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Early Hiccups

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With Gairsain declared the ‘Summer Capital’, there was much euphoria in the ruling party, but it dissipated quickly. Rain and snow brought home to legislators attending the Budget Session the hardships of living and working in the hills. They fled to the comfort of their constituencies, making it difficult even to obtain a quorum in the House. In fact, the depleted opposition was better represented and, very rightly, took the Treasury Benches to task for this dereliction of duty. The only minister left standing, Madan Kaushik, and Speaker Premchand Agarwal, were duly embarrassed.

This highlights more than anything else the gap between aspirations and delivery with regard to governance in the hills. The mere symbolism of declaring Gairsain the summer capital is not enough to orientate government machinery towards the numerous challenges. It is a start, but by no means enough. It will, however, bring home to all concerned the enormous task ahead. Longer sojourns of government and the legislature in the higher reaches will create awareness of the complexities that will require a many-layered response.

It has been patently obvious during the few days of the session that even the facilities in the House, and Bhararisain, where the Vidhan Sabha building is located, are grossly inadequate. This is strange because this is not the first time a session has been held there. Surely, the powers that be ought to have corrected these shortcomings by now, particularly the lack of internet connectivity. They have not yet installed a proper sound system and speakers have to hold mikes in their hands while speaking from their make-shift desks. The political leadership may have decided to take the plunge, but officials still seem to be dragging their feet.

There has also been criticism that the small state of Uttarakhand cannot afford to have more than one capital, but anybody acquainted with the princely states in the hills would be aware that almost all of them had separate capitals for summer and winter. It is, therefore, very much feasible and will provide good results in the future. Unlike in the past, it is not necessary anymore in the age of Information Technology to cart all the files and other paraphernalia as the ‘durbar’ shifts. Intelligent connectivity can ensure the barest minimum of support staff needs to be taken to Gairsain and accommodation provided only to the actual decision makers. There is a long way to go, but the direction is right.