A month into office, Tripura Chief Minister BIPLAB KUMAR DEB talks to RAHUL TRIPATHI about Lenin statues, plans for education in the state, a clampdown on Bangladeshi and Rohingya immigrants and women’s safety. excerpts:
Before you took the oath, there were several incidents of vandalism in which statues of Lenin, Karl Marx, and Che Guevara were demolished. Now, the municipal corporation wants to rebuild those statues. What are your views?
The government is not against the corporation building another statue, but they will need permission and we will not allow anything illegal. However, we do not support any kind of vandalism. It is not in our ethos (to demolish statues) as we worship idols in this country. In one of the cases of demolition (of a Karl Marx statue), there was no FIR. We registered the FIR and a JCB driver was arrested. He had no affiliation with the party. The report I am getting is that after the April 3 result, cadres who moved from CPM to BJP and people who were forced to stay with CPM were behind these incidents. For the past 20-25 years, CPM gave them hope that they will get jobs but they didn’t get anything; it was their anger against CPM.
Tripura shares an 800-km international border with Bangladesh. Infiltration from Bangladesh and cow smuggling have been key concerns. How do you plan to tackle this?
We will not allow any infiltration from Bangladesh. A lot of infiltration has taken place in the past but after fencing, it has come down. We have adopted zero tolerance and will take strict action against any illegal activity. The smuggling of cattle from the border is another issue and we are taking steps to bring it down. Recently, we have nabbed a driver from Assam who was trying to smuggle cow. I am also holding reviews with BSF on this.
The infiltration of Rohingya is not very high. Some of them have tried to infiltrate, but were arrested. In most parts, border fencing has been done, only a small portion remains. The problem is villagers are not ready to part with their lands (to erect fencing 400 m from the international boundary). So we have asked BSF to erect border fencing at zero points. However, the BSF says it is difficult to stop cross-border smuggling if fences are at zero points. So I have asked Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to provide high zoom cameras and floodlights at these fences so that we are able to identify and book those behind smuggling. The state government will take the lead in registering cases against local residents indulging in cross-border smuggling.
You said Tripura has one of the worst conviction rates when it comes to crime against women. How do you plan to overcome this?
Safety of women is among my top priorities. In the past, despite large number of FIRs being registered at the police stations, the conviction rate in crimes against women has remained as low as 22-24 per cent, according to NCRB. It is true that law and order needs to be improved, and after taking over I have transferred 63 senior officials without consulting anyone, just based on their track records and intelligence reports. I didn’t allow any political interference during these postings. We will soon come out with a transfer posting policy. Also, within a month of taking over, the state cabinet has cleared a proposal to set up Tripura Police crime branch with professional and specialised police forces like in Delhi.
Anti-corruption measures have been among the key planks of BJP government. What are you doing to weed out corruption?
I am going to recommend a CBI probe into all cases of Rose Valley chit fund scam. We have seen from the CBI investigations that the officials and politicians of the ruling government from states like West Bengal, Assam and Odisha were found to be involved in the scam. We have zero tolerance for any kind of corruption. In one case of MGNREGA, an action was taken this month based on an inspection by Ministry of Rural Development, GOI, where an FIR was registered against six officials and all six, including a BDO, were suspended.
What are the measures being undertaken to remove restrictions on export from Tripura to Bangladesh?
Due to the non-tariff barrier of restriction on export of certain commodities through the land custom of Tripura to Bangladesh, the export from Tripura is getting hampered, which in turn is affecting the entire trade scenario with Bangladesh. The entire foreign trade is mostly in favour of Bangladesh with total value of import at Rs 300.23 crore and the export to Bangladesh at only Rs 4.60 crore. We have urged the Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of External Affairs to take up the matter with Bangladesh for removal of port restrictions. We are hopeful that it will be done by next month.
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