Khaki Shame

On Wednesday, the day UPA 11 was celebrating completion of four years, Uttar Pradesh was hosting two ambitious conferences. One was on skill development and community colleges, jointly hosted by the British High Commission and the state government, the other was entrepreneurs’ summit addressed by chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.

I sighed with relief as I saw the state taking some baby steps in the right direction after days of chaos. There had been huge turbulence in the political circles following two major developments. One came after Lokayukta NK Mehrotra submitted his report on what is now called the memorial scam in which an estimated sum of Rs. 1410 crore is stated to have been siphoned off from Rs. 4148.54 crore spent on the construction of Mayawati’s dream projects (memorials) in the state capital. Interestingly, the Lokayukta exonerated Mayawati of all the charges while laying the total blame on the doors of former cabinet ministers Naseemuddin Siddiqui and Babu Singh Kushwaha and hordes of engineers and officials. The keen interest evinced by Mayawati in the execution of all her projects are known to all and sundry in the state capital as she often monitored the progress from a chopper that flew quite low many a time for her to have a clearer view. But then it appears she and her secretariat only checked the pace of the construction activity, not the cost, not the quality.

Fine, if that’s how the system functions. But is there something called ‘moral responsibility.’

The report came at a time when the SP government led by Akhilesh Yadav was battling one crisis after another – the most serious one was posed by the custodial death of terror suspect Khalid Mujahid. A CBI probe promptly recommended by the chief minister failed to assuage the hurt sentiments of the Muslim community who described it as cold-blooded murder. With the stage already being laid for polling on communal lines, Mulayam can’t afford their anger months before the general election in the country. The BJP has brought in Amit Shah to UP and the Muslims are edgy about the role his mentor Narendra Modi will play. Interestingly, the BJP has openly decided to support 42 cops who have been named in Mujahid’s death case.

But keeping all this aside, the two conferences sought to move on and discussed a way forward, with delegates from UP sharing their experiences of skill development, a sector in which the state needs to invest. Ironically, while the chief minister was displaying his political will to build a climate conducive for industrial growth, two cops were exchanging lathi blows outside Indira Pratishthan where the entrepreneurs’ summit was on; a few hours before, a family of seven was chopped to death in Ghaziabad; then there was violence in Moradabad.

All my enthusiasm tanked in a couple of hours. I was reminded of what one of the participants said at the skill development conference – UP has to board the skill development bus. If we miss the bus, the country will also fail to board it.

We are obviously gasping for breath already as the bus approaches us?

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