THE OTHER SIDE
The politicians, officials and some intelligent people call it the festival of democracy- election. The heightened activity of the various political parties for the ensuing Assembly elections doesn’t really give a festive appearance. The opposition parties are claiming that the people want a change while the ruling party is apparently convinced that the people want it to remain in office. However, observing the political activities and how they are generally being perceived, one wonders whether the festival of democracy has been afflicted by what has affected some other real festivals- the spirit of the festival being forgotten or sidelined.
While addressing the voters, the BJP leaders talk of development works and also recall the party’s role in creation of Uttarakhand while comparing it to the stand of the Congress on the same issue. The Congress leaders aver that the BJP governments have stalled actual welfare of the people. The comparatively new entrant AAP claims that successive governments of the BJP and Congress have ruined Uttarakhand. All are talking about what has really been achieved in the 21 years since the State of Uttarakhand was created. That is a logical question to ask.
One will go by one’s own experience in the native village about eight hours by road from Dehradun in a private vehicle and ideal conditions. Located in Chamoli district, it was the state’s first Sanskrit village. While staying in the village at the time of undivided Uttar Pradesh, one noticed that all the homes were occupied. The village lacked electricity and toilets, the transportation facilities were not as good as they are now. However, the village was bustling with life, most people seemed generally happier and the farms were lush. Life in the village was more inconvenient for a city dweller. Development gradually reached the village in the form of electricity, toilets and better road network along with enhanced access to liquor, tobacco products and a range of items generating plastic waste while not really benefitting the health of the consumers. Now more of the villagers are employed in various government departments or private jobs, living away from the village with their families in Dehradun and other places. The same scenario can be witnessed in a large number of mountain villages. One cannot really blame the villagers for migrating. In the native village mentioned earlier, if one has a serious medical issue the necessary treatment may be hours away and even there, one may get referred to Dehradun. Development has reached more parts of the mountainous regions since Uttarakhand was created but is prosperity only about infrastructural development?
The then chief minister who repeatedly stressed that there are only a limited number of government jobs and that people should also opt for self employment was replaced towards the fag end of his term. He may not have been perfect but then he did acknowledge that mountainfolk in general do not have inherent business skills which need to be developed. One may opine that one of the things which all successive governments have done is to fuel the obsession with government jobs. Of course, a secure job with regular income and perks is desirable but that is not all what a government job is about- it also represents an attitude. Is this attitude also responsible for the situation that Uttarakhand and its people find themselves in today? It is difficult to clear the problem of corruption in a few years considering the decades it has been existing for. The politicians cannot really be expected to speak the politically incorrect truth. The people too cannot be expected to change overnight. So, will these elections bring about the usual change which has been taking place for two decades in Uttarakhand? The next few years will make the picture clearer, whichever party forms the government, but the desired change will be hard to achieve without focusing on the attitude aspect. It is the attitude that affects all works and influences conditions.