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Lets all be optimistic because the boss says so!

Dream, dream, dream...

Patricia Mukhim

While inaugurating a multi-utility centre at Mawkhar, Dr Mukul Sangma got a bit of the blues. He urged the people of Meghalaya (or is it Mawkhar) to be optimistic and dream big. The he sang, “Imagine.” Another Congress sycophant lauded the CM as being numero uno. And in the same day’s paper Deborah Marak and Ronnie Lyngdoh declare in Amir Khan style (Three Idiots) “All is Well.” There’s really no dearth of comedy in Meghalaya! And just as mothers ask their babies, “How much do you love Mamma and the baby says, “hundred much.” so too if the CM says people here are pessimistic, Ronnie Lyngdoh will have bolster up his boss’s comment. Hence his snarly remark, “People here don’t see anything concrete on the ground.” Where is the concrete Mr Lyngdoh? Have you tried driving to NEIGRIHMS in recent times? The road leading to that important health institution is now devoid of black topping. It’s all gravel and sand. Do you want us to dig for diamonds there? Is that what optimism is all about? Jairam Ramesh had aptly remarked that the Congress Party is facing existential crisis. Well, the Congress in Meghalaya is sleepwalking through that crisis. As far as they are concerned, “all’s well with their world.”

And then we have a pedestrian shouting, “Pavements are my birthright. I need to walk on them or be killed by motorists or the crazy bikers.” The hawker replies, “Pavements are ours. We have every right to peddle our goods here. We are poor and poverty gives us the right to claim every free space in this city. So you pedestrian can walk on the wide road or go to hell.” Applause applause! The pedestrian succumbs to pressure from the hawker. Her life is a nightmare. She is pessimistic about anything good happening in this life. The hawker meanwhile is optimistic because she has won the day. After all the Government is on her side! Good! So Mr Ronnie Lyngdoh must be seeing the happiness in the hawkers’ demeanour and the optimism in their jaunty steps as Urban Affairs minister. Yes, Mr Lyngdoh you are right. A lot is happening on the ground that we the blind don’t see. So could you list out those achievements? Are they at the level of the state, constituency or locality?

We citizens can list out a whole host of things that have gone from bad to worse under the MUA dispensation. But first the ROADS. Never before have the roads in Shillong city and its suburbs been so dilapidated. The elderly fear a slipped disc. So should roads last one season only? What is the amount spent on construction of roads and bridges in the last four years? What is the amount spent on repairs? What is the list of road contractors in Shillong city? To be more specific, who is the contractor/contractors that took up the construction of the Nongmynsong – Itshyrwat- NEIGRIHMS road? The last time we sought  RTI answers on this matter the replies we got were astounding. Roads were divided into a couple of kilometres between several contractors, each of whom profited from the construction since the quality of the road was never ascertained. Is the PWD an employment agency or a technical department whose engineers are supposed to know how to make all-weather roads?  So for a road that’s about 10 kms in length you would have to haul up several contractors each doing his/her own thing to give a thin slice of black topping so that the bulk of the money is shared between the PWD minister, the engineer and the MLA. How long can we suffer this ignominy and drive on roads at 10 KMPH speed?

And pray who told the PWD that we need railings on footpaths? And who owns the iron welding and fabrication industry that’s supplying these railings? We need roads to drive on and footpaths to walk on. Period!    

Coming back to Dr Mukul Sangma, he believes he is a motivational speaker (and I wonder why all motivational speakers I have met are suited-booted types that drive SUVs), and he tells us to dream big. I would request the CM to take the road to NEIGRIHMs on which seriously ill patients are taken on ambulances every half an hour and because of which they have to slow down considerably since the road has disappeared. Let us then see if he can still sit in his car (not SUV) and dream. People who suffer the pain of living a cruel life cannot dream. They have nightmares!

Then let’s take POWER (Electricity not political power). This is a Department Dr Sangma held many moons ago. He knows exactly what’s ailing this monstrous, money guzzling monolith that shuts down power any time of the day and night. Obviously Dr Sangma does not suffer intermittent power cuts and so he can sing, “Dream, dream, dream” like the Everly brothers and also push us to dream. But no… dreaming doesn’t happen when the journey is back-breaking and gut-wrenching and when you’re groping in the dark. Power is one Department that we are most pessimistic about. Its going to collapse very soon. Only the Chairman and others down the line who draw their pay despite the disgustingly poor services are optimistic. In the private sector the MeECL employees and its engineers would not survive a day.

Now let’s come to the PHE Department. This is yet another money guzzling department whose engineers have literally gotten away with blue murder. Corruption in this Department goes back a long way. That corruption has multiplied several times over and the engineer who headed it for many years was left completely free to do what he pleased. Obviously he was greasing several palms. And who is left to suffer the consequences? The public obviously! And we deserve it too for remaining silent on these crucial issues and relying too much on pressure groups with fancy acronyms.

Then there’s EDUCATION.  It’s in the pits and that is why the CM’s children (barring one) don’t study in Meghalaya. So too the kids of ministers, bureaucrats and technocrats! They study in the US, UK, Australia or in the best schools/colleges/universities in Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, you name it. We cannot therefore expect these policy makers to know what’s wrong with education since they don’t have kids struggling with an overload of homework or breaking their heads over an equation badly taught in the classroom. Today the first thing most well-to-do parents do is to pack their kids out of Meghalaya. It means they know that Education here has gone kaput. But Government doesn’t care! So thousands of students are churned out of this decrepit system year after year and become no-do-gooders since the education they were imparted does not equip them to deal with life. And that’s because Meghalaya does not even have a vision for education! So I am not too sure what Dr Mukul Sangma is dreaming about when he has left Education to wither away.

Next comes TOURISM which is a no brainer. Most tourist locations are at breaking point thanks to a “No Policy” Department yet again! Tourism cannot be left to communities and individuals without any regulations. That’s why we have a Government! Since the CM is also the Tourism Minister I wonder what his dream for Tourism is before it crashes.    

Dr Sangma, the greatest problem with “leaders” is that they talk a lot but don’t listen. If you don’t listen to people how will you know what’s bugging them? If you listen you would know why people have stopped dreaming. Also political leaders tend to surround themselves with creepy sycophants who tell them what they love to hear only to extract their pound of flesh. That’s lethal!

So if you ask me, and I represent many voices, we all want change in 2018. I have no love for the BJP or Congress or indeed any of the regional parties. But we don’t have to fall in love with either of them. We only need to vote.  We need a government that will focus on good, durable roads and outsource the PWD and PHE departments to business sharks and thieves. We need to rejuvenate our rivers particularly the ones closest to us. We need a sustainable tourism policy. We want a health system that does not end up with a health insurance. And for God’s sake take ownership of NEIGRIHMs. It’s not here for nothing!

As a tailpiece, let me share a few sentences from the book, “When God Went to Hell,” by Ravi Gupta. It reminds me of political parties. The book says, “Hell operates using fear as its tool and not dialogue. Hell allows no expression which therefore gives one the impression of a very homogenous, well organized well-functioning institution through it is highly misleading and completely incorrect. Unfortunately the leader of Hell, in the absence of free speech and expression lives under the illusion that ‘All is well with Hell.’ J        

To be fair to the CM he has done one thing right. He has been able to handle the pressure groups and done away with the bandh culture.  In this the Meghalaya High Court too has been helpful. But Dr Sangma runs a presidential form of Government which is a one-man army. Do we want such a Government in 2018. Think people…think  

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