There is hardly anyone who is not familiar with the infamous utterance of Marie Antionette during a famine in France whilst her husband Louis XVI was the monarch. When it was brought to her notice that people didn’t have bread to eat, she responded, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” (Let them eat cake).
It is said that this story of the princess is apocryphal and that she didn’t say so. It is said Jean Jacques Rousseau is the one who attributed these words to her in his autobiography ‘Confessions’. However, Queen Sonia Gandhi actually used these words for the poor rural people, knowing pretty well that they don’t have food to eat, “Give them mobile phones”. I am reproducing Kureel Manoj’s cartoon on the subject, which says more than any words:
Here are the facts that I picked up from Wikipedia:
“A study by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative using a Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) found that there were 650 million people (53.7% of population) living in poverty in India, of which 340 million people (28.6% of the population) were living in severe poverty, and that a further 198 million people (16.4% of the population) were vulnerable to poverty. A startling 421 million of the poor are concentrated in eight North Indian and East Indian states of Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. This number is higher than the 410 million poor living in the 26 poorest African nations.”
What’s he use that the UPA wants to put these mobiles to? It is said that giving mobiles to the poor will make government policies to be easily disseminated to them through mass sms. Once again I am reminded of a man trying to sell a transistor radio to a Soviet farmer. The farmer kept resisting it. Finally, the man said, “Look at it this way comrade; with this you can be in any part of USSR and still be able to hear Moscow.” The farmer responded, “No I don’t want it; but do you have something by which Moscow can hear us?”
Why is there so much of disconnect between the people and the government that they choose? I brought it ou in an article on the 2011 Republic Day ‘How Proud Should We Be Of Indian Republic at 62?‘ that we ain’t really a functional democracy. That’s the reason why the above figures from UN 2009 report doesn’t compare well with our “stupendous GDP growth”? Just consider that the richest 10 Indians have 10 percent of GDP between themselves; and the richest 50 Indians have 30 percent of GDP. Politicians are known to have multiplied their income 1100 times in 5 years of their “rule” and decide on ridiculous figures such as Rs. 22 per day to decide whether or not a person is Below Poverty Line. This is a huge challenge. Many government policies such as ‘subsidy’ are meant for the BPL. However, such policies don’t reach their intended targets and funds are siphoned off elsewhere.
Here is an eye-opener about the value of an Indian life:
Infant Mortality Rate is the number of deaths of infants up to one year of age per 1000 live births. Singapore has only 2.60 deaths (average of five years of data released by UN last year) per 1000 whereas India has 60.82. So whilst Singapore is #1 in the world, India at 150 (out of 194 countries) is tucked in between Bangladesh and Ghana ahead of it and Eritrea and Zimbabwe below us. Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate is trying to make us aware of the real problems that are our challenges as opposed to politicians and vested interests telling us that we are nearly there as a super power and hence our people require mobile phones so hat they can be educated about the “glorious achievements” of the governments in India since independence.
As the elections draw closer, such doles from the “rulers” in exercise of their “powers” shall become more and more frequent. I don’t suppose following would then be beyond the scope of the government and the other parties.
Party A Man: Sir, Sonia ji is thinking of giving mobile phones to the rural population. This would be of great disadvantage to us because hey would be smsing the government campaign in the garb of educating people all the while.
Party A Boss: If I were you I won worry about that too much. Phones need to be charged periodically. Fortunately there is no electricity in the villages and hence people won’t be able to use them.
Party A Man: But Sir, we should have a Plan ready of our own. People are fed up of receiving blankets, sarees, TV sets and bicycles jus before the elections. We must promise them something different. Chandarbabu Naidu even distributed the CDs of his government’s glorious achievements.
Party A Boss: Let me think; how about giving them one year free subscription to our latest magazine ‘Hoodwinking People All The Time’; or two free tickets to Canary Islands or Isle of Man?
Party A Man: Brilliant Sir; to a select few, eg, the Panchayats etc we can even give cars. They won’t be able to use them like UPA’s mobiles because hey don’t have roads and buying even a litre of fuel would make them jump above the Poverty Line and hence ineligible for retaining the cars.
Party B Boss: Have you come up with a suitable counter to UPA’s mobile policy.
Party B Worker: Yes saar; we intend to promise the people Induction Cookers and Neon Signs to put in each village announcing our party’s new policies.
Party B Boss: You will have to give them gensets too to run these on.
Truly, it is going to be a challenge to win the elections by average candidates in view of high-tech gizmos being offered to the common man by the “rich” parties. One party is even thinking of offering people downloadable video on ‘Exotic Recipes for the Common Man’.
The people’s goose is almost cooked.
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