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Bad Omen

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The Gairsain sojourn of the state assembly comes as a relief for Dehradun, even as the political heat transfers to the mountains. Already, on the first day of the Budget Session, there was drama not just in the House but also outside it with a lathi charge on villagers agitating for widening of a road. Was it just coincidence that traffic was lighter on the roads of Doon on Tuesday? Those so eager to have the capital shifted permanently to Gairsain – admittedly not so many from among the locals – need to get a taste of what it entails. If the politicians that enjoy the benefits of a cosmopolitan and comfortable city like Dehradun were actually asked to live up to their demands, they would soon be running for cover.

The creation of Uttarakhand involved not just socio-economic-political factors; there were cultural ones as well. In fact, in the overall perspective, the state has developed a distinct identity of its own. It is not that there were no incidents of violence by agitationists during the statehood agitation, but its fundamental principle was of strict non-violence. It was by no means a pacifism born of cowardice – it was natural courage exemplified most by the women who proved to be the backbone of the movement. This sense of calm and confidence has been inherent to the manner in which the state has developed since formation, so aberrations appear starker in the present day. It is the duty of the state’s leadership, irrespective of which party it represents, to ensure social behaviour evolves in the right direction.

A magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the lathi charge on the villagers. It should also look into why the protesters demands were not considered by the authorities. Was a protest to raise a particular issue deliberately turned into provocative action by anti-social elements? It is being alleged that the Congress had a hand in this – is this its strategy to win the coming elections? Is this part of a larger pattern visible in the rest of the country? Or, was it just heavy-handedness on the part of the local administration?

Going by the Governor’s address, the per-capita income of the state has crossed Rs 2 lakhs per year. This would imply a growing economy. It is obvious, however, that income disparity is also high. Any government that seeks to do well must address this issue also. Economic distress can also be a cause for greater social friction and rise in violence. It would be good if the signs are ready early.