People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 22

June 02, 2013




G Mamatha


ALL over the media, the government is cooing, Meelon hum aagaye, meelon hume jaana hai ‘we have travelled miles, but we have miles to go'. Of course, this propaganda campaign instantly drew a parody from some ingenious thinker, who converted it: 'we have eaten millions, but millions more are to be eaten'. This parody, in fact, truly captures the real story of the UPA.


'9 years of reaching people' is the theme that ran through all the advertisements released by the government. More than reaching people, that the UPA is cut off from the people is no where better illustrated than in one of the visual advertisements in which a prominent award winning actress (who can really act and is these days paraded as a symbol of empowered women, which unfortunately is more hype than substance) stars. She exhorts people to construct 'toilets', which is very noble indeed. But the problem lies in the dialogue, Jahan Sonch, Vahan Shauchalaya, ‘if you think about the necessity of toilets, you will construct them’. This is nothing but an insult to the aam aadmi. Does this imply that women do not think about toilets daily whenever they go out? This only exposes the stupidity of these morons who think they stand upon a 'high moral pedestal' and have the right to 'preach' anything and everything including such sheer nonsense. Even if they become ek din ka aam aadmi, they will understand the harrowing experience of these unfortunate beings, who die of shame everyday – for no-fault of theirs – except that they are born poor. They are not bitten by the 'Holly/Bollywood 'civilisation' bug as to expose themselves day-in and day-out on the railway tracks, roadsides and in empty fields. It is more lack of money than the lack of 'awareness' that is forcing many of them to undergo this daily travail. And don't forget, water is such a scarce commodity for the poor. Doesn't our preachy 'professor' know any of these facts. Or does he?


Another advertisement talks about five girls who had joined Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) and who are 'role models for others'. Very true. There are many girls who are coming to join schools and study. It is more due to the growing awareness among the parents on the necessity of educating their wards for a better future. The advertisement talks about 3.6 lakh girls studying in over 3500 KGBVs. What it is silent about is the crores of rupees that the government has cut in the budget for these very KGBVs where 'role models' are studying. The affects are disastrous. Many of the girls are not given uniforms for years, forcing them to wear the pairs that were given to them when they had joined, even at the time of their passing out. Body hugging skin suits might be fashion for Holly/Bollywood, but not for these girls coming from the most backward regions in our country. A visit to any of these schools shows how embarrassed these girls are. Moreover, these residential institutes do not have functional bathrooms and toilets, thanks to the generous cuts in the maintenance budget. Now, who is not 'thinking' about the 'necessity' of toilets?


It has to be accepted that the second-half of the “9 years...” phrase has one truism – 'changing lives'. Giving a neutral statement helps. It does not state 'for better' or 'for worse', a mistake committed in the 'Shining India' campaign of the NDA, which the UPA does not want to commit. Before looking at how the lives have changed, let us see more of the advertisements. The one on ASHA – the Unsung Hero of our Health System', states some key facts: (i) ASHA is a volunteer (ii) she combines multiple roles of community mobiliser, activist and provider of first contact of care at community level (iii) and is entitled for a performance based compensation package. These are indeed very important statements. As a recognised volunteer, ASHA is neither a worker nor an employee and thus is not entitled to wages or salary, but only a 'performance based compensation package'. This is 1000 rupees per month. With this huge amount, what a change her life has undergone sirji! And who pays the TA to the 8.8 lakh Debaki Pradhan's, who are the 'first contact of care at community level', to go to the hospital and back to the village? The government? Panchayat? Debaki Pradhan and her 8.8 lakh sisters, whose lives have 'changed' with the 1000 rupees 'performance based compensation' pay it from their own pockets. In which direction Debaki Pradhan's life has 'changed' can now be easily imagined.


It is not just Debaki Pradhan's, all our lives too are being changed. Though statistics can be boring, giving a few numbers cannot be avoided. Here are they: between March 2005 and April 2013, the prices of onion had increased by 214 per cent; moong dal – 161 per cent; arhar – 133 per cent; tea – 131 per cent; okra (bhendi) – 128 per cent; wheat 113 per cent; milk – 109 per cent; rice – 103 per cent; toilet soap – 50 per cent; washing soap – 74 per cent; medicines – 25 per cent and electricity – 32 per cent. For non-vegetarians, mutton by 131 per cent, chicken by 74 per cent and eggs by 96 per cent. Changing lives! For the worse! Can anyone deny? Of course, there is a whole team. No hard guesses; it is led by our one and only Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who, while releasing the government's report card, claimed that “inflation is coming under control”.


Taking off from there, he also had the audacity to claim four achievements for his government: (i) improved performance of economy; (ii) making growth process more inclusive; (iii) delivery of better governance, welfare, development programs; (iv) improved relations with changing and challenging world.


A man of impeccable integrity, honesty, truthfulness and what not, one has to believe whatever he states at the face value, notwithstanding certain facts like: manufacturing sector has registered negative growth; industrial output has contracted by 0.6 per cent in December last year; (for the nine month period between April-November 2012, industrial production grew at a meagre 0.7 per cent compared to 3.7 in 2011). In spite of all this, the prime minister, releasing the report card promises that “growth rate will be back to 8 per cent”. And...and...there is an important caveat here. Very important indeed: “give us one more term”. That's it! The cat's out of the bag! Manish Tewari, why do you want to fool us saying, “Bharat Nirman is not a poll campaign, it tells the India story of the past nine years”.


When one is preparing a case for one more term, one naturally does not argue: “during our term the number of dollar billionaires had increased”. They have to talk about 'inclusive growth', even if it does not include more than 77 per cent of our people who are surviving on less than 20 rupees per day. They cannot ask for another term: “we have given concessions to the rich and corporates to the tune of over Rs 5 lakh crores, so please vote for us”. Or, “we have withdrawn subsidies on cooking gas, fertilisers and deregulated the prices of petrol and diesel, so please give us another term”. Much less, “our child mortality rate is worse than Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, but we are doing better than Timor-Leste (sorry, punters, betting not allowed for locating this country on the map) in under-weight children. So please...”. So now they are remembering the 'unsung heroes', Debaki Pradhans, Sakina Bibis, musahars, Pakur a word the elegant, The Aam Aadmi. My goodness and to what extent are they lying...about MGNREGA (elimination of bonded labour), Polio eradication...


Now we can understand their shamelessness, when they claim it as their achievement, in providing  'safety and security for every citizen, including especially women' and 'freedom from delays and harassment which invariably breed graft and corruption'. On December 16, women in Delhi were secure. In fact, as secure as they are today. Nothing had happened then, nor today. Children around the country are safe. Nothing had happened, nothing will happen. Trust the prime minister. Trust the prime minister: not a dime was lost (or pocketed) in 2G spectrum case, in Commonwealth Games, in allocating leases for coal mines, in Bellary, in land deals around the country, in the Agusta Westland VVIP chopper purchase or to cut the story short, corruption is just non-existent. Thanks Adi Sankara, 'Sarvam midhya'.


The only reality is: “the UPA government is working to realise your dream of an economically resurgent and socially just India. An India in which every citizen can expect to live a life of security and dignity with every opportunity to develop their own capacity to participate in and benefit from one of the great historical transformations that will take place over the next twenty years”. Believe the prime minister. Our kisans are already in the process of transformation. Lakhs of them had transformed their lives – from existing to becoming non-existent. Suicides. And those who are surviving too are transforming...into the living dead. They are driven out of agriculture by increasing costs of production and decreasing prices for the produce. The truthful government itself had agreed. “Between 2010-11 and 2011-12, the cost of production per quintal of paddy went up by Rs 146 but the minimum support price went up by only Rs 80. Likewise for wheat, the cost of production increased by Rs 171 per quintal, the minimum support price was increased by only Rs 65”. If this is the government's intervention, we can easily think of the private players who are increasingly playing an important role in deciding the prices of farm produce. No wonder, 40 per cent of the farmers are in heavy debt.


Don't blame the kisans for the rise in the prices of the foodgrains or for your failure to eat healthy. They are gifting bumper harvests. Rain or drought, we have nearly 665 lakh tonnes of foodgrains. In spite of it, the per capita availability of cereals of 490 grams per day per head in 1990-91 fell to 440 grams in 2007-09. The resultant transformation is: the percentage of people consuming less than 2200 calories in rural India increased from 58.5 in 1993-94 to 75 in 2009-10 and in urban India those who are consuming less than 2100 calories increased from 57 per cent to 73 per cent. A transformation that is really changing lives! Will it be sane to term this as 'changing for the better'?


There is another sleight of hand in the whole advertisement campaign. It is talking of 9 years of UPA, not 4 years of UPA-2. This subtle sleight is indeed an attempt for massive deception. UPA-1 with the Left support enacted MGNREGA, Forest Rights Act, RTI, RTE, etc. What has the UPA-2 got to boast? Food Security Bill? Status: Failed. Lokpal? Status: Failed. So what has it done for the Aam Aadmi? It would be wrong to say, that it is a big zero. The truth is not zero, but negative, as they had used the four years of UPA-2 to increase burdens. Independent of Left support, the UPA-2 had gone ahead with its Mission Reforms. To show to its voters, it has got nothing. So, it is resorting to deception, well forgetting that it is impossible to fool everyone, all the time.


The people rich with experience will see through this deception and will not give it one more term. It is now on Mission Impossible. Manmohan Singh is not Tom Cruise.