Thursday, August 12, 2010

Honeymoon with License Raj

The decision of the State Government to suspend the rationing of fuel to the consumers and go in for open sale, will surely mean different things to different people, and it will be interesting to see in what ways it is going to impact on the short honeymoon of Government officials and the antiquated License Raj system. After a long, long time, that is sometime from the middle part of the 90s, State Government officials suddenly came face to face with what it means to wield the influence and ‘respect,’ that harks back to the Permit Raj or License Raj period, thanks to the 68 days economic blockade imposed by the All Naga Students' Association, Manipur. To the roadside women vendors, who eke out a living by selling the adulterated petrol to the people, the open sale will see a dip in their daily income while the big sharks behind the fuel racket must have laughed all the way to the bank, rather stashed away all their booties in their private chambers. To those, directly involved in transporting the fuel and overseeing its loading, unloading and the whole exercise of seeing it off till the retail outlet, it meant a suddenly found authority and a huge morale booster to their petty egos. This class belongs to the Government officials who we have just mentioned above. For many people it was also the time to flex their muscles and use their ‘connections’ in the right places to get five or ten litres of petrol. Laying hand on a filled LPG cylinder proved to be a harder task, even amongst this class, who had their persona stamped with ‘right connections’ all over. To the public, the answer should be obvious. The open sale of fuel in the petrol outlets, means no more staying over night in a long queue to get five litres of petrol or diesel. To a certain extent it also means getting better quality fuel, for those sold in the black market usually have a ratio of 30 : 70 kerosene and petrol respectively, while in the pump the ratio may be around 15 or 20 : 85 or 80. Such is the situation in Manipur today, that there are numerous elements, who are ever ready to exploit the situation to their advantage and line their pockets, never mind the fact that there is something called social responsibilities and a time for everyone to come together and stand shoulder to shoulder against any forces that are inimical to the interest of Manipur. In such a scenario, how we can leave out the political class and the bunch of hangers on who gloat with self pride by occupying the seat just beside the Minister in the car or run errands for the memsahib ? In times of scarcity, such as the one we are facing, it is this class of species, who decide who meets the Minister and when and of course how long. Let's raise a toast to the beautiful Indian democracy as seen and practised in Manipur. Ideally the decision of the State Government to suspend the rationing system and go in for open sale of fuel at the outlets, ought to have had the same positive impact on all the people, but just as no two human beings are alike in their disposition, the decision of going in for open sale of petroleum products is sure to mean different things to different people and this is what we find extremely interesting and hilarious as well. Our further comments will also throw up the hilarious side of it, which at times come close to a tragi-comedy !
We started off with how the new development will affect certain class of Government officials and we say this not without reason. There was something missing or which lacked any credible reason for the petrol outlets to remain closed for such a long time, though the blockade was called off way back on June 18. Okay, we know that the Transporters' and Drivers' Council, Manipur had decided never to ply on NH-39 again and manoeuvring goods laden trucks across the slush and treacherous terrain of NH-53 must have been a herculean task. However the fact also remains that there was a steady stream of oil tankers, bullet tankers carrying LPG cylinders and other loaded trucks coming through NH-39. In other words, there is no reason why there be scarcity of essential commodities, especially fuel. There is no novelty in talking about the money made on the sly by creating a climate of scarcity, for this is known to all, but one thing which wasn't very obvious, but had a direct impact on the lives of the people was the waking up to the fact of the immense power and authority that Government officials can wield in such a situation. It not only means fattening their wallets, but also meant being transported to the Socialist India of yore, when everything had to pass through the corridors of officialdom. It was this rediscovery of their once upon a time importance, that whetted their petty ego and pardon us, there is definitely something very hilarious about this. It reminds one of the days of bell bottoms, block heels etc of the 70s, when India was literally gripped by the mirage of Socialism while getting anything done as simple as getting a telephone connection and buying a Premier Padmini or an Ambassador car meant waiting for years. It was these characteristics or system, religiously followed and ‘protected’ by those officials who came to be identified as occupying a white collared job, when everything had to undergo the scrutiny of officialdom, which may range from the highest post in the bureaucracy to the level of a Chaprasi. Fortunately, India came to her senses and did away with what had become infamous as the License Raj, but this obviously did not go down well with the Babudom, for it meant clipping their wings in more ways than one. And unsurprisingly or expectedly, it was obvious that some of these petty State Govt officials were bent on sticking on their new ‘found status,’ or else what better explanations can be there for the long shut down of all petrol pumps, economic blockade or no economic blockade. Thankfully the honeymoon of Govt officials and the License Raj system has come to an end now. Sources:- 

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