Poverty is a terrible thing. There are few things as demeaning to a human being as not having the means to fulfil his basic needs in life.
India is one of the poverty havens of the world. We have all heard of India’s teeming millions, probably since childhood. While one could blame the British for all our mistakes pre-1947, it has been almost 67 years since they left. We are still one of the poorest nations on earth. Many countries in Asia, which started with similar poverty levels in the 1940s, have progressed faster — some of them dramatically. We, however, remain poor.
The continuance of poverty is particularly surprising because there are so many smart and powerful people who claim to be representing the poor. Politicians, academics, poverty economists, NGOs — there are so many people trying to help the poor. It is baffling, then, why we can’t seem to get rid of poverty. Our public debates are virtually controlled by left-leaning intellectuals, who are some of the most pro-poor people on earth. And yet, they seem to be get-ting nowhere.
Well, they won’t. Because while they may be experts on the poor and their suffering, they have little idea about the one thing that eventually removes poverty — money. Yes, it is over-simplistic, but it is perplexing how little our top thinkers and debate-controllers know about wealth creation, true economic empowerment, productivity and competitiveness. For, if they did, they would not support one of the most hare-brained schemes to have ever come out of our illusionist politicians` hat — the food security Bill.
It is a tough Bill to write against. The fashionably left, almost communist, intellectual mafia will almost kill you. The subject is sensitive. You may argue that the numbers just don’t add up — that we will ruin our already fragile economy further if we do this. The retort will be ‘at least a poor mother will see her child sleep peace-fully at night on a full stomach’.
Try arguing with that! You may see financial ruin for the nation, but how will your data-filled presentation ever compete with the picture of a malnourished hungry child in an Indian village. You can’t. I submit all economics, basic arithmetic, common sense, rationality, practicality fails when someone confronts you with ‘so basically you don’t want to help the poor, right?’
Nobody does not want to help the poor. Nevertheless, after being labelled anti-poor, you will be labelled an MNC-favouring, FDI-obsessed capitalist. Stay long enough; you will be branded right-wing, perhaps with a ‘communalist’ slur added too. Welcome to India where one doesn’t debate on reason. We debate on emotions, moral one-upmanship and attacking the debater rather than the argument.
Therefore, like any sane, self-preserving individual, i’d say my official line on the un-opposable Bill is this: Bring on the food security Bill. In fact, i propose a better Bill. Why just two-thirds of India, let’s extend free grains to the entire country. Moreover, why not some vegetables and fruit too? And don’t poor kids deserve fresh milk? We should provide that too. If the debate is going to be won by the guy with the noblest intention, then i am going to make sure i am the one.
Every Indian family must get grain, fruit, vegetables, milk and whatever else it takes to have a healthy balanced diet. It should be free. There, am i not the good guy now?
When irritating questions pop up in my head on who will pay for it, or how will so many commodities be secured, or how will the already debt-ridden government finances look after this, i will tell my mind to shut up. I’ll avoid looking at the astronomical bill (lakhs of crores over just the next few years). If i feel this money could be used to transform rural education, irrigation or road networks, which would make our poor empowered, employable and richer, i will scold myself for thinking with my brain.
It is not important to remove poverty. It is only important to come across as a person who cares for poor people. And i do, more than you. That is why my Bill has fruit and vegetables. Does yours? So what if our fiscal deficit swells, the rating agencies downgrade us to junk credit and foreign investors stop investing in our country? We don’t need them. They are all our enemies anyway.
The government will not spend on productive assets, we’ll scare the foreigners away and we will never have good infrastructure, schools or hospitals. So what? At least we care for poor people. We`ll keep caring for poor people until our money totally runs out, the nation gets bankrupt, inflation is out of control and there are no more jobs.
Of course, that means far more people will be poorer than from where we started. But isn’t that a good thing? After all, it gives us a chance to care for even more people. So, bring on my Food, Fruits, Vegetables and Milk Security Bill. Did i miss something in that? Oh yes, nuts. We do need nuts. Some nuts for all Indians, please. You know the kind of nuts i am talking about, right?