With a long four-decade long political career behind him including six consecutive terms as MLA from Mohanpur assembly constituency, veteran Ratan Lal Nath looks forward to the future of Tripura with a robust optimism. As minister for education Nath has broken new grounds in setting the entire education system rolling along towards optimum development to catch up with advanced states of the country. His tireless endeavours and new initiatives in upgrading students as well as teachers including new incentive and benefit programmes for the teaching community have helped him carve out a niche for himself in the top slot of the state’s educational pyramid. In the following interview Ratan Lal Nath, an indomitable warrior of lifelong political battles, gave glimpses of his mind on a host of issues confronting the state. The brief interview follows:-


Question: When you began as minister for education there was skepticism all around over the steps being taken but now things seem to have changed and almost all teachers and students are appreciative of the new system. How do you look at the time bygone over the past nineteen months?


Answer: When I had donned the mantle of minister I found the department of education in a total mess and I had to take a lot of initiatives to set things moving. This included adaptation of the CBSE pattern of syllabus, examination system, evaluation and dedication to the onerous task of education on the part of students and teachers. But now I think things have started changing for the better and our aim of upgrading the standard of education imparted in Tripura to the standard at the national level is well in progress. You can hope for better things in the near future. Our main problem now is to find appropriate number of qualified college teachers. There are many vacant posts of college teachers meant for scheduled tribes but we do not have adequate candidates, so there is a suggestion that some of these ST posts are dereserved but no decision has been taken. Besides, there is a shortage of teachers at the school level also and we are calling upon TET candidates to base themselves strongly in English which will help them in recruitment exams.



Question:  What about the teachers and standard of students ? Has there been desired level of progress? 


Answer: The teachers have been working hard and extending full co-operation to our effort. They are being appropriately trained and put through orientation programmes at regular intervals and this is now making a very positive impact. Besides, we have adopted in toto the syllabus followed by the CBSE through text books translated by SCERT authority. This has now started bearing fruits and students are being imparted not only syllabus-based academic education but, in addition, we are also arranging to have students gather up to date general knowledge. Many students are being sent outside the state under government sponsorship for training to enable them to appear for recruitment exams of central government like the IAS, IPS, IFS and a host of other exams. The cumulative positive effect of all this is bound to show up sooner rather than later.


Question: What is your experience of the administration over the past nineteen months ? Do you think the administration is working properly to implement the policies and programmes of the government ?


Answer: Well, you can never be fully satisfied with administration which comprise diverse people with diverse preferences and priorities. There are officers who work sincerely with a positive attitude to execute all programmes as well as to help people but at the same time there is a section of officers who are extremely negative in their approach and who do not deliver the desired results. But our chief minister is very strict on these issues and you must have seen how drastic action has been taken against errant officers and employees and this will continue. But whenever we meet officers we try to inspire them and convince them about the need for dutifulness and pro-people attitude. This has started bearing fruits and you will see better results in the near future because the officers also realize now that we mean business with a pro-people approach.


Question: There are allegations that the government is deliberately harassing Badal Chowdhury and, along with it, other people. Is it not political vendetta as alleged by the opposition CPI (M)?


Answer: The allegations being made by CPI (M) are politically motivated because all that is happening is transparent and in front of the people. No process of law has ever been skirted. What few people know is that the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA-1988) is tough with no provision for easy bail. Moreover, there are documentary evidences of corruption in the PWD affairs in 2008 like awarding work at rates higher than approved by cabinet, keeping the cabinet in the dark about actually abnormally high rate at which works were given and premature opening of tenders of PSUs before the opening of private tenders. There are many things but the whole issue is now before the judiciary and process of law. We do not believe in political vendetta and now law will take its own course before the full view of the judiciary.


Question: What about the upcoming ADC elections and your party’s prospects in it ? It seems there will be a tough fight for it because IPFT is determined to fight larger number of seats?


Answer: Well, the ADC election is knocking on the door and we are fully geared up for it. BJP and its front organizations now have a strong presence in the ADC areas and the tribal electorate also continue to evince a keen interest in the party . Our party’s decision is that we will have electoral truck with IPFT provided they fight the polls as junior partner with fewer seats than us. Unless they agree to it renewing the alliance may turn out to be difficult. But there is still time before we take a final decision. As it is, BJP’s prospects in the ADC election is very bright and we are more or less sure of a convincing win in the Council because IPFT have only pockets of support base left and CPI (M) is off the scene.


Question: There are reports that a number of leaders from the opposition including members of the royal family will join BJP soon. How true is this?


Answer: We know that there are lot of speculations over this but I neither admit nor deny the thing you are referring to. A lot of leading figures from the opposition have expressed their keenness to join the BJP and this includes a member of the royal family and his followers also. But how and when this will materialize I do not know, nor speculate about. You will definitely know when this actually happens.