Anupam Trivedi, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, is moderator of the forum www.lkadvani.in
I wanted to write this piece on August 15. But I did not do so, realising that the country was on an extended holiday and would not really bother if we had the 61st/62nd or 97th Independence Day. But a bigger media event was round the corner when the brand new version of the government of the oldest party in India would complete its first 100 days in office.
You can't miss the irony when a government completing its five years in office claims to set right in the next 100 days of its new tenure what it could not do in five years! Well, in this particular and peculiar case, the party in question has governed this country for nearly 54 out of its 62 years of Independence. Yet, the ever gullible voter gets taken in by a 100 days promise!
Let's not get into the list of promises that UPA-II made as you would be seeing them in all the newspapers in full-page ads with pictures of Mrs Sonia Gandhi, the PM-in-waiting Rahul Gandhi and PM-at-peace Shri Manmohan Singh [in that order]. I also will not get into the nitty-gritty of data and spreadsheets. But, isn't all this obvious now?
The prime minister's joint statement debacle, the shadow of scams and undemocratic activities surrounding the communications minister, the lack of assertiveness in the foreign minister's statements in Parliament, the petroleum minister's 'uncalled for' interference in private gas price deals, the Haj subsidy scam, spiralling prices and hoarders making hay... etc, to quote a few.
Having had a miraculous survival from the ICU, many thought the UPA-II would fare better than UPA-I. But, it has not changed. It remains what it was -- a party of convenience and connivance. A review of their performance in the last 100 days will force any sensible person to lose trust in them.
Let's look at the government's functioning and some of the famous promises concerning the man on the street, from his eyes. Our eyes.
First, the Economy.
The revival of the economy was on top of the prime minister's 100-day plan. The UPA was to revive the economy and ensure food security with many other measures to boost growth.
Addressing the press in Mumbai on April 25, 2009, Dr Singh had promised that, if voted back to power, within 100 days he would roll out an action plan to revive the economy. Of late, a few RTI applications have been filed by the disillusioned voters including one by Sri Yogacharya Anandji, a social activist, who filed an RTI at the PMO last month, asking when did the 100 days begin and when were they likely to end.
'It was a promise made by none other than the prime minister and I wanted to know just how serious he was while he promised something to the nation,' Anandji is quoted to have said. In a reply, the PMO dismissed his application citing the reason that 'the query related to a reporter's election campaign coverage, can neither be authenticated nor disputed, as no records are maintained in this office on election-related statements.' It was signed the deputy secretary and central public information officer, PMO. The promise buried. Period.
But RTI or no RTI, don't we all know where the economy is? The falling industrial outputs, the huge army of the unemployed, the enormous struggle to earn two square meals by the common man? All this cannot be hidden behind any data or advertisements.
More so, in the last 100 days, under an economist PM, we have seen a spectre of zero or negative inflation while the prices of essential commodities went through the roof! Forget the common man, it even dumbfounded the students of economics. But the government had a ready answer, 'We calculate inflation on the wholesale price index.' Oh yes. In a 'sachet economy', we calculate inflation on the wholesale price index. It's another matter that even China, France, UK etc think it better to calculate inflation on consumer-price index.
So, the next time buy provisions wholesale if you want a good price and stop blaming the government. But in a country where nearly 70 per cent of the population survives on Rs 20 a day, the poor man on the street thinks thrice before buying 100 gms dal (lentil). Deenaram in his village is happy to afford the luxury of drinking tea from a Rs 1 sachet and his daughter with a Rs 2 sachet of Head & Shoulders. They won't understand economics. Would they?
Even the poor middle class is unhappy paying more for their colas and chips. But not to worry, by the time the Challenger Trophy comes along, they will forget it all!
Agriculture and Food Security
The country is hungry. The poor are struggling to stay alive. The crops have failed. More than 246 districts have already been declared drought-hit.
The agenda included a promise to enact the National Food Security Act and provide 25 kg of rice or wheat per month at Rs 3 a kg to below-poverty-line households in both rural and urban areas. But then, you must not have heard of the great rice scam and the thousands of quintals of wheat getting eaten by rodents in Food Corporation of India godowns?
We are being told that it is all because of the drought. The rain gods have been playing truant. What can the government do?
But did we not hear the agriculture minister say that we have enough food grains in the country? And that our granaries were well stocked? And why just food grains, we were told by this part-time sugar baron that there was no shortage of sugar. Now, even the Congress is asking him where all the sugar has gone.
Now, don't listen to those BJPwallahs who say that the sugar lobby in Maharashtra is behind all this, in preparation for the forthcoming assembly election. [The DMK effect, did someone say?]
And what about the millions of drought-hit farmers who are committing suicide at the rate of 1 every 30 minutes? Looks like, they will have to wait till we have the next big election or they can try to bribe the local sarpanch and get employment in the National Rural Employment Gurantee Scheme but with very little or no payment.
And just recently, the minister has told the nation that 'we should shift our focus on Rabi crop.' Well, Kharif is as good as gone. So, why cry over spilt milk? Now, give the poor man a few months' respite. At least, till the Rabi growing season in December. He has so many businesses to attend.
In case you do not know, there is a three nations tournament in Sri Lanka followed by the Challenger's trophy in South Africa. And in between, he has to sort out the mess in his home state and try to win the election again for the Nationalist Congress Party to maintain his bargaining power. And you guys keep bothering him!
