Austerity is the Way to Go!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Going austere is relative. When a rich man decides take a 10 minute walk to his nearby office for the next one month instead of using his air conditioned SUV, you gotta give it to him for going austere. A man who doesn’t have that SUV in the first place cannot belittle the pearls of sweat trickling down the rich man's forehead as he takes a walk down the road.

When a political party decides to launch a similar campaign after its heir apparent has successfully spent 5 years of his life toiling in villages of India (read U.P.), you gotta give it to them too. It is a nice innovative thought to go on an austerity drive and save some bucks that could go in re-innovating your offices or could probably give you a chance to wrap up whirlwind tours too. As for the cynics, whose lives may be fraught with the dangers of recessions, escalating prices and taxes, take a chill pill and watch the Babas and Babus of India's political destiny take control.

Before rolling out their Go austere drive, Congress was making uproar against the Dalit Messiah Mayawati for getting her statues erected with her trademark purse in her hands. They were ostensibly not opposed to Maya's statues but the idea of showing off the purse. The purse, it was reasoned was symbolic of the monumental wealth that some of the brethren of the political coommunity had amassed. That was offending and against the spirit of the austerity drive they were proposing. Mayawati cried foul saying that all the fuss was just because she was a Dalit ki beti and assured that the purse was symbolic of the rising economic power of the weaker sections of the society and not of the politicians in general.
Almost at the same time, the Congress government in Maharashtra, launched a mammoth 350 crore project to erect a mid-sea statue of the revered warrior Shivaji. They felt that naming almost everything including airports, train stations, museums and buildings didn't do justice to a great personality like Shivaji. To them, even the hard hit economy and the plight of farmers committing suicide was not enough so they decided to get into action with the project in the election year. It is said that the cost of the entire project (350 crore) is much less than what Maya is spending (650 crores) on her statues. After all that's what austerity is, 'relative' and not 'absolute'!

Not the one to fall far behind, the Haryana Government too went on a rampage flooding every possible media source with advertisements praising the Huda Government and the able leadership of the Congress high command. I think they had a premonition of the lurking austerity drive plans of the party so they splurged before going austere. That again, as per them, was not an unnecessary spending. Reading or watching the success of a state government is much better than watching a scantily clad model in a condom ad in a magazine or watching breaking news on Salman Khan's latest shirtless appearance in the balcony of his house in a news channel. Point taken and lesson learnt - Austerity is also about convinience!

After the enforcement of the drive, tt was brought to light that the Foreign Affairs Ministry was not towing the lines of the party. Mr. Shashi Tharoor and Mr. S.M.Krishna were paying for their personal accommodations of over 100 days in plush hotel suites that play hosts to foreign dignitaries like the US president and other state heads. The splurge, even though personal, was against the spirit of the move initiated by the Government so they were asked to vacate and move to less private and cheaper accommodations.
There's absolutely nothing wrong in footing your own bills but lets observe some stats. Tharoor's declared assets as per poll affidavits are worth 15 crore while S.M.Krishna's are worth 18 crores. The approximate cost per night of Tharoor's Taj suite could be Rs. 27,000 per night (I checked the website) while that of Krishna's suite could be much higher. Going by these rates (which may be slightly off the mark and also because rates could be negotiable), Tharoor had spent around Rs. 27,00,000 while Krishna a still larger portion of his personal assets in the 100 days they put up at these places. If all that is true, my suggestion to these guys would be to go on a training on financial planning rather than on an austerity drive. I hope they are adapting well to living like Spartans in Government provided guest houses. As if to rub salt to the wound, they were also asked to fly 'cattle class'.
It is well known that the line of defense adopted by both Krishna and Tharoor when quizzed by the Government was that since they were paying from their own pockets, it shouldn't really be bothering anyone. That gets me to the the third lesson learnt - collective sense of austerity is detached from personal show of affluence.

When voices were raised in cabinet meetings against the self imposed penance, it was announced that the misery would last for one year only. Even though there aren't too many takers for the idea despite it being time bound, they understand that there are some prices you have to pay for remaining in power. Have a look at the opposition parties. They are free to mock at those in power for self inflicted acts of austerity while they revel in the perks provided to them.


jaiswal said...

Very well written article. You can send it to Cyrus Broacha to read on 'The Week that wasnt' on CNN-IBN.

yui said...

Hi,I'm behind you!

arpita said...

I support mayawati on the purse bit. More than dalit empowerment, people have to understand, she is a woman. A purse is a personal statement. Secretly, if i were she, i would even have the brand logo inscribed, just to see that my message gets through in its entirety.

All in lighter vein.

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