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'I am not waging a war against any government'

By PRASANNA D ZORE
Last updated on: June 18, 2021 11:23 IST
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'But still they have filed FIRs against me under section 505 of the IPC.'
'These were draconian laws that were misused by the British East India Company against the soldiers who participated in the mutiny (of 1857).'

IMAGE: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Ajay Mohan Bisht aka Yogi Adityanath. Photograph: PTI Photo

The Uttar Pradesh government may have filed six FIRs against retired IAS officer Surya Pratap Singh in the last 12 months, but he remains undaunted.

Singh tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com "The funny part is they file FIRs against me, but they also act on the issues I raise."

The concluding segment of a two-part interview.

 

What are the main issues that you are concerned with?

Unemployment is a huge issue in Uttar Pradesh. I regularly raise this issue. I keep asking the government about their recruitment track record despite there being huge number of vacancies (for state government jobs) in the state.

I keep getting calls from unemployed teachers and many other skilled sections of people that have no jobs and they keep asking me to amplify their voices.

Lakhs of my followers on social media are sufferers. They have concerns and discuss those with me.

The UP government also wants to suspend your Twitter account. How do you plan this handle this challenge?

I will give them a fitting reply. I will represent my side of the story to Twitter. None of my tweets are against the state government, or Government of India, or any individual leader.

I am not waging a war against any government. But still they have filed FIRs against me under section 505 of the IPC (Indian Penal Code).

These were draconian laws that were misused by the British East India Company against the soldiers who participated in the mutiny (of 1857).

In a democracy you can't have cases lodged against individuals under these sections. Every Indian citizen has a right to criticise the government or raise people's concerns. The funny part is they file FIRs against me, but they also act on the issues I raise.

I wrote about the smart meter scandal -- for which they have filed an FIR -- but then they stopped it (installation of new meters replacing old ones); they took cognizance of my tweets.

They always do that: take note of my tweets, address the issue and then file FIRs in my name. That's the kind of government we have in place (in UP today).

Do you feel intimidated by the speed and regularity with which FIRs have been filed against you: six in 12 months?

I am a moving body; I have a body made of flesh and blood. I am not made of steel. I get affected.

I started writing (about COVID-19 mismanagement of the UP government) on Twitter on June 10 (2020) though I had been on Twitter much before that.

It was a tweet that raised concerns that the government was not doing adequate tests to detect positive patients and first FIR was lodged against me (for this tweet).

'Sar mundate hi ole pade (you got hit by hail immediately after tonsuring your head),' I told myself.

That was unfortunate, but that did not deter me from raising public concerns on social media.

Then I started writing about smart meters. They (the UP government) had plans to replace China-made domestic electric meters with swadeshi (Indian) electric meters.

My objection was since I already have a Chinese meter at my house, for which I paid Rs 43,000, and which was working without any problems, I should not be made to pay again for installing swadeshi meters. That was the common public concern I raised.

Even I find it hard to deposit Rs 43,000 (for installation of electric meters) and they were asking every household in the state to fork out this amount just for the cause of rashtrawad.

Ironically, the smart meters they purchased to replace these Chinese meters were also made in China. I exposed this and they filed an FIR against me.

The bottomline, though, is they did not replace any of the already installed Chinese meters and the Chinese meters they purchased to replace the older ones, were all dumped.

The point I am labouring is: They act upon my concerns and then file FIRs against me.

This process is repeated every time I expose a scandal or raise a public concern.

So, these FIRs don't intimidate you?

When it comes to my life, to people's life and when they discuss their issues, their problems with me during my tours across the state I have no choice but to keep raising people's issues.

People keep inviting me to various functions; normally, I try to avoid these events, but when they insist repeatedly I have to attend these functions.

Of late, I have paid Rs 11 lakh (Rs 1.1 million) petrol from my pocket, from my pension money, to attend people's functions across districts in the state.

So, when I accept an invite I make it a point that I link many other programmes so that I get to hear voices of many more people and everyone gets my time and I have to spend less.

Despite feeling intimidated, do you plan to continue with your social media crusade, exposing wrongdoings?

I am not doing anything wrong; am I? So, why should I stop?

People like what I write; people are saying that what I write about helps them solve their problems, leave aside those trolls who keep abusing those who criticise this government.

Largely, people are identifying themselves with what I am writing and I write based on facts, substantial facts.

Despite all these FIRs, they have not arrested me so far. This proves that all the cases they have charged me with are concocted and their accusations are hollow. They won't be able to prove anything against me in courts.

In one of the cases, one of my advocates -- who I really don't know, who I have not paid a penny -- is confident about it; he just asked me to sign certain documents and leave everything else to him. And he got a stay from the court (for not taking any action against me).

An FIR is filed against me for exposing COVID-19 mismanagement, for writing about floating dead bodies in the Ganga, which every newspaper and news channel have shown, but for which an FIR is filed only against me. Why?

Why this special treatment for you?

I think they (the UP government) like me.

Your message to the UP government.

Throw all our feedback and suggestions in the dustbin for all you like, but please take action on issues that you think are worthwhile.

My tweets ae mostly suggestions; If people raise issues, then please act on them instead of filing FIRs against people like me. That's not good either for democracy or welfare of the people of Uttar Pradesh.

Opposition has a vital place in a democracy; criticism has a place. Everyone cannot praise the government.

Any common citizen has a right to talk about mismanagement because it is the government they have chosen.

It is their government; it is not your government. You are heading that government to serve the people. You are not here to harass them with FIRs and court cases.

Listen to independent voices; listen to activists who raise public concerns.

Most of the media, in their sponsored programmes and spaces, praise you all the time. You dictate headlines to them and they show them and print them, leave aside a few portals and channels.

Focus on giving jobs to people who are registered at employment exchanges. Five crore people have registered.

People are demanding jobs. That is their right. Give them jobs.

The government has to create opportunities for these registered unemployed youth rather than harp on narratives of creating non-existent jobs.

Where are the jobs that you claim you have created?

Why don't you publish a list of all the jobs you have created and green-field investments that have come up in the state?

Address people's concerns; fulfill the commitments you made to the people during elections; give corruption-free and crime-free Uttar Pradesh that you have promised to the people.

If you don't fulfill what you have promised, people will keep reminding you about them.

My message to the government is to take cognisance of people's suffering and use the power that you have to solve their problems.

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PRASANNA D ZORE / Rediff.com
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