Monday, June 20, 2011

It's free lunches in Tamil Nadu

    "Free mixie or Grinder for families. Free laptops for senior school and engineering students. Rice at Re.1 per kg. 4 grams of gold for brides from poor families." This is how the manifesto of political parties looked like in the recent Tamil Nadu elections. Elections in Tamil Nadu are fought differently these days, in fact from the 2006 election. Its all about throwing freebies. The more freebies you have in your manifesto, the better are your chances. The concept of freebies started in the last term when the ruling government started giving Free color television for the people of Tamil Nadu. And guess what, it worked wonderfully well until the 2G scam came and spoiled the party. By the way, is it a government's job to buy things for the people?

  First, lets give a thumbs up to Tamil Nadu. Believe it or not, a unique winning model has been found to win an election which no government ever in India has thought or worked on. A model in which people are given freebies to give their vote in favor of the party. A model in which people are bribed in disguise to make a political party come to power. And if you had thought things like these does not work, it does, it indeed does . It has worked now successfully for the second consecutive time. 

  It is innovative for the reason that political parties saw that people are economically backward, people are suffering due to health issues, people suffering due to lack of jobs, etc. While thinking of how to enhance people's standard of living, in came a simple solution: Give freebies to people. This is like a person being given a  booze to overcome his depression. Freebies ranging from Color TV, mixie, grinder, fan, 4gm gold for girls getting married, laptops for students. Lovely ideas!!! My only wish is our Prime Minister should consult the Tamil Nadu government and implement this amazing model in the entire country. When something is so good, why restrict to only one state, lets implement this model across India and make the whole country prosperous. A wonderful feeling to imagine India becoming an economic super-power in one stroke.

  Lets look at this winning model a bit on a serious note. Why should a government give freebies to people? Is it a Government's job? A government giving out tax payers money to people in the form of freebies? Who is distributing whose money? Perhaps, it is a wishful thinking that people will forget all the things you did, and will remember the freebies you threw. Well, it is true that human memory is very short. We always remember what happened latest to us. Your friend might have done hundreds of good things to us, but if the last thing he did you is bad, we tag him as bad immediately. Very short human memory, rite. However, this did not work the same way in elections. The beauty of this whole freebies is people happily collected all the freebies, and finally went and voted to a person of their choice.

  Every state government has an economy, and there is a budget for the economy. No extra cash can be parked for these freebies. This means  the state has to pull out cash for those freebies which is meant for the development of the state. This means if your area is supposed to get good roads, you may not get it. If the state was supposed to have a world class healthcare system, you may not have it. If our education system is meant to improve with that money, it is not going to happen. With no money left, all the government is going to do is sit and distribute all the freebies.   The bottom line is: Rural people are happy with the freebies, urban is busy paying tax. 

  What about the state economy? Some reports say the state economy has crumbled badly after the free color tv distribution during the last term. Not surprising though. You can easily predict the economy this time with such a whole lot of freebies lined up. I wonder what will happen if trends like these start in other states as well. Nobody can explain or understand the rationale behind how giving freebies can eliminate poverty, how it can improve the standard of living of the people. Let me give you a small example of our late chief ministers Mr. Kamaraj and Mr. M G R.

  It was in late 1960's, K Kamaraj, a visionary, was the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. Like every CM, Kamaraj also wanted to improve the standard of living of the people. The foremost concern in his mind was: the children of Tamil Nadu not getting education, or not coming to schools. Kamaraj realized that if children do not come to schools, the future will be a lot of jobless people who are uneducated. Uneducated youth can resort to anything, murder, robbery, dacoitry, and the state will become hell. He wanted a solution which will make or force the students to come to school. The leaders realized the hurdle which prevented people to send their children to schools was affordability of their education, and most importantly food. To address this, Kamaraj introduced the nutritious mid day meals scheme in Tamil Nadu through which all the children will be provided free food in schools. In 1982, when Mr. M G R became chief minister, he extended  the  mid-day meal scheme  for all the primary school children in government and government aided schools  .

  This scheme cost the state exchequer Rs.100 crore which was a huge allocation in those days. But  MGR went ahead since he realized this as the most important implementation needed for the state. With this one scheme, M G R increased the attendance of children to schools, addressed deaths due to malnutrition, and improved socialization among people of all castes. To know how successful it is, the same scheme has been adopted by the central government and was then taken across the entire country in 1996. This is the same scheme what we hear today in the name of "Akshaya patra". Read on, the success of this scheme forced the supreme court in 2001 to implement a new right, "The Right to Food" through which it declared every child in India studying in government and government assisted schools should be given free food.

  Such is the history of Tamil Nadu.  Such was the thinking of our leaders to raise people's standards. Such were the revolutionary ideas of our ministers which set the tone and the nation looked at us in awe. And today, today, we are in tatters, we are in tears. Even today the nation looks at our leaders in awe, when their photos are flashed in news channels while entering and leaving Tihar Jail. Come what may: A government's job is not to buy something for the people, instead its job is to enhance their living which will make them buy.

  One should feel a little pity for us, the people. Do we really have a choice now?  If one party throws freebies, people may either accept and vote for it or deny it. But, when all the parties chant the same freebie mantra, where is the choice? The only choice left with the people is the quality of the freebies. It looks like 4gm gold proved to a better choice for the people this time.  My leadership guru, Mr. Robin Sharma, often keeps quoting in his books and speeches, "There are no free lunches". Mr. Sharma means to say nothing comes free in life,  you have to go and get everything. Perhaps, we need to write to Mr. Sharma stating to add a small invisible "Conditions apply." along with his quote since the phrase does not suit us.

 One of my favorite spiritual quotes is: "God may not give you what you want, but he will always give you what you need". The more you read this line, the more beautiful it looks. It indeed is a global phenomenon which no human being can deny. It means God does not leave anybody without the basic needs. Of course yes, the needs are different from person to person. One can look around and always say others are gifted with many more. But the truth is: God leaves all human beings equally on this planet with some basic needs. It is up to us to go and get what we want with what God has given us. Wonderful wonderful meaning. Well, If I am asked to give a quote to the Tamil Nadu government, I would re-phrase this same quote a little: "God might just give you what you need, but this government will give you what you want."  Eraiva, emmai kapaatravum.(God, save us).

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Abs said...

<> Wish the govt officials stumble into this article. It would be great if we can come up with ways to stop least reduce these foolishness!

B.G.S. said...

Excellent Article

Guru Prasad said...

thanks geeta