Sunday, July 18, 2010

Oh, for the want of good counsel

Oh, for the want of good counsel

Nirad Mudur

The greatest trust between man and man is the trust of giving counsel... The wisest princes need not think it any diminution to their greatness or derogation to their sufficiency, to rely upon counsel — Francis Bacon in Essays, Civil and Moral.
That's also something that our state government and civic agencies in Bangalore need — just as much as all of humankind — to take the right decisions by using the right counsel or advice. For civic agencies, it boils down to having the right advisors with public convenience topping the target list. But it appears that advisors, if any, exist only on paper, while decisions that are finally taken (or reversed) are heavily coloured with political hues.
What else can one see in our chief minister's Friday volte-face on the war memorial at Indira Gandhi Musical Fountain Park? It's not the question of the decision itself, but the fact that in just over a fortnight a decision to disallow the memorial from coming up inside the park area was turned on its head, stating that the "work had already begun" — a fact he already knew when he disallowed it in the first place, on July 1.
If anything, it only suggests the lack of a good counsel in the process called decision-making. Of course, the bigger picture could be seen as an attempt to extract political mileage through appeasement of one or many players in the field.
If the war memorial is one issue, road widening — and its infamous implement called transfer of development rights (TDR) — is just another among many that showcase the lack of seriousness to listen to advisors. There is no doubt that the project was conceived in a jiffy, almost in a desperate hurry to show that the government is indeed serious about looking for answers to Bangalore's problems. In this case, the growing traffic congestion on the roads.
I wonder how many advisors to the government have ventured counselling the political leaders that the solution is not in widening the roads by claiming people's properties, but by encouraging people to shun vehicles. And that it would be well possible if footpaths in the city were cleared, evened up, and made safe for people of all age groups to walk on.
But look at the reality. While more than 37,000 properties on 221 city roads have been marked to be claimed in part of full to widen roads, there is not a single mention about how much of that space would be devoted to safe (not necessarily wide) footpaths. Obviously, the lack of quality advisors culminates in the state government's looking-London-aiming-Tokyo policies, which leads to citizen protests and litigations — all this despite the government picking two ministers to devote their energies for Bangalore's development.
It does not hold water for ministers with whatever portfolios to assume that merely being elected makes them experts in their respective jurisdictions.
They must know, first and foremost, that it's all about having good advisors, and taking their advice.

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