The State Minister of Higher Education, Cooperative and Dairy Development, Dhan Singh Rawat is one of the most active members of Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat’s council of Ministers. His selection for the ministerial position after the landslide victory of BJP in the Assembly elections of 2017 was met with surprise but he has proved his mettle by efficiently managing the Higher Education department and other portfolios allotted to him.
An organisational man to the hilt, Dhan Singh Rawat has shown his capabilities in the crucial Tharali by- election and recent Lok Sabha election. His official residence in Dehradun always remains crowded with people and members of his party which highlights his popularity and grip on organisation. In an exclusive conversation with Gajendra Singh Negi of The Pioneer, Dhan Singh Rawat tells about his achievements and plans for the future.
You have been talking about the Umbrella Act for the universities of the state for quite some time now but it has not come up yet. What is holding this Act?
In Uttarakhand, we have 11 government and 18 private universities. One law university is coming up and four to five private universities are in pipeline. We are planning to enact two separate umbrella acts for Government and Private Universities. The draft of the Umbrella act for government universities is ready and for the private universities we have invited suggestions. After they are received, the final drafts of the acts would be presented before Chief Minister and after his nod they would be brought before the cabinet. These acts would ensure uniformity in the functioning of the universities.
Quality of higher education is a big concern in Uttarakhand. What steps are being taken to improve it?
In last two and half years we have kept focus on improving infrastructure and appointment of faculty in the colleges. The DPC of principals had been done and now every college has a principal. Similarly registrars have been appointed in all the universities, educational calendar has been made and strictly followed. We have made 180 days of teaching compulsory in colleges. In RUSA I and II we were able to get a fund of Rs 300 crore for 57 colleges. Last year we organised a mega ‘Gyan Mahakumbh’ a conclave of vice chancellors, directors and education ministers of all the states in which brainstorming was done on improving the quality of education. All these steps are helping in improving the quality of education.
The National Students Union of India (NSUI) has blamed you for being non serious on the issue of absence of teachers in colleges. What would you say about the charge?
There are 2137 posts of teachers in government colleges of the state out of which 1176 posts are filled by permanent faculty members. On 703 posts guest faculty and contractual teachers are working. The process of appointments of 877 assistant professors from public service commission is currently underway. In Uttarakhand 88 per cent faculty positions are filled which is highest in the country. We have authorised the college principals to appoint guest faculties in the vacant posts and if in some colleges the teachers are not there then it is the principals who are responsible and not the government.
You also hold cooperative portfolio. The cooperative movement in Uttarakhand has not been successful despite small land holdings of the farmers. What efforts are being made to strengthen it?
When I took over the department no one knew anything about cooperatives. We have now ensured that everyone knows about the department. A budget of Rs 3400 crore has been allotted to the state for cooperatives by the central government. When the BJP government was sworn in all the 11 cooperative banks of the state were incurring losses but now a turnabout has occurred and eight banks are in profit.
The number of bank accounts has increased from 18 lakh to 30 lakh. We are going for 100 per cent computerisation of Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS). Interest free loan up to Rs one lakh is being given to farmers and a total of three lakh such loans have been distributed.
A lot is needed to be done in dairy development as the state has to procure a large portion of its milk requirement from other states. What measures are being taken to increase milk production in the State?
Things are changing in this sector too. Now eight out of 10 dairy federations are running in profit. We are providing high quality fodder, free cans and chilling facility to the milk producers. Under Ganga Gai Yojana, we have provided 1100 cows of high yielding breeds to farmers. We have also purchased 10,000 cows from Army’s dairy farms and distributed them to farmers on payment of only Rs 1000 per cow. An encouragement amount of Rs four per litre is given to dairy farmers by the government. In last two years the production of milk has increased from 1.07 lakh litres to 2.75 lakh litres per day.
Two electoral tests of the Panchayat elections and the Pithoragarh by- election are to be faced BJP in near future. How do you perceive the chances of your party?
I am forecasting that in all 12 districts where Panchayat elections are being held, district Panchayat presidents of BJP would be elected.
In Pithoragarh, people remember the works done by late Prakash Pant. The party would soon decide its candidate in Pithoragarh and BJP will achieve a resounding win in the by election.