A war of words has broken out between the Assam Governor and the Chief Minister. And people of the State may be forgiven if they find it all baffling. What has Governor PB Acharya said that Chief Minister Gogoi finds so objectioble? What made Gogoi warn the Governor not to cross his ‘constitutiol limits’? It seems the Governor posed questions which the Tarun Gogoi government finds uncomfortable, which it would rather not answer. But these are also questions people of the State would want to ask their Chief Minister. Like the Governor, they too would like to know how poachers are still killing rhinos at will in Kaziranga, despite a huge force of forest guards stationed there to stop them. Dispur keeps talking about effectively deploying these guards, arming them with sophisticated weapons, flying drones over the park and using fast patrolling boats to keep a sharp lookout for poachers. The outcome? Last year 28 rhinos were killed in Kaziranga, while 7 rhinos have already been slain there in the first two months of this year. So when the Governor says the Forest minister should take responsibility and resign if he cannot prevent such wanton poaching, it is a sentiment all right-thinking people in the State will agree with. But Chief Minister Gogoi finds this annoying, immediately going on the defensive. Did not the Gauhati High Court last year ask the State government to prevent poaching of rhinos ‘at any cost and at the earliest’, and seeking a detailed report of how the government will go about it? In a PIL taken up suo moto, the High Court had then expressed ‘serious concern’ over the ubated killing of rhinos. In the past, Gogoi has made comments like poaching being a common phenomenon elsewhere too. Such words would surely encourage an inefficient Forest minister, if not poachers.
Then there is the question of what became of the Rs 12,000 crore of development funds for which the Central government is asking utilisation certificates (UC)s from Dispur. The Governor said the matter needs be probed and whoever guilty should be brought to book. In this context, he warned that corrupt ministers and bureaucrats will be jailed. What the Chief Minister found objectioble in this statement is again something all concerned citizens will wonder about. After all, Assam is a State that reportedly failed to utilise a staggering Rs 86,000 crore of Central funds in the last ten years. How much development this could have brought about in this backward State can well be imagined. It is a sad story of red tape, mismagement and graft, resulting in failure to use budget and plan allocations as well as grants. State government departments scamper about desperately in the month of March to use up Central funds allocated 11 months back, and fail miserably. So precious funds earmarked for the State remain unspent, which then lapses or are surrendered. This enormous loss to the State in the last ten years has come about during Tarun Gogoi’s watch. But instead of pulling up his leaking administration, he finds fault with Central Ministers for asking about UCs. And when the Governor worries about this publicly, Chief Minister Gogoi is quick to take offence. But corrupt ministers and bureaucrats are not holy cows any longer. Even a powerful former Chief Minister and Union Minister like Lalu Prasad was convicted by the courts for graft, put behind bars and then disqualified from Parliament. There is a rising awareness in the country that public functiories be clean and accountable, which Chief Minister Gogoi cannot brush off with bluster any longer.