Screengrab from the interview Credit: EastMojo

Tawang: Other than India’s successes and aspirations in the world of sports, India’s Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Kiren Rijiju discusses China, Arunachal Pradesh and tourism in this exclusive interview with our Editor-in-Chief Karma Paljor.

Click on the link below to watch the full interview:

Read full transcript of the interview below:

Karma Paljor: Hello and welcome for this very special show at this very interesting location with a minister from the Centre who leads by example, who by far, must be one of the fittest ministers today, Shri Kiren Rijiju. Thank you so much sir for joining us.

First, tell us about this place that you’re in. This is your constituency, you’re working hard for it. What is this place called?

Kiren Rijiju: This is beyond Tawang town, close to China border. From this point, Bum La is close to 20 kilometres and then Klemta and then towards Sungester Lake you can go up to Zemithang.

Now, the main concern about the place and the people here is the road infrastructure and other basic amenities. Since 2014, when Modiji took over the reigns as Prime Minister of India, things have changed. Now, the border infrastructure is improving fast, the quality of infrastructure is also increasing. At the same time, the telecommunications network, electricity and other amenities are reaching the border people. So, it’s working as wonder.

I am travelling and touring all the important border points in Subansiri belt, in Siang belt, in Lohit belt. So for so many years, close to 70 years, these border areas were neglected. These were not given priority. The government never gave priority to the border infrastructure. Things have changed. And honorable Prime Minister has given priority and I’m very happy that things are improving.

It’s very difficult here. In the minus freezing temperature, the place is beautiful but very rough. For the tourists, it’s fun. They come here, play in the snow, they can trek, they can do mountaineering, they can do picnic, hiking, and so many things can be done here. These are wonderful places. India is such a blessed country to have such a beautiful landscape here. So, from tourism point of view, we can have a wonderful tourist destination.

Incredible India is really here. We have a two-pronged strategy. By securing our nation and by developing the border areas, we are also promoting tourism. So now, the tourists are coming, but still we have many things to do for the tourists. Connectivity, say from Mumbai, from Kolkata, from Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi, it is still difficult to reach here. It takes a long time. So both, for the tourism purpose and development, we have still many things to do.

Karma Paljor: So the attempt really to develop border infrastructure at a furious pace… And at some point, I will show you videos of the road as we go down to Tawang town, the roads have really developed here… So how does it help? One, yes, securing the country at the border from Chinese aggression. And second, and very importantly, the infrastructure grows in these remote places of Arunachal, which are truly beautiful. And as the minister mentioned, yes, reaching there is a problem, but slowly that is also getting solved. But when the tourist reaches here, just look at this place, it is just amazing. And when they reach here, they are completely mesmerized. I guess they forget about the tough journey on the road.

Kiren Rijiju: Yes, absolutely. Once the tourists reach this place, it’s an unforgettable experience for everybody. But as I said, we need to provide basic facilities for the tourists. So, just last week I was in the Majha side towards Taksing and Gelemo, Limeking. So, there also we have given tasks to the BRO that within the next one and a half year, the roads must be levelled. Now road construction is completed. Most of the formations, cuttings have taken place and roads are too. Now we have to enhance the quality of the road. In the same manner, we want our people, our fellow Indians to enjoy the scenic beauty here. They should come and see. Those who are unable to come here, they are missing so many things in life. You know, it’s lucky to be here.

Karma Paljor: Right. Just look at this lake. If you just pan the camera and turn around, look at this! It’s a beautiful, majestic lake! And I would say it’s about 20 minutes to half an hour drive from Tawang town. Do you need to go anywhere beyond this? You can spend the whole day in the snow and all. So, that’s about it when it comes to tourism, border security, border infrastructure. We are also here, for a very important occasion. Because a memorial is being dedicated to one of the heroes of the Northeast. And to tell more about him, I would request to minister to, in his own words, say something about a person who is truly a hero. Beacuse of whom Tawang, this beautiful place, is a part of India.

