By Prof. H.C.Pande
Rousseau, over two hundred years ago, had opined that education does not make a man good but only makes him clever, usually for mischief. The proof, if at all needed, is the Aam Admi Party (AAP).
Of all the political parties of any consequence, AAP stands out as the one with most members well educated and well informed. Yet, in a rather short span of its existence, it has beaten the inveterate political stalwarts by the proverbial mile, when it comes to gimmickry, deceits, duplicity and U-turns.
Its leaders rode to power claiming to correct all that was wrong, and that AAP would die fighting for the rights of the people of Delhi. But now, everything has gone wrong. The people of Delhi are dying, gasping for oxygen, because of AAP.
To begin with, the freebies provided by the AAP government, for what is a largely middle-class population, were unnecessary, unjust and unwise. With the mean income of a Delhi citizen being way above the national average, free bus and metro rides for women, waiving of water and electricity bills made only political sense but complete economic nonsense.
These free rides, in fact, amount to all of Delhi being taken for a ride because subsidy here means a cut in the development expenditure somewhere else. This free, free theory is the freeway to a free fall. Worse still is the defence of these measures on the grounds that it is only people's money being returned to them. Well, all taxes are people's money on which the government machinery runs, providing services and security. Can you return all taxes, and let the people manage for themselves?
The state of Delhi is, in fact, a glorified municipal corporation but the ego of the ruling party knows no bounds. The much-propounded Delhi model hides the fact that Delhi is a sprawling metropolis with non-existent rural areas, and the urbanized population sustains itself on the establishments of the central government. Job creation or business development is no issue as the central government employees themselves are in substantial numbers and their day to day needs alone provide a whole range of business opportunities.
Delhi is not burdened with the biggest headache of any state government, that of creating employment. The pseudo-state has to, primarily, manage community services e.g., water & power supply, sanitation, transport, schools and hospitals. With the presence of several centrally funded institutions of higher education, and research, like Delhi University, JNU, IIT, AIIMS, NPL, SSPL, ICAR, DRDO etc. to name a few, administering Delhi is a cake-walk. The whole set-up, the instrument so to say, is already in hand, and with just a little tuning, here and there, melodious music would gush forth.
But look at what has AAP done! By default, or by design, some strings have been broken and some loosened. The cacophony now, is deafening. The freebies have shattered its financial health, and arousing popular sentiment on hard issues has encouraged indiscipline. In turn, it has slackened the administrative grip.
The current Covid disaster is a clear but heart-breaking example of the reality of the 'free lunch' practice. The first wave of the epidemic was a fore-warning as to what could follow, and there was enough time to upgrade hospitals, add medical equipment, increase bed capacity and spruce up hospital services.
Knowing that medical oxygen availability was critical for treatment, oxygen plants for Delhi hospitals could have been set up. Now, in this hour of dire need, having emptied the state coffers on subsidies and hundreds of crores spent regularly on costly advertisements for publicity of just one person, the state government is seeking financial support to do so.
Apparently, the state financial resources were spent more with a view to facilitate the buildup of AAP than to build facilities for the people of this sprawling metropolis .There can be no possible excuse for the spate of advertisements, round the year