Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia has faced criticism from opposition parties as well as the media for going on a five-day official tour to Finland during the chikungunya and dengue outbreak in the capital.
There was a political row over both CM Arvind Kejriwal and you being away during the outbreak of vector-borne diseases in Delhi. Do you think you could have timed your Finland visit better?
The visit had already been rescheduled once. The last visit was cancelled… and the government of Finland was also involved. It was decided that (Health Minister) Satyendar Jain would come back to Delhi. There was only a four-hour period when neither the CM, Satyendar nor I were in the capital. I had spoken to Satyendar, he was going to come back in the afternoon. It was a manageable issue… But some journalists made it an ego issue. The media has a big role in the society, but it has to be wise enough to select an issue. Not which class Sisodia was travelling in and whether he was eating ice cream. I was having daal-roti with an Indian family but it was called a gala dinner. If I caused a loss to the public exchequer, definitely question me about that. I travelled first class, so some people said we had such great expectations from you and you travelled in first class.
It’s not about whether I travelled first, second or third class. If we have to meet the needs of Delhi, we will travel in chartered (planes) too. If there is a need, I will travel in first-class AC or even the unreserved compartment of a train.
How much did your trip to Finland cost?
It has not been calculated yet. I travelled with three senior officials including my secretary, the education secretary and the secretary for higher and technical education. The Indian Embassy took care of our accommodation and transport. They will send a bill for all that.
How did you react to the LG’s letter, asking you to return to Delhi immediately?
I asked the Lt Governor about it. He said neither of you (CM and Deputy CM) are in Delhi. I told him that he could have called me up… I would have understood his concerns better. He said he could have called me up he didn’t. That’s his choice. Had I returned in response to the letter, I would have reached a mere 12 hours before I did (on September 18). I don’t understand what I could have stopped by reaching 12 hours earlier than I did.
Why were you interested in studying the Finnish model of education?
The world is taking an interest in the education model of Finland … for the first time, somebody went to study their education model of Finland. Finland has no concept of school inspectors… They work on prevention. I visited approximately two dozen institutes including schools, pre-schools, vocational schools and colleges.
What are the takeaways from your trip?
The fundamental point we are missing in our education system is teachers’ education. The teachers’ education system is very bad in our country. That is our biggest sin. We are not an open-minded society because we never taught our teachers to open the minds of children. We never taught them trial and error, taking risks or innovation… To improve education, we have to improve teachers’ education… I would want at least 200-300 principals from our schools to visit Finland over the next year.
Sandeep Kumar was sacked and three ministers have been dropped from the Delhi cabinet so far. Will the government exercise more care while choosing its ministers in the future?
You can never guarantee the behaviour of another person. You can’t guarantee that a person will do no wrong. But what we can guarantee is that if somebody does something wrong, he or she will not be spared. Between perception and action, we choose action. More than anything else, we are saddened by such instances when one among us, who we trusted, does something wrong.