Read the following part of a speech. Wonder what Pune has got to do with it.
“Within the last hundred and twenty years, a nation, which has previously been in a state as barbarous as that in which our ancestors were before the Crusades, has gradually emerged from the ignorance in which it was sunk, and has taken its place among civilized communities. I speak of Russia.
There is now in that country a large educated class, abounding with persons fit to serve the State in the highest functions, and in nowise inferior to the most accomplished men who adorn the best circles of Paris and London.
There is reason to hope that this vast empire, which in the time of our grandfathers was probably behind the Punjab, may, in the time of our grandchildren, be pressing close on France and Britain in the career of improvement.”
Without even reading it, most of us have been trashing this famous minutes of what Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay had said on February 2, 1835. This is 2010. It was a speech then.
For a city like Pune it seems like a prophecy now. You suddenly find yourself in a First World in the making. As you are familiar with the Third World, you couldn’t even imagine this transformation.
But Pune is, indeed, a First World in progress, thanks to all those factors that made Pune an emerging metropolitan city — its enormous technical talent and varied communities, globalisation, rise of the knowledge economy, relocation of the automobile sector, rise in private sector jobs, mushrooming merchandise in educational degrees and English — all of which Macaulay had talked about.
Who would have foreseen such a windfall for this city, despite our politicians and bureaucrats? But when Pune is evolving to become a global metropolitan city, this decade portends to set an example of becoming a statement, a success story or even a sad case study of failures.
Is there a vision, serious plan or a roadmap for this city’s future? You can ascertain it by the way city’s parts — those made by the Peshwas and later by the Britons — are managed.
The onus is on politicians and bureaucrats. But do we get to hear from them a visionary statement which sets the agenda for the future, which embolden us to chart our future course?
It is wrong to expect that in our democracy, as politicians are unable to do anything of that scale. Their only fault is that they got more votes. Merit and performance were never the primary criteria.
Ideology, principles and party line too are not important, as proved by the Pune model of making strange bedfellows in pursuit of power.
But what about the bureaucrat? He or she is bright, meritorious, trained and selected from a talent pool. I was wondering where else would a bureaucrat want to settle down. If they come from the hinterland, will a house in Pune make their parents and their community proud of their accomplishments?
What may entice them to settle down here are the educational and career prospects that the city offers to their children. For all of above, Mumbai is not a likely choice. Probably, Nagpur is the only other place, but it is no competition for the facilities Pune provides. It is so hot, so slow and so Vidarbha.
If Pune is the logical place to settle down, why don’t we see bureaucrats leaving a stamp of good, efficient, constructive governance, especially on urban development issues?
Why are they not fighting for good governing principles? Why no bureaucrat puts his or her foot down? Why don’t we even remember one decent bureaucrat for his or her good work?
How do we explain the glaring inefficiencies of such bright, well-read and pontificating officers of our extraordinary state apparatus? Why don’t they take the plunge to do what is righteous?
If we look at the career trajectories of a bureaucrat, Pune is not their final destination. It is not the seat of power, nor will it be in future. Not a place to network your way up and hobnob for prized postings.
It is a waiting room for the big, fat ticket to the plum postings which Mumbai or Delhi offers. It is a stopover. During the tenure here, they don’t want to do anything that may tarnish their hitherto clean record.
The best way to do that is to hibernate. Wait in the wings for the final act, the stage of which is not Pune. For Lord Macaulay too, India was only an intermittent assignment.
Just that he was a little more serious than the bureaucrats free India has selected for its people. That is why most of the officers who have served and who are serving in Pune will not be remembered for the contributions to the city, from where they are posted out, the very next week.