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Mussoorie: Kindergarten for SDMs?

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We, the Government

By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer

We had intended to write this as an open letter to the CM and the CS. Then we realised that we didn’t know who called the shots in this matter: the appointment of our SDMs. Recent events have given the impression that Mussoorie has become a sort of Waiting Room, or perhaps a Purgatory to atone for the burden of past sins, or even a convenient Kindergarten to hone SDMs’ administrative skills while waiting for better assignments in the hierarchal world of babudom.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, we have news for you. The people of Mussoorie are fed up with the revolving door tenures of our SDMs. These worthies may be small fry to you, enthroned in your elevated ‘gaddis’ in the Doon, but our SDMs mean a lot to us. The Constitution may decree a Separation of Powers between the Legislators, who make the Laws, the Judiciary, who Interpret the Laws, and the Executive who Enforce the Laws; SDMs, however, are powerful hybrids exercising all three Powers.

And if the Decision Makers in Dehra treat them like redundant spares to a spare tyre, we are hurt and very angry.

We say this with great conviction because we phoned a cross-section of the voters in our town who really are We, the Government. They told us what they felt about how our state treats our SDMs. We spoke to Sundeep Sahni, hands-on President of the UK Hotel and Restaurant Association; and to Trader-Hotelier Abishek Hari: our family has known his for four generations. We also spoke to media people, hospitality providers, chemists, confectioners and to Rajat Aggarwal who heads our very articulate Traders’ Association.

Here are some of the things they said, after we have toned down their very justified indignation!

Nitin Kumar, “The SDM should be here for at least a year, but it would be better if it were two years. Varun Chowdhury was transferred within a year and he did a lot for Mussoorie in that time”

Rajat Aggarwal, “The SDM should have tenure of at least one year to be effective. So should the Kotwal. SDM Varun Chowdhury accomplished a lot during his nine months in Mussoorie.”

Abishek Hari, “Our SDMs’ tenure should be between 1 to 2 years. Only then will they be able to understand Mussoorie’s problems and be able to deal with them. The Kotwal has also been frequently transferred except for Bhavana. In her two-year tenure she was very efficient and her services were very much appreciated by the people of Mussoorie.”

Sundeep Sahni, “The SDM should have tenure of 18 months to 2 years to be effective. About two years ago I did a study and came up with a figure of Rs 100 crore in State and Central taxes that Mussoorie contributed.”

Clearly, the people of Mussoorie appreciate good services by their Civil Servants and do not carp or complain unnecessarily. Their sense of civic responsibility is also remarkably high: most, if not all, attempts to conceal Covid-19 cases have been reported by our citizens, even when such incidents involved close neighbours. This should be publicly acknowledged and commended.

Finally, why has our SDM been given a subsidiary job in Dehra? Is it to enable him to live there? Which babu or neta has decided that the personal needs of one civil servant take precedence over those of the citizens of an entire town? Is this how the unknown decision makers in Dehra think?

Presumably, when one of our SDMs was ensconced in the bosom of his family in Dehradun, the street lights went off in Mussoorie. It was raining. Our cemented roads were slippery and dark. If an honest, tax-paying, citizen had slipped and fallen on this dark road, and died, could the family of that person accuse the civic authorities of Culpable Homicide? Of late, the police have been permitted to interpret Abetment in a very flexible way. Consequently, even those who evaded their duty by not ensuring that street lights were working, on that very hazardous evening, could also be convicted of Manslaughter!

Dear netajis, please get real. When decisions are made about the SDMs in our little town, do remember that Mussoorie People Matter.

(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime
Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 half-hour 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 is a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)