The Garhwal Post editorial on the eve of our Republic Day exhorts all its readers to " think of the nation and drive the Truth home." It also sums up the national mood as that of " Anger but No Hopelessness". Indeed it is this edit that has motivated this writer to reflect on the mood that seems to pervade the minds and hearts of some of those who arrived in the State some 13 years ago with some Hopes and definitely with a substantial amount of resolve to change things around, at least give the effort an honest try.
The edit sums up the national mood. What about its constituents , the at the AAP States ? Let us take our Uttarakhand, closer home and start a collective reflection. Let me throw the first stone. Past 13 years have been certainly full of activity. e have seen Governments of Nityanand Swami, the first un-elected one and a transformative one; collecting the baton from Rajnath Singh Government of Uttar Pradesh. It was witness to first dress rehearsal of political shape of things to come ! Nityanand Swami jockeying himself to Chief Minister-ship between the on-going political ambitions of two BJP leaders, Nishank and Koshiyari. While Nityanand Swami was being sworn by Governor Barnala, in the wee-hours of the 9th November 2000, the two most potential contenders locked themselves up in rooms, "Kaikeyi Rosh Bhawan style". Madhuban and the Great Value hotels were full of supporters of Governor Barnala, a good number of them arriving in the capital with Black-hounds in black Jypsies. Post-swearing in disorder still vivid with merry-making crowds, more than half of them drunk with more than a doze of ecstasy ! The swearing in ceremony saw almost all the stalwarts of the two major parties, which were to take turn at governance, during the next two rounds of general elections, this State was to witness. One thing is clear, today none of the two major political players at the national scene, have no excuses of not having been given 5 years each. Each of them must take equal share of their acts of omission and commission. The first elected party is having its second go at governance. This writer sees the only silver lining in an otherwise rather gloomy sky – political stability, stability in the sense that each elected government had its full run of 5 years of governance. Our first resolve, for me at least, is to ensure that there is a political and governance continuity – as a sine quo non for sustained progress.
Very often there has been a criticism that this new state had a " clean slate " and it has not been able to measure up to expectations, on that count. That is an administrative naivety. Look at the experience of AAP, in Delhi. Those who do not have to sit at the hot-seat do not realize what it takes to govern when you wish to have a total break from the past. Uttarakhand succeeded a behemoth of a State, a State bigger than Pakistan, in terms of population, in terms of complexity of administration, as one World Bank Official once told some of us in one discussion during our UP days. It was Uttarakhand David dealing with a Goliath of Up size, the latter least willing to concede any thing to its departing younger brother. Thirteen years down the line Uttarakhand is still battling out issues in the Ganga Basin Authority, does not have any control whatsoever over the third biggest Hydro-electric Dam in Asia, even through it is wholly located in the State ! The power generated is controlled by the Corporation, in which UP is a shareholder, and the irrigation water it channelises is not meant to be used by its farmers. All decisions which were taken with regard to its natural resources had been taken before-hand, before it came into existence. It is quite like a child born in the USA who is borne deep in debt, thanks to the prosperity of the over-spending USA ! All the institutions had to be built de-novo, with almost no assistance from the parent State, of course, except solid resistance in personnel, resource sharing and obstructions in all court cases which were taken to the respective courts, be it the waters of Nanakmatta, Begul dam or share in the profits of the Forest Development Corporation. The list is not only unending but many of the issues not even known to the present day senior bureaucrats ! Given all that, the state zoomed to a 12% GDP in 2005, the highest among the Special Category States Also the highest during the 13 years of its existence. Officers like Ajai Vikram Singh, Madhukar Gupta , Sanjeev Chopra and many others burnt mid-night oil and created IIEs through SIDCUL at Bahadarbad, Rudrapur and later Sitargunj. Who remembers Sela Quin of pre 2000 days ? The pace of development was so hectic and scorching, in so far as implementation of the Special Central Package was concerned, that the then Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand was summoned by a Special Parliamentary Committee to inquire into the alleged harm that was being done by the Special central Package given to J&K, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand and the NE States. However, though besides those postures of transparency and supposed honesty proclamations the successor Government was not able to add much to what the Tewari Government was able to mobilize in a short time, and the momentum gained was lost almost completely, plagued as that Government was with the permanent birth-mark of this State, unquenchable lust for power among the top leaders of our two major parties. Khanduri-Nishank-Khanduri merry-go-around dissipated the politico cum administrative energy of the state. Khanduri Government, however, deserves to be pardoned all its sins of omission and commission, for what it did do to empower the women-power of this state, by reserving 50% of of all PRI seats in panchayati raj institutions. One only hopes that it could find time for similar positive moves, especially in consolidating gains of the first Government instead of wasting its time in condemning every thing its predecessors did. Good governance can only be incremental, it does not come in doses, or in jerks. One build on the past, always improving.