Kiren Rijiju: This is very important and close to our heart. Major Bob Khathing, who led the team in 1951 to Tawang, the Assam Rifles team. And they really established the Indian rule over this beautiful territory, which had a different influence earlier. So, the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh Pema Khandu ji, Governor BD Mishra Ji, we all have felt that a true tribute to Major Bob Khathing would be to build a memorial for him. So our CDS has also come, and Governor, Chief Minister, we all are here. My friend Conrad (Sangma) has also come from Meghalaya. We all are here to pay tribute to Major Bob Khathing and to build a memorial in Tawang is, I think, a befitting tribute to the great soul of Major Bob Khathing, who was neglected, unfortunately, by the people of India and particularly the Government of India. We should never forget our heroes. So ’51, and up till now, such a beautiful place, it’s a long history, so we are paying tribute to him.

Karma Paljor: Let’s now talk about sports. As we head into Olympics, it’s very important to talk about sports. As soon as you took over, you started by inspections, a lot of inspections. You went to all the centers where our athletes are training. So what is the plan really, and how is Team India looking?

Kiren Rijiju: Indian sports is reaching new heights. Next, in two weeks time, we are going to have Khelo India Winter Games. In this place also, in the future, we will create facilities for Winter Games. We will create facilities for skiing, for hiking, for rock climbing, for ice climbing, and many things. Also, in Uttarakhand, in Himachal, in Ladakh, we are doing many things. And for the Summer Games, we have started Khelo India Games, the largest-ever sporting event in the country. We have also started Khelo India University Games. All these things are happening because of Prime Minister Modiji’s vision to create India as a sporting nation. So, as I’m visiting and meeting the players, trainers, coaches, technical people, I think it’s an encouragement and motivation for the players and for the sporting fraternity. So as I said, by 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, India must be in the Top 10. And for that, ordinary effort is not going to help. We have to have the transformational change.

If we have a transformational change in the way we conduct our sporting events, we will definitely bring medals. Indians have the quality, potential, talent. The only thing we need is to have proper infrastructure, and proper motivation and support from the government.

Karma Paljor: One of the things that most of the people who follow sports ask is why our athletes aren’t being exposed to international training? Why aren’t they going abroad? How is that changing now?

Kiren Rijiju: That has been completely changed. Now, international exposure is happening within this COVID time also. Our Indian players are having world-class training in India and constantly visiting the other highly developed sporting nations. So now, you will not hear a single complaint from any of our international athletes or the coaches and the federation. Everything is being honored. Thanks to Modiji for giving so much support to the sporting fraternity.

Karma Paljor: The funding is being done by the government totally?

Kiren Rijiju: 100% of the funding is by the Government of India. India is the only country where the athletes’ training, coaching and development of their basic infrastructure is 100% done by the Government of India.

Karma Paljor: Even to the level of paying their phone bills?

Kiren Rijiju: Everything. For the top athletes, we are giving them Rs 50,000 per month as out of pocket allowances. So, that covers many things.

Karma Paljor: Right. Well, on that note, we come to the end of this interview. Thank you Mr. Rijiju for speaking to us and enlightening us. Before we leave, we will do one more pitch, for beautiful Arunachal, because it truly is beautiful.

Kiren Rijiju: So what do you want me to do?

Karma Paljor: One final pitch, for people from everywhere to come and fall in love with Arunachal…

Kiren Rijiju: I would appeal everyone to come here to see the mesmerizing beauty of Arunachal Pradesh. And I would like to remind everyone by giving this one line old song. *proceeds to sing ‘ye waadiyan ye fizaayein bula rahi hain tumhein’*

That is how I would like to invite our friends from other parts of the country to visit Arunachal Pradesh, this beautiful lake, and enjoy the beautiful mesmerizing environment of Arunachal Pradesh.

Karma Paljor: So apart from running, exercising, ice climbing, now to singing… this is one thing I surely cannot compete with Mr. Rijiju on. On that note, we will see you again. Thanks for watching.

*ye waadiyan plays in the background*

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