Our politicians’ excessive obsession with free schemes, giveaways & other banal vote-grubbing schemes have always made me feel that these aren’t going to address the issue of poverty in our country or at least the poor sanitation or water supply. Those politicians who vow that these giveaways (TV’s, grinders, fans, cycles etc) would bring an lasting solution to poverty aren’t aware or doesn’t care about that they are only promoting neo-colonial poverty, since the populist schemes itself eats away lot of government funds (for sustaining the scheme). It has also become inevitable that parties (in state or central), who desires to capture the post of CM or PM, announce odd or misconstrued schemes in the name of ‘pro-people’.
Modern Indian politicians mostly stray away from giving good governance and view people as vote banks, neatly divided into caste or religion. They might not care about the poor sanitary facilities in most of the Indian government hospitals, but they feel bad about how the poor, living in their impoverished dwellings, doesn’t get the chance to watch the reality TV shows (by providing TV’s for free). Of course, there are other schemes to the poor, in the form of food and healthcare, but the rigid framework of those schemes or the way it is propagated to needful citizens, makes us question its existence. It’s hard to say when Indian politics sided with populist programmes that are created to harvest votes. Since everything good & bad in India is related with Congress leaders, the mindless populist schemes might also have had a start there.
Populist programmes have been designed to only benefit particular groups and sections of the society (for decades the targets were poor, now its middle-class people). For one or two decades, after the Indian Independence, Congress government reserved some money on villages and cottage industries, cooperatives and the like. Compared with big-industry oriented developments in those periods, these village schemes were deemed populist programmes. But, on the long-term and due to effectual investments in these populist schemes, the projects evolved to be successful, yielding assets and providing jobs for large number of people (not just a community or section). But, today the vision our politicians have on populist schemes have spread through, denigrating even long-term development programmes.
Contemporary populist programmes are often said to have originated from Tamil Nadu. Cheap rice, free TVs and cash doles to unemployed & poor had been often quoted in TN political parties’ political manifestos. Politicians from Uttar Pradesh, Rajastan, Bihar and others have taken a leaf out of the book of TN political parties free waters, two-wheeler, LED lights, mobile tablets, Wi-fi, etc. Now, as politicians are catching up with TN’s vote begging strategies (including the money for votes), the state government is winding down a bizarre path, announcing really weird populist schemes (from Amma theatres to canteens & water).
The funds allotted for ridiculous populist schemes might be argued as a minuscule figure or that those schemes are only for the public good. May be it really takes a lot of money and time to mitigate environmental pollution or to ensure basic healthcare for all Indian citizens. But, there are little things our politicians could concentrate on, instead of always thinking about vote banks. Take for example, the unstoppable accidents in unmanned level crossings. The Supreme for decades is grilling the Railways, Central as well as State governments on why they can’t do away eradicate these gruesome accidents, while the law to do away with unmanned level crossings has come into existence in 1986. The accidents persists (even this year) at the unguarded points. The Railways & the State government are playing the ‘accountability’ game or would state that there aren’t enough funds. That kind of blame-games & financial excuses are laughable, especially when politicians and their bureaucratic pawns are able to splurge money on sly schemes.