Rajasthans Nouveau Gandhian Chief

Written by Malvika Singh | Updated: Nov 30 2002, 05:30am hrs
January was going to launch Indias first arts festival in Jaipur till the insecure chief minister intervened to halt it in its tracks. Why Well, because his state had some districts that were in the throes of drought and because there had been deaths due to hunger in some parts, he felt he could not support anything celebratory. A rather warped view, one that belongs to a mindset that died decades ago. If the CM thinks that not supporting an international festival in Jaipur in January is Gandhian and will bring prosperity to Rajasthan, we could all stand by...but it is a ludicrous response, one that shows a limited attitude.

A festival would bring energy, investment, employment, commerce and suchlike which the government of this particular state has always shunned. Their motto seems to be to stall all that is different, that is pioneering, that is private initiative and that will put the state on the international map and bring prosperity to the people of Rajasthan. This kind of initiative with private resources and with the best people in the country will help all sectors in the economy of the state to grow and will endorse international quality, something governments and bureaucracies with their vested interests and insecurities cannot understand. The only contribution of the state government has been to put road blocks in the way.

The Edinburgh festival brings millions of tourists to that city each year and the exchequer swells. The idea of the Jaipur international festival, each year on the same dates, was based on the international model. Sadly, Ashok Gehlot does not comprehend that aspiration and pride are regenerated by such festivals. That is Gandhian to give dignity to the skills and strengths of the people. Gandhian does not mean kill every new idea and respond negatively to every initiative. Alas, that is what Rajasthan is all about.

It is a culturally rich area of India that is being suffocated by the archaic attitudes of its government. It is unforgivable. Well Mr CM, we hope you can solve the problems of drought, unemployment, hunger, poverty, fiscal deficit et al by pushing away foreign and Indian investment, private initiative, resource and entrepreneurship, and by killing tourism with the stifling attitude of your administration.

The pretence of austerity has been seen through when juxtaposed with the corruption that runs amuck in the corridors of power. Many experience it every day and many are looking at other states to make their investments. Rajasthan seems to have blown it. Politically, the two major players contrasted against each other for the forthcoming elections are Vasundhra Raje with her energy and contemporary outlook and her determination to make an indelible mark both nationally and internationally, with Ashok Gehlot who is indecisive, delays every decision, wants all new initiatives to be put on the back burner, is defensive, is not proactive at all about what his rich state can deliver and who has a mindset that belongs to a forgotten age...baggage that should have been shed the day he came to power.

The Congress Party needs to shake Rajasthan out of its negative attitude to everything that comes its way, it needs to give the CM a directive that he take decisions any which way but he take them and not leave them hanging, it needs to force him to become proactive across the board from drought to craft to tourism to investment to infrastructure. If he does not change his stance, the energies, ideas and initiatives will abandon him and his state and move elsewhere. Others will not wait.

Drought, water shortages, poverty and unemployment are not solved by mouthing political platitudes or by taking Gandhian postures. For example, Shri Rajendra Singh, the great water conservationist hailed by India and the world, is based in Rajasthan. The horrors he was put through by a vindictive and jealous political and administration net in Rajasthan, under Shri Gehlot, were unimaginable and unforgivable.

With states verging on being bankrupt, surely governments should be actively involved in partnerships and joint ventures to generate growth and revenue. Transparency should be mandatory and decision making virtually immediate. Without this, we will be left behind and our people will be beyond redemption.