By J P Rajkhowa
Social Networking Sites (SNS) such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Linked-In etc. have started playing an important role in building up public opinion, on live issues, whether it concerns election campaigning as resorted to by the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate rendra Modi, or in mobilizing thousands of protesters, to the heart of Cairo, in what was called the beginning of the ‘Arab Spring’, or in mobilizing tens of thousands of people to protest against the Delhi gang- rape in the ‘Nirbhaya’ case. In recent times, WhatsApp has become extremely popular with millions of Indians, with thousands of WhatsApp groups being formed by families, peers and friends for sharing information, thoughts, jokes, wishes on birthdays, wedding anniversaries, foundation day celebration, marriage celebration, social / cultural / political / alumni meets and what not . It’s indeed interesting to see a joke shared in WhatsApp, in which it has been compared with a ‘diaper’- you have to check it often, whether it has anything in it or not. The same simile is applicable in the case of other SMS as well, to a certain extent, but not as frequently as WhatsApp, which one may see, very fast just by clicking on or touching the icon, on the smart phone.
I would like to share a few interesting and important information, received as WhatsApp message, which shows how ‘Incredible’ our India is- a logo, the Government has been striving hard to use, in order to make India a hotspot for attracting ‘foreign tourists’! One attractive centre of ‘tourists’ attraction’ could be the 400,000 sq. ft. palace of the industrial tycoon and the richest Indian, Mukesh Ambani, in the country’s fincial capital, Mumbai. According to the message dated 29 January 2015, Mukesh Ambani’s dream house has the following features:-
Construction time- 07 years, construction cost- Rs.4700/- Crore, floors- 27, lifts-09, helipads on the roof- 03, theatre hall – 01, gymsium- 01, park- 01, car parking space- 168 cars, rooms- 600, domestic help / servants- 600. It is also stated that, the first month’s electricity bill amounted to Rs. 71 lacs. Interestingly, Mukesh Ambani has five family members, including himself, his wife and three children. This is ‘Incredible India’! It has world’s largest richest single family house. A poor country of rich people (Amir logon ke garib desh)- Hamara Bharat mahaan (Our India is great).
The WhatsApp message also describes India as a country where ‘pizza’ reaches your home faster than the ambulance does; where car loan carries an interest of 7 per cent, as against 12 per cent interest on education loan; a country where people offer prayer to goddess Durga and the girl child is done to death before birth; where rice costs Rs.40/- per kg. and SIM card is provided free (free WIFI in Delhi provided by AAP government?), where Rs.3 crore is given to a Olympic shooter for winning a gold medal and the other shooter who fights the enemy at the borders and becomes a ‘Shaheed’ is given only Rs.1 lac. India is really great! The message ends with an appeal- ‘’forward this message to as many as you can, so that, it even reaches our Prime Minister to read’’.
That, in Incredible India, which is dedicated to ‘democracy’ –people’s government, actually, it’s the political class which reaps all major benefits, unheard of in western democracies, because of which, it would be appropriate to re-define ‘democracy’. The most popular definition of ‘democracy’ is the one given by the celebrated American President Abraham Lincoln, which terms it as “the government of the people, by the people and for the people”. In our Incredible India, things have come to such a pass during past decades of our Independence, that, we may define our democracy, as the “government of the politician, by the politician and for the politician”. An example given in a SMS over WhatsApp by an un-med messenger and circulated to thousands, which enumerates the cost of food items paid for by the Members of Parliament (MPs), at the “Indian Parliament Canteen” are simply unbelievable by the ‘aam admi’, who are supposed to be represented by the MPs (Union Ministers included).
The fantastically low price of each item, kind of ‘freebies’ is not to be found anywhere else in Incredible India, except one place and the beneficiaries are ‘aam admi’ receiving tax-free emoluments of Rs.80,000/- per month, as the SMS says. Here are the surprise prices (all in rupees):- tea- 1.00, soup- 5.50, daal- 1.50, meals- 2.00, chapatti- 1.00, chicken- 24.50, dosa- 4.00, biryani- 8.00, fish- 13.00. “Mind it all these items are for poor people only and are available in Indian Parliament Canteen”!
This reminds me of the claim by one Minister of Assam, who said to the media, that cooked rice, with vegetables, daal etc. was available in the State for Rs.2.50 per plate. Some people made a caricature of the Minister, showing a shop med after him, where vegetarian meal was advertised for sale at Rs.2.00 per plate. I also remember to have seen our Prime Minister Modiji, in one recently telecast reports, visiting the Parliament Canteen and having meal there, with some of his party MPs. The report however, did not mention about the amount paid by him for his meal. It is quite possible, that the humble and people friendly Prime Minister visited the Canteen, to persolly verify the quality of food items and the highly subsidized prices charged against each, perhaps with a grand idea!
Another SMS contests the granting of life-time pension to the MPs and MLAs even for serving in such capacity, just for a single term of five years, though a government servant is required to complete a minimum period of 33 years, in order to be eligible to receive full pension at 50 per cent of the last pay drawn. The government servants, including officers of the All India Services and Central Services, who served the Government for less than 33 years, are granted proportiote pension only. Moreover, a government servant, including the men and women serving the Military, has to complete a minimum service period of 10 years to be eligible to draw any pension, which obviously, would be a very paltry amount, if one has to compare with the life-term pension enjoyed by MPs & MLAs for serving only five year- term. If this is not gross injustice and waste of public money, then what is it? The SMS further questions why Short Service Commissioned Officers, who risk their life for term varying from 5 to 14 years get Zero retirement benefits, after they are decommissioned “while Politicians hold their political positions in the safe confines of the capital, protected by these same men and women, and receive Full-Pay on retirement after serving one term. Does it make any sense?”
These are only some facilities which the peoples’ representatives enjoy, while the people they represent bear the enormous cost involved, and also remain impoverished thereby. It is also a well- known, universal practice of the legislators, cutting across party lines, to approve for themselves hefty increase of salary, perks and allowances as proposed by the ruling government, irrespective of the cost the public have to bear for the same. Public interest demands that, before Prime Minister Modi insists on fincially capable LPG consumers to forego the subsidy and pay for the cylinders at market price, he should ask the MPs and MLAs to forego their pension for serving a single term only. Would he dare, questions the SMS over WhatsApp! We may now wait and watch how the Prime Minister would react on these key issues, raised by the commoner.