Ahead of the Urban Local Body (ULB) polls, Sambad’s Samiran Mishra caught up with Rajya Sabha MP and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) candidate for the post of Cuttack Municipal Corporation Mayor, Mr. Subhash Singh.
Although born in Pattamundei in Kendrapara district, Subhash Singh has called Cuttack his home for nearly 40 years. It is a city that is very close to his heart, as he repeatedly stressed in a long conversation whose transcript has been published below.
From Member of Parliament to fighting for a Mayor’s post, why should people of Cuttack vote for someone who has been seemingly detached from the city for some time?
Many years ago, some intellectuals and eminent personalities of Cuttack came together to form a group called the Cuttack Banchao Committee (CBC). I was a very active member of that group.
Cuttack is a city more than a thousand years old. Mahatma Gandhi had visited the city on two occasions; the Barabati Fort still stands strong, the Mahanadi and Kathajodi rivers still provide nourishment to a large part of the city. Given Cuttack’s history and legacy, it is disheartening to see the way it has been managed.
We as a group always fought fiercely for the restoration of Cuttack’s lost glory. Back in 2005, when the Centre introduced the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission to modernize cities across the country, Odisha initially had Bhubaneswar and Puri as the only representatives from the state to avail the benefits of the scheme. In December that year, we fought and brought Cuttack to a standstill by protesting the decision. I even went to Delhi to talk to the then Union Minister for Urban Development Mr. Jaipal Reddy to apprise him of the situation which later culminated in Cuttack being part of the list.
Cuttack hosted a Bank Clearing House which the government ordered to shift to Bhubaneswar. The CBC protested that decision resulting in the matter being taken up by the Orissa High Court and a new Clearing House being built in the city.
In 2009, we called for the opening of Institution’s Innovation Council (ICC) in more colleges in Cuttack.
These are just a few examples of many things that CBC has done in its history.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has announced schemes worth thousands of crores for the development of Cuttack. If elected as Mayor, I can facilitate and accelerate that development.
From six-laning the Ring Road to completing the JICA work within one year to finishing off box drain projects in various localities, there are many things that I would like to do if elected as Mayor of the city.
CM Naveen Patnaik trusts me for this position and as someone who has lived, studied and fought in this great city for such a long time, I think I am well equipped to excel in it.
What are some things that people should know about your background?
I was born into a socialist family in Pattamundai, Kendrapara. Considering my family’s ethos and the way I was brought up, I knew that my calling in life was to become a social worker.
I was very active in student politics. When I was young, I was enamoured by Bansidhar Dash, a lawyer with socialist ideals and father of current Odisha Human Rights Commission member Asim Amitabh Dash. I left my studies for a while and shadowed him in his travels and social work, and I have not looked back since.
After completing my education at Kendrapara College, I enrolled at Ravenshaw where I studied political science before getting a law degree from MS Law College.
After that, I completely devoted my life to public welfare. I was heavily involved in various labour unions and worked for the welfare of the poorest sections of our society from daily wagers, to rickshaw-pullers to domestic workers.
After years of public service, I joined the BJD in 2013. The party and CM Naveen Patnaik in particular have always stood up for the marginalized and downtrodden sections of our society. I continued my work under his leadership and will continue to work for the welfare of the general public until my dying breath.
What do you bring to the table that the other candidates don’t?
Nearly 1.5 lakh Anganwadi workers are playing a pivotal role in our society. I have fought time and again for their welfare and have raised the issue of raising their wages, going as far as speaking about it in the Parliament and with the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu.
Odisha hosts around 10 lakh professional drivers. The Centre is not doing anything for their upliftment. The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) gathers crores of rupees from tax payers every year but we still have not seen any of that going into the welfare of those people who drive on those roads.
I had taken a delegation of 13 MPs from Odisha to Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways, Mr. Nitin Gadkari.
Nearly 80% of kendu leaf workers in Odisha belong to the SC/ST community and are mainly women. I have vehemently advocated for their welfare, more so because of the hardships incurred due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
For 40 years, I have fought for this city. People of this city know me and know it very well how fiercely I have always stood up and fought for Cuttack be it in my capacity as an MP or as a member of the Cuttack Banchao Committee.
On my field trips in the city, I personally check on things ranging from infrastructural drawbacks to the workings of the CMC.
People of Cuttack know the difference between me and other candidates. I am sure they will keep that in mind while casting their votes in the upcoming elections.
One of your political opponents Mrs Giribala Behera recently made some remarks against you. What do you have to say about that?
I consider Mrs Giribala Behera as my sister and have utmost respect for her. I am not just familiar with her but also know many members of her family.
I would just like to say one thing, not just to her but also other candidates and party workers who are questioning me, do not be ignorant by undermining our great democratic set up. What I should or should not do is decided by my party leader CM Naveen Patnaik. Should the Congress or the BJP have any say in what political office I hold?
I respect Mrs Behera for being a very good woman leader and what she has done in her life but I do not want to opine on things that I am not aware of. She should also follow this advice as making baseless allegations will also affect her reputation.