In Haryana, A Breakdown

  • Bhupinder Singh Hooda

The Haryana government has been excessively spending on superficial pomp and pageantry, organising ostentatious events and functions, and bringing out publicity pamphlets and booklets at a time when the state is reeling under the heavy burden of a Rs. four lakh crore debt. Moreover, the Bharatiya Janata Party-Jannayak Janta Party (BJP-JJP) government has little human interface or public connection and is being run via the police, portals and propaganda. There exists, therefore, an ethical vacuum in the governance of the state.

This government has not only mastered but also perfected the doctrine of Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels: Repeat a lie often enough and people will accept it as the truth. The propagandists of this government are deliberately distorting and concocting the facts on the ground to deceive the people about its functioning.

Metaphorically speaking, this “double engine sarkar” guzzles volumes of diesel and emits a lot of smoke that forms a smokescreen around the facts. It seeks to create the illusion that the state is moving forward. It is, in fact, racing to the bottom.

The Haryana government frequently issues a series of full-page advertisements that peddle half-truths. Only two examples will suffice to prove the point that these advertisements intend to drown the truth in an ocean of disinformation.

The first is a full-page advertisement, which appeared on December 1 in a prominent national daily, captioned “Moulding futures: Haryana’s education revolution, empowering school children with infrastructure improvement initiatives”. It left me dumbfounded. This audacious act of the government is shameful considering that the Punjab and Haryana High Court had, only a couple of weeks earlier, imposed a fine of Rs. five lakh on the Haryana government for its utter failure to provide the basic facilities like separate toilets for girl students, particularly in rural areas. On one hand, the government is admitting in the High Court that 538 government schools don’t have toilets for girls, and on the other, issuing full-page advertisements costing lakhs of rupees, drumming up its false achievements. This exposes the heartless profligacy of this government when the state has been dragged to the brink of bankruptcy.

Haryana presents a glaring example of the contrasting realities of the people’s lives and the misplaced priorities of the government. The dilapidated school buildings, juxtaposed against the swanky liquor and wine shops, throw light on the present-day “double-engine sarkar” of Haryana. Newspapers are filled with unsavoury reports about the sorry state of education in the state. There is inadequate infrastructure, seen in the lack of benches, playgrounds, classrooms, laboratories, toilets, libraries, electricity, boundary walls etc; acute shortage of teachers; tampering with the syllabus; vitiated academic atmosphere due to undesired governmental interference; insufficient financial support and, to cap it all, compromised security and safety of the girl students. The sordid episode of abuse in a government school at Jind is one example before us. Contrast this with governmental advertisements and slogans like “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” that promise the moon to hapless people.

The second example is an advertisement captioned “Empowering women: Leading transformational changes in Haryana” appeared in a leading newspaper on November 16. This advertisement presented an anguishing contrast with the harsh ground reality in Haryana. On the same day, in the same newspaper, there was a news item with the headline “Faridabad: Three-year-old killed after sexual assault bid”.

Haryana has become the most unsafe place for women during the last nine years. Here are some news headlines from recent years: “In five years, crime against women up by 30 per cent in state” (The Tribune, 2019); “In Haryana, cases of rape double, outraging modesty by six times in eight years” (The Times of India, 2019); “64 per cent Haryana women face harassment during commute” (Hindustan Times, 2017); “Four Rapes, 30 murders a day in Haryana” (Hindustan Times, 2019). The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report of 2022 states that 1,787 rape cases were reported in Haryana that year, among the highest in the country. The horrific incident of gang rape and murder in Panipat is still fresh in the memory of the people.

Yet, the government is busy drumming up its hollow claims of empowering women. Can the government of a state where ASHA workers are lathi-charged, where the dignity of women Olympians is trampled underfoot, where a minister who is facing serious allegations from a woman coach is sheltered, talk of women’s empowerment?

These examples sufficiently show that this government has no qualms of conscience and is insensitive towards the woes of the people. They show that there is a moral and trust deficit in the government which attempts to conceal the truth through deceit, decibel and drama. This profligate government that spends a lot in peddling misinformation does not have any concern for financial prudence. It has no concern about failing to provide good governance to the state.

The Haryana government needs to understand that no amount of loud sloganeering, promises and allurements will yield the intended results. Only the efficient, humane, transparent and honest delivery of services to the people will salvage the situation.

The writer is former Chief Minister of Haryana Courtesy: The Indian Express