Internal Security and External Affairs
What internal security? We will come to that when the next blast occurs and next genocide takes place. Till then, let P Chidambaram keep answering the questions framed by the crooked examiners across the border.
But how can you forget the biggest 100-day achievement here -- the shame at Sharm-el-Shaikh. Now, all talks with Pakistan will be possible without mentioning the dreaded T-word. And, so, Insha-Allah, we will have a one-day series soon too. Besides, every time, we mention Kashmir, they can say Baluchistan. Score equal. No hard feelings.
And haven't we got a fantastic foreign minister now, who has just proclaimed that 'we will keep on giving proofs to Pakistan.' Great. And they will keep on attacking us!
And the rest
We all know that the environment ministry is in the able hands of Shri Jairam Ramesh and he has earned laurels from the Opposition benches also. But when over 6,000 fully grown, mature trees were brutally cut in neighbouring Noida, within a 20 kilometers radius of the nation's Parliament and the Supreme Court, to make way for Mayawati's rock garden and seriously endangering a nearby bird sanctuary, his ministry did not even have an inkling about it.
The hyper active, very able lawyer, Shri Kapil Sibal, is busy working overtime on education. We all await the Right-to-education bill. Great, but what about the state of present education? The rich keep getting fleeced and the poor keep getting deprived. No visible change seen. Forget the rest of the country, the school in the National Capital Region keep harassing and robbing parents in the name of the Sixth Pay Commission.
In one bizarre incident, a wealthy group running a multi-million dollar education business, held 200 students captive for many hours after school was over for the day. As if it were demanding ransom from the parents. This insensitive nation, the blind education ministry and its able minister did not even blink an eye.
The health, they say, is in god's hands. There is no better proof of this than in our health system. The country is battling H1N1. The government cannot handle or control it effectively. It is only adding to the ensuing panic. The health minister is clueless. The government has let the situation get worse. Till the deaths started getting reported, it kept saying all was well. It delayed taking action. Instead, the country's health minister came up with an insensitive statement blaming the spread of flu on patients!
A young, promising girl Rida Sheikh lost her life. Imagine her parents's trauma when their late child was also blamed for the spread of the very disease that claimed her life! How insensitive one can get?
And just before the 100 days are over, the telecom ministry has finally announced the much awaited 3-G spectrum auctions. Hurrah! But, unfortunately, after the 2-G scam, we now have a potential fiasco in hand under Communication Minister A Raja. Why? Because the world over, the companies are already waking up to the possibility of 4-G. Now, who would bother to invest mega-sums for 3-G spectrums? What if all this delay, sloth and corruption costs the government thousands and thousands of crores of rupees in possible revenues? That will be a crime in times of bad economic conditions.
And talking of bad economic conditions, did we all not hear the great news of every Congress MP, MLA etc taking a 20 per cent cut in their salaries? What a great sacrifice! But wait a minute, what about the bombardment of television ads singing paeans for Sri Hoodaji in Haryana. And did you miss the timing? The assembly election is round the corner, silly!
And when we are talking about the 100 day plans, how can we miss the next big deadline of the Commonwealth Games. Ask any Delhiwallah about what he thinks about them or whether Delhi is prepared to host them, you are guaranteed to see an expression of a murderer and a victim combined. Everything is way off the target. Delhi's infrastructure can shame any Third World country. Hope you did not miss the visuals during the recent rains. A 30-minute rain crushed the ego of this city. The brand new airport got badly bruised and the city was thrown into utter chaos with traffic jams everywhere.
And what did we hear from the chief minister of Delhi? Must note this: 'When it rains, the jams happen,' she said. Beat that logic. Yet, Sheelaji is enjoying her third term now. Damned the daily jams and harried commuters and scared citizens of the city which is 'also the crime' capital of India. Either the voters in Delhi are crazy or she has a big fan following. That includes at least Khushwant Singh and now, the PM-in-waiting Shri Rahul Gandhi!
Why Rahul? Well, you probably missed how all the tabloids went gaga over Rahul's Metro ride in Sheela Dixit's Delhi? And the way, the Page 3 brigade was praising this, made it seem as if Rahul had helped another Kalawati. But, alas, Mr Rahul Gandhi did not take the metro to connect or empathise with the masses. He did this simply to avoid a traffic jam in a city that is ruled by his own party! He left his cavalcade, spG commandos etc at Dwarka station only to be greeted by another set of cavalcade and commandos at Rajiv Gandhi chowk. Wonder if Mr Mehta whose car broke down that day at Keerti Nagar could do the same?
So folks, 100 days or not, life goes on. Do not fool yourself that things will get better in 100 days or 1,000 days. Do something if you can. Or pray to god.
And where is the main Opposition party in all this? Can't it come to the rescue? Yes, it can. But right now, it's busy. Away from price-rise, drought, farmers's suicides, Kashmir, Baluchistan, it's stuck somewhere in Kandahar and fighting over a character certificate for Jinnah!
The late Sharad Joshi, the famous Hindi satirist, once said in the 1980s when Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister, 'Do not think that this country is being run by Rajiv Gandhi or by Indira Gandhi or Lal Bahadur Shastri or Nehru. It's just running and will keep on running Ram Bharose (at God's mercy).' Sounds true. Isn't it?