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Beyond Schadenfreude  


We, the Government


By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer

We’ve used that word because there is no equivalent in English. It’s pronounced Shah- d’n – froy –duh and it means “Pleasure felt at the misfortune of another”. The precise Germans coined such an exact word for such a feeling

There was plenty of schadenfreude hovering around Mussoorie when the results of the Municipal elections were announced. In their jubilation, however, celebrants had failed to analyse the greater message that the Board elections had sent. Here, then, is some introspection from two non-political people.

The BJP was rejected because its goals were just too distant and rarefied. So, also, were those of the Congress. If one less fighter jet had been bought, would the Central Government have diverted the savings to pay for the Jumna Water Pumping Scheme? Of course not!

The voters of Mussoorie have given a certain spite vote to the Congress. Most importantly, it is an outright rejection of the top-down diktats which govern the two principal parties. Our City Board is no longer a flock of Mary’s Little Lambs bleating “Yes. Sir! Yes, Sir! Three bags full Sir!” If the new Chairman and Members realise this fact, then they must also know something else. For the first time, after many years, our City Board is free from the dominance of distant Political Bosses.

In other words, the people of Mussoorie have, at long last, re-asserted the true meaning of democracy. They have re-affirmed the fact that We, the People are We, the Government.

This, we now realise, is a logical continuation of a truly Garhwali message sent to the rest of India, and the world. When the netas and babus refused to stop the felling of trees, Garhwal gave our nation the woman-powered Chipko movement. When our Lucknow-ruled Uttar Pradesh government got into cahoots with the mining mafia, three old ladies in Mussoorie launched the Save Mussoorie Society. They were naive and ignorant of the law, but very principled and very determined. Eventually, with the help of Avdhash Kaushal of RELK, the Supreme Court intervened.

Those three old ladies saved Mussoorie from the predatory hunger of the limestone mafia.

The election of the present Municipal Board, Mussoorie, with a large number of independent members, is the third message that we, in tiny Garhwal, are sending out to Independent India. We became independent not because  of an armed Revolution, apart from the Naval Mutiny confined to Bombay, but because of a Gandhian Evolution when we took over the reins of our own future.

This, in a small but critical way, is what has happened in Mussoorie, now.

Muscular shenanigans to enforce the writ of distant puppet-masters will no longer be an accepted excuse. We expect our elected representative to fight for our needs and not claim to be helpless in the face of orders from a remote High Command or Triumvirate. We expect them to ask why letters addressed to the DFO remain unanswered; why the DFO’s telephone, and that of the Conservator of Forests, is seldom picked up whereas that of the SHO at Mussoorie’s police headquarters is answered instantly and requests acted upon so promptly?  We would like to know why domestic consumers of Municipal water are not billed on their actual consumption but electricity consumers are provided printed bills whenever their meters are read?

Finally, Mr Chairman and Members, do not be tempted to use the single purpose Eco Cess for the Winter Carnival. Years ago, one of us was associated with the first Autumn Festival organised by Mons. Jules Robert, and both of us were involved with the first Winter Carnival when Jot Singh was the Chairman. There was no Eco-Cess then. If later City Boards have relied on an amendment to the Eco Cess rules, made by a babu, they are at fault. All such amendments are liable be challenged in a PIL. If, on enquiry, it is found that a civil servant made such an unauthorised change, then that person could be charged with abetment to the Misappropriation of Public Money.

Our new City Board has the best wishes of the majority of the voters of Mussoorie. But it also has to live up to the high expectations of We, the Government.