Walking past a small group on the roadside engaged in an animated discussion, I heard an excited man make a malicious comment that decision- making men (and women) often suffer. “Your policies will never succeed. They are made by people sitting in air-conditioned offices.” Obviously he knew a lot. His delight at the discovery of the root cause of failure of governments was obvious.
Being a former bureaucrat, I knew what he meant. In fact, for some reason, I even started feeling guilty for having wasted such a long time in government service without ever considering the role that air-conditioners play. Sitting for long hours in these much vilified AC offices, officers lose touch with the needs of the common people and the ground situation.
The cooling and dehumidification of air for comfort is not new. The Romans and the Chinese did it. The mighty Roman empire excelled in military, arts and technology. Yet, they could not repel attacks by the Huns. Why was that? My little research says that their fall in the fifth century must have begun with the excessive use of water aqueducts that cooled the palaces, making them easy-going and relaxed. But then look at the British: their enterprise never let them fall for such bodily comforts. Is it any surprise that they managed to overthrow the Mughals who used water extensively for cooling their palaces?
Unfortunately in modern India, all public offices starting right from the Parliament to the humble railway ticket reservation counters are air-conditioned. The ones that are not, will get theirs done very soon.
How I wish someone had prevented Michael Faraday and Willis Carrier from bringing about modern air-conditioning.
( Iqbal Singh Bains is a former bureaucrat )
*The views expressed by the author are personal