HS Dillon: Restless dedication to Indonesia

“I was often discriminated against during my career because of my looks, because I’m Indian. Many didn’t like my actions either,” HS Dhillon tells Jakarta Post. He was recently bestowed the second highest decoration awarded by the Indonesian government.

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Jakarta Post | Indonesia | 17 Sept 2015 | Asia Samachar |
HS Dhillon featured in Jakarta Post on 16 Sept 2015. INSERT: Indonesian president Jokowi presenting him the Bintang Mahaputra Utama medal of merit during Indonesia’s 70th Independence Day commemoration at the State Palace.
HS Dhillon featured in Jakarta Post on 16 Sept 2015. INSERT: Indonesian president Jokowi presenting him the Bintang Mahaputra Utama medal of merit during Indonesia’s 70th Independence Day commemoration at the State Palace.

Harbrinderjit Singh Dillon has proven that being the jack of all trades does not mean that he is a master of none.

Renowned simply as HS Dillon, his dedication to the nation for four decades have been acknowledged by the government, having been given the Bintang Mahaputra Utama medal of merit during Indonesia’s 70th Independence Day commemoration at the State Palace.

His activities include boosting the performance of the country’s agriculture, alleviating poverty across the nation, wiping out corruption and even investigating human rights abuses.

The award was not his first, in 2007 he was bestowed a lesser rank medal, the Bintang Jasa Pratama, by then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

“It’s an honor for me to receive the medals. They’re like vindication for my long, hard work,” Dillon told The Jakarta Post in an interview at his house in South Jakarta.

SEE ALSO: HS Dhillon gets Indonesia’s Mahaputra star (Asia Samachar, 30 Aug 2015)

Despite the achievements, Dillon said he still had many things to do to help make Indonesia a better place, as on its 70th anniversary it had not yet really become independent as many citizens still live unfortunate lives.

There are three aspects that could well describe Indonesia’s current situation in relation to poverty, he said.

First, he said, there had been a significant gap increase between the poor and the rich, where, according to World Bank, the poor can only spend US$2 per person per day while the top 50 richest people in Indonesia had a total worth of $102 billion.

This fact was coupled with the low awareness of the rich of the need to help alleviate poverty and that led to the number of people who were jobless despite the high demand for workers in many industries, he said.

“Those things occur as the developments in many sectors don’t really touch and benefit the poor — mostly because people are trapped in the sociology of ignorance where they become ignorant when they see something’s not right or when they’re involved in a bad conspiracy,” he said.

The situation gets even worse now when the country’s economy is slowing down.

“Agriculture-based industry, in which our agricultural products can have more added value, can be one of the solutions to our issue today,” he said.

The government should also construct better broadband infrastructure instead of roads in order to further small industries, he said.

“The government wants people to be creative, so in this digital era people have to be equipped with better Internet infrastructure and knowledge to help the industry,” he said.

“Most importantly, poverty alleviation is not an individual task. I can’t do it alone; the government can’t do it alone. We have to join forces to do it.”

Born in Medan, North Sumatra, in 1945, into an Indian Sikh family, Dillon’s concern about poverty began when he was young when farmers whom he met during his play-time in rice fields lived in poverty, while the big plantation owners lived lavishly.

In a mission to lift up the welfare of farmers, he decided to study agricultural sociology-economics in North Sumatera University (USU), before continuing his postgraduate studies at Cornell University in the US where he was offered a fellowship in agricultural trade and development.

He majored in international trade and development and also studied resource management, economics and developmental sociology.

Dillon returned home to Indonesia, working as a researcher at the Agriculture Ministry. His visions, missions and actions prompted him to rise to higher positions within the ministry.

“I was often discriminated against during my career because of my looks, because I’m Indian. Many didn’t like my actions either,” he said.

“But I didn’t take it personally and kept working,” said Dillon, who has only visited India for four times throughout his life.

He was also the coordinator for the Task Force on Agricultural Policy of Indonesian at the Pacific Economic Cooperation from 1990 to 1996, a member of the executive committee of Asia’s Agriculture Economy People and a senior adviser for the director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome in 1994.

Dillon has also been involved in many human rights and anticorruption activities, becoming a commissioner of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and a member of Joint Anticorruption Team.

“Corruption becomes one of the main reasons that make poverty levels remain high because corrupt officials don’t only steal money from the government, they steal from the people.”

His last post was as special envoy to the president of Indonesia for poverty alleviation under the administration of Yudhoyono, becoming the first-ever Indonesian of Indian descent to hold a senior role in government.

Although he is no longer in the government, he is still active in several organizations, including in The Nature Conservancy as the member of advisory board and as a senior governance advisor at the Centre for Agricultural Policy Studies.

Now, the husband of Drupadi Harnopidjati said he has more time to finish the pile of his unfinished books and be with his family.

“Two of my sons are very good at cooking, so when they’re home, they cook for our family gatherings,” the father of three said.

In between his times with his family, he keeps his mind sharp by writing to voice his ideas about achieving the betterment of his beloved nation.

“I now write more for publications and for my book. I will also keep pushing for the right strategy, telling anyone what’s right and wrong, including the President, asking people to join me to further build this country,” he said.

 

[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]

 

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