Your remark that internet and digital technology was around in the Mahabharata period has created a controversy. What did you mean when you said that?
Whether Mahabharat, Ramayana or Upanishad, these are the empirical texts of our culture. If a person sitting in a palace can narrate what is happening in a battlefield 50 km away, there must have been some technique. Ordinary eyes do not have the facility to see such things. This was a particular technology, in the name of Sanjaya, which is akin to the Internet of today. Now if some of my friends raise questions on proof, then I would say that the proof lies in the Internet technology of today. Those who cannot understand, and feel that to oppose they must run down Indian culture and civilisation and aggrandise Western culture, they are provoked by my statements.
For example, how did the Wright Brothers think up of aeroplanes? They watched birds fly and conceived of a technology that could make a plane that flew. Thus Sanjaya’s use of a technology that could see events far away proves the superiority of Indian civilisation. Those who do not believe in Rama will question his existence. In the time of Rama, there was the Sarayu river, now too it is there. I am born of my mother, why do I believe that, because my mother told me so.
But, unlike the existence of remains of say the Iron or Bronze Age, Gupta and Maurya empire, where is the proof of Sanjaya’s Internet?
Sanjaya’s technique was millennia ago, how will you locate the satellites that drove that technology? But the fact that there is a description of it in the Mahabharata is proof. The fact that these technologies are available now means that there were these ideas earlier too. Nowadays what has happened is that the Leftists or those of that inclination feel that whatever we have done as Indians should be run down. When Rajiv Gandhi brought computers into the country, I remember that the Leftist government in West Bengal opposed it tooth and nail. Our party, when it came to power under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, on the other hand, promoted technology. Pramod Mahajan ji promoted the telecom revolution because of which you are recording my interview on this phone.
Our government combines our civilisation-al heritage with the future, unlike the Leftists who only look at Western civilisation and [believe] that all forward looking things came from there. I say that (CPI(M) general secretary) Sitaram Yechury’s parents named him Sita and Ram, not Stalin or Lenin — it reflects India and that thinking. What he did later, of course, is his outlook.
But don’t you think that as a young Chief Minister you got mired in an essentially useless controversy?
I didn’t create this controversy, others who have no work did. I was talking at a programme of digitisation in Public Distribution System in Agartala and I was explaining how the Internet existed in our country in the past and how we are implementing this now to end pilferage in the system. I say that if you want to fight me politically, do it on the level of development. But the Leftists use these kind of issues. Arundhati Roy, just before her book comes out, will say things like Kashmir should be given away just to create some talk around her. It is not done.
Do you feel bad that you were mocked on social media?
I pity the people who mocked me. I have the 37 lakh people of Tripura with me who have rejected the thinking of the Left and its aggrandisement of the West.
A big campaign promise by the BJP in the Tripura polls was the implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations. The State is still under Fourth Pay Commission. Any forward movement there?
In my first Cabinet meet, we decided to set up a committee under former Assam chief secretary P.P. Verma along with two Tripura officers to go into the issue. Normally such committees are given time till 90 days — we have asked for a report within 45 days. Since Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had released our vision document for the polls, I feel that we will be successful in getting Central support for this and fulfilling this promise to our 1.5 lakh government employees. Mr. Verma was the one under whom the Seventh Pay Commission was implemented in Assam, and the people there were happy, so we expect that he will do a good job here too.
You declared that Tripura schools will now use NCERT textbooks. What other changes are you envisaging?
Atul Nath (Education Minister) will be forming a committee to look into how NCERT text books will be introduced in schools across the State. Our literacy rates are very high, but it is only a percentage — the quality suffers. How many IAS, IPS, railway and central government jobs have people from Tripura got? There has to be a systematic look at the education sector in the state.
Rapid development was promised by the BJP in its poll promises, what are your plans for the State?
If you see from Cox Bazaar, the biggest market for the North East and the region can only be Tripura. We are speaking to Bangladesh for connectivity for that. From Chittagong to Tripura it is just 65 km, whereas from Haldia to Tripura, as of now we travel 3200 km. If Tripura becomes a regional hub for trade, like Dubai is for that region, we can achieve much. Already three BPOs have been approved under Information Technology ministry, two plastic parks have been approved by the Chemicals and Fertiliser ministry, with high employment potential. We are in the process of getting a chemical fertiliser complex for Agartala approved. Projects up to ₹3000-4000 crore have already been approved for the State.
Religious tourism is number one in our country. We have the Tripureshwari Mandir, a Shakti peeth which was earlier run by a committee headed by the local District Magistrate with the local MLA. Now we have taken a decision that the Chief Minister will head the committee, with the Chief Secretary and Revenue Secretary as members. An amount of ₹50 crores has been sanctioned for the build up of facilities around the temple under the Prasad scheme. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh ji has approved the raising of two territorial army battalions which will provide jobs to 2150 young men.
Since you had such success against the CPI(M) in Tripura, is there a call for you to campaign in the upcoming bypoll in Kerala?
The State resident (Kummanam Rajashekharan) did call me and ask for my presence but I told him that I will only go if directed by national president (Amit Shah).
Just today there were reports that some illegal Rohingya migrants were apprehended in Tripura. What is your government’s take on the issue of Rohingya migrants?
No country can tolerate people entering it illegally. If anyone goes to your house uninvited how will you react?
But doesn’t India’s sanskaar say “Aitithi Devo Bhava” (Guest is like god)?
Of course. And I will still say it, but nowhere does the sanskaar say that the Aitithi can walk off with my house and displace me.