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Challenges Remain

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The claims made by Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami at the first anniversary celebration of his government, which was held on 23 March, are undoubtedly bolstered by his pro-active and people-friendly approach. It is also a fact that a number of the problems faced by the state during his brief tenure have been the result of past failures of governance – be it the ‘man-made’ disaster in Joshimath, the examination paper leaks, or the irregular appointments made in the Vidhan Sabha. These have dominated the narrative and even impeded, to some extent, the development efforts.

His praise of the double-engine ‘sarkar’ model is also justified to the extent that major projects, particularly in the hills, would not have been possible without a commonality of vision with the Centre. These are directed at improving infrastructure, connectivity, and delivery of government services. It will be some time before the impact of these will become known, but there are also a number of areas requiring immediate attention that cannot be overlooked. Even in the absence of up to date statistics, it is obvious that law and order is facing a number of challenges. Serious crime, including murders and rapes, has been hitting the headlines with depressing regularity. The murder of Ankita Bhandari has come to represent the nexus between crime and politicians. The opposition charge that the entire truth has not emerged finds traction with the people. Traffic management in all the cities and towns has largely failed and people are left to deal with it on their own.

While the Modi Government’s digitalisation drive is making an impact on delivery of services, local bodies and government agencies are not being able to keep up, with websites and apps not performing at the desired level. The required balance between attracting investment and preventing an unmanageable increase in population has not been struck. While there is big talk on boosting tourism, there is too much dependence on the traditional sources of earning, going well beyond capacity. There exist many innovative ways to disperse tourism flow and create ‘new’ destinations but, for some reason, these are being ignored. The elevated expressway that promises to reduce travel time between Delhi and Dehradun could become a boon that delivers a disaster.

So, while it is laudable to promise a ‘developed’ state in the twenty-fifth year of its existence, the challenges are many and mere politics will not deliver what is required. The parameters that define quality of life need to be identified and plans made accordingly. Interaction with the public will have to go beyond the clichés if their real needs are to be met. So, best of luck for the next year, Chief Minister!