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Mauritius: Disasters afflict the nation
A month ago a flash flood in the capital of Port Louis in Mauritius had taken the lives of eleven people in broad day light, and the water coming down from the slopes of the mountains caused havoc to the dwellings of hundreds of citizens with debris blocking the evacuation drains made under the French era to channel water into the sea in front of the government house overlooking the one and only sea port. The authorities blamed the fury of mother nature concealing the shortcomings and overzealousness of the policy makers and civil contractors.

Last Friday on 2nd May in the early hours another ten innocent people travelling to Port Louis from Plain Wilheims lost their lives when a state owned company’s bus of make Ashok Leyland, labeled Blue Line probably on the pattern of New Delhi made several somersaults while the brave driver negotiated to take a new uphill route to avoid knocking fleets of vehicles on the highway. This happened presumably, according to surviving passengers, due to the failure of the braking system. The fifty-three years old driver‘s heroic maneuvers although took his life with his body entangled in the debris of the bus saved others like a true ship captain.

The Prime Minister Dr Navin Ramgoolam was quick to declare the following day as a National Mourning day and tendered his sympathy. The grief stricken nation is wondering why the Minister for Transport also responsible for Public Infrastructure, Hon Anil Bachoo, an otherwise pious man, did not show up, particularly since he holds the portfolio of the State owned bus transport company, an ailing and debt ridden corporation. How could he when he is already under fire for the casualties in the wake of the flash flood with the Opposition and NGOs clamoring for his resignation?

The public holds Minister Bachoo responsible for the flash flood victims because of the lamentable state of the drainage systems and poor follow up of the safety norms of the road infrastructure upgrading and constructions undertaken throughout the island. It is argued that the debris caused by the works in progress is not cleared in timely manner jeopardizing the citizen.

The National Transport Organization (CTO) running the ill-fated bus like every other public enterprise from hospitals to civil service is highly politicized with wrong people manning sensitive positions in this small island. Political patronage and interventionist attitude have crippled the institutions. Efficiency is not a national concern. There is a total crisis of management at every level. The institutions are at best operated and not managed although the Republic can boast of highly educated and qualified cadres and despite the public life being highly regulated.

Managing means planning the future and taking decisions, making people accountable through proper implementation of policies! The key people and handymen so appointed have so easy access to the political masters that those right people in responsible positions avoid taking decisions, playing safe. The system and management is therefore the casualty with the result that the consumers from the lower strata of the civil society find themselves helpless victims.

Mauritius politics has chartered a direction that looks like dragging its feet into a labyrinth from where it would be next to impossible to come out. The public sector is perceived to belong and owned by the Indo Mauritians and the private sector is believed to belong to the general population comprising the Whites, the Afro–creoles and hybrids issued from their intimate liaisons, owning the major business houses built from money accruing from the sugar sector labored by the Indian indentured labourers. The Indians in particular have a genetic preference for any governmental job no matter what the status irrespective of castes compatibility.

Officers manning the Town and Country Planning and local government establishments beside the central government are all generally from the Indo Mauritian stock, approving applications, giving permits and licenses. Discovering the island from towns to villages one can see for himself the lax culture which reminds one of the culture prevalent India.

Corruption and carelessness is rife throughout the Republic. One is stunned and perplexed how an outgoing member of the Legislative Assembly from the rank of ordinary M.L.A to minister and his wife and children start driving dream vehicles after one term of tenure with secondary residences in gated environments, splashing branded goods. More perplexing is the story of the mistress acquiring sumptuous bungalows and with fat bank balance and business interests!

All this have a cost. The quality of service and performance of the sectors under the responsibilities of those becoming rich and wealthy overnight obviously suffer. Politics is a business. It is no longer a vocation to serve the nation! In India, the Ambassador cars were the trade marks of the politicians and high civil servants and pundits. In Mauritius it is the German high ends no matter whether the common man’s means of transport receives timely maintenance or not.

The bus driver’s spouse declares in a newspaper interview that her unfortunate husband used to complain about the defective brake of the vehicle. The Prime Minister has a weakness for calling British and Singaporean experts in every core area either to buy time or perhaps because he does not trust his in house advisers and cadres. The nation is gradually wondering whether he should not contract out the management of his government to them.

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ashok leyland
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