New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) Union Minister Prakash Javadekar, who holds the crucial portfolios of Information & Broadcasting and Environment, has the huge task of reaching out to people amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
A minister, who has the confidence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to drive the government's image building exercise at this time, Javadekar is also entrusted with conveying the government's policy decisions to the public.
A politician from Maharashtra, who rose from the ranks and was a powerful voice for the BJP as its spokesperson, Javadekar spoke to IANS in an interview on the government's response to the Covid-19 crisis, the road ahead in Jammu and Kashmir, the state of the print media and the economic package, among other prime issues. Here are some excerpts:
Q: How is your state (Maharashtra) performing to contain Covid-19 as the situation there, particularly in Mumbai, is worsening day by day?
A: It is unfortunate that the situation is worsening in Mumbai. There, late action (by the state) is responsible for this scenario... had immediate action been taken, the situation could have been better and the spread would not have been like this. But I think that the situation will improve. This is a peak and after that, it (the spread of cases) will go down.
Q: Being the Information & Broadcasting Minister, how are you reaching out to the people and creating awareness about the pandemic? How does the Ministry respond to the queries of the public?
A: We are available 24x7. I and my officials are available and are giving official information to everybody, giving interviews, and highlighting every initiative of the government. Now we are one year into the government, we have collected all the achievements and one of the major achievements is the fight against Covid-19.
Q: You have referred to Jammu and Kashmir. Do you believe that post-pandemic, the political process will start in the Union Territory?
A: There is already a political process on in the Union Territory and even the internet has been restored. Only two leaders are under detention and there is complete normalcy.
We can expect elections in the Union Territory after the situation normalises post the pandemic. A decision with regard to the election will be taken. Local body elections have been conducted and it was quite a success.
Q: You are the Minister for Environment and Climate Change. The lockdown has had a positive effect on the environment as carbon emission has gone down to 30 per cent. So is India is thinking of moving towards non-renewable energy?
A: We cannot switch over to non-renewable energies in one day. We have a process and under Prime Minister Modi ji, we are working towards it. We are the fastest growing non-renewable energy sector in the world. (But when the lockdown is lifted), there will be thermal power, there will be pollution coming from factories, from vehicles and the water will be also polluted with the discharges... though the BOD will be limited to 30 mg/litre, which is allowed. So when this process of restarting industries and vehicle moment takes place, you cannot be too romantic that the climate would be like what it had been in the lockdown period.
Q: You have said that the economic package will restart rejuvenating the economy, but the opposition is saying that the government is afraid of ratings and that is why it is not giving money directly to the people...
A: How they (the then Congress-led UPA government) dealt with the 2008 and 2009 crisis... we have taken lessons from that and we have corrected ourselves on so many measures. The Aatma Nirbhar package is very comprehensive and sustainable for reviving the economy.
Q: Do you think that a stimulus is needed for the media industry? Many editions are closing down. Can we expect a package for the media also?
A: If we look at the media industry, people not buying newspapers because of the fear of coronavirus and the distributors are also not distributing newspapers... it is not the government's fault. I am surprised to see that no newspaper is creating awareness and running a campaign to awaken the people... the newspapers must run campaigns that they have nothing to do with coronavirus spread.
About the retrenchment going on in the media sector due to lack of advertisements, it may be for two months, but advertisements are crowding in the new media sector such as radio, television, and the digital media because newspapers are not getting published on the full scale. There is a shortage of advertisements in the newspaper sector, while radio and TV are full of advertisements.
Q: The Prime Minister has been saying 'Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas' and Aatma Nirbhar Bharat now but what about the way the pandemic has been handled in the media, with one community being targeted for the pandemic?
A: The Government of India does not target any community and there has been one instance, but it is only done in the media. The government treats everybody alike and there has been no targeting of any community.
Q: With the government completing one year of its second term, what are the achievements which are to be highlighted, and how does the government plan to take the country forward post the pandemic?
A: We have the priority of both the pandemic and the economy because the revival of the economy is also necessary and the pandemic is not going anywhere until we find a vaccine and vaccinate all the people. But the Government of India is managing the situation very well... the world was predicting that India would be having 50 lakh cases and 5 lakh deaths, but that has not happened and it will never happen.