Serial Blackouts

Our mind threatens to leave us in the dark if we keep dilly-dallying about which thoughts or ideas we should pick up and pen down on paper.

For they flood our mind, with some of them desperately jostling for prominence while others patiently bide for their turn in a sort of waiting room in the mind. As if they had a life of their own: in fact, they do in terms of energy and vibration, and as living entities, they claim our attention and compassion. In this light, we are just an instrument, a voice or a pen used by those entities to come to life. Bane or boon, they do not leave us in peace, for sure. Rather, therefore, be positive and consider their company as a blessing.

Well, before Alzheimer leaves us in total blackout, let us be alert to the calls that ring in our ears. Shortage of electricity is not the main point here though serious warnings have been sent on the issue. As most people believe, a general power cut that would paralyse industries, silence machines and computers, and bring the economy t o a standstill sounds like a most unlikely scenario, and if it does happen, the right people in the right position will sort it out for us.

How the Delhi government handled the chaotic situation spawned by a massive power cut that left millions in darkness some years ago is mind-boggling. Over here, the scenario summons visions of utter darkness after petrol lamps were switched off in the prehistory of Mauritius, when people felt safe in their homes nonetheless. Wind up the time machine and visualize homes, offices, greedy hotels and smart cities blooming in not too smart an environment without light. Too far to be true.

Maybe permanent residents get used to the familiar sight of some dreary and shabby places they travel through on a daily basis as part of the local landscape. In fact, places like Ste Croix, Cité Vallijee and others are quite distressing and disheartening to see. An inhabitant from Ste Croix once explained that the party most residents vote for is rarely in power, hence the sorry state of the place. Even the huge trees lining the road near the police station look dusty and melancholic.

The place has not changed for decades; it is home to all sorts of fishy activities going on in dark corners. Will such places be permanently abandoned to a dull future? Right now, no projects are under way to revamp run-down places. Neither to build modern tertiary education centres, shift ministries or big company offices to divert traffic jam, overcrowding of property and population away from existing cities, and instil new life in lifeless dull outlying zones.

It is very funny to see how once the buzzwords of whatever innovative concept circulate around, they are endlessly parroted by all and sundry. After ‘knowledge hub’, now it is ‘smart cities’. This is a place where politicians and their appointees in key bodies, well-known for their inflated egos, take care to keep at bay knowledgeable people, especially if they are Mauritians but will roll a red carpet in front of any western national with average intellect! They prefer to blithely bask in self-delusion and a false sense of superiority, as long as they do not feel outsmarted by their experienced compatriots coming back with higher skills acquired abroad.

An engineer had to work for free for two long years for Air Mauritius and was not considered skilled enough to be given a deserved higher post by the PMO in 2003. He was instead asked to ‘faire ses preuves’. He was later given a managerial post in an Australian airport, and Dubai considered him skilled enough to head an entire airport. Not in tiny Mauritius.

Some time back an excellent woman pilot at Air Mauritius packed up and left because of the macho atmosphere around; similarly in the 80s a woman engineer at the CWA, a former QEC pupil, found it unbearable to work with a bunch of narrow-minded macho blokes with average SC background who deemed it offensive to be bossed by a woman, and left for Canada where she has stayed up to now.

Over here, an HSC holder who makes it to the top rank of ministries is considered a big deal! There are several cases of academics, professors, technicians, specialists in various domains of science, medicine and technology, and high-ranking administrators with excellent university qualifications and wide general knowledge, well-read people of all hues who are contributing to progress and advancement in foreign countries. What does that imply in the long term? Very simply, instead of reaping the highest benefits for the advancement of the country, for decades taxpayers’ money invested in education has caused a brain drain which benefits other countries.

Just fancy this profile of the diaspora coming back to be bossed around by

political appointees with inferior qualifications, sitting with their feet on their office desk and dictating inane orders. Some of the highly qualified locals are ignored by the authorities; they are confined in posts below their ability, a situation which causes unnecessary frustration to such a point that in one case, a foreigner denounced the plight of his Mauritian friend in the press.

The root cause of the attitude towards what is considered as ‘knowledge’ is partly embedded in the legacy of a Western type of education and transmission of knowledge which breeds a divisive class society with artificial barriers, where those who acquire some type of knowledge feel part of a selective clan towering above common people instead of sharing knowledge in all humility.

The public needs to be informed what measures are going to be taken to improve the functioning of existing institutions, when control freaks at the highest level will stop interfering in every department they can exert pressure on. We naively thought that death in police custody would never happen again after the Ramdhony case, which gave us sleepless nights. Isn’t it necessary to give additional appropriate training to policemen before they are promoted to higher ranks so that they acquire a culture matching the higher responsibilities which they are called to assume? And, further, are perceived in public as not being insensitive bullies, a prevailing allegation in some quarters following the death of Iqbal Toofany while in police cell?

Credit goes to the young man’s relatives, friends and sympathizers for staging a demonstration, claiming justice for the victim. It is an example that should be followed by others so that the authorities do not take us for a bunch of passive citizens who would soon forget about crimes, wrongdoings and corruption. Not forgetting and demanding higher standards in every sphere is a duty which also befalls society at large. Otherwise issues that should be addressed are likely to be shoved under the carpet and wallow in total blackout.

Add to that the lack of discipline which leads pedestrians to walk in the streets and hawkers to occupy pavements, motorists to speed along and kill innocent people, young and old who have not been educated to respect the environment, abusive waste of electricity and water, approximate knowledge of personal and public hygiene and so on. Not to mention mental disorders afflicting sycophants in various sectors and psychopaths not only in the police force. What we mean is that before coming forward with grand projects, regular assessment and constructive criticism on a national platform help to understand where we stand and where we are heading to.

 

* Published in print edition on 11 April  2015

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