• Reviving the textile industry and generating employment : Santosh

     
    An unassuming young man once gave a BJP leader a pillion ride on his Rajdoot motorcycle in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, in 1981. He carefully rode in and out of the narrow lanes and patiently waited while the senior leader surveyed the area and gauged the mood of the voters heading for a Lok Sabha byelection. The BJP didn't have a candidate for Bareilly, and the 33-year-old young biker had impressed the party. So, in a sudden twist of fate, Santosh Kumar Gangwar, a district secretary with no high political connections, became the party's candidate. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was among the BJP leaders who campaigned for Gangwar then. He lost the election to Begum Abida Ahmed of the Congress, but his tryst with serious politics had started.
       
    Though Gangwar was jailed, while in college, for leading a people's movement during the Emergency, he was content running his family business—an ayurveda store in Bareilly called Prabhat Ayurveda, which is still open. “My father passed away when I was two years old, and eventually I took over the store. I never planned on getting into politics,” he says. But after his bike ride into electoral politics, Gangwar has won from the Bareilly constituency six times since 1989. He lost by a narrow margin in 2009 but recaptured the seat last year.
    Party workers and peers describe Gangwar with 3S—sahaj, saral, sulabh (easy, simple, modest). Even though he is minister of state for textiles (independent charge), he still answers his mobile phone, a quality that he has retained from his earlier stint as MoS for petroleum and natural gas and science and technology in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1999. His humility and down-to-earth attitude sweeten his interactions with people, and he calls everyone saab (sir), no matter who it is.
    The law graduate is a people's person. Even today, Gangwar's favourite pastime is to meet people and take leisurely bike rides, though now he mostly rides pillion. He is always game to attend a wedding or family celebration in Bareilly. Meeting the minister becomes infinitely simple if you can catch him directly, sidelining protocol.
     gajak (a winter dessert) and herbal tea.
    Saunter into his home in Bareilly around 5:30am and Gangwar will make tea and engage you in an early morning chat. Even in his Sunehri Bagh residence in Lutyens Delhi, visitors keep trooping in. Some just touch his feet, greet him and leave; others stay on to share a few words. Gangwar is accessible to all for a few hours every afternoon on the lawns under a yellowing winter sun, and offers peanuts, 
    “I love meeting people and that is what I do in my free time,” says Gangwar as two college-going children greet him and vanish behind the house. Most people from his constituency seeking medical treatment, he says, stay in rooms behind the main bungalow. His helpful nature was on display during his first stint as minister of petroleum and natural gas when he facilitated gas connections to needy people. “I must have given away at least one lakh gas connections. Whoever came to me for any kind of help, I told them that I could help them with a gas connection. The demand for gas connections was very high and people were illegally selling connections,” he chuckles.
    As a seven-time MP, Gangwar has set up a branch of the Urban Cooperative Bank, Bharat Sewa Trust that conducts free eye operations and a women's bank in Bareilly. Delhi, this time around, is slightly different for Gangwar. For starters, like much of the nation, he, too, has discovered a liking for the Gujarati snack dhokla. Lunch is often skipped and green tea is copiously consumed.

    TEXTILE MAY NOT be one of the more significant ministries but he is thankful for the independent charge. “People say that I could have asked for any ministry but I am happy with the independent charge of the textile ministry. Textiles is the most labour-intensive sector and provides the opportunity to generate a lot of employment,” says Gangwar. He emphasised this point at a recent meeting with Raymond Group's Gautam Singhania. The Raymond Group honcho has plans to help in skill development of 16,000 people; Gangwar duly informed him that lakhs would have to be trained along with job placement. “We need to improve work culture in the country, especially in north India. This can happen through skill development,” says Gangwar. The minister has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to link the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act with the textile sector.
    The textile ministry's focus is to provide an impetus to job creation, and plans of setting up 15 new textile parks would work in that direction, with priority given to states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir and northeastern states that don't have a textile park yet. The Textile Undertakings (Nationalisation) Laws (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2014, has been passed by Parliament, leading the state-owned National Textile Corporation  on a positive trajectory. A new textile policy is also being worked on and likely to be introduced in the budget session. The textile ministry had also roped in e-commerce major Flipkart to boost weaver sales. The move, however, hit a roadblock after Flipkart ran into rough weather on regulations last year. But the textile minister is hoping to renew talks again.
    Recently, Gangwar gifted a pashmina shawl to Tadashi Yanai, the chief of the Japanese clothing giant Uniqlo. The company is looking for 10 partners in India to help in local sourcing. “In the past 10 years, no importance has been given to the textile sector. We are trying to change that,” says Gangwar. “We want foreign players to open stores in India as well as source from local businesses, and manufacture as part of the 'Make in India' initiative.”
    Gangwar's personal life has seen struggle; his teenaged son died in an accident, leaving the politician distraught. During the inauguration of a shopping complex in his previous stint as minister, the elevator crashed and Gangwar was bedridden for months. “He has a never-say-die spirit and he tided over his personal problems,” says his close friend Chandra Mohan, Uttar Pradesh BJP spokesperson. He has a daughter, who is working in Bengaluru, and a college-going son. Neither has any plans of entering politics. “I don't want my children to enter politics,” he says. “They can do what they like.”


    (By Shutapa Paul, the week. )
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