The general elections are just around the corner and with it the offers for freebies have started flowing from the political parties. The other day I was watching TV and saw an advertisement paid by the Indian National Congress on legalizing slums under some scheme (I don’t remember the name). I was looking at the advertisement and realized that this is the very reason hard working middle class parents want their children to settle abroad. The whole idea of legalizing something which is illegal in the first place is just atrocious. Not only have these people been living on illegally occupied place and instead of penalizing them, the government, which in most cases is hand-in-glove when these slums come up, is now awarding this behaviour by making those slums legal. By making them legal, those slums can be demolished and the dwellers can be rehabilitated in proper apartments/ houses all at not cost to the dwellers, all at the expense of the middle class income tax payers.
When I look at such schemes, what bothers me is the most is what wrong have common people like me done? Here, I am trying to buy an apartment since last one year and have not been able to buy it due to high costs and government is doling out freebies to the people who have illegally occupied the land in the first place. I think I should have just got some shanty in some slum and wait for it to be legalized to get my own apartment – that too at free of cost. It just makes middle class people, who are trying to earn their daily living in a honest manner, look like fools.
What I would also like to say is that, I am not against government helping the people moving up the social ladder. But what I am against is government turning a blind eye to such illegal activities in the first place and then legalizing it. No political party is willing to take hard steps. It just makes me wonder if there is any hope for middle class people in this country.
A couple of days back, Raj Thackeray – a politician, announced that people should no longer pay toll on the highways and if need me resort to violence. To carry out his diktat, his party members/ supporters started vandalizing toll booths across Maharashtra. I read about it in the newspapers and didn’t really think about it much, forgetting the fact that I use the Western Express highway to travel to work everyday and there are two toll booths that fall along my route to work. The next day while driving I encountered bumper to bumper traffic atleast a 1.5kms before the toll booth. I was thinking that the reason for such traffic could be an accident on the highway. However, on reaching closer to the toll booth, I saw a lot of people from his political party stopping cars and speaking with passengers. I was fearing the worst – that they might vandalize the car. On reaching my car, they requested me to not pay toll. I continued to move ahead and found the toll booth heavily guarded by the police. I was wondering how will someone avoid paying the toll with such heavy police presence. The entire ruckus cost me an extra 45 mins to reach work.
I wonder what do political parties achieve by such populist measures. As per Raj Thackeray, the companies should provide better amenities for the toll tax charged. I, in principle, agree to what he says and means. But I also would blame the government who agreed to the current agreement with the contractor. If the agreement does not mention anything about better amenities, then the contractor is not obliged to do anything. Incidentally, the agreement was signed by Shiva Sena, BJP combined (Raj Thackeray was earlier part of Shiva Sena). There is also other argument floating around which says that since the project cost is recovered, toll should not be collected. To makers of such argument, I just have a simple argument to offer – the contractor is in the business to make money and earn profits. No company is going to invest in India if politicians start putting perceived thresholds on profit. Currently we have a wave of populist measures which the governments are announcing, from AAP in Delhi to NCP Cong in Maharashtra. If you look at it, all subsidies are generally paid by the government and how does the government get money – from you and me. So indirectly the tax paying people end up footing the bill and at the same time increasing the debt. I wonder when will we have governments who really understand the need of the hour and stop implementing populist reforms just for votes.
As most of the people are aware, in the last few weeks the Indian Rupee has lost almost 20% of its value when compared with the US dollar and other currencies the world over. I am not writing this post to discuss on that. We already have those discussions everyday with a whole lot of expert panels on TV and news papers. I am writing this from the perspective of what India should have been. I went to the US for my undergraduate studies, worked for a period of 8-10 months after my graduation and due to visa expiring, could not continue my stay over there. I kept working for the same organization while in India and on the same project. During those times, I believe I had a choice to return back to the US. But I chose not to, because I believed in the promise of India. I felt things were changing for the better, things were improving, the country was moving towards modernization. Poverty was reducing, income was rising across all sectors. The standard of living across the length and breadth of the country was changing for the better. I felt the government of India was finally doing the right things and which was in the interest of the nation. India was a country on the rise and I wanted to ride the wave and be a part of the change. I was 24 then.
But after 7 years of staying here, I have realized the more things change, more they remain the same. There is still widespread corruption amongst all walks in life. The government still indulges in vote bank politics. They still do not have the strength or the capability to take tough decisions – decisions which would address the problems that the country is currently facing. We still pass reforms which are motivated only to get votes. From a security perspective, things are moving from bad to worst. Every time my wife leaves work late at night, I am worried for her security. Common man still faces difficulty in filing complaints. They are being made from one police station to another on the pretext of ‘right jurisdiction’. Politicians shunting out honest officers, people who are willing to make a change to remote areas. We are still not able to respond to any terrorist activity in the country. We are not able to defend ourselves from constant intrusions from Pakistan and China. Economically, we are the worst performing currency in Asia. Job markets are drying, manufacturing sector is almost dead or stagnant. Nothing is being done to revive the same. Red tape prevents setting up of new industries, and now with the Land Act, it is going to be even more difficult. The list goes on and on.
I am 31 now and I realize that the India which I had hoped for, was an illusion and that illusion has faded away.
I write this post sitting in the darkness waiting for the electricity to arrive. Since the last few days whenever I have been home, there has been load shedding every day for a couple of hours. I used to think West Bengal was a power surplus state, but it turns out it is not. I assume politicians like Mr. Karat etc, never lose power in their houses, hence they are opposing this nuclear deal. One of the major advantages of this deal could be the use to nuclear power to generate electricity. I believe this state clearly needs it the most, since they have the frequent power cuts. All over India, the demand for electricity is rising and these leftists buggers along with BJP (who has now just become used to playing politics) are against these deal. The Left, I believe cares more about China, than our own people. I really salute our Prime Minister for having balls to stand up against such parties and be like do hell with them, I am going to go ahead with the deal.
Just as I have finished writing this post, the power is back. I am going to try and get some sleep before the power goes off again and I wake up to the buzz of mosquitoes and their bites.