Sifting through the fog – Challenge and response

Statecraft and public policy are a notoriously difficult vocation. Not only do the political classes and the bureaucracy, between them, have to go about finding the best approach towards a problem but also navigate through public opinion at the same time. At a time when public opinion is shaped more and more by a media that is more populist than accurate, it becomes a thankless, arduous task.But there can be a measure of appreciation when governments do, in fact, get their act together. Consider our annual fight with the thick fog that we are currently facing. There seems to be a distinct learning curve here, especially by the National Highways and Motorway Police. A proactive and effective management of the Motorway and even the other Highways seems to have definitely played a role in the decreasing number of fog-related casualties every year. And it would appear that the management thinks its actions through since much before the fog season. It would be heartening to see such proactivity in at least those crises that are periodic, like the Punjab’s annual dengue fever crisis.

By constantly building upon its database, the province’s public health setup can zero in on the best approach.The same is the case for the floods. Granted, simply knowing in advance is not good enough. After all, the KP government is said to have been cognizant of the disastrous floods of this year much in advance. But the limited capacity of the state to respond to crises, both in terms of human resources and physical infrastructure, can be disturbing at the best of times. And times are far from best in KP.The best approach towards sifting through the fog both literally and figuratively, is having an accountable and responsible democratic setup. For the political government to give direction. For the bureaucracy to then do the math and figure things through and, finally, for the politicians to “sell” the state’s response to the public or reject it in the public’s interest. It might be a long, slow slog, but it is our best bet – PT