Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bribing for votes!

My mixer had  been giving me trouble for over a week and two days ago it finally conked out on me while I was trying to grind chutney for our morning breakfast! Now, life without a mixer is not very easy in an Indian kitchen... so.. as they say in India " What to do?"

While I had almost made up my mind to buy a new mixer, I suddenly remembered where I was - I was in Tamil land - the land where policiticians are now running the race on who can promise the maximum number of consumer durables to win votes! Mixers and grinders figured in both the opposing parties manifestos. So the question of buying a mixie is strategically not right considering that I might just get a free one if I can manage to get the relevant documents ( the ration card folks ?)  right!!!

I looked up the list of goodies promised and here folks it is - mixer, grinder, refridgerators, washing machine and electric fans!! WOW...! In addition there were lap tops for all the high school kids.. Women who were to be married would get a plot of land and some gold.. Just imagine- you can get married, get some land, get appliances to set up your home.. where else would you find this? The previous election in this state had been a trend setter in the sense that the current government had promised TVs for the poor. However what actually happened was that every body ( and I mean everybody!) had options to get a free TV when it finally came to power... I have colleagues who say that they were forced to take a TV set by the party workers..! I see villages when I go for work where small huts boast of two TVs- one operational and another gathering dust in a corner - " Nobody is willing to buy it off us since everyone has one" says Tamil arasi one of the  centre coordinators in a village where we have adult learning centres.

It is amazing how the situation has come to this...! I can imagine parties trying to please various lobbies by declaring lower power tariffs, better roads, transportation etc but this is the pits! They are now promising creation of individual assets in the form of consumer durables..! So these are in effect nothing but BRIBES that will be paid once the vote is cast!

I am shocked that the DMK party thinks that providing laptops would improve the quality of a child's education.. There is an all India survey done by an NGO called Pratham which rates the quality of school education across Indian states and beleive me folks Tamil Nadu with its high enrollment ratio ranks nowhere near the top. So why not invest in good teachers and better a educational system that produces kids who would actually learn something and teachers would want to teach? Why lap tops? How will they help?  Recently there was an ally of the DMK party who was quoted in a newspaper as saying  " The AIADMK is promsing you goats and cows while we are promising your children laptops so that they can get good jobs!!". Ofcourse not to say that the AIADMK is in anyway better- there are just not enough cattle to distribute to the people who need them...!

With regard to the consumer items- the question that should be asked is about the power situation. A refridgerator consumes quite a bit of electricity- Who will pay the bill ?  " Oh the government will ensure that there will be powercuts every alternate day" jokes one of my friends  What about water to run a washing machine? As far as I know most villages do not have running water that comes in all through the day. So how are people going to use these washing machines? Mixers and grinders again require power and are going to shoot up the electricity bills ..

With only about two weeks to go for the Tamilnadu elections, the situation is rather tense. In the smaller towns ATMs are not working - a precaution taken to prevent transfer of cash to the voters. NGOs are not being allowed to hold group meetins of their micro finance self help groups for fear that this would be one channel to transfer money to people. But the Election commission I guess is flummoxed with the announcements about these consumer items on  party manifestos!

However the saddest part of all this is that whether we get a mixer, grinder or a fridge is not the question- what we would get is a government that is going to be as bad as before! There are going to be huge scams and corruption while the state budget would continue to use the revenue generated from its liquor sales to keep the voter sated through these freebies. Some government officers might make some money on tenders given to private companies for large scale  procurement of  mixies, fridges, lap tops etc .

Ever wondered what is going to happen to the average person in Tamil Nadu? A person who is going to get various consumer items just like that is not going to be inclined to work and enjoy the fruits of labour. This person would end up being a whiny and lazy man/ woman whose basic needs and some luxuries would be met through populist welfare schemes and then there is going to be reverse trend on development with increasing immigrants from other states coming in to reap the economic benefits... Crime rate is also going to go up and finally the TV numbed mind has to by force bring itself out to wonder whatever happened ..!

But by then it would be time another election and at that time who knows? We may be promised Cars... (never mind the fuel shortage). It is afterall a democracy folks- we get what we vote and what we vote is what we deserve.. So enjoy youselves with all the gadgets while I try to wrangle for myself that mixie...!


14 comments:

KParthasarathi said...

You have explained threadbare the ridiculous lengths to which the concept of freebies are taken.It is politically unethical,economically unsound and socially demeaning.There is a race with each political party outshining the other in the range of freebies offered.Frankly I wonder why not the EC or the apex court suo motu examine the issue for directions .Otherwise it would spread like a contagion to all parts of the country.

Christopher said...

This is a black comedy. A murder of democracy while the law of our land can't deal with it. While people realize the value of good education, health care etc., the attractions of household appliances can sway judgements. Where will they get the funds to live up to their promises? They will either bleed us through taxes or divert funds from long term development.

Great offerings for those getting married! I understand the incidence of bigamy is high in TN and this may give an added incentive to tie the knot again and again! Will brides and bridegrooms be part of the offerings in election manifestos? I will not be surprised.

I am sure this trend of offering freebies in election manifestos will catch on in other states too. Time the election commission woke up and took some proactive steps to ban such populist measures.

As usual, great post Meera. Keep writing.

IRFANUDDIN said...

i think one should vote for the Governance and not for the things as you mentioned.... as long as we keep voting to get these things....... things are not going to change...

we may a get a mixer grinder or a refrigerator but we may not get electricity for it...we may get a Car but from where the road will come.???

Meera Sundararajan said...

Thanks for the comments...! I would however like to make a small correction- apparently there is a way out- we can ask for Form O at our polling booth after giving our voter ID. The form O is for people who do not want to vote for any candidate because they feel that all of them are worthless!

KParthasarathi said...

Meera,the form O is only to show our disinterest and may be disgust in the candidates chosen to fight but is actually an exercise in futility.Except ensuring that someone does not cast a vote against your name, it is actually a wasted opportunity.Even if 100 voters cast their votes one of the candidates would be declared the winner.One option would be to choose the better of the candidates ,not on political affiliations, but on the goodness of the candidate.If many do like this who knows what the outcome would be.

cloud nine said...

Dear Meera, that was a nice post. Whatever, these politicians are bringing up a generation of worthless people, they are polluting the rural poor with such unwanted gadgets. They could instead bring down the price of milk, grains. pulses and cooking oil. Parties vie with each other to give 35 kgs rice free per month. But are we supposed to cook it with water and drink as porridge? What about the other commodities? Sickening!

Ibhade said...

wow! are you sure nigeria & indian are not related?...same utter rubbish is going on here with the election coming up next week! biscuits, yards of anakara materials, bags of rice are already branded, we are waiting to see ground nut oil also!..hahahaha...i totally agree with the form O!!

p.s...funny enough, i wrote similar post few hours ago after returning from church today.

Meera Sundararajan said...

Ibahade wherever there are poor people there is a tendency for the politicians to exploit! But atleast in Niegeria it is food- here it is these electronic appliances ( probably because we are slightly ahead in the trajectory of "development"). But sure the principle is the same- bribery! I found out that there is a political party who is assuring door delivery of groceries :-) What next? "Keep your mouths open and we will pop in the food?"

Yeah Christopher it is a black comedy indeed! Bigamy is still being practiced despite being declared illegal among all but muslims? We have a cheif minister who proudly takes along two women ( not sure if they appear together with him) for official functions..! Sure why should people not use the opportunity to get married again and again! I am not sure if it is the taxes that are going to support- the TASMAC liquor sales are apparently giving the government lot of money- besides I think some of it will come from party funds too ( after all what will they do with all the Spectrum scam money?).

Partha - I am very disillusioned- how do we decide who is the better of the candidates? As a middle class working person belonging to the FC group none of these dravidian parties are going to do anything for me..! And neither are they going to do anything for the really poor dalits living in the interiors of this state!

Bikramjit said...

Well this is our politcial scenario.. I am wondering when i return to india and set my home I will make sure its during election time that way I can ask for one thing of the other for MY VOTE :) what say freeeeeeeeeeeee

Bikram's

Velvet Over Steel said...

Wow, I had little knowledge of this. Very interesting stuff you write about. Thank you for visiting so I could also find you! I love your bio and I am 'emotional' and passionate about writing, for the same reasons I believe too! :-) So glad to follow you! I'm off to read and learn more! Have a wonderful week my new friend!!
Hugs,
Coreen xoxo

Emmy said...

wow. I am speechless that they would go to this extent to get votes

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Bikram you are right - you should come to India during elections. Who knows in Punjab you may get tractors :-) ? Coreen thanks for dropping in to my blog. I like your stuff too..! Let us stay connected.
And finally Emmy, please add this to your bucket list "enjoy the drama of an Indian election with the promises and breach of promises

kamalika said...

A NICEthought provoking blog. but i think the root cause of all these lies i think our disparity of income and wealth spread.
Here long term plans wer not fetching votes.so ther should b some thing to glitter.if we wanna bring some change.. ...(CAN WE??)

simple girl..... said...

Woa.. promising to ensure votes.. how disgusting these people can get....

Post a Comment

 
;