Miss ‘Ban’erjee has been in the limelight due to her ubiquitous bans for quite some time now. First she shut down Tata’s plant in Singur. Then she stood against FDI in retail. And now she got the Railway Minister – who had been handpicked by none other than her majesty herself from her own party – sacked.
I mean, how could Mr. Dinesh Trivedi go unscathed after proposing the heinously logical hiking of the passenger fares by a “monstrous” 30 paise/passenger km for ordinary class after 9 years and hurt Didi’s precious vote bank poor public? Moreover, he had the nerve to argue that it would not even cover the increased fuel expenses of Railways, since fuel prices are going up day by day. Logical, you say? Audacious and blasphemous, rather; back in the day, such men used to be hanged. Mr. Trivedi was only sacked and people still call Didi merciless. Huh!
So, in a nut-shell, if we list the apparent agenda of Hitler Didi, it will include:
- Ban the industries. (Who needs jobs in Bengal – oops, Paschim Banga? You may spit everywhere in the country but nobody messes with The Name, period.)
- Restrict foreign capital which may cause building of infrastructure. (C’mon, just 25% of our grain rots due to lack of storage facilities.)
- Lead every government business from Air India to Indian Railways to bankruptcy. (When there are Government banks, why risk vote-banks?)
It’s the poor who need the jobs, it’s the poor who are dying of hunger and it’s the poor who are suffering from inflation due to government spending finances by printing money. And yet all the steps are very shrewdly branded as pro-poor measures. This is the story of the Below Poverty Line poor. Now comes the turn of The Great Indian Middle Class:
- They live hand-to-mouth to teach their kids, so that after graduation they can land the jobs in the industry. But there is dearth of jobs as businessmen, tired of political limbo, are heading overseas. The Tata Group already earns more than half of its total revenue from overseas operations. The government cannot create jobs as it spends tax money in providing subsidies for the poor only to flush it down the crooked PDS (Public Distribution System) gutter.
- They suddenly start paying 40 rupees for a kilo of potatoes. In less than a month’s time, they are seen wagging their heads at a newspaper photo showing a road full of rotten potatoes, pitying farmers who could not sell the harvest to the lethargic government in time. The innocent people don’t even realize that they were paying more than double for the same potatoes; had it not been for the incompetent supply-chain system of the government, those potatoes would have reached their stomachs instead of roads without hurting the wallets much.
- They travel year after year in the same “evergreen” trains and stations that look exactly same as they did 50 years ago, only with a more inhuman smell of human excreta while travelling; they meet with accidents every now and then, thanks to our reliance on “Golden Age” technologies like firecrackers for signaling. Common logic says no business can go for technological reforms when it is knee-deep in losses, as nobody brings new machines to an already ailing factory.
Quite sad, isn’t it?
This Populist culture is as old as India herself. The only difference is that at first it was sold in the name of socialism, then in the name of protectionism and now in the name of populism. In fact, it’s the single “virtue” that binds the Gandhis of Delhi, the Akalis of Punjab and the Dravids of Tamil Nadu. All of them are pro-poor and filthy rich – so what if their governments are bankrupt.
In a way, it is a cleverly designed virtuous cycle by our seemingly naïve and illiterate political race.
Ask for votes with the promise of removing poverty and inflation. Invest in subsidies for the poor, ensuring that the middleman takes all, and receive a hefty cut for party funds. Print money for them and do nothing for infrastructure. Money value deteriorates due to non-producing nature of investment, adding inflationary burden on the common man. Further choke the economy by taking anti-market policy stance, increasing interest rates and opposing any possible reform. Poverty remains intact and ready-to-use for the next election.
And this is not it! There’s more to this vicious circle. Poverty leads to illiteracy and illiteracy leads to oblivion. For an oblivious public, things are easier to manipulate. Lokpal becomes Frankenstein Monster, globalization anti-local, industry anti-farmer and a nominal fare hike anti-poor.
And People call Einstein a genius!
Yes, Democracy is for the people, by the people, of the people. Yes, we have responsibility towards the weaker sections. Yes, the US has more subsidies than India has. But in a country where the ruling class has been ‘pro-poor’ for the last 65 years, and yet 37% of the people of India are still not getting two square meals a day, Populism is just a gimmick performed by selfish politicians who dictate good-for-nothing policies and butcher the economy.
History predicts that every dictator falls when the bluff that he sells to public in the name of ideology is caught. Let’s see how long this “Populist” bluff is going to work with this electorate. Till then, the economy can only helplessly bleed to tatters.
This article is by Ravi Singla, and has been edited by Priyanka Mehta. Both Ravi and Priyanka are interning with NTMN in our 2012 Internship-cum-Training Program.