#Politics Opinion

Placebo Politics, and that Elusive Cure to Our Problems



The Indian Political System thrives on what can be called ‘Placebo Politics’.

The Placebo Effect: Sometimes, usually for incurable diseases, doctors provide ineffective pills to their patients. Owing to what is known as the Placebo Effect, patients still recover, because they are “placated” knowing that they are being treated.

What is amazing, is how we, the public, pop these placebo pills every day without our knowledge, thanks to “placebo politics“.

First of all, let me explain the modus operandi used by our politicians to placate us.


It all begins with an issue that draws the eyeballs of the masses. Once the issue has gained ample media coverage, caused a few activist groups to awake from their slumber and approached a certain threshold of tweet counts, it is ready—to be administered the “placebo pill”.

The placebo pill can take many forms, such as:

  • Forming a committee of so-called experts on the subject to look into the issue,
  • Referring the issue to the Enforcement Directorate (or another similar body) which has already showcased the supernatural ability of handling multiple issues at a time or even better,
  • Hatching a counter issue that has the power of nullifying the original one. The original issue eventually recedes into the background only to disappear from the amnesiac minds of the public.

Each time an issue crops up, one of these pills is prescribed to us by our politicians, and the naïve public that we are, we immediately calm down!

The end result—the placebo pill mollifies the public, by tricking them into believing that the country’s ailments are being cured.

Cartoon Courtesy: Keshav

To substantiate this point, let’s go down memory lane. Corruption scandals have been ruling the headlines for quite some time now. At the top of the mind are the oft-repeated Commonwealth Games scam, the Adarsh scam and the 2G spectrum scam et al. All of these have been handed over to special committees who are taking forever to bring the culprits to book. Is appointing a special committee to look into the matter the end of the story? Should we be pacified simply by being told that there is an expert committee out there who will solve the problem with our interest in mind?

Every year, the Finance Budget makes a hundred promises. News channels, economists and all those who consider themselves important, come up with their own analyses of the Budget. Meetings are called for and conferences are held by corporates to discuss the impact the Budget will have on their businesses. Little do they realize that that impact will occur only if and when the promises are fulfilled.

Why isn’t there a committee which keeps track of these pacifying promises and publishes a year-end report on how many of them have been delivered?!

Black money enough to eradicate poverty from our country has been stashed away in tax havens across the world. It is common knowledge that India has more money in Swiss banks than the rest of the world combined. The names of the looters have also been made public, courtesy WikiLeaks. Then why is it that the government is hesitating in bringing back the ill-gotten money? The obvious answer, but of course, is that the same politicians who form part of our government have played an important role in
orchestrating this loot. All that we’ll get out of this is another set of placebo promises till the time that the perpetrators find another way to safely park their illicit wealth.

Recently, two men came forth to challenge the system—Anna and Baba. Both had noble intentions but again, the placebo effect got the better of them. Anna was silenced (for the meanwhile) by the formation of the Standing Committee for drafting the Lokpal Bill. Baba was silenced by the counter attacks on his political connections and personal wealth.


A placebo pill may cure an ailing patient, but placebo politics cannot cure an ailing country. Our country is diseased but these diseases are not incurable. All we need is good doctors (read: politicians) who possess clinical acumen, who aren’t in the profession for money, who care for their patients and who experience joy in their healing. Awaiting a healthy India…


About the author

Tanvi Ajbani

Management Graduate. Auditor for the time being. Opinionated. Ambitious. Left-brained. Shy of limelight. Sincere. Dreamer. Free-thinker. Obsessive compulsive about grammar and spellings. Crazy about dance and music. A Virgo in every way.

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