We, the Citizens
By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer
In spite of being Covid-constrained, our CM has issued a very reassuring diktat. “Negligence will not be tolerated at any level: Tirath Singh Rawat” roared the Garhwal Post’s front page headlines (GP 27 March, 2021). That was music to our ears! This could solve one of the most pervasive mysteries of our little state: Why have none of our CMs, except ND Tiwari, ever completed his expected tenure of 5 years? Did no others have the skill to control the netas and babus working under them? Were they allowed to use public funds unchecked, perform their duties at their convenience, and exercise their authority to pander to their self-inflated egos?
Here are two cases which bolster these presumptions.
Last Wednesday-Thursday, which ironically, bridged World Water Day, our taps ran dry. The Jal Sansthan authorities rushed to the scene and found that the pipeline that supplied water to our neighbourhood had been breached. They said that the damage had been done by the PWD (National Highways Authority). We phoned a senior official of that Authority in Dehra. “We are not doing any digging work in Mussoorie!” he asserted categorically. The labourers on the site, however, insisted that they were working for the PWD National Highways.
Thousands of litres of precious drinking water have been lost, but no one has been held responsible. Isn’t that Negligence, Mr Rawat?
A second case of apparent high-handed government cover-up occurred in Mussoorie in your predecessor’s time. A number of poor families were shamelessly evicted from their shelters in a place now called Sifan Court, in the middle of a drenching monsoon and the pandemic! This brutal act was committed because this area was earmarked for the terminal station of an expensive cable-car project. Mysteriously, however, no details of this project have ever been officially revealed to the public. Who has sponsored it? What is its cash-flow? Can the over-strained sanitation services of Mussoorie handle the burden of the hourly in-flow of day-trippers being disgorged by the cable-car? Were tenders called for before the project was awarded? What is the expertise of the company to whom this expensive scheme was given? Were the many people evicted from Sifan Court not working in Mussoorie? Why were no arrangements made for their re-settlement before they were evicted? If they are so unwanted that they could be deprived of their homes so highhandedly, then why are various sops being given to them, now?
Such arbitrary acts erode public trust and ensure the continued rotating-door fate of our CMs. They also add to the instability of our civic life.
And while you are contemplating these questions, Mr Rawat, here are a few more.
Many years ago, the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee signed an agreement with NS DART, a research organisation of the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), to make a Carrying Capacity Study of Mussoorie. This expert study was published in 2001. Its opinion on further constructions in Mussoorie was unambiguous. It said “That the construction cannot expand is clear” and added “Most sections of the resident population believe that the Development Authority must be kept out of the city limits”. In spite of this clear warning the MDDA has continued to permit buildings to be erected. Isn’t this Negligence?
Finally, before the MDDA sanctions a building with water connections drawing on the supplies provided by the Jal Sansthan, it has to get approval from the Jal Sansthan. For many years the water-works authorities made the false argument that they had no authority to refuse to give such permission. This was refuted by the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee. If the Jal Sansthan is still relying on such specious reasoning this is a clear Negligence of Duty. Please find out how many such negligent acts are being committed by the Jal Sansthan’s senior officials.
Now, Mr Chief Minister, we wish you a very Happy Holi followed by an equally Joyful Easter on Sunday 4 April. We repeat those Greetings to all our readers. Both festivals celebrate the coming of another radiant Spring which, to our minds, shows that like the branches of a wide-spreading tree, all humans, of all colours, creeds, complexions and communities, have the same roots.
(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 half-hour 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 is a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)