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Unseemly Contradictions


Contract workers of Doon Medical College & Hospital are on strike because they have not been paid for six months. This is not a rare case, as reports emerge regularly of delayed wages for this and other ‘not so important’ categories of workers across Uttarakhand. Such workers are always under pressure because they worry about renewal of the contracts, because of which they are forced to accept delayed payments, when regular workers would react earlier and with greater confidence. This is obvious hypocrisy for a government system that claims to be acting against bonded labour and other such exploitative practices. The callousness is further highlighted when one considers that it is this very government that has issued an ordinance waiving dues of ex-chief ministers who were basically squatting on government properties and enjoying bucketfuls of other privileges at taxpayers’ expense. That it receives support in such actions from almost all politicians is because they too hope, some day, to be enjoying such perks in the future.
Seemingly unconcerned with the hospital workers’ difficulties, the officials are, instead, accusing them of disrupting essential services. Efforts are on, they say, to get the dues cleared ‘as soon as possible’. They are either lying, or this is the actual state of the state’s finances. While there is grandiose talk of fancy projects being implemented which require visits to exotic locales in Europe, the US and elsewhere for the political top bosses and senior bureaucrats, the real story is reflected by such reports from the underbelly. The present government is also borrowing at unprecedented levels from the market; having failed it seems to meet its budgeted fiscal and revenue targets.
And these are just the simple tasks of governance. The complexities of running a hill state like Uttarakhand are well known. Coupled with the difficult topography is the challenge of being up to date with the rapidly changing economic environment. Going by the number of ‘Officers on Special Duty’ that the Chief Minister has, it would seem there is a lot of work to be done, even if means mulcting the public exchequer of precious funds for their salaries, perks and inflated egos. On the other hand, the fact that three positions in the Cabinet remain empty even two years after the government’s taking office would imply the few hands on the helm are enough. These are probably the contradictions that inspired the Prime Minister to ask leaders of his party not to employ relatives and friends in their ministries. But who cares if the going is good and nobody seems to be really paying attention?