The latest Cabinet reshuffle may have cost Trinamool Congress Mukul Roy the Railways portfolio but he stood his ground when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked him to visit two train accident sites: in Uttar Pradesh and Assam respectively.
Till the recent Cabinet reshuffle, Mukul Roy was minister of state for railways. Following Mamata Banerjee’s accession to the West Bengal throne, the Railways portfolio was under the charge of the Prime Minister: exactly the plea Roy took when defying the PM’s diktat. “I am not the Railway Minister, the Prime Minister is” Roy is reported to have said.
Roy, it is learnt, was acting on instructions from his party chief Mamata Banerjee who is reported to have told him to stay put till the Prime Minister allocates the Railway portfolio to Trinamool Congress and named a full fledged Railway Minister. Roy was then tipped to be Railway Minister but how he lost out to party colleague Dinesh Trivedi is a matter of much speculation. One version being that his defiance of PM’s instructions cost him his portfolio.
Irrespective, though Mukul Roy was acing at the behest of Banerjee and playing his own politics, his staying away did save the injured much misery. For it is common knowledge that when VIPs visit disaster and accident sites, there is confusion and chaos with officials leaving all work and lining up to escort VIPs to the injured or victims families as the case maybe. In hospitals, medical attention and aid takes a backseat and doctors shift focus from patients to the VIPs.
Ofcourse it is a catch-22 situation: damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If those in power do not go, then they are slammed by the Opposition parties and sometimes even the people for being insensitive; if they do they are criticized for bringing things to a standstill. Work is not and cannot be normal because doctors and hospital staff stand in attendance for the VIP; relatives are shoo-ed away and banned entry for security reasons and patients are put on hold. Hence a VIP visit means gaining political points but losing the real game: the human game.
I would want to see a politician who would say forget what the people say but I will not create confusion and add to the chaos by going there simply because I want to score a point. Or one who would go there quietly without the paraphernalia, security men,cops and escort vehicles clearing roads from routine traffic. I would want to see a politician who would say that politics apart, I do not want to inconvenience the already traumatized people who need aid more than lip service from VIPs.
I would want to see people in power monitor relief and ensure help rather than focusing on how soon can they get to the site and which of their rival parties they better. I would rather that they stay in the background and call the shots; not let things slip; instead ensure that the injured get what it takes to make them comfortable.
For instance when Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi visited the hospital where the injured were, patients were told to vacate beds and stand since the bed-sheets had to be replaced; those who were livid at the mismanagement of patient care were shifted to wards which Gandhi was not expected to visit, relatives were roughed up because they cried foul. After Rahul Gandhi, it was BJP leaders Rajnath Singh and Uma Bharti’s turn and before that Union minister Sriprakash Jaiswal.
The motto: VIPs should go back happy while the patients can go to hell.
While on Gandhi, one needs to ponder over his statement on the Mumbai terror attack. His and union home minister Chidambaram’s.
Gandhi’s statement that blasts happen everywhere and Chidambaram’s that the terrorists chose places, which were congested and had dense population. If Gandhi’s statement was somewhat dismissive, Chidambaram’s was shocking. Worse still his saying that whoever has perpetrated the attacks has “worked in a very clandestine manner”, seems to suggest that he was hoping that terrorists would call him, announce their intent and target before the kill.
He seems to be out of depth.
At another level, Chidambaram reiterated that the bombing would not derail efforts to improve ties with Pakistan: “We are neighbors. Living in the most troubled neighborhood, every part of India is vulnerable,” he said.
It is “soft speak” which will be the government’s undoing. People’s anger at repeated onslaughts by Pakistan or “proxy war” to borrow BJP’s LK Advani’s term, is now visible and vocal. Not only do they want the government to act but also to come down clearly, sharply and heavily on Pakistan with a “this far and no further” policy. In other words an “enough is enough” message that should translate into severing ties till results do not show on the ground.
The first step could be to hang Kasab and the second to tell the world and through its actions to Pakistan that India’s policy of tolerance should not be mistaken for its weakness.