The owner of a house that caught fire in Dehradun reportedly tried to phone for help but did not receive a response from the fire-service and had to physically go to the fire-station to report the matter. Fortunately there was no loss of life but the property was almost entirely destroyed. This may be due to negligence of those in charge or a systemic failure, but it needs to be investigated so that there is no repeat in the future. If the problem is with the system then it would, indeed, be a serious problem as it indicates lapses at many levels and the need for a consistent and intelligent effort to rectify them.
There is no doubt that, in this digital age, when people are getting used to obtaining a range of services at the push of a button, bureaucracy lags behind. In fact, most ingeniously, it has used the advances in technology to further encumber the common person with paperwork in providing services. The Aadhar card, for instance has not made things simpler, it has just been added on to the other requirements. One needs only to compare the functioning of private and government owned banks to understand the difference. The long queues in hospitals at the Ayushman counters are not so much due to the number of applicants but also because of the numerous documents required. Since most of these are essential services, people suffer through the process but the impact of an excellent scheme like Ayushman, and the goodwill it generates, is certainly diminished as a result.
It can be argued that those providing the services have to ensure there are no irregularities but, in this day and age, surely there can be numerous innovative ways to simplify the processes – particularly when the outcomes are important, such as preventing a fire from spreading, and saving lives. It is the belief among some that introduction of technology and efficiencies could lead to loss of jobs – the reason why Mulayam Singh had notoriously objected to introduction of computers – but it may be noted that it actually led to the creation of millions of new era employment. Lapses of this kind can be brushed under the carpet most of the time but, in a small and aspiring state like Uttarakhand, they will eventually become serious impediments to progress. Future oriented politicians should take note.