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Back to the Basics


We the Government 


The Garhwal Post is an essential part of our very varied breakfast fare. Saturday’s GP (5-10-’18) was particularly delectable. Both its editorial (Democracy’s Cradle), and reputed wild-life and forest researcher Subir Chowfin’s article on our state Forest Department’s polices, whetted our appetite for more information. As readers of this column would have realised, our quest is for more transparency in the decisions taken on our behalf. We, the voters, are the people who elect you, the Netas and pay you, the Babus. You have no divine right to rule. You are our delegates to administer things for our welfare, using the resources belonging to us. You are accountable to us and are required to be transparent in everything you do because we have the right to demand such transparency. We might not always remember it; we might not always act on it; but, increasingly, if you look around you, the voters of the world are asserting their right to be recognised as We, the Government. It happened in The Arab Spring, The Yellow Vests Movement in Paris. It’s happening in Hong Kong, in the UK’s Brexit Mixit, the on-going soap opera of the Trump and Demo Show. Analyse them and you will always find that these evolutions began, not in the rarefied corridors of power, but in the humble dwellings of ordinary people, in the street corners and tea stalls where they meet, and out of the frontier and time-zone leaping freedom of the digital world. This is why the Garhwal Post’s editorial is particularly relevant. The bricks and mortar of democracy lie in the panchayats, as Mahatma Gandhi believed. It took some years to mature, but the information revolution has hastened the process. For urban dwellers, the equivalent of our panchayats are our Municipal Boards; for state citizens they are our Legislative Assemblies. Please remember that We, the Government pay you to be Accountable and Transparent, not Arrogant and Tendentious. Which brings us to the issues raised by Subir Chowfin’s excellently written article. Based on that article, a little hurried research, and the very illuminating experiences we have had in our close encounters with Uttarakhand’s Forest Department, we would like to ask their senior officers a few questions. If it is it your decision to use drones to keep a watch over our great forests, then 1. What is the flight duration of each drone? 2. In that time how large an area can each drone cover in our mountainous terrain? 3. What is the resolution of the cameras on the drones you plan to buy? 4. How many drones do you intend to buy? 5. What is the cost of each drone? 6. How much will it cost to train your existing staff to handle these drones? 7. If you intend to recruit trained personnel to handle the drones, what will be the total bill for their salary and other emoluments? 8. What will be the cost of maintaining these drones? 9. Uttarakhand is proud of its closed canopy forests. Will your drones be fitted with canopy-penetrating radar (if there is such a thing!) to overcome these obstacles? 10. We have mist, fog, snow, hail, rain, thunderstorms and lightning which disrupt communications. Will these drones be immune to these hazards? 11. Will drones be able to identify incipient attacks by pests, parasites, fungi or other environment-threatening hazards before they reach uncontrollable proportions? 12. Can drones create fire lines or douse forest fires? We do appreciate the Forest Department’s urgency to prove that it is in the forefront of technology. But, if most of your young officer recruits prefer watching screens to tramping through jungles, then shouldn’t you advise them to find a more urban avocation? It also strikes us that the money you spend on this hi-tech investment would be more usefully employed in recruiting Forests Guards who would give you a large number of boots on the ground. They are, also, not constrained by weather conditions, forest canopy, or the breakdown of tele-communications. Besides, there is an urgent need to generate more employment though rent- seekers would prefer drones. These questions have occurred to us within 24-hours of reading Subir Chowfin’s article. More queries are likely to follow.