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Pani, Purukul and Predators


We, the Government

By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer

It is our Duty to pay our taxes. It is our Right to expect our netas and babus to use that money to meet their legitimate dues and then to give us all the services we expect from them. If they pretend to be deaf to our needs then we must remind them over and over and over again.

We have written about the PM’s desire for development to be human-centric while protecting the poor. This was in his speech to the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum. Later, Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said “Prime Minister Narendra Modi ….. called for drinking water supply in all the schools and anganwadi centres across the country.”

Then why has our state government gone quiet about the essential Jumna Water Scheme? Two successive governments have carried out surveys of the plan. Promises have been given to Mussoorie citizens that the project would be completed by 2022. But since then there has been a crashing silence. Why? Has the government diverted the money to another, more rent-yielding, scheme? Do our babus and netas find the Rs 500 crore Purkul-Mussoorie Ropeway project more gratifying?

When Marie Antoinette heard that the starving hordes of Paris were craving for food, she said, “If you can’t give them bread, give them cake.” Then she lost her head; dramatically!

So, why is our state government so out of touch with reality? We don’t know, because they have not taken us, the voters who gave them the authority they have, into confidence. Consequently we have to search for our own answers.

For instance, who, recently, has bought real-estate in Purukul and in the places where the 23 towers for the Ropeway will be located? “Insider Trading” has as long a history as that of commerce. Some like the Large Don probably consider it to be “smart”. In fact, in other circles, it might even have the sanctity of tradition amounting to religious conviction. But, as we have said, if our netas and babus wish to keep such matters wrapped in secrecy, then we have to discover how our money has been spent, and why.

We also wonder why our netas and babus are so indifferent about the protection of our citizens, particularly our children. The Prime Minister is concerned about our kids: he wants clean drinking water to be supplied to all schools and anganwadis. But our netas and babus, particularly those living in tax-payer-protected residences, seem to be divorced from reality. They appear to be oblivious of the menace of marauding monkeys: predators with almost-human abilities. A member of our staff lives in quarters on our premises. Yesterday, his three little children were menaced by a male rhesus. Their shrill cries of terror managed to drive the attacking beast off. A delivery boy refused to come to our cottage because he was chased away by a troupe of ferocious simians. And yet our netas refuse to declare them as vermin as Himachal has done. Are they more concerned about the welfare of wild predators than they are about the well-being of the voters who elected them and continue to pay for their protection and that of their children?

We know enough history to realise that revolutions don’t work. The Russian Revolution gave rise to today’s oil millionaires and as much state despotism as the czarist regime ever exercised. The Chinese Revolution has created an even more despotic rule than their succession of emperors ever had. Mahatma Gandhi’s genius lay in his concern for the most deprived in our society. He knew that their soaring aspirations drive our India Fast Forward

This is not impractical idealism. Covid-19 has shown that all Indians are vulnerable. The virus does not distinguish between caste or community, colour, status or faith. Our local netas and babus have brought heart rending pain to 84 families in the midst of a pandemic and in a deluging monsoon. Those poor people neither have the power to strike back, nor must they invoke supernatural forces for justice. In our simple Newtonian world, every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

The power of the people’s ire will even the balance of the scales of justice.

(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
Commander in the Indian Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who is a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)