|Thursday, June 29, 2000,
Business of serving the people
THE article Equations in new economics: the price of representative democracy (June 15) by Mr Sumer Kaul gives the real picture of the loot by our politicians whether in the government or in the opposition in the name of serving the people. The writer has very rightly said that the major domain of hidden subsidies lies in ministerial mansions (and bureaucratic bungalows) and the perks, concessions and freebies being enjoyed by the members of Parliament and state assemblies.
Not only do they get official accommodation in New Delhi throughout their tenure to attend Parliament sessions, which otherwise is just for four months in a year, but also get 25000 units of free electricity and telephone calls free of cost upto one lakh calls per year.
With these, the writer has courageously brought out the list of other freebies being enjoyed by these peoples representatives. I understand that even the literate component of Indias population is unaware of these perks and freebies being taken by our leaders. The most surprising question is: how can BJP leaders, who talk of and preach austerity, think of sharing the loot of the public exchequer at such a mass scale.
Our worthy Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, who keeps his eyes half open and half closed, indicates that the closed part is for himself and his colleagues, and the open part is for the poor countrymen on the one hand and the government employees on the other because he has always talked about down-sizing the government (employees) and cutting down subsidies. He has, however, never talked of down-sizing the facilities given to ministers, MPs, MLAs and bureaucrats when the job done by them is too little. It was shameful to read that in the 85-day-long budget session official business was conducted for 55 hours only. The public and the media in particular should come forward to expose the real drain on the public exchequer and get it controlled lest it shakes the countrys democratic foundations.
The tragedy with Indian politics is that the representatives whom people elected and sent to Parliament for the redressal of their grievances have turned unfaithful and ungrateful. I am reminded of Nirad Chaudhari: The politicians who acquired political power in 1947 were physically and mentally tired as a result of the prolonged struggle for Independence and they with their weakened will and physical strength came to be guided by a bureaucracy which lacked values. A majority of the crimes in India are reported to be committed under the protection of politicians and with the help of the bureaucracy. The prevailing situation in political as well as social sectors is an alarming threat to the country. It is a fact that the mushrooming of criminals-turned-politicians is largely due to the crass ignorance and illiteracy of the masses.
I am afraid the present government has paid little attention to the worsening condition except for paying lip-service to the problem.
Every citizen of this country should be aware of the reality and revolt against the wrongs done by any individual or institution. People should openly support honest and enterprising bureaucrats like Mr Vittal, chief of the Central Vigilance Commission, who has pledged to correct the corrupt system.
Insurance for the poor
Apropos of the news item Insurance scheme for poor (June 21), in this era of globalisation, when economic reforms are strengthening the privatisation and weakening socialism, the Union Governments decision to introduce the Jan Shree Bima Yojna to provide social security to ordinary people has evoked a mixed reaction.
The priorities of the poor are earning their bread, employment and shelter, education and health care for which proper attention needs to be given at grassroots level by the Centre and state governments. So long as the downtrodden are not given the basic amenities they wont join any insurance scheme. It is the pious duty of the state governments to share in order to further subsidise the premium paid by policy-holders. If the states do not take such initiatives the poor will suffer.
Moreover, the involvement of NGOs, gram panchayats, block development committees, zila parishads, etc, will help the people in completing the group insurance formalities. Though the claim settlement process is fare, impartial and transparent in insurance corporations, the system at the tehsil/district level needs to be checked so that the beneficiaries of the scheme do not suffer. They may face problems in getting the Below the Poverty Line certificate.
For improving the environment trees play the most important role. As such, all-out efforts need to be made to plant the maximum number of trees during the coming rainy season.
In good old days, students and school teachers used to plant trees and see that they are maintained properly. In Haryana, there are about 20 lakh students and teachers. If one tree is planted by each of them on panchayat land, there will be good forest cover all over the state.
The neem tree, also called the Indian teak, should be preferred whenever possible. It is quick growing and resists drought sufficiently. Of course, severe winter damages it and, therefore, it needs protection from cold. Its timber is valuable. It has many medicinal qualities known all the world over. The Forest Department should arrange the requisite number of seedlings for planting through school teachers in the state.
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