THE OTHER SIDE
The recent transition from one calendar year to the next was not that different from such transitions in the past. However, as is being hammered into the minds of media users through various means, 2019 would end up being the year of reckoning if one considers the Lok Sabha elections slated to be held in a few months time. The range of political and other activities that were earlier being undertaken or facilitated in a comparatively low-key manner are now being pursued aggressively by various parties on both sides. In recent months, there have been a range of developments, revelations and happenings which are being used by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress along with their rivals and supporters to either claim success and vindication for themselves or allege failure and corruption by their rivals.
If one looks at governance and politics then claims, counter-claims and justifications on a range of issues including the temple demanded on Ram Janmabhoomi, Rafale fighter jet deal, entry of women in the prohibited age-group in the Sabarimala temple, AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal, decisions in various cases by courts including the Supreme Court and the claimed benefits of various governmental schemes and steps seem to dominate more news space. For those who are interested and have the time, the debates in parliament are quite happening too. For others, on some television news channels, the debates are getting more heated and opinionated, with some appearing more desperate to prove a point or destroy the other side’s argument in the hope of influencing the opinion of those who differ. On the social media, the supporters of both the major national parties and other contenders seem to have stepped up dissemination of partial bits of information, propaganda video clips, text messages and ‘jokes’ that appear to be getting cheaper. Amidst all this, one notices that the apparent life of most issues and controversies– the duration of them being debated heatedly without arriving at any conclusion—is getting shorter. This may be because the contenders are busy digging up more and newer dirt on their rivals, raking up controversies even where there is no substance. However, this does not mean that no real work is going on. Much work is going on at both the Central and State levels. This is actually the time for the powers that be to speed up works, achieve more success and use the remaining few months to do their best for boosting their chances of either remaining in power or replacing their rivals. Some proactive and positive works are being done at both the Central and State levels. At the same time, as usual, some vital aspects tend to get ignored probably due to the hurry of the authorities to perform or lack of seriousness with which such aspects are treated. One example of developments in Uttarakhand will suffice to buttress this point. Recently, the State cabinet took a range of decisions in the sphere of housing and construction. Regulations were amended and relaxation offered for different types of residential and commercial constructions purportedly aimed at attracting investors in the service sector to the mountainous region and for the convenience of the public. However, the establishment still appears to be dangerously nonchalant when it comes to seismic vulnerability of the state. In the provisional state capital Dehradun, one is required to meet some formalities through a structural engineer to ensure that constructions are made in accordance with the region’s seismic vulnerability. It is another matter that such regulations are seldom observed as they should be. When it comes to seismic vulnerability and building constructions, the regulatory system in the mountains is as perfunctory as other important systems are. Apart from the state being seismically highly vulnerable, geologists and seismologists have been stating for years that an earthquake that may measure up to eight on the Richter scale is long due in the middle Himalayan region. One cannot deny the inevitability of such an event though one does deny knowledge of when it may occur. In such a scenario it is dangerously foolish to say the least, to facilitate more constructions without focusing on the safeguards. This brings one back to the basic point. In an ideal scenario which may exist in some nations, such concerns are effectively addressed by the establishment. In the scenario we live in, the government may not be doing all that it should but at least it does not prevent citizens from doing the needful. So in 2019, one would wish that people indulge less in conceited, narrow-minded follies and do more that is fuelled by knowledge and abetted by a broader vision. Real development and welfare will be achieved by actions of aware and broad minded citizens- be it electing the next government, preserving the environment, constructing aesthetic and safer buildings or simply being responsible citizens.
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