The allegations came from major States like Punjab, Tamil Nadu, even states lime Uttarakhand, and it was alleged that all "substantial expansions" and new units were coming to these specially privileged states. Sanjeev Chopra's two books beutifully captures the prevailig tempo of the state during the initial periods. Best compliments came from none other than the MD of Tata Motors, much after Sanjeev Chopra and team had left the state, who went on record to exhort the West Bengal Government to learn from Uttarakhand Government, how to welcome new investment ! Nano was rolled out not from West Bengal, where it was scheduled to, but from IIE Pantnagar-Rudrapur. This compliment of the Managing Director of Tata Motors, was the ultimate tribute paid to the early pioneers who took Uttarakhand off the starting block ! Sanjeev Chopra"s two books deserve to be read by our present "know-all" young bureaucrats and one desperately looks today for an even off-shade and off-grade clones of the initial days. One has already become nostalgic, and that is indeed saying a lot, as the rot has set in so soon !t
With the benefit of the hind-sight the biggest first hurdle proved to be the mental-block, that came with the new Government, that replaced the Tewari Government. Its initial inexperience, anti-industry statements and above all the holier-than-thou proclamations of the Khanduri Government, some what moderated during Nishank Government struck a near death-blow to the forward march of this new state. It was never to recover fully from that phase. Not exactly, but the present day AAP fumblings are remniscient of those dark days, best forgotten.
As one prepares to watch, like every year, the Republic Day Tableaux on the Rajpath on the morning of the 26th January one can not but help wish that the worst is over. Hopelessness should not be there as the present is being just wasted or a sense of Optimism because it can not go any worse now ! To this writer the theme selected for display for Uttarakhand Tableux perhaps represents the huge gap that exists between what is being displayed and the real situation on the ground ! " Jadi-Buti" or the Herbal Wealth has this year been chosen as the theme for Uttarakhand Tableux. Any one , who is even failtly aware of the real state of development in this particular field will only just smile as this happens to be the theme that had shown so much promise, in which so much time and energy had been spent during the first five six years, and the utter state of neglect that this sector has today received at the hand of Khanduri and Bahuguna Governments ! The Uttarakhand Medicinal Plants development Board, exists on paper, The Herbal Research & Development Institute ( HRDI ), in Mandal valley of Rudraprayag is nearly headless and totally dysfunctional, HAPPRC, so assiduously built by the scientists like Prof AN Purohit, have not received any support from HNB Central University, the Forest department's CDH Plan, so insight fully developed and promoted has been totally forgotten, the very concept of FRDC Branch stands demolished through the indiscriminate handling of present day politicians and bureaucrats. One wonders whether the individual who proposed this theme for our National Display is even aware of what he or she is talking about ? What about our Janusari tribes people who will have occasion to dance and demonstrate their skills before an international audience. Only the audience would not know that these Tribal people belong to s State, which with a 4 % population, has been denied the privilege of having a Tribal Advisory Council, suggested by their State Government and so thoughtfully approved by the President of India, Babu Pranab Mukherjee, almost a year back, but which has not been constituted even after the Presidential assent ! This Government which is gearing to go to the 2o14 polls would do well to walk the talk and practice which it wishes to promise.
Bahuguna Government would do well to do their home work with greater amount of sensivity and a far better control over their bureaucracy, lest they lead them along the garden path. Indeed, as the Garhwal Post edit says there is a matching sense of Anger but an opposite sense of utter Hopelessness, at least in this state, among its well-wishers, who pledge to remain pro-Uttarakhandis, come Republic Day or whatever. Hopelessness arises from the fact that the alternatives, of any kind , are not any better !
A Deeply Concerned Citizen