A gang of Union Cabinet ministers protested against the suggested austerity drive of the Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee during a meeting of the Union Cabinet on Sep 10, 2009.
Some of the reasons given by our venerable ministers were:
Sharad Pawar said that ministers can work better on flights if traveling in comfort
Work better? When did they start working better? What they do not do in 5 years, do they expect to do in a 2-3 hours or even a 10 -12 hour flight?
He went on to add that one of the “hazards” of flying in the economy was the prospect of being intruded upon by other passengers.
Wow! But aren’t they supposed to interact with people? And what better place than the economy class of the airplane? Or is it that since farmers generally do not fly, the agriculture minister with Prime Ministerial ambitions would not like to interact with the middle class?
He even suggested that such a situation (read intruding passengers and space constraint) is not conducive to dealing with files.
Again, do our ministers read files only on planes? No wonder not many files get cleared? And pray what kind of files? Are they supposed to be taken around in public? What happens to confidentiality, security and other such concerns?
Cabinet Ministers Question Austerity Measures
According to the Times of India, some other ministers – from smaller UPA constituents – questioned the utility of token or impractical austerity in the era of liberalization. If someone can afford to fly club class, why not, asked a minister. Some even called the suggestion as “stupid”.
And they ask for votes in the name of Mahatma Gandhi
I must say hats off to the man. Or was it a woman? Our politicians wear khadi, call Mahatma Gandhi the father of the nation, ask for votes in his name and then ask such questions. Only yesterday I was reading that the US president Barack Obama told a school girl that Mahatma Gandhi was his idol and given an opportunity, he would like to have dinner with him. And our politicians do no learn anything from the man who is revered the world over. Those who know the history of Mahatma Gandhi, would know that just as these gentlemen can afford club class on the back of the taxes paid by the labouring class of this country, Mahatma Gandhi too could afford to wear more than a loin cloth. Yet he chose not to because he was a LEADER. How much money did he save himself, his people and his country by making the “token” sacrifice of full clothing? In absolute terms I would think it was zilch. But in terms of building the nation and taking the people along with him it was too large a value to be counted by anyone.
There is another story about late Lal Bahadur Shastri when he instructed his family members to skip one dinner every Monday not because it would have saved money for him, his family or his country (and after all how much) but simply because it would have allowed some other unfortunate souls to have at least one good meal. And if everyone who could afford did that, you would then be able to feed hundreds of thousands of hungry countrymen.
So my dear cabinet ministers, the idea is not to save money, but to lead by example. Azim Premji can afford to buy a plane for himself, leave alone travel club class but again he is leading by example. Start doing that and your countrymen will respect you.
And the biggest benefit will be that every 5 years or less you will not have to go to the same intruding people with folded hands for votes.