Rising Costs, Rising Tempers

The common man’s faith in the government stands shaken just months after UPA-2 was elected as the ruling coalition. I almost choked on my coffee the morning the newspapers announced revised bus fares. It was almost like revisiting the multiplication tables of 5. No sight of prime numbers at all! My daily cost of transportation was going to be quadrupled. I had not even finished lamenting about the changes to my mother when the maid scrambled in, fresh and wilted from her previous shift which was at a place five kilometers from our place. Soon this ride was going to cost her ten bucks instead of the previous five. From her anxious bearing all the while she worked, I assumed she already knew about the astounding new fares. But then, it was even more likely, that she could have been worrying about what to put on the table for her family of six that evening, given the price of the modest dal had skyrocketed to almost touch a perfect cent. My heart burned and tempers rose at the plight of the daily wage earners working at the hotel site near my house who are miserably unaware of their right to seek travel expenses from their contractors. Ten of them in a family take a bus to and from their shanty. Any red-blooded human being’s head would reel at the double dose of exploitation they have to face.

Closer to the middle class, people are still caught in the confusion over inflated electricity bills. Vegetables that were humble are acting pricey as news of rotting surplus of crops and pulses feature as sting operation specials on front-page news. The world wonders how a certain Chief Minister saw an unimaginable increase in his personal assets within years that can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Another MP is accused of laundering money in the safeguards of six hundred phony business establishments. The vigour with which the leaders rallied behind the Swiss Bank to fish out information of the Indian black money stashed away to the tune of crores in its lockers seems to have run out of adrenaline. Why not? With the election season long gone, the quiescent stage of stagnant corruption enquiries and quiet active palm greasing is back. On a certain level, the Judges’ Assets Case, even though justified, seemed to be a big cover-up of bigger scandals in the background. Austerity measures by the top ranks of leadership is only likely to bring in more expenses in security measures for them as a top leader traveling ‘austerely’ with the common crowd props up serious chances of vandalism (remember Rahul Gandhi’s train ride). Even the original Gandhi’s (the Mahatma) insistence on traveling third class led to more expenses than would have been incurred had he travelled first class. Security reasons made it imperative for a whole third class compartment to be booked for him, complete with state of the art protection.

The prices of everything from grain to fuel have hit the skies. When the constitution makers of India deemed the Directive Principles as Welfare State measures not enforceable by law, refusing them the same status as Fundamental Rights, I am sure the morale was that the drained Indian State, fresh from the anaemic effects of a long British rule, cannot make tall promises in a country with a burgeoning population. More than sixty years down the lane, India still remains ‘poor’. We might have fended off the ‘Hindu’ growth rate but the effects have filtered off the poor from the benefits. Today we have enough money to stash away in tax havens, and yet the Welfare State has failed to kick in to its full potential.