By Hugh and Colleen Gantzer
We welcome our new CM for many different reasons. He is young; he acted swiftly and decisively when he sanitised his bureaucracy, revitalised a Cabinet-in-a-Coma, sanctioned the filling up of 22,000 job vacancies, had his spokesman announce Cabinet decisions immediately after they were made; and for a reason that resonates with us personally, he is the son of an army veteran so, presumably, he imbibed self-discipline as a way of life!
Very reassuringly, he asked for IAS Officer SS Sandhu as his new Chief Secretary. Sandhu has built up a sterling reputation as a hard-working, no-nonsense task-master, who gets the job done on time. He is a good right-hand man for any ambitious, clean, politician blazing his independent trail.
We also view Dhami’s rise from a very different perspective.
Our CM represents the new Uttarakhandi. They are the young, restless, well-informed Tomorrow’s People specified on the Masthead of this paper. We have met them all over the world, merging effortlessly with their host communities. If you look carefully you will see more than our small state’s fair share of them among English newscasters on the popular TV channels. This ambitious generation respects, but cannot relate to, people of their parents’ generation. Dhami is more their ideal than any of his conservative predecessors. And if he was, indeed, parachuted in, then like all good sky-divers he hit the ground running, sure of his goal, and prepared to start work from Day 1 and be transparent about it!
So, what else can we expect from our young CM?
Certainly not the “tattered jeans” type of remark flaunted by his well-meaning predecessor. And very definitely a more positive view towards Climate Change and the Environment. Quite apart from the fact that the Chipko Movement began here, mobile young people are more aware of the continuing inadequacies of the PWD in maintaining our roads. Many, if not all, have felt the personal agony of losing a loved one due to a collapsed road. In marked contrast to many of their elders, they can see the clear and present danger of destabilising the natural balance of our mountains and the fearful consequences of disturbing their equilibrium. This ancient wisdom has been built into our folkloric DNA.
Which brings us to Tourism, one of the subjects specifically mentioned by the new CM. Before Covid-19, Travel and Tourism had grown into the world’s largest and fastest expanding industry. And yet our ill-informed politicians believed that they could create “tourist attractions”. Incidentally, no one goes to New York to see the Statue of Liberty. They see that gift of the people of France if they happen to be in New York. If you want to know what can be developed as a tourist attraction, commission an expert to do a Tourism Resources Survey. (Yes, we have done some of those in the past, but we stopped some years ago.)
Finally, Mr CM, voters are getting increasingly disgusted with terms like winability, defections and sequestered legislators. This is bare-faced, dirty, cynical, criminal politics. A drug lord would be able to control vast numbers of people. Would that make him an ideal MP? If law-makers can be bought, sold and corralled in five star hotels for fear of being “Poached” what difference is there between them and other meat-on-the-hoof? Would you like to be classified as one of these commercial commodities? What has happened to old fashioned things like principles and morality? And izzat, which means so much to a serviceman that he would give up his life to preserve it? Can you not re-introduce that into our squalid politics, Mr CM?
As you can see, we expect a great deal from you. Perhaps it is too much; or perhaps not! You have made a brilliant start by passing Cabinet decisions in a quick, clear, accountable way. But will your heel-dragging colleagues allow you to continue on such a straight-forward path? To tweak Robert Frost “The tunnel is lonely, dark, and deep, but you have promises to keep and miles to go before you sleep, miles to go before you sleep…”
That’s all we have to say, for the present. But we’ll talk again, whenever another conversation is called for.
(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.)