Keeping the Hope Alive!
Tasks Ahead for the New Administrator
By Zubair Ahmed
"The cry of the poor is not always just. But if you don't listen to it, you will never know what justice is." ‑ Howard Zinn
Certainly we do not have a choice in selecting our Administrator. But, sometimes by coincidence we are bestowed with Lt. Governors, who prove their mettle and leave a mark.
Even though It's too early to presume and judge the new Administrator, Lt Gen (Retd) A K Singh, PVSM, AVSM who took over the helms of the
On December 29, 2006 at 11.45 AM, when Lt Gen (Retd) Bhopinder Singh AVSM, PVSM was administered the oath of office and secrecy for the office of the Lt. Governor and Administrator, he had declared, "I don’t believe in operating from the office alone. I would be touring extensively. I would like to keep my ears to the earth so that I could feel the rumblings inside. That way, I believe, I will be able to serve the people better and meet their hopes and aspirations in a more positive and effective way. I will work in close cooperation with the stakeholders and nothing would be imposed from above."
The Lieutenant Governor and Administrator Bhopinder Singh too went on a whirlwind tour of the territory from
to Diglipur apprising himself of the
ground realities. He had extensive meetings with the local officials, PRI
members and the common people. He listened to their problems, discussed
developmental programmes and in many cases took spot decisions to solve the
pressing problems of the people. Campbell Bay
LG Bhopinder Singh repeated his five point philosophy in every meeting. He exhorted the officials to complete the developmental projects in a time bound manner, to send him the feedback on progress of work at regular intervals; weekly, if possible. He also emphasised the need for the officers to be accessible to the common people, listen to their problems and expedite solutions. He demanded total transparency in governmental works and system. Bhopinder Singh assured that there was no shortage of funds for developmental works but the funds should be spent judiciously.
The Light of Andamans on 24 Feb 2007 editorialized:
"The motorcade of the dignitaries would zoom past the devastated fields filling the nostrils of farmers with dust. That is where Lt. Gen (Retd) Bhopinder Singh, Lt. Governor makes the difference. He is the man who thought it fit to go into the villages, talk to the people, realise their pains, understand their problems and put his hand of sympathy on their shoulders. That is the least a mortal can do. It is not the shelters; it is not the free ration, it not the permanent houses that drive a man to fight against odds in life, overcome tragedies. It is the encouragement, the sympathy, the understanding that acts as moral boosters."
Lt Gen Bhopinder Singh also captured the hearts of the Islanders when he spoke off the cuff at Island Tourism Festivals and at other occasions, and at many times announcing various schemes and projects, which either he could not follow up or the bureaucracy could not materialize for him.
Still, after six and half years, when the incumbent Lieutenant Governor takes a similar route, the Islanders are overwhelmed. When a soft word, a sympathetic look, an encouraging sentence, sensitivity towards common man’s feelings are at a premium, a little step with a healing touch makes people forget the past and erase all bad memories. They expect miracles.
When Lt Governor A K Singh visited the crocodile victim at GB Pant Hospital and put his hands of compassion on Lipus Das' shoulders, all protocol barriers disappeared into thin air. Instead of calling the public hearing a 'Durbar' and standing with the public interacting with them as one among them bridged the gap between the ruler and the ruled. When he cycled with the
team and even had a slight fall at the velodrome , he stood tall amongst them.
When he invited a fisherman to cut the ribbon of fish landing centre at Diglipur,
he was sharing power with the common man. Within a week of swearing in,
wherever he went, he left his mark. He asked DGP not to hold traffic for long
during his visits.
Lt Gen Bhopinder Singh too was generous with LG's Relief Fund, which he distributed among the needy and distressed frequently which earned him praise and admiration from all quarters. Otherwise, his inept administration and ill-advised decisions without outcome dented his image.
Indeed, for Lt Gen A K Singh, its a fresh beginning. Its easy to have spot decisions, but the proposal will take ample time to overcome the labyrinthine bureaucratic process. As in the case of an ambulance for Nicobari settlement in
, Lt Gen Bhopinder
Singh announced it on the spot during his first visit to Little Andaman in
2007. Till 2013, no ambulance reached Harminder
But, can the Islanders be rest assured that Lt Gen AK Singh is not Lt Gen
Bhopinder Singh? Harminder Bay
After the familiarization tours, when the Lieutenant Governor settles down, he will need enough resolve to review all the projects and proposals in pipeline, entwined once again in various bureaucratic conundrums. A few projects that the Islanders are hearing since last one decade if gets proper attention will go a long way.
still remains a dream. Eight years and Rs 15 crores down the line, the elusive
fresh water is still in Rutland
and the parched throats in Port Blair. Let the Islanders pin their hope on the
new Administrator to pursue vigorously the Rutland Water Supply Scheme to serve
the people with water next summer; and not just promises! Rutland
SUBMARINE OPTICAL FIBRE CABLE
Undersea Optical Fibre Cabling connecting mainland and Island was one of the promising projects which could have changed the face of the
by bringing it closer to the world. The bids have been opened and the L1
identified. However, the project, which is supposed to be complete in 18 months
is dragging eternally for the last three years.
WET LEASE OF SHIPS/BOATS
The undue delay in the Wet Lease of Ships/Vessels to cater in the Inter-Island, Foreshore and Harbour sector is affecting the whole sea transport system. With shortage of vessels on all routes, service is perennially hit especially vehicle ferries in Bambooflat-Chatham sector.
CHARTERED FLIGHT BETWEEN MAINLAND-ISLAND
Chartered Flight between Mainland-Island is another project the bureaucracy is scared to venture into. With sky-rocketing airfare between Mainland and Andamans, this proposal should have been pursued vigorously.
Many Short-term and Long-term Tourism Projects were envisaged in the Tourism Policy of the
Islands, which still remains in paper.
The worst condition of rural roads with Zilla Parishad and other two wings of PRI interested in expeditious spending’ of money and rather than ‘judicious spending’.
ALTERNATE SEA-ROUTE TO BARATANG
The deadline for
route to Baratang is
March 2015. What has been done on this front is anybody's guess. The
Administration has never taken it seriously or it would not have wasted
precious five years. Alternate
HOLISTIC DEVELOPMENT OF N&M ANDAMAN DISTRICT
North and Middle Andamans is yet to be treated at par with South Andaman as a district. With great difficulty a separate district of North and Middle Andaman was created amidst its fair share of political controversies and bureaucratic red tapism. It finally has a separate Zilla Parishad, a degree college, a judicial court, a hospital, a few ports and helipads, a small airstrip and a few other facilities but is totally dependent on Port Blair for all its basic needs. For every other eventuality its residents are to rush to Port Blair, be it proceeding to mainland for higher education or super-specialist medical treatment at metros. Traders sitting at Port Blair control their markets and cost of living are much higher for all basic commodities. There is always resentment in the settlers at being a step behind the
Andamanians. A unambiguous blueprint needs to be prepared for the
holistic development of NMA District making it independent and self-sufficient,
and reducing its dependency on Port Blair and South Andaman.
POWER TRANSMISSION AND DISTRIBUTION
Presently, there is no shortage of power in the
with both IPP, HPP and department-owned power plants generating surplus
electricity. But, the department lags behind in proper maintenance of lines and
frequent disruptions and outages causing heavy T&D loss.
The Chief Secretary and his set of bureaucrats draw power from the Administrator, and if he shows the same commitment and resolve till the end of his tenure, he will surely be remembered as an outstanding Administrator as well as human being.
The tasks ahead for the new Administrator are daunting enough. But not impossible!