Pitfalls of Flippancy
Of late, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi seems to have developed a penchant for flippant comments. There have been any number of indications of his success in three consecutive Assembly elections of Assam having gone to his head. Of his 14 years in power, perhaps only the first five were free of the megalomania that we have begun to associate with Tarun Gogoi lately. Of late, he has stopped behaving like an elected leader in a democracy and has begun to function more like a morch or a dictator. What have been major sources of concern are his lack of interest in serious matters relating to the State’s administration and his tendency to make flippant comments, some of which even go to the extent of negating his statements about development made earlier. Recently he had occasion to ask why anyone needed dhobis in a land populated by ked people. Apart from the clear lack of good taste, here is a question that underscores the level of poverty in a State claimed to have made remarkable progress in the 14 years of Tarun Gogoi’s rule. As such, one is obliged to reject his claim about Assam’s per capita income having gone up from Rs 12,803 in 2001 to Rs 46,354 at present and to accept the more realistic data about the 9.2 million people living in our villages, with an average monthly income of only Rs 930! His tall claim about the fourfold increase in per capita incomes really means nothing if such increases are confined to just the wealthy section of our society. In short, one flippant remark about ked people not needing dhobis has served to cause a lot of suspicion about the other statistics provided by his government just before the completion of 14 years of his rule. The other flippant comment made a few days later relates to the fincial condition of contractors during his rule. He said that the condition of contractors was a clear indication of the progress made by the State during his rule. His comment is exceptiolly graceless and in abomible taste because he implies that the only people in the State worth talking about or using as a yardstick of progress are contractors. Unless he was having a dig at one species of human beings held in contempt in our society, his statement could be taken to imply that he has been running an administration that regards contractors as the people who count most of all—regardless of the fact that the embankments they build invariably collapse, thereby causing death and destitution to thousands of people, and that they invariably mage to get paid in advance for work that they have not completed or will never complete, thanks to the benign attitude of the administration to the worst violators of fincial rules and elementary ethics. The contractors of this State have turned what could have been one of the most beautiful cities in the country to something no better than a hellhole. Their substandard work, for which they extract extortiote rates, is there for everyone to see in the ugliest and most undependable footpaths they have constructed in Guwahati. Borrowing terminology from cricket, one could call these footpaths “leg-break pavements” considering the number of broken legs and limbs that their unevenness and unexpected gaps have caused to citizens. Tarun Gogoi seems to imply that his State has no other inhabitants except the despicable contractors. Other people do not seem to count in his scheme of things.
But Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s statement about the present condition of contractors is more than just a commentary on how unscrupulous contractors can hold the government itself to ransom and extort payments of public money for work not done. It is also a commentary on what Tarun Gogoi himself thinks is real progress. One gets a clear idea that his notion of progress is to be assessed from the buildings and the amounts of concrete and steel that have been dumped in the State in these 14 years. His assessment of progress seems to be based on how much his dear contractors have been able to destroy Guwahati and other towns and cities of the State. It is unlikely that people of his State will take kindly to his flippant comments that are insults to the very people who elected him and put him in power. Whether they will commit the same mistake in 2016 remains to be seen.