The onset of 2018 would have been witness to a rash of ‘Happy New Year’ resolutions being made in Kerala as in other parts of the world. While many resolutions thus made are bound to be unrealistic, there are also those that are eminently doable. The flip side is there are quite a few things we definitely would not wish to see as a rewind of what transpired in 2017.
The proscribed list: An easy pick would be one about stray dogs running riot on our streets, a living nightmare then, as it would be now.
It also makes one ponder as much over the uncanny ability of these strays to suddenly up the ante and appear on the horizon as their unnerving knack to drop off the public radar. And no one can ever forget those hordes of rabid dog chasers and a few killers, who behaved as if they were waging a war on an enemy nation.
There may not be too many avid fans of Percy Bysshe Shelley around but in Kerala, sure as rains come, liquor queues are never far behind. One cannot wish away the government’s preoccupation with chiselling away at the number of outlets that vend alcoholic drinks under the dubious tag of beverages and thus create an artificial scarcity for the intoxicant. Speak of forked tongues, as the same government, perhaps bitten by the comeuppance bug, feels there is nothing amiss in opening the doors to micro-breweries in the state.
The presence of micro-breweries in tandem with the ration shop lookalikes selling ‘beverages’ may provide rich research material to socialists pursuing modernisation of Indian tradition. As the Kerala government puts much faith in the business of doing business, it would be foolish to expect it to allow sales of ‘beverages’ by the same investors it is wooing to set up the breweries.
What if we had to wait 12 long years after the proposal was first mooted, the Kerala government sure seems keen not to miss the micro-brewery bus that is running to a full house in nearby Karnataka. Because the ghost of our own KSRTC playing a subservient role to the neighbouring state’s KSRTC keeps haunting us on a daily basis.
Enough said about what we don’t want to see, at least for now. There are quite a few things all of Kerala would deeply cherish see becoming reality. We could start this mouth-watering prospect list with the completion of all those city/town by-passes, the prime examples being Alappuzha and Kollam conceived many decades ago. That would be only the beginning, as there are more unfinished bypasses than otherwise.
There are those pundits who believe the charm of travelling across Kerala would be lost if the rigours of the road travel undergo a makeover. Because, if the really short distances made longer in the absence of ‘by-passes’ get covered in double quick time, the scope for tourists to spend money in the labyrinths get lessened, they feel. Thus ‘by-passes’ keep getting pushed back in the ‘things to do list’, unless 2018 takes a break from the past.
Just as unlikely is the prospect of bus-stops bang in the centre of busy traffic junctions, as also stops at the worst conceivable blind spots on sharp curves to be shifted out. One can only hope there will be a fresh approach by the government in tackling the free run given to two-wheelers and three-wheelers on National Highways as they rank high up in the list of reasons causing accidents, many of them fatal.
Considering the absolute reign of chaos and congestion that continues to prevail on Kerala roads, one would think water transport is something Kerala wishes to be seriously serious about. Yes, the state could choose a different road to travel, by taking to water transport with a vengeance. This has been the refrain for a few years now. Hopefully, it will hit a crescendo this year and some of the sound and fury will translate into action and a large number of people will get into cruise mode.
There was no cruise mode for those journeymen, passing time in the state secretariat for many years, who have suddenly been given a wake-up call. Stunned by the ‘underhand’ move by the state government to link the biometric punching registry with their payroll, the home-grown mandarins may seem momentarily stumped but could soon hatch some plan to strike back. Their biggest worry, it appears, is a ‘devious’ plan by the government to actually link productivity at the workstations with their salary.
To be fair, there was at least one instance where it was the asinine intervention of a fallen cop hero who wore vigilantism on his sleeve, more often than not, to settle personal scores who pushed a section of the secretariat staff back into their bureaucratic cocoon. But that alone cannot be an excuse for almost the entire secretariat from putting to shame a hood of snails. May one of those airy-fairy wishes, but this could be the year of reckoning for the five-lakh-strong fleet of state government staff, they buckle up and decide to work in earnest.
The proscribed list could simply go on and on. Kerala would abhor another bout of excess by ministers and MLAs just as it would bristle at the likelihood that God’s Own Country may not be averse to communal strife. As this is in addition to the weight of political violence that is common to north Kerala, the debilitating play religious fundamentalism continues to make on this soil remains a thorn in our flesh. At the expense of being labelled a blind optimist, it has to be a serious wish that Kerala ceases to be a fertile ground for radicals and fanatics in 2018.
There is no way this list can be complete without turning an introspective eye on one’s own tribe as there are quite a few things the public would be chary of seeing the media do this year. Without exception, it can only be everyone’s wish that the fourth estate would stop pushing non-issues, especially those revolving around celebrities, to the centre stage. Reason: the public, by and large, seem sickened by the propensity with which we sometimes ignore basic issues like why a variety of fever claims the lives of hundreds in a society with an obsession for health and hygiene. And how Kerala can transform into an investor-friendly state. Perhaps 2018 would be the year for miracles to happen.
Resident Editor, Kerala