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Celebrating the Janus Factor

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We, the Government

By HUGH & COLLEEN GANTZER

January is named after the Roman God, Janus. He has two faces: one looking forward, the other backward. That is a useful ability, particularly at the start of a new decade which, we believe, will be epochal for India. It could be the dawn of the New Democracy, a reaffirmation of the original Greek city-state template, modified by the Swiss-canton success story, trimmed to emphasise the undying Unity-in-Diversity that is the true strength of India. That belief was fortified when we were writing our four-volume Intriguing India. It described our experiences in 48 destinations in our kaleidoscopic nation. It won us our first National Award and a congratulatory note from the PM’s office on 13 October, 2017, saying: The Hon’ble Prime Minister has praised your pioneering work in the field of travel writing which has encouraged multitudes of our countrymen over the decades to travel and discover more of the magnificent landscapes and diverse cultures of our great motherland. Hon’ble Prime Minister has also highly appreciated your four volume travel book – “Intriguing India”. When a visionary refers to “the diverse cultures of our great motherland”, we feel reassured. We are led to believe that any allegations of attempts to chop and trim us into Benito Mussolini’s one- size fasces emblem are misplaced. Once again, we say that the reason why we write this column is because we know that the bricks-and-mortar of a Democracy are its panchayats and municipalities. If these are truly responsive to the needs of its constituents, then the superstructure of its democratic edifice will stand firm against the battering of the most powerful predators. So, let’s review how we have stood up to the onslaughts of the (possibly well meaning but) dangerous decisions of our netas and babus. 1. Attempted re-definition of a Forest. As we had pointed out in our column (GP 5 Nov, 2019) our netas had apparently been misled by vested interests to do this without realising that it would have resulted in huge areas of forest being felled and replaced by concrete jungles. That danger has now been averted but we shall continue to be vigilant because our, so called, “developers” have voracious appetites and very deep pockets. 2. Seeming Aversion to Mussoorie’s Chronic Water Needs. Our springs cannot meet our town’s water needs. We have pointed this out repeatedly asking for water to be pumped up from the Jumna. The project required thought, creativity and finance: things that are in very short supply when a government is beleaguered. We now believe that our constant badgering has paid dividends. Following the receipt of a Rs 1.87 crore Detailed Project Report, the first instalment of Rs 8 crore has been released by the Government of India and tenders have been called for. It is still painfully slow, but even a snail’s pace is better than no pace at all! 3. Apparent Diversionary Ploys on Installing Bulk Water Metres. Shortages are a rent-seeker’s paradise. Could that explain why our water babus have been so averse to finding out exactly how much water is used by Mussoorie’s non- commercial consumers? (Our GP Column on 12.11.2019) There is now a strong possibility that a proposed, and seemingly diversionary, expenditure will be rejected and instruments giving reliable statistics installed. Now we come to the Great Elephant in the Room: Overbuilding in Mussoorie. Our benign Chief Minister (so much better than an abusive/aggressive one!) admitted a long time ago in an interview carried by the Indian Express, that Mussoorie was full. And yet buildings continue to grow like mushrooms on a damp forest floor! Hotels, or what passes for them, proliferate. One hotel has changed its name five times and expanded every time till a senior Central Government Servant raised a red flag. We will now, possibly, know what makes the MDDA embark on its mysterious ‘compounding” ventures. If an illegal structure has been built, does it remain in place after its illegality has been compounded? If it does, then it becomes a continuing affront to all law-abiding citizens! If the offending structure has to be demolished, in addition to paying a penalty, then the penalty is a fine. So why call it “compounding”? Is Janus the only two-tongued person?