Accountability, competence were never part of the deal with the Emperor. Right?

Who do you think will be held responsible for the world’s greatest highway system inaugurated yesterday falling apart today? The ghosts of former PMs, may be

The Bundelkhand Expressway in Uttar Pradesh caved in days after it was inaugurated by PM Modi and CM Adityanath
The Bundelkhand Expressway in Uttar Pradesh caved in days after it was inaugurated by PM Modi and CM Adityanath
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Ranjona Banerji

A newly made highway, inaugurated by the prime minister and the state’s chief minister, develops massive cracks and potholes a few days later.

New Goods and Services Tax rules put a very heavy burden on all households with everything from packaged wheat flour to dahi to hospital beds being heavily taxed.

The rupee continues its fall against the dollar. Experts scurry about trying to convince us this fall is both good for us and bad for us. And managing to do neither with any degree of efficacy.

New rules from the ministries of environmental destruction and unchecked development make it easier to cut down forests, restrict tribal rights and officially remove any obstacles for businesses who want to invest in the environmental destruction sector.

Household inflation continues to rise, disconnected to GST rates.

Jobs continue to disappear and women to disappear from the job market.

Loans to the very wealthy are written off by public sector banks.

Amidst all the boasts that the world’s second most populated nation has huge vaccination numbers, the government itself says that 4 crore eligible people have not even had one shot of vaccine.

The agencies which organise and control India’s Covid-19 vaccination policies were not informed about recent changes in Covid vaccination policies. They learnt about it from a prime ministerial announcement.

This is just a random list of how this government functions.

What impressed me is that people are now asking for accountability from this prime minister and his government.

That shows an immense level of faith in the system and even more faith that a working system where you can demand accountability even exists.

And at the end of it all, that any citizen has any right to demand accountability from this prime minister.

Where in the past eight years has there been any evidence at all that accountability from an elected representative, especially a prime minister, matters?

Did we get any accountability for the damage done by demonetisation? No, we got a re-election at the central level.

I do remember a speech about “whatever punishment you choose for me” if all corruption does not end 50 days after the demonetisation of almost 90 per cent of India’s legal currency in one swoop. But that is not accountability. That is carefully crafted manipulation of idiot minds.

And since then, the trajectory has been the same.

And the idiot minds have fallen for it every time.

So, who do you think will be held responsible for the world’s greatest highway system inaugurated yesterday falling apart today? Not the inaugurators. Not those who oversaw the project. Not those who took credit. Not those who implemented it. Actually, nobody will be.

If anyone persists, anything from ghosts of former prime ministers to seasonal precipitation to some lowly contractor will be pulled up and castigated for such inefficiency.

But it is more likely that we shall be distracted and excited by another grand announcement, another great speech and another change of guard in another state.

If you think that somewhere, someone will stand up and claim responsibility, time to wake up from that dream to the nightmare of reality.

Just two years ago, as the pandemic lockdown began, returning migrant workers were washed up with corrosive cleaners.

Do we even know what happened to them?

Did anyone care, forget accountability?

Has there been any official recognition of the deaths, the suffering, the losses of the early days of the pandemic because of incompetence and inefficiency by those at the very top?

Of course not. We have had stout denials that anyone died at all.

We have had more lies and more passing the buck and more re-elections and wins in state assemblies. We have had influential enablers looking for excuses. We have had State-sponsored voices telling us how wrong it is to ask for accountability.

I have not even mentioned political chicanery, the spread of religious hatred, the persecution of opponents, the stifling of voices and the collapse of various democratic institutions.

Because that’s what we voted for. That was the deal in 2014.

We knew by 2019 that the “progress” promises were false. We justified it to ourselves that all promises are false. We never asked for accountability then. We were enamoured and excited. We were given speeches and we heard of another reality.

So many amongst us still will not acknowledge where we are now. Even when they fall into those potholes, real and metaphorical.

The emperor has no accountability. We can demand none from him. Competence wasn’t in the deal from Day One.

The only people accountable are us. The mess is ours. We can enjoy it or change it.

(Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. Views are personal)

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    Published: 24 Jul 2022, 5:29 PM