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White Paper vs Whitewash



By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer

We, and many others like us, have been amused by the shenanigans performed by assorted legislators. Their rehearsed performances have been as superbly coordinated as the chorus line of a Broadway production. It would have been even more enjoyable if it had not cost us a fortune for every minute of their synchronised antics. But then, the insincerity of politicians is at least as old as Shakespeare, if not even older. Marc Antony’s oration over Julius Caesar’s dead body is an excellent example of how the silver tongue of a skilled orator can change the reputation of a hero into that of a despised villain! The Romans staged other tamashas in their great amphitheatre.  We have them in assorted public buildings throughout our varied land.

Do they serve any purpose? Yes they do, but not for the Common Person. They serve as a scrim screen, an illusionary cover, behind which crores of public money can be sanctioned for purposes which would not have passed scrutiny if our elected netas had done their duty. Their duty is to discuss, dispute and only then decide how much money should be spent for which public purpose. But that is not happening, so what we receive is a washout followed by a white wash. The cure for these repeated follies is frequent White Papers.

According to Stanford Law School, “In India a White Paper is the way the government can present policy preferences before it introduces legislation.  It tests public opinion on controversial policy issues and helps the government to gauge its probable impact.”                                                                                                                                                                                      Isn’t this the essence of Democracy?  Is this not the very foundation of Government of the People, for the People, by the People? The French, Russian and Chinese Revolutions erupted in bloodshed and terror just to establish this point. England’s King John tried his high-handed tactics until he was made to sign the Magna Carter. Today, Israel’s Netanyahu is facing widespread disturbances because he tried to ram through a draconian change in his land’s Constitution. The French are out on the streets because they believe that Macron tried to ignore the will of his people. Even the religious leaders of Iran are facing open revolt because they want their women to cover their heads at all times.

The bottom line is that the world’s economy does not run on money but on the production of usable resources by harnessing the Ecology. The creators of the Russian Revolution realised this when they designed the emblem of the Hammer and Sickle: the basic tools to convert the Ecology of the earth into the Economy of the Globe. But then greed overtook need and the exploitive Double Headed Eagle prevailed again and the Oligarchs began to rule the roost once more. The evils of Communism merged with the evils of Dictatorship and the forests of the Amazon began to burn searing the lungs of the world.

The smouldering forests of Brazil are on the other side of the globe, but the winds of our spinning earth bring their oxygen-depleted effects to us. Similarly, we in the global south can endanger the entire earth by our ignorant or thoughtless actions. Man-made boundaries have little relevance if a dam in Chinese-occupied Tibet cuts off irrigation to hundreds of farmers in our Brahmaputra Valley. The obstructing dam cannot be viewed as an internal affair of China.

In the same way, an earthquake in our Uttarakhand, due to an overloaded hillside, can destroy the livelihood of countless villages in the Indo-Gangetic plain. A report in a national daily says The Mussoorie Dehradun Development Authority, the nodal agency that administers the development activities in Mussoorie and Dehradun has, for the first time, warned about earthquake prone zones in its draft Master Plan for the two hill towns and recommended “no development activities within 50 metres from the centre of the fault lines” ……The master plan has also categorised Dehradun as a highly vulnerable zone for landslides.

The headline to this report should give high-rise owners in Mussoorie the most heart-breaking news. Does this mean that those who live in such buildings sanctioned earlier are living endangered lives? We look forward to an answer.

(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.)