Born in a far-flung area of Surankote, Mr Kohli shifted with his family to Kalakote village of Rajouri where he was brought up. After serving as a dedicated civil engineer with the government for more than three decades, he wanted to replicate his performance in the field of politics. He joined Jammu Kashmir National Conference in 2002 and has not looked back since. Currently, he serves as Minister for Animal and Sheep Husbandry and Fisheries. Speaking with Kashmir Scan’s Ajaz Rashid, Mr Kohli shares his political optimism and the initiatives taken by his ministry.
AR: How do you take your portfolio since it is being considered as one of the ‘insignificant’ department to lord over?
GK: To me, portfolio is no consideration. What I actually want is to serve the people of this state, especially those who have elected me. The motive behind joining politics was to work for the welfare of people and I am doing that. The portfolio I am assigned with is not insignificant. One needs to be specific in order to explore the various opportunities related to it. A large population of J&K state is directly or indirectly dependent on animal and sheep rearing for their livelihood. Even thousands of people in and outside our state have chosen sheep farming and poultry farming as career choices. The fish culture even has one of the significant roles in the economy of a large section of people of this state. So I would like to say that animal and sheep farming including fish culture have a vast scope in this state and we are in a process to promote and to create an awareness among masses on how to go about it.
AR: You started your political career with National Conference. Then you switched to Congress. Now, you are with BJP. Why shift loyalties?
GK: In 2002, I joined National Conference with an aim to work for the welfare of people. Keeping my appreciable government service in view, the then President, Dr Farooq Abdullah, welcomed me. But with the passage of time, I discovered lobbyism and discrimination inside the party which hampered my passion of working for the welfare of people. Then I joined Congress party but there too I found the dominance of a family rule what NC and other parties are following. Finally, I joined BJP in 2014 where I found a real political and professional atmosphere.
AR: There is a belief that BJP especially Prime Minister Narender Modi is anti-Muslim. What is your take?
GK: We should look at it in larger parameters. Modi Sahab is an energetic Prime Minister who is working for a prosperous India. When it is about India, then it is about all the communities including Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and others. Any developmental initiative in India is meant for its entire population and not for Hindus only. In his first years as Prime Minister, Modi Sahab released crores of rupees for the up-gradation of Muslim Madrasas in the country. One of the biggest ever Sufi Conference was held under his tenure and he participated in it. Even the landslide victory of BJP in Uttar Pradesh shows the faith of Muslim population in Modi Saheb. So I would like to clarify that these are some vested interest elements in the society who are maligning his image.
AR: Since decades there is not a single remarkable achievement or development achieved by your department. What is the reason?
GK: Unfortunately, the biggest hurdle and setback in any department is its defunct system. I would say that individuals are not responsible for this but the culture of additional charge given to employees as Heads of the Departments has deteriorated many departments, especially Animal and Sheep husbandry department. Since decades these departments were headless and any of the employees from this department has always been given the charge of Director etc. So on the day when I was been assigned this portfolio, I started to revive this system and to fill the vacant posts with deserving and capable officers, doctors, surgeons and other skilled employees.
AR: What are the initiatives you have taken to revive this sector?
GK: We recently had a detailed tour of Ladakh, Rajasthan and many other states who have a well-developed animal, sheep, and poultry farming. Rajasthan despite being a desert state produces a large number of sheep and milk. You will be surprised that J&K imports 12 to 15 lakh animals every year and out of that a large number comes from Rajasthan. Our state at an average imports at least 65 crore eggs and 6 crore chicks every year from other states of India. So the first and foremost step we have taken is to make J&K self-sufficient in mutton, poultry and milk production. We have vast grass fields, forests and fertile land in this state and with these facilities we have scope to rear thousands and lakhs of animals.
We have also proposed various projects to the government of India which we are hoping will be approved soon. In one of the significant step for which I had put strong efforts is that from now onwards, this department will receive and utilise its funds independently. Earlier the funds from central government were being routed through agriculture department which was badly hampering the smooth functions of this department.
Meanwhile, we have invited technical experts from in and outside the country to introduce the feed fodder technology in J&K. Our state has a great scope for it and once we would be self-sufficient in feed fodder production, we simultaneously would be self-sufficient in animal, sheep and poultry production.
AR: Kashmir was known as angling paradise. Don’t you think that this metaphor doesn’t exist anymore?
GK: It is true that tourists from India and many other countries were frequently visiting Kashmir for angling but the untoward situation from past two decades here has hampered the tourist arrival, especially the anglers. But the situation is improving and we hope for more and more tourist arrival in coming seasons.
Moreover, we have taken initiatives to promote fish farming in Kashmir. We have already many fish farms here and only 30 percent of fishes are being imported from outer states. Rest of the 70 percent fish production is done in this state. We have even updated the Fish Act 1903 so that people associated with fish farming will get more and more benefits.
AR: Your message to the people.
GK: My message to the people of J&K is that we should maintain religious harmony and brotherhood. We should respect other religions and their followers. We should not weaken our state by indulging ourselves in sectarian and communal divisions.