A couple of months ago I was an obliged member of a team preparing the Surat district human development report for the Gujarat State, and the Central Planning Commission, India. Following are my anecdotal observations about my encounters with the government bureaucrats and politicians during this work. Although those who know the nature of the government won't feel at all surprised to read my observations, and it will all sound very obvious to them, but others might find it very useful to understand how the government really works. This will also prove the worthlessness of preparing such reports.
To begin with, when GoG's human development directorate assigned this work to my department, the first instruction from them was not to write anything against the present government; to highlight the success [sic] stories of their various welfare plans even when no such successes were seen on the ground level, and to falsely praise the local and state government. Basically, avoiding the sour ground realities and preparing a report like a fantasy story. The idea is pretty simple: if someone picks up the SDHDR then he must get an impression of everything hunky-dory in Surat district, and Surat must look like a garden of Eden under the present government.
Despite these instructions my team prepared a report which contained lot of material depicting the sad ground realities. It was impossible to be blind to the plights of a common man living in Surat district. This is because team members were actually having a field visits to check the situation, in contrast to those politicians who never visit their constituencies once the election is over, who are busy in their ivory towers propagandizing about phony growth and development of their State. I knew, that because of such material in the report the team is going to get some strong rebuking from the government top officials like the principle secretary of human development directorate! And exactly that is what happened later on during the meetings with government bureaucrats. I share minutes of my meetings with various government officials.
The director of human development directorate, Gandhinagar told the team not to prepare such exposing reports because he can lose his job! He never understand that, just to save his useless unproductive job he is going to make millions of productive people unemployed through his insane developmental policies, which he and his government will formulate by using the botched report that they are asking us to prepare. On any given day I will be more than happy to make the human development director unemployed (actually I will help the society by getting rid of such parasite bureaucrats!) instead of millions of productive people.
The collector of Surat district told us in a final meeting with all the district administrative officers that, we should remove all the sad ground realities information from the report, and instead prepare a report which only focuses on some fake success stories [sic] of their public programs. A simple counterfactual analysis will show us the real harm of such policies in terms of the fantastic productive opportunities lost because of those programs' implementation. What we need to think is not what society has achieved through such public programs, but what it has not achieved (or lost) due to such programs which has diverted society's scarce resources in its direction. For example, what is the use of constructing a giant indoor stadium, endless unnecessary fly overs, suspension bridges etc., in Surat city without even asking how the taxpayers want government to use their hard earned money which is been robbed from them by the State.
The brouhaha of the Surat district education officer was another feather in the cap of rogue government officials. He was very annoyed when he show some pictures of dilapidated school buildings in unusable conditions in many of the rural (and urban) areas of Surat district. His plight was: We are only showing such pictures that exposes his negligence, and not those which show his so-called impressive work! The fact of the matter is that, if Mr. Education minister had come with the field team to see the areas of Surat district then he would have find no such places where his administration's good work is on exhibition. Wherever the team went with their cameras they found unhygienic, pathetic, useless school buildings with barely any facilities which is a precondition for starting a primary school. His obnoxious ingenious solution was for us to lie in the report about this whole matter!
District collector was uncomfortable at my reporting of the Ukai Dam on Tapi river as a potential threat for the existence of Surat city and many villages of the district. I called it a sleeping monster (with Kakrapar atomic power station just 100 kms away from Surat city as another sleeping monster about which I discuss in next para) His horrid claim was: Ukai dam pauses no threat to Surat city and villages because it is absolutely accident proof!!! I don't have to say a word about the hollowness of this claim to the people of the city which sees a major flood in Tapi river because of human mismanagement of Dam about every four years since last couple of decades. The administration which is not even ready to accept the fact that such dams can cause havoc to the people of the city at any time in future will never be prepared for such major catastrophic events. They are only interested in seeing through their terms as collector without any difficulties and so they have found a cunning way of simply assuming away the difficulties!
Same thing happened during a UNDP organized workshop of our team and district administrators. First of all, as a researcher I don't have to go and ask any government officials in such workshops about what to write in my report. The moment academicians are told by the government officials about what to write and what not to, the report becomes a political junk in stead of a sound scientific report addressed to solve the specific issues of human development. Notwithstanding such underlying principles, we were told to work in tandem with the bureaucrats. During the workshop the mayor of a remote Mandavi taluka approached me for expressing his discomfort about my nomenclature of the Kakrapar nuclear power station as a sleeping monster waiting to explode at any time. Just like the dupe district collector who believed that Ukai dam is not a threat for Surat city, this Mr. Mayor was convinced that Kakrapar nuclear power station is absolutely well guarded and accident free! He fretted over about this issue with me for long hours in which I was just amazed by his naïveté as a mayor whose city is lying in the surroundings of that nuclear power station. Just after couple of months of this episode, a nuclear leak accident happened in Karnataka power plant! I wish that mayor was with me when that accident happened.
Encounter with Tapi district D.D.O. (District Development Officer, an I.A.S. officer):
Recently I attended a conference with the Tapi district development officer. She was a young lady, surely a fresh batch of I.A.S. officers. Her sheer arrogance and inhumane insensitive attitude towards the local poor people was ubiquitous, and it didn't astonish me a bit because the arrogance and hypocrisy of the official class is well known to me.
A basic demand for proper roads (and other transportation facilities) by the poor people was quite boring for her, and she dismissed those demands by saying that, they will always ask for roads which approach till their doors! That means, poor people must feel content under her administrator with roads which are million miles away from their homes!!! Her hypocrisy was to such an extent that she herself was unashamed when she was parking her (tax funded) luxury car right next to her (tax funded) office door! I guess, with such attitude, the D.D.O. should be quite happy if the road leading to her home is not reaching up to her home's front door, right ms. D.D.O.?
She was also administering an environmental ban on the use of rat killing chemicals in her area. This chemical was used to kill those rats which are spreading a deadly disease of Leptospirosis amongst the local people. They banned the chemical to save the Rats (and kill people)!!! When we asked about why the ban on such chemical, she jokingly said, well the wild life activists also need to do something!!?? She is again happy to see that her administration is killing innocent people to save few useless rats, and to please those loggerhead lefty environmentalist/wildlife activists.
Another evidence of boondoggles of the Gujarat government I witnessed when we visited a small boarding school near Songadh. The videos of this green environment boondoggle you can see here.
More on this in future blogs......