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A Precipice Called Hubris

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We, the Government

By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer

Once again the Garhwal Post has hit the nail squarely on the head (GP 29.8.20). The event it referred to was not only a ‘Messy Start’, it has become a pandemic affecting parties across the political spectrum.
People no longer matter, power does. An articulate Party Spokesman was removed even before he left the TV studio. No Show Cause Notice, no chance to explain.
There’s a word for this: “HUBRIS”. It means “Excessive Pride or Self Confidence”. We shall give you three more words of that definition at the end of this column. Here, however, are some examples of Hubris drawn from our own little state, Uttarakhand.
A reported eighty-four poor families, who have been Mussoorie residents for many decades, are being removed from their homes by the police and civic authorities. This is being done in a deluging monsoon and in the midst of a raging pandemic. Of course, the law is on the side of the authorities. It always is as, indeed, it was when the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh occurred. But is it right or is it Hubris?
No one has accused these threatened families of being thieves or a security risk or even branded them with that manufactured term “urban naxalites”.  When the Partition tore India apart, many refugees moved into homes abandoned by people who had fled to Pakistan. At that time they were illegal “squatters”. But their occupancy was soon ‘regularised’. So why can’t that happen to these people? Do we have no empathy with this essential ‘human capital’? Or is it Hubris?
It really is strange that similar action was not taken against former CMs “squatting” in sarkari houses. Those areas were not declared cantonments, impressive numbers of babus and police were not deployed, arrests were not threatened etc, etc and etc.! Hubris?
The land on which our threatened families live is, apparently, needed for the terminal station of a Ropeway.  We’ve been informed that this cable car system will change the character of tourism in Mussoorie. We have seen a news-report claiming that the cost of the project will be Rs 450 crore. That will be taken from the taxes that we, the voters of Mussoorie, pay. But then why have we not been asked if we want this project? Why have we, the Citizens of Mussoorie, who are really We the Government, not been taken into confidence before this project was approved? Even our Municipal Council seemed surprised. (GP 29. 8.20) State Government Hubris?
Finally, there are those whose hearts bleed and eyes film at the sad thought of their friends who have invested in property in Purukul, the other terminal of the ropeway. We deeply sympathise with them. But there is a silver lining. If Mussoorie re-establishes its reputation as an up-market, exclusive, holiday resort in the Garhwal Himalayas, then Purukul could thrive. It could boom as an international Health, Wilderness, Spiritual and Garhwali-Cultural Centre spreading the fame of our state around the world. That would bring real pride and self-confidence; not the dangerous delusion of Hubris.
In this column, we have expressed the opinion of the people of Mussoorie. They are hurt that so much of their money is being spent without consulting them. We have a Town Hall which is meant for such discussions, but that was not used. We have a number of citizens who have domain expertise in such matters, but they were not consulted. Why is our elected government shy of discourse, debate and discussion in matters which directly affect our well-being? Hubris?
Here’s another fact. The Rs 450 crore reputedly being paid to “a French firm”, requires the eviction of 84 Indian families. Unless these 84 poor families are evacuated, the project cannot start. In effect, their eviction will trigger the expenditure of Rupees Five crore, Thirty Five lakh, Seventy One thousand, Four Hundred Twenty Eight and Sixty paise (Rs, 5,35,71,428 – 60p) per family. In a time of financial and human crises, what is the hurry to push this through? Or is it more than just Hubris?
Here, finally, is the full definition of Hubris.  It is “Excessive Pride or Self-Confidence leading to Nemesis.” Some unknown, Hubris-intoxicated, netas are teetering on the edge of a precipice!
(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 half-hour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 first-person articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who is a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)