The people do not expect a government to cure all ills or to solve all their problems. In a crisis, though, the least they expect of a government is that it would be sensible and sensitive to the public sentiment. The outbreak of dengue in Calcutta and other parts of West Bengal has been a matter of serious concern for large sections of the people. It should have been just as worrying for the government too. But some responses by important ministers and other officials left much to be desired. They seemed to be wishing away both the disease and the government’s role in fighting it. Mamata Banerjee’s response is a refreshing change from her colleagues’ perfunctory notes. By calmly facing the facts about the spread of the disease, she has shown that she can rise above politics when the occasion demands it. Her measured responses make eminent sense and should make the people feel that her government is sensitive to their sufferings and worries. Natural causes, especially the staggered spells of monsoon rain, seem to have much to do with the spread of dengue this season. But no sensitive politician, let alone a chief minister, can afford to deny a role for the government in tackling the situation. It should be reassuring for the people that even the Opposition leader, Surjya Kanta Mishra, chose not to politicize the issue.
When politicians strike such sensible notes, they actually help the people face a critical situation better. Ms Banerjee has used the occasion to remind the people of some of their basic civic responsibilities. Some of the suggestions she has offered should be common knowledge. The important thing, however, is the perception that the chief minister cares for the people’s well-being. This may prompt the people to take her suggestions in the right spirit and act on them. Ms Banerjee has done the right thing by reminding the people that they too have a responsibility in improving civic conditions. It is also to be expected that civic and health officials will now act more decisively to fight the disease. It would be a good thing for Bengal if the chief minister acts more often as an administrator rather than as a politician. Her example may prompt not only her ministerial colleagues but also the Opposition to act and behave in more responsible ways. Bengal has long had too much politics and too little administration. It is time to live that legacy down.