the Union and Union territories, not as a breach between them.

11. Is re-election in Tamil Nadu State Legislature possible anytime soon?

 According to me, the political situation in Tamil Nadu is like a TV serial, a day ending with so much temptation so as to make you see it continuously every day. People are made to fall trap to the designs of some in power. Both State Assembly and LokSabha elections might be held together.

The Centrist Outlook thanks Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss for taking the time to share his views at our e-journal, despite his hectic schedule.