As a vision document, the Governor’s Address to the Vidhan Sabha on Tuesday is a remarkable construct, providing a perspective of all round development in the short and long terms. In many ways, it continues the development philosophy of ND Tiwari (which focused on human resources), but it also addresses strongly for the first time the much neglected section of Uttarakhand society, the Scheduled Castes. There is no doubt that the BSP has extracted its pound of flesh, but if the promises are met even substantially, they will give a boost to the state in, both, social and economic terms.
Of course, the big announcements will require major funding and take time to find fruition, particularly as the implementation rate in Uttarakhand has been notoriously poor – to the extent that projects age to the point of collapse during construction, as witnessed in the case of the ill-fated Chauras Bridge. At the same time, however, if the focus of skills development is built up for the so far neglected sections of Uttarakhand society, it will create resources that would make the hoped for projects a reality.
There is no doubt that the social welfare sector in the state needs strengthening to ensure that the much touted rate of GDP growth benefits the marginalised sections. The blueprint has been declared in considerably specific terms right at the start of the government’s tenure and, with the BSP hopefully applying consistent pressure, the improvement in people’s living conditions will become evident soon enough. Of course, wherever there are giveaways, the scams quickly come into existence, which is why particular care will have to be taken by Chief Minister Bahuguna to ensure that his promise to curb corruption and improve administrative capacity is kept centre-stage in his regime.
As always, a number of promises have been made for a particular section, which are never ever met, but somehow are thought necessary for inclusion in every manifesto or statement of intent – the intelligentsia. Artists, litterateurs and journalists have, once again, been promised a number of things – institutions and welfare schemes. The promises have only become more grandiose with each passing year. Unfortunately, the reality is that the previous regime actively worked to close down the premier institution created by the journalists themselves over almost a decade and a half – Dehradun’s Uttaranchal Press Club. It had developed as a centre of a multiple activities, but it took one anonymous official mere minutes to close it down and wrap it in bureaucratic red-tape that only an Alexander can now cut through. The Chief Minister’s announcements for journalists are unlikely to get past the maze of the Information Department, but he could exhibit his sincerity through a single act – reviving this important institution.
Every other sector has been mutilated in similar fashion in the state at the hands of petty politics and short-sighted vested interests. Instead of bench-marking the state’s services, goods and governance to international standards, these values have been lowered consistently to meet the trivial ambitions of small-time leaders.
The Governor’s address, on the other hand, charts out a clear cut and ambitious course. There is little wishful thinking and, instead, considerable economic sense in the document. The government need do little more than implement it with energy and commitment over the next five years to bring about a sea-change in the state. ND Tiwari had the good fortune of being Chief Minister at a time when availability of funds was no constraint, but he did more than just allocate them – he also effectively harnessed the energy of the private sector. While government projects have lagged – be it AIIMS in Rishikesh or the Doordarshan Kendra in Dehradun, the private sector institutions have raced ahead. Bahuguna need do no more than replicate this strategy to reap big dividends.