We, the Citizens
By Hugh and Colleen Gantzer
The purpose of this column is To Inform. We keep track of the news, sift it to remove the grain from the chaff and assess its likely impact on the lives of our fellow citizens. Then we express our views offering possible solution to civic problems. We do not rush into RTIs, PILs, Dharnas, Morchas or Black Flag Demonstrations. In other words, we are not Activists. We believe that all Citizens have the right to be armed with facts burnished with the opinions of Columnists. Then they cannot claim that they did not know, or that they were misled by the double-speak of expensive, tax-payer financed Spin Doctors!
To use an old proverb. We Lead Thirsty Horses to Water. We do not Force Them to Drink.
We were reminded of our role when we learnt, informally, of the swift and decisive action taken by our Chief Secretary. He and his wife had come to Mussoorie on a private visit. He was, apparently, dismayed by the disgraceful state of the Mall because of the activities of the Peyjal Nigam. Mussoorie’s Mall is more than its main thoroughfare. It is also its major tourist attraction. Municipal laws prohibit the construction of any buildings which would obstruct the view of the Doon along its entire south-facing length.
Here we come to a critical point in this analysis which requires a brief foray into International Law. The Nazi’s Adolf Eichmann was tried for overseeing the execution of countless Jews in Hitler’s extermination camps. In his defence Eichmann pleaded that he was merely following the orders of his superiors. The court rejected this argument. Their judgement gave rise to the controversial principle that a morally wrong act cannot be defended by claiming that you were following orders! The wide repercussions of this have still not been resolved. In the Peyjal Nigam case of digging up the Mall, can the pani-wallahs claim that they were merely following orders? Have they no obligation to the citizens who pay the taxes which finance all the activities of the Peyjal Nigam, and pay all their salaries?
When senior bureaucrats have to intervene to correct a blatantly wrong order, then, obviously, the chain of command has been weakened. An earlier CM of Gujarat had to do exactly this to create the, so-called, Gujarat Model. Our CS was absolutely right in correcting the wrong inflicted on the citizens of Mussoorie, but the Gujarat Model has to be used very carefully.
In the Defence Services, the Chain-of-Command is sacrosanct. It is broken only in the gravest of circumstances in spite of the Eichmann judgement. Dr Sandhu was forced to intervene only to rectify the blatant disregard of the rights of Mussoorie’s citizens by an arrogant Peyjal Nigam.
It is very likely that a similar intervention by him will be required when dealing with the obduracy of the Telephone Department.
Mussoorie’s economy is heavily dependent on the efficiency of its telecom system. Its schools, traders, hoteliers, transporters and large number of retirees need efficient communications. But over the last seven years, or so, telecom services have been deteriorating and the officials in Dehradun seem to be getting more and more arrogant in their handling of complaints.
On Saturday, 19th March, we got a call from an abrasive and uncouth woman, claiming to speak for the Telephone Department. She said that we had to pay our Telephone Bill immediately. But we had not received our Telephone bill usually sent to us by the first week of the month. In spite of this she insisted that we accept her verbal claim and hinted at dire consequences if we did not.
Incidentally, we have tried to phone the Chief Secretary nine times, in the last two days, to check the facts. Unsuccessfully. Is this coincidence or the unbridled arrogance of some unknown telecom Babus who want to isolate a pro-active official of high repute!
This seems to be another waste-clogged stable that needs a Herculean cleansing!
(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.)