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Double Engine Derailment

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By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer

There is a lot of loose, echo-chamber talk about Double Engine government. Clearly most of the netas and babus who use this phrase have no idea of what it really means. A Double Engine is a railway phrase to describe the use of two locomotives to haul a single train. This system is used when the load is particularly heavy, beyond the hauling capability of a single locomotive. It is also used when two locomotives are coupled together to haul a train on a steep gradient. There is, however, a built-in danger in this system. If one of the two engines is defective, the train could jump off the tracks and derail. This, we believe, is what is likely to have caused the Morbi Bridge Disaster.

But since Double Engine Government is just a metaphor, let us analyse how it works in real life civil administration.

We are a democracy: a government of the people, by the people, for the people. This is ensured by elections and by our elected representatives expected to respond to the needs of those citizens who elected them. Sadly, in course of time, this has evolved to a control by powerful political parties who in turn are shackled by a party whip to the diktats of mysterious, High Commands. These Grand Panjandrums are often, unspecified and enforce their whims on the threat of expulsion from the Party. In other words a democratically elected neta becomes a puppet on strings pulled by remote High Commanders.

Clearly, the distant High Commanders cannot be expected to know the nitty-gritty of every problem in every town or village in every state. But local netas and babus are scared of expressing their independent views for fear of the whip. The result is that people claiming to have the ear of the High Commanders get away with scaring local authorities into servile submission.

Apply this logic to the Morbi case. The old suspension bridge was ‘repaired’ within sight of all citizens. And yet no one objected to the quality of work being done on this ancient structure. Everyone, clearly, assumed that if the distant Big Brothers were overseeing everything they, the folk most affected by the repairs, did not need to take any interest. The result: a shocking death toll of 135 persons including 55 children according to one news report.

After this massacre, for that is what it was, many movers and shakers began to run for cover. Many others began raising hot air balloons of rumour, speculation and innuendo. Among the most vile of these was the one hinting that a principal contractor handling the repairs to the old bridge was “friendly” with a VIP or VIPs in the Central Government and, consequently was likely to get off scot free. VIPs meet many people because they are public figures. To use such professional affability to throw the odium of suspicion on that or those VIPs is grossly unfair. The case is still at the investigation stage and does not warrant such muck raking.

We would like to remind our readers of that clear cutting rule of Logic called Occam’s Razor. Occam was a 13th– 14th century Roman Catholic English priest noted for his brilliant logic.  He laid down the principle that it is most treasonable to accept the simplest explanation for any event.  In other words no more assumptions should be made than is absolutely necessary. In the Morbi case, there is no reason to assume anything further than the deplorable indifference of local netas and babus. The assumption of distant friendships is not necessary at this initial stage.

We must also apply this logic to The Purkul Mussoorie Ropeway. It is the prime responsibility of the netas, babus and citizens of Mussoorie and Dehradun to make detailed enquiries about the safety, viability and socio-economic-environmental sustainability of this scheme. To transfer these responsibilities to distant netas is very dangerous. We don’t want a repetition of the Morbi Tragedy on a very, much larger scale. Why is our Uttrakhand Government shy of issuing a White paper on this scheme? Who is blocking such a statement?  And why?

(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 halfhour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 firstperson articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who was a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)