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Saturday, February 16, 2002

There is a well-known Telugu saying “Andhrulu arambhasurulu” - meaning people of Andhra

are notorious for starting things with great fanfare but not seeing them to a logical conclusion. I guess this can be safely said of all governmental programmes across the country. Crores of rupees are spent each year on launching of schemes and laying of foundation stones, inaugurations and openings by the political and bureaucratic worthies. So much public money and newspaper space is wasted on these affairs. After all the hullaballo, obscene expenditure, wide coverage and great expectations, rarely is the general public kept posted on the outcome of this garrish effort. Actually this might get better newspaper readership, as it is well known that “most governmental projects begin with a bang, have a muddled middle with no end in sight.”

Let me move on to the more recent swearing-in ceremony for the new mayor. In no sane

democracy do we see such fanfare and display of money power while assuming public office. In all mature democracies public office is a sacred trust, and hence a responsible occupation. Any public official exhibiting signs of pomp and self-importance is severely upbraided and rudely brought to earth. Even the faintest effort to use office for private gain is punished severely. The German defense minister who made a detour on official travel to meet his ladylove is now licking his wounds, with his political future sealed. A US Treasury Secretary who made one short private trip in his official car had to resign. An official or a politician is judged by the results, not by words or manipulative skills or display of power.

Sadly, we nurtured a culture of sycophancy. We tend to worship power as a goal, not treat it as a means to public good. Landing a job becomes more important than doing a good job. For a society beset with so many problems, it is amazing how those in power do not allow themselves to be weighed down by the responsibilities of office. Half the time is lost in congratulations and felicitations, processions and vulgar display of pomp. Much of the other half is spent on meaningless foundation stones, inane speeches and petty inaugurations. Perks of office, possibilities of misuse, and private gain at public cost are the only considerations in political activity. Power is often seen as private property to be used as the incumbent pleases. Our contribution to society becomes irrelevant. Notions of humility and accountability are alien.

It is no secret that our city was divided on communal lines in the recent election. In elections

there are no victors and vanquished. Humility and sense of responsibility are what we look for in those elected to serve us. And once elected, they should bridge the communal and class divide, and give a sense of participation to all segments of society. Display of power and pomp mocks at ordinary people and leads to resentment and disharmony.

We are a poor country and we have much to do before we claim to be a civilized society. It is

time we focused on a few specific and practical goals to make Hyderabad better. Power games and business-as-usual will not do. Let the mayor and corporators get down to work, serve us with humility, and seek the quiet satisfaction of real achievement. They have a glorious opportunity and let it not be squandered.

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