Joydeep Ghosh: Robert Vadra is the least of our problems

http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/joydeep-ghosh-robert-vadra-isleastour-problems/190936/on

Due apologies to Arvind Kejriwal. But another scam does not really surprise anyone. One is even a tad disappointed with the revelations and bandwidth that is being given to Robert Vadra’s so-called largesse.

Yes, for a party which has political ambitions, it might be a great move. Attack the highest echelons of Congress. Put them on the defensive. Make them squirm. Tomorrow, India Against Corruption might attack BJP and achieve the same result. But is it a strong enough platform to win elections?

A leading fund manager, a Kejriwal fan, argues that IAC’s presence would keep other parties honest. His vote goes to Kejriwal because he believes that the political system has too many similar people and IAC will be the balancing act. “Whether it is Congress or BJP, they will criticise each other but when in power, they do the same thing,” he believes.

There will be many like him – the educated class – who are happy that someone at least is giving these politicians sleepless nights. This is an important vote bank of the urban or semi-urban India which has refrained from voting for years. So IAC’s methods, besides rattling political parties, are already paying dividends, in terms of attracting the urban vote bank.

The real problems, though, lie elsewhere.

We allocate thousands of crores in developmental programmes, but it never reaches the poor. By the admission of our own finance minister, just 25-30 per cent of money (announcement in Union Budgets) actually reaches the end user. The rest simply disappears during the transmission process.

  • Our public distribution system just sucks. Food grains, almost 20 million tonne, get wasted in FCI warehouses or are left to rot. If properly used or stored, it can feed thousands, if not millions. The government, despite being under fire from courts, has chosen to let the grains rot rather than distribute it free to the poor.
  • Builders are inflating property under the guise of low supply of land. No wonder, even the upper middle class has to give an arm and a leg to buy a one-bedroom hall kitchen in the metros. The poor don’t even have access to that. They sleep on pavements in cities where some rich and drunk car driver mauls them, or taxi drivers or criminals try to molest the women. They are safer in villages but have no means of livelihood.
  • People don’t go to courts because it takes years, even decades to resolve any case. Mr Prashant Bhusan knows exactly how big this queue to get justice is.
  • Parents are afraid to see their children growing up because the cost of education, without even getting its quality (institutions such as the IITs and IIMs being the exceptions), is doubling and trebling in every few years. Most times, it is impossible to plan for the child even a good 20 years in advance.

These are only a few problems.

Many of these issues can be tackled by a strong bureaucracy. Even if bureaucrats are under pressure from politicians, they are not exactly helpless. They often contribute to crimes. Taking them head on will change things at the ground level.

Whether Robert Vadra benefitted from DLF will matter little, if the farmers/owners of the land were paid Rs 5 crore per acre instead of Rs 20 lakh.

The idea, of hitting political parties and their kin will hurt the most when people at the ground level benefit from such exposures – a PIL forcing the beneficiaries to pay Rs 5 crore (even part of it) to land owners will give them and their children a better house, food, clothes, education – all these will make them wiser in the future. They might even vote for him.

Otherwise, it will just be another mud-slinging match – one in which the politicians have more experience than Mr Kejriwal.

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