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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More views on the Austerity drive

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I came across the following interesting articles on the same topic. (MJ Akbar, Atanu Dey, Prajatantra) Several interesting points were made. I am just mentioning some of them.

  1. 'Travel is a minor percentage of government expenditure, but every little drop helps, but has a special austerity fund been created to collect the money saved?'
  2. 'The cost of MPs’ tickets, as well as for pricey hotels when Parliament committees go on tour, is paid by Parliament. Have the chairman of Rajya Sabha and speaker of Lok Sabha placed the unspent cash in escrow, reserved for the families of farmers still committing suicide in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh?'
  3. 'Throwing ministers out of hotels might send the right signals, but are they spending they spending their money by adopting a village'
  4. 'The big ticket in travel costs is not high in the sky but closer to the ground. Somebody should tot up the fuel costs of the thousands of very austere cars allotted to ministers, MPs and bureaucrats.'
  5. 'Talking about the austerity measures on travels, it needs to be asked as to what is the actual amount of savings expected to be achieved which would be meaningful to relieve pressure on finances due to drought, which is supposedly the reason for the Austerity. In the first place, the instructions issued last year in June 2008 were expected to be followed with proper monitoring. If the Government claims to be at all serious, it ought to have first told the people in a transparent manner the achievements from the previous austerity instructions. According to Budget estimates for 2009-2010, the travel expenses under the Head Establishment are Rs. 2,506.67 crores, a jump from Rs. 1860.26 crores in the previous year. Of this, the travel expenses of the Ministry of Home Affairs have jumped from Rs. 25.99 crores to Rs. 82.62 crores. The travel expenses estimates of The Cabinet are Rs. 179.22 crores which for some strange reason were only Rs. 17.82 crores in the previous year. (see here) It must also not be forgotten that the Government had ordered in 2005 not one but three aircraft for the travel by the President and the Prime Minister, at a cost of Rs. 937 crores. The first aircraft was delivered in August 2008 followed by the other two and the maiden flight was inaugurated by the President on 1st April 2009. One aircraft is understandable, even two, because we want to project ourselvs as a superpower with such show. But three?'
  6. 'It is very clear to those who are well versed in the ways of the Congress party that the benefits of any such austerity drive are only incidental and the real motivation is provided by other factors. Last year, it was to divert the attention of the people from the uncontrolled inflation and the unpleasant increase in fuel prices announced by Government. This year, it is not due to the drought, but to take the focus away from the the intolerable increases in the prices of all essential food products including dal and sugar brought about largely by the successful mismanagement of the Agriculture Ministry by Sharad Pawar, even before the effects of the drought on the coming crop.'
Do read the entire articles. They cover a lot of new points which I hadn't covered.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

How to make a mockery of Austerity

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One of my professors once said that, "a politician would do anything if it grabs the people's attention". Then the obvious question arises why don't they work hard for development.

The answer is not hard to guess. Development is a continous process. It takes years to make a difference that is easily distinguishable. Hence a politician goes in for easier ways to grab attention. So since development is difficult, politician would work hard to make Bombay to Mumbai, Madras to Chennai, Calcutta to Kolkata, Bangalore to ......(I am sorry I can't spell that). Never mind if there is any change on the ground. The politician would always claim that it is the people's desire to change the name. Similarly Mayawati finds it much easier to built statues than work for the backwards whom she claims to represent.

In a country where just 2% of the people travel by air, it was surely going to grab headlines and it has indeed. So if Rahul Baba takes a train or Sonia madam travels by economy class, then the Congress makes sure that it is publicized in the media. Austerity is a way of life and not just for the bad times. Moreover when you start showing off austerity then it loses the very purpose it was started in the first place.

The late Indrajit Gupta, who was the Home Minister during the United Front Govt from 1996-98 refused to move out of his two-bedroom apartment. He continued to eat in the common canteen in the MP's hostel. But he never made a big deal out of it or tried to get a mileage out of it. He was from a rare breed. MP's of today rarely vacate their bungalows after losing elections unless forcefully evicted.

After all, why should there be an austerity drive. Why not have a performance based pay structure for Ministers/MP's. Those who don't perform won't get the perks. I am sure we can save much more money with that. But of course that is never going to happen because politics is perhaps the only job where you get to decide you pay.

A blog from across the border

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I came across this blog from a Pakistani. This is first time I have come across a Pakistani blogger who has shown the guts and honesty to criticize the Pakistani psyche and thinking. Unfortunately there aren't too many of them. Most of them agree with the monolithic anti-India view propagated by the state and the ISI.