It is a fact that neither Uttarakhand’s police nor the district administrations have enough boots on the ground to deal with everyday challenges, leave alone emergencies. Quite a few of those present in the field spend their time on the traditional ‘collection’ activities that turn them, even the humblest, into multiple crorepatis by the end of their career. A new distraction from work is the smartphone. It is a common sight to see uniformed cops relaxing by the roadside, busy on their phones, while underpaid and poorly trained home guards try and control the traffic. And despite all the attempts to take the human element out of routine activities, the demand for speed money is ubiquitous in government offices.
It may seem the same old conundrum for those tasked with command and control but modern technology can change the paradigm. The almost instantaneous ability to communicate, to create and access databases, obtain inputs from online maps and undertake surveillance from drones could help deal with emergencies. One such took place on Haridwar Road near the Vidhan Sabha on Wednesday evening, when a hardware store caught fire. The traffic jam that developed could have been better dealt with if the police had responded quickly enough to divert traffic at intersections up and down the road. Instead, it was a disaster and the ordinary commuter was greatly inconvenienced.
There is an urgent need for the middle and higher echelons of officialdom to update their approach to management. Training modules should be prepared by interacting with institutions like the IITs, so that problems can be posed and solutions developed. Past experience should be pooled to create scenarios with pre-arranged responses. The private sector has been more on the ball in utilising cutting-edge technology to overcome obstacles that were considered insurmountable not so long ago. Best practices can be learned by understanding the approach behind it.
What is obvious is that things cannot continue they way they are now. Public resentment is increasing – those who scrupulously follow the rules obtain no advantage from doing so. The aspiring and achieving new generation is particularly disillusioned with the system. Senior officials seem not only blind to what is happening around them, but also deaf to the calls for change. This is particularly because it is the politicians who face the brunt of public ire, while they remain safely anonymous in the background. Being made accountable for the administrative failures would go a long way towards changing things. But, who will bell the cat?