There is an unfolding spirit of competitiveness creeping in the Indian polity. Statewide competitions are becoming the norm. Metric driven contests are challenging the sloth and status quo of the 36 states and union territories of the country. Irrespective of any flaws that the contests may have, the evolving trend finally augurs well for the nation. The question is all the more relevant – and challenging - for laggard Himalayan states like Uttarakhand.
Let us take the example of the nationwide "Smart City" results which were declared a few weeks ago. At a personal level most citizens of the state would have been deeply disappointed with the last position - 97 out of 97 - that Uttarakhand's proposal of the smart city of Dehradun has received. This is not just a blow to the state government’s leadership abilities and governance model but is a bigger jolt to the thousands of ordinary folks who take pride in their city, and in their state.
Another contest where the state fared poorly took place six months ago. The government of India had released the "Ease of Doing Business" results in September 2015. Uttarakhand with a score of 13 per cent had ranked at the 23rd position. Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, two states with whom Uttarakhand often tends to benchmark, were a proud third and fourth with 63 per cent and 62 per cent respectively.
The state had received another crushing blow in August 2015 when the "Swachh Bharat" rankings were released. Dehradun was ranked the 26th dirtiest capital in the country out of a total of 28 capitals. What does all of this mean to the average citizen of Uttarakhand? What are the consequences for Uttarakhand as a state? And more importantly, what is to be done next?
The first thing that the decision makers in the state need to understand is that the landscape has become fiercely competitive. States in India today compete aggressively for capital. Competition is cut-throat and plain vanilla sops are outdated. Large-scale investors are demanding much more than single window clearances.
It is in this context that it is vital for states like Uttarakhand to accept that its governance models lack substance and it's overall direction of development has become wayward. It can only be hoped that the government will take stock of the situation and such ignominy will not be seen in the future. So, what can Uttarakhand do next?
The political and bureaucratic leadership in the state needs new attitude, energy and newer skill sets. Contemporary value-based competencies are becoming the driving forces around which millions of dollars are getting invested. Serious branding, marketing and communication outreach are resulting in promotional roadshows and global investor meets. States are getting adept at identifying, then crafting their strategies and messaging around their core competencies.
This begs the question - is Uttarakhand ready for all of this? If the state does not change its culture of corruption and its character immediately, it will continue to lose out on investments in these competitive times.
It can only be hoped after the drubbing in the various competitions that the government would introspect and make the necessary course correction along with its core team of advisers. To this end, each and every Uttarakhand resident has to actively participate in the process of development and also keep the government on its toes, answerable to its actions and inaction.