In the present age, when challenges are faced at a much more fundamental level, it requires considerable sophistication of the mind to perform. The interventions of Science & Technology at a multitude of levels imply a complexity that either needs an equally nuanced response, or a transcendental simplicity. In such a situation, leadership cannot just be ‘representational’; it also has to be ‘operational’. In present day India, for instance, the overarching nature of policies crafted by the Union Government in the economic, political and social fields cannot achieve their goals without the implementers seeing through the bureaucratese of guidelines, SOPs and directives. The purpose needs to be understood and targeted, even if it means personally initiated changes.
This is particularly necessary in Uttarakhand, which seems to be somewhat caught up in practices of conventional politics. This may constrain the political leadership, but officialdom is expected to be more up-to-date in such operational matters, capable of informing its bosses of the choices to be made. The state, with its many advantages –human resource, environment and diversity – is eminently suited to lead the new economic and social agenda. Only failure to grab the opportunity can keep the state back.
Although it is just a minor issue but the flip-flops taken by the establishment in dealing with the COVID-19 infected Tourism Minister Satpal Maharaj and his family indicate the general unpreparedness of the state in the present crisis. The dependence on central guidelines for clarity on what needs to be done reveals a fear of taking responsibility. Nothing is more dangerous than this in an emergency. The opposition is rightly asking how the government has been dealing with the many cases among the general public when it remains so unaware of its own policy. It is no wonder then that ‘policy’ is being implemented with the police lathi at the street level. Try that on Satpal Maharaj!
The battle for economic recovery is going to be far more complex than enforcing social distancing and quarantines. Much will occur behind the scenes, which means the ‘correctives’ will be slow in coming wherever needed. If one recalls the times of ND Tiwari, when the foundation of Uttarakhand’s development was laid, it was not just his administrative expertise that was so effective, it was as much his ability to recognise ability among bureaucrats. The choice of the right man for the right job is often what results in success. Mere policies without implementation cannot be enough.