In her address on Tuesday to the budget session of the Vidhan Sabha in Gairsain, Governor Baby Rani Maurya presented a detailed account of what the state government claims to have achieved, thus far. Going by this, the state’s economy is a jet plane thundering down the runway, all set to take off. On the same day, it was reported that four women had to carry a man with a broken leg twenty kilometres over hilly terrain to access the road so that he could be transported to hospital. There were no men in their village to undertake the task, thanks to migration.
It is easy to offer statistics on the economy and governance, but Uttarakhand poses a serious challenge when it comes to actual delivery on the ground. Among the reasons for this is the failure of a consensus on how the state is to be run. Ideological clarity that would inform administrative vision is almost entirely lacking. This is best illustrated by the continuing argument on Gairsain’s status in the scheme of things. In fact, without even deciding on this, large amounts of money have been spent on developing infrastructure in Gairsain and something similar is planned near Raipur in Dehradun.
Can even the essential services be taken to every remote village in the hills? There is much talk on preventing migration, indeed, on getting people to return to abandoned villages. Even a report has been prepared by a commission on the subject, but it does not seem to have impacted on governance, which continues in the time-honoured fashion of the British ‘Raj’. How poor command and control is became evident on Wednesday when Cabinet Minister Madan Kaushik arrived at the Vidhan Sabha building in Gairsain at 10:15 a.m., just forty-five minutes before the beginning of proceedings, to find the portals locked!
In the present day, the obvious answer lies in innovative use of Science & Technology, which has acquired innumerable dimensions. Unfortunately, even these ideas are being imported – at much expense, of course – instead of addressing specific local problems and solving them. This is because, all this notwithstanding, the ruling elite continues to live in considerable comfort. If anything justifies shifting the capital to Gairsain – even if during the summer – it would be inconveniencing ministers and officials by making them live in the ‘hardship’ areas. One doubts if even that would stimulate their imagination, but it is certainly worth a try!