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Falling short


The Bahuguna Government in Uttarakhand does not seem to have a consistent vision for Uttarakhand. It seems to be functioning by reflex, like a man fending off a bee attack. The Cabinet meets ostensibly to chart the course of the state’s development, but announces only half-baked decisions that fail to solve specific problems, yet, increases the burden on the state’s exchequer. For some reason, the government allows agitations to fester, and then attempts to offer solutions that are nothing more than self-serving attempts at promoting one or the other mediator. Increasingly, this is just the one person hoping to get another chance at the Lok Sabha. Sadly, Bahuguna’s is not the only government that has ignored demands to its peril – Khanduri before him has established records in this regard.

Of course, at the latest Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, there was no hesitation whatsoever in increasing the pay and perks of the legislators and ministers by almost threefold. There has not been even the token conscientious objector in the entire Assembly. At the same meeting, relief for unemployed youth regarding application fees has been withdrawn. Government employees with perfectly legitimate demands are offered little succor even though a more liberal attitude could ensure improved performance, particularly in the remote areas.

There is also the very strong suspicion that those in power are being wrongly briefed by the bureaucrats, who are always looking out to protect their turf. Any imbalance, even at the lowest levels, in the established power structure could have a domino effect, threatening their own perks and privileges. The political masters are allowed to splurge so that they are in no position to enforce difficult decisions. Only those who have been traditionally exploited are denied benefits in an increasingly unproductive establishment. No wonder, then, that despite all the schemes and allocations, nothing gets done in the field. Screening ads on television and the social media on the ‘benefits’ of these schemes at enormous cost makes no impact when the people’s direct experience is the opposite. Worse, the alienation is increased when a culture of sycophancy and lack of accountability is seen to be growing in the capital.

It is never good management policy to pay poorly and not give credit where it is due. People without experience of leadership are mostly prone to adopting such tactics. Where undeserved power is handed out to sycophants and incompetent people, not only does an environment of distrust grow, team work also suffers. The desperate factionalism being reported on a daily basis in the ruling Congress is a symptom of this problem. Everyone is focused on self-interest and even when something good can be done, it is not, because it could increase somebody else’s ‘points’.

There is definitely something going on that is not evident to the ordinary observer. It is the allegation of some that power has been hijacked by a small coterie, leading to the alienation even of the senior most ministers. This is why rounds are continuously being made of the High Command seeking leadership change despite several rebuffs. It might also explain the extravagant and insensitive hike in salaries of Ministers and MLAs. It remains to be seen if this will serve as a palliative or fails to go far enough – as in the case of solutions offered to the wide range of agitating government employees.