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I am a construction man not a demolition man: HUDA administrator
Popularly called a demolition man, the maverick HUDA administrator, Dr Praveen Kumar is quite optimistic that Gurgaon will be the next Singapore in the next ten years. Knowing that this will be challenging, Kumar's strategy is straightforward: Do your best and leave the rest in the hands of God. In an exclusive interview with Merinews CJ, Wahid Bukhari, Kumar reveals his extra-ordinary zeal for his job.

Merinews: You have become a darling of Gurgaonites for your work. What is the principle behind your strategy?

Kumar: Truth is important in real life. What Krishna said in Bhagavad Gita, if that doesn’t benefit me, what is its relevance? Relevance is measured by its benefits to the individuals and the society. Any man or knowledge is a source and all knowledge and service is made to serve the humanity. In Universe, every creation is a source. Like an orange is a source of juice, man is a source to serve humanity. A person has a value only if he is of some utility to the society. My strategy is based on such principles. I work and work for the society because I believe that values me.

Merinews: It's 20:00hrs, you are still attending to people’s complaints and their massive piles of files. How do you manage your day at work?

Kumar: I spend my day as it comes. I have little planning. We have to meet our problems as they come. We have to adjust according to the situation. Best planning is the planning that's creative and open. Spontaneous plus you have to have faith in timings. More creative people have freedom in their work. I have witnessed it, in the case of my guru; he would deal with the most serious problems in the most-free manner. Little bit of my performance is also because of this. If I get tense, then I wouldn’t be able to work for even couple of days. You can meet the problem only if you are larger than the problem.

Merinews: You have opened a camp office as well. How do you mange to work non-stop for so many hours?

Kumar: These are not new things. Other officers also work for eighteen hours. Juniors in my office work as well. I am not an exceptional man. I am an average person, if I tell you the truth, my intelligence is below average. My emotion is above average. I have too much powerful feeling to help others. If I can, I will die after doing good for the whole world. I will weaken the ill will and enhance goodness, will let people live in peace and harmony.

Merinews: What are the major challenges being faced by the people and business organizations in Gurgaon?

Kumar: Many, I would say. There are ten thousand problems, not only one. Good planning and administration involves tackling problems at all levels. As an example, a good school has 2000 students; all the children need to be cared. They must look at every child, which is a tedious job, but this is a job and has to be done. Similarly, for us, there are no priorities but every job is a priority. There are two ways to tackle these challenges, one is to reduce the suffering and other is to improve the quality of life. A man has a simple issue but he is being hounded by officials, no one listens to his issues, no one clears what is his issue. Someone is in pain, but we lack empathy. Let him die, how does it matter, is our attitude. That is not good. We do only lip servicing. You have to feel their issues, only then you would be able to solve their issues. ’Saale ko goli do, chusta rahega (make a false promise to keep him occupied). We don’t treat the disease rather give them medicines for instant gains. And it has become our habit. Only when we feel little bit of pinch, like I have seen in employees' case, if one of their increments is stopped. They would keep only taking about and wouldn’t sleep all the night. They will even keep talking about it for four years. But nothing moves them when they waste crores of public money and keep harassing people, for years.

Merinews: Gurgaon is located on the seismic zone. Do we have any disaster management plans, particularly for the high-rise buildings?

Kumar: Yes, we need a disaster management plan as we are sitting on a seismic zone. We need to have a proper action-plan, particularly for the high-rise buildings. We need to have high-rise arrangements of rescue, which are not present in Gurgaon. This is one of the most important areas and will be taken care of shortly. We need to have proper fire-brigade positioning and that is a must. Very important is tackle these high-rise buildings. We have to involve public players as well and we will meet and ask them how we can evolve and plan a strategy. Disaster management department facilitates this planning and we will see how we can do it. As DC Faridabad we tried to do it. The earlier, the better it would be for the city.

Merinews: It’s encouraging to see a top leader of HUDA personally attending to problems. Do you think delegating has not worked before and that’s why you like to be present on the spot while resolving issues?

Kumar: Actually the problem in India that everybody is delegating. Even the person who has to do it thinks that he will relax and watch others do it - to the extent that he expects others will obey his orders. So what is happening, you don’t understand the actual problem. Nobody is interested to understand the problem as it is. Good planning is that you have to understand the problem at all levels. People here don’t have an idea about the jobs they are in. How can you expect someone to carry out the job when he doesn’t have an idea about the job? What has happened with th administration is that everybody is interested that somebody else will do the job. So the job is never performed.

Merinews: What’s holding back the further development of Gurgaon – lack of execution of plans or leadership?

Kumar: It is not the lack of leadership. We are facing issues at many ends. Gurgaon can change its face in one-year’s time and that is 100 per cent possible. There can be a drastic change and everything can drastically improve in one year. We can’t say ‘would’ change but we will do our best and leave the rest in the hands of God.

Merinews: How have you used your previous experience as District Commissioner of Faridabad in your present position of HUDA Administrator?

Kumar: What is left in implementing? I have faced lot of hardships in my life. I am implementing my experience here. I have worked like a common man. Basically, my philosophy is based on truth. Truth is important, not the individual. That sums up my style of working. Individual is important only if he is subordinate to truth.

Merinews: While you have taken many steps to ensure that HUDA and its employees carry out their work - are you concerned that once you move out, things could be back to normal, and that your successor will not be as proactive as you are?

Praveen: The world will move on. (Smiles) Aur bhi gham hain zamane main mohabbat ke siwa (There are many things to worry about in life, other than love). These things don’t matter in life. Many came and went away; it doesn’t matter to the world. The wheel of life and society is big. Big tycoons came and no one remembers their name after they die. This is not the frame of reference. Men can do only their job and leave rest of things. It is not important to worry about such things. It is not important to worry like this. The world means change. Systems are made and it is obvious that they will change and malfunction. People are here to work, some do little good, and some do little badly. People who do good, become happy.

Merinews: Are you satisfied with the way Gurgaon is developing? Do you think there is too much emphasis on just real estate development?

Kumar: I am always happy. Gurgaon has done a good job and it can do even better. We can make it a no-problem area. I am very optimistic. I am sure that things can change drastically. In ten years, we can compare it with Singapore and we will make it even more beautiful. Real estate develops are everywhere and we can’t say that it is our only focus. We are looking at other issues as well. We have developed 50 sectors and 50 more are to be developed. If we work well for the next ten years, we can make it like Singapore.

Merinews: Gurgaon faces water and power shortage in all seasons. How long can Gurgaon sustain itself without having basic infrastructure?

Kumar: All of these issues are our focus. We haven’t even started to work on roads. I think I haven’t done even 1% of work during two years of my office. We will change the face of the city. 99 per cent is to be performed. That is my actual assessment. And I want to assure you that everything will be fine. There are long term plans; government is doing a lot on power sector. We have a very good water management plan that can be set into order. We have only one water treatment plan but 500 crore rupees have been allocated for water recycling and fresh water management plants. We will get more from the government.

Merinews: Recently, you had proposed a test for engineers. What was the thinking? Has the test been conducted and what if someone fails in the test?

Kumar: What is so out of box idea about this, everybody should upgrade his knowledge? It shouldn’t be the attitude that I have studied engineering and I know everything. Even I upgrade my knowledge by reading books. Methods and practices change so we have to be abreast of the new processes. Test will be conducted. They are all preparing (smiles) for the test. It is good, such things should happen and they should be trained. Failed candidates will be awarded a little punishment. Degrees of candidates with dismal performances will be verified as well.

Merinews: You have earned the nickname of ‘demolition man’ in the press. How does it go with your personality?

Kumar: I am basically a construction man, not a demolition man. I believe that before every good thing bad things should go. So I am demolition man to the extent of demolishing the bad and reconstructing it with good things. The government has the intention to re-construct Gurgaon and make it a more beautiful and organized city, which is a place for everyone, which is not a dungeon of sin, filth and squalor.

Merinews: How supportive has been the government in your efforts?

Kumar: The government is very supportive. If I didn’t have their support, they would have thrown me out, then it would have been ‘than than gopal’ (left with nothing). I have the government's support, otherwise who would dare to take up such challenges. A bureaucrat is nothing. What is public? Public will demand to bring back Praveen Kumar but they wouldn’t risk their lives for me. It is the chief minister who matters. We have close ties with MCG. There are good people heading it. I love and respect them a lot.

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