Public policy and common minimum understanding


By: Satyakam Bharti
Development generally comes at a cost, and most often it is alleged that one region gained at the cost of other. It of course makes good politics. The division caused in the minds of Himachalis in the name of upper Himachal and lower Himachal has always been used as fuel to play with forced sentiments. But these are different times as it is almost impossible to stall the development process for simple political reasons. In fact, no politician of any worth wants to miss the opportunity of laying claim over any project commissioned, cleared or proposed. In a way, politics these days is all about cashing on public sentiments rather than trying to manufacture some.

The state is undergoing a revolution in the field of education, with an IIT, a central university, a chain of medical colleges and engineering colleges in government as well as private sector suddenly coming up in the state. It is almost impossible to imagine that just a few years back there was just one university in the state, one medical college and one engineering college. And despite the ongoing wrangling by various parties over who brought what, the fact remains that change was bound to happen with education emerging as a lucrative business. In fact, Himachal has been among the last of states to have benefited from it.

On Thursday Mandi finally got nearer to having a medical college with ESI agreeing to take up the responsibility. A day before a trust set up by JP Industries signed a memorandum to realize Shanta Kumar’s dream project to have a multi-specialty hospital at Palampur. And there are more such projects coming. The important point being most of these projects are coming up in areas that matter the most in electoral politics – they have the maximum number of representatives in the Vidhan Sabha. Now is this populism at play or just a coincidence? The answer is not easy to find considering that politicians have their own individualistic definitions of populism.

A vague consensus approach suiting political aspiration was put forward by the West Bangal finance minister during a seminar in Chandigarh last week, stating that the public policy in democratic polity should primarily address the concerns of people to increase employment potential, contain inflation and ensure growth. “Policies that have a negative impact on these aspects amount to populism,” he had stated. Politicians within the state cannot disagree on this, and therefore go with public opinion as and when the need arises. There are already signs of this approach building a negative image for those who appear to have benefited from the ‘two-Himachal’ theory, with people in the upper Himachal already expressing concern about being ‘ignored’.

People who rule the state should understand that they need to see beyond the immediate present to remove anomalies of misguided policy making. Cutting across party line, they should, together with the bureaucracy, plan a development document enlisting infrastructure development needs in the state, say in the next 20 years. And this should be done taking into account not just local public sentiments, but the overall development of the state. This document should act as a blueprint in sanctioning any developmental activity in the state keeping in view long-term aspirations in the state and not just for the sake of blind development. This will at least make it clear who did what, removing the confusion about whose effort it actually was, giving politicians more time for fighting out on real issues.

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  1. Our beloved neta log are not going to change colors overnight. Earlier it was quite easy to spread mis-information about lower or upper Himachal as people hardly traveled into each other areas. Now, with the advent of private sector people are traveling all over the state and can see things themselves. During the first tenure of Proff Dhumal as CM, with NH 22 being in a bad shape, common phrase in upper Shimla area used to be, just see the roads in Hamirpur Now one can hardly find any difference in road conditions from Nadaun to Narkanda. The best thing happening in Himachal has been opening up of pvt sector, At least one generation is not running after the neta log to get the transfers cancelled!.

    Politicians thrive on populism. Even a state like Gujarat, has a regional color of development. During Keshu Bhai’s tenure it was Saurashtra where major industrial activity was planned. Earlier during the Congress time it was Southern Gujarat Now with Modi, it is the Central Gujarat, the Mehsana – Kalol – Anand belt where new industries are locating.

    Last line of the article is worth a smile! Policies in the state are made and run by a hidden hand of thekedars and business houses. Politicians are just a front. Our politicians have no vision and will power and bureaucracy from top to babu level is simply calculating their DA, IR and the allowances. Any one expecting results in such set up.. Keep dreaming!

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