In an interview to The Indian Express, the new Amritsar Mayor Karamjit Singh Rintu downplays his being the first Sikh mayor of a city revered by the Sikh community, as well as the rift with Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and the councillors owing allegiance to him.
Your view on becoming the first Sikh Mayor of Amritsar?
Guru Ramdas founded this city and people from different religions, categories and classes live here. Guru preached us ‘Sahnjiwalta’ (living with harmony). Hindu faces have also become mayor here. Patiala mayor, who was appointed along with me by the party, is a Hindu. We shouldn’t differentiate on religious lines. Party has made me to the first Sikh mayor of the city and I am grateful for that. It is blessings of Guru Ram Das.
Do you think people have moved forward from the communal politics that city had witnessed in past?
Communal harmony was always there. You can study about the kingdom of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Communal harmony was at its best during his regime. But some people, for self interests, later exploited religion to achieve political aims. But now people have turned wise. No religion teaches us divide.
During the pervious SAD-BJP government, the BJP local bodies minister Anil Joshi, who is from Amritsar, and BJP Mayor Bakshi Ram Arora were locked in a struggle, and some would say the city suffered because of that. Is the city ready for another round of political tussle between you and local body minister from your party Navjot Singh Sidhu?
There will be no such problem. I have no ego and no such issue with Navjot Singh Sidhu, who has left behind his birthplace Patiala for the development of Amritsar. I don’t think there would be any impact on the development of city because of this episode. It is his department and I am more like his assistant. We will support him 100%.
Have you talked to Sidhu after becoming mayor?
I haven’t after becoming mayor. But I am going to meet him soon, whenever he is free and available.
What are your priorities for Amritsar?
First of all, I will gather feedback from councillors and officials to identify the problems and set the agenda. But we can see two main problems very much visible in the city. First is sanitation and second is traffic. Solving these two problems will directly impact our impression at national and international level because tourists have been coming to the city in large numbers.
Don’t you think Bus Rapid Transport System (BRTS) and autorickshaw network exist in contradiction with each other only to worsen the traffic problem in city?
We have a problem. There is huge unemployment and many families in the city earn their bread from autorickshaws. But we cannot allow autorickshaws to create nuisance. We will try to channelise everything. BRTS budget has approximately touched Rs 1000 crore. The previous SAD-BJP government took a wrong decision of constructing BRTS. But we will try to take advice from experts how we can utilise the BRTS infrastructure. We will ensure proper registration of autorickshaws. Drivers should be trained and should follow traffic rules on roads. We will have dialogue with auto drivers and owners to solve the problem. We will not hesitate from taking strict action if needed. Nobody is above law.
City still does not have a solid waste treatment plant. Do you have any solution?
To be very honest, I would need advice of experts on this issue. Right now, I do not have any technical knowledge of this. I will be in position to make a statement after the first meeting with officials.