By Hugh and Colleen Gantzer
Congratulations: you’ve been elected!
The votes are in. All they need is to be counted and the official results to be declared. You have now made it to that select group of people who rule the world’s most populous democracy. Is that an honour? On the face of it, yes. But when we look at it a little closer then things don’t seem so certain. Our brilliant Constitution calls us a Democracy: which is described as “A Government of the People, by the People and for the People.” But over the last decade, or so, there has been a gradual erosion of this laudable ideal.
As we have pointed out earlier in this column, the change began in India with the introduction of the Nazi-inspired High Command. This slaughtered the principle of democratic choice, after deliberation, discussion and debate, to a fiat issued by a dictator, diarchy, triarchy or… in the latest hint issued by one party… a quadarchy-in-the-making! The fourth person, waiting in the wings is, now, trying to make an entrance on centre stage!
So, netas, you may be the most honourable, upright and sincere people in the world but your words count for little if the mysterious High Command decides otherwise. If you disobey it you will be issued a whip. (Note the deliberate cruelty of the word!) So, if you want to be independent, and do what your voters want you to do, you will have to spend your own money. Then netaji, you have only five years to recover it with a little extra padding for a rainy day!
But if you have the guts and the financial means to shrug off the diktats of the High Command, here is what you should do to win the minds and hearts of the citizens who elected you.
First, scotch the rumour that the Jal Sansthan intends to convert the Mussoorie Drinking Water Augmentation Scheme aka The Jumna Water Project into a Pay- for- a- new- connection 0rder! We were personally involved in piloting this scheme through the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee (SCMC). We know that the Jal Sansthan/Nigam is largely responsible for Mussoorie’s water crisis. Though they had the authority to refuse sanctions for new water connections proposed by the MDDA, it declined to do so. This was commented upon by a Chairman of the SCMC. And now that our drinking water needs can be met by tapping the river, our Jal authorities wish to further penalise the citizens by forcing them to pay for new connections! These are speculations still, but can any government afford to start its new life with such swords hanging above its head? If you want to start with a clean slate, issue a White Paper immediately.
Secondly, there have been far too many questions raised about the strange functioning of our Ministry of Forests, etc. Given the fact that Forests are our greatest natural asset, wildlife is a major tourist attraction, and the protection of the Environment is a matter of life and death in our state. This Ministry should be directly under the CM working through three Junior Ministers. It is dangerous to repose too much power in one hand!
Thirdly, the Governor is very keen on growing tulips, herbal plants, etc. We have grown all these as well as a variety of exotic vegetables and fruit. But we cannot do so now because of the alarming increase in the hordes of aggressive monkeys. These simians are a menace and have attacked our staff and their children. They should be notified as vermin because all attempts to trap and relocate them have proved fruitless.
Fourthly, the health services in Mussoorie are deplorable and getting worse. Doctors no longer make house calls. There should be a state service of visiting para-medics provided with their own, suitably equipped, transports to handle emergencies.
Fifthly, residential schools and hotels are the very breath of Mussoorie’s economic life. Both need a 24×7 communication system. At present, our problems seem to be centred on the bottleneck in the Dehradun Telephone Exchange. Or, perhaps, as a persistent rumour has it, the services are being deliberately diminished to make way for crony capitalist companies!
Those are enough problems for you new Netas to handle. May you have a very happy tenure till the High Command activates that terrible Revolving Door!
(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 first-person 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.)