People come first in a democracy

Extract from TOI editorial 

Public servants should know people come first in a democracy     

     Who cuts the ribbon? This should be an unimportant question in a republic. But not in ours.      

      Even crucial civic facilities are kept out of bounds for the public until VIPs inaugurate these. However, it appears that the people are no more willing to wait for VIPs.

      On Wednesday, a few citizens inaugurated a flyover in Noida and they were inspired by similar public action in Palam in New Delhi. Interestingly, the authorities in Palam have closed the flyover since then, but Noida officials took the cue from the people and allowed traffic on the road. The latter have also said they would soon open another stretch of the road in the area without any formal inauguration. Similar civic activism has been reported from other parts of the country.
         These may be minor acts of resistance to a political culture that has created the VIP species and endowed it with special privileges, but they indicate a trend. People are tired of making way for the red lights and blue lights that scurry past during peak traffic hours. Why is that judge in a tearing hurry when he, in all probability, will take a decade to write his judgment? Where are the ministers buzzing off when the sarkar is wrapped up in red tape?

     People have had enough of VIPs and now the anger seems to be spilling out, which is not so good either.       Public anger can at some point transform itself into mob fury. 

         Some of these public servants and officials do need the security since the offices they hold make them liable to terrorist attacks. But there’s a distinction between legitimate security and flaunting a VIP status. The latter is what many of our politicians do. They tend to forget that India is not just a parliamentary democracy but a republic as well.

      Every citizen has equal rights in a republic and security privileges given to a few people — because of the special circumstances in which they work — ought not to create new hierarchies in society. Today, the Union government alone provides VIP security cover to around 400 persons!
   As we have argued in these columns, the VIP is a throwback to a feudal era when people were mere subjects of the ruler. Our fetish for VIP inaugurations is reminiscent of the pomp and vanities of feudalism.

     Mature democracies have long done away with such inaugurations unless of course they are path-breaking ventures. Roads and flyovers are part of basic infrastructure, even though decades of shoddy governance make these look like special gifts from the government.

      The real VIP in a democracy is the citizen. The job of the public servant is to ensure that he is not kept waiting.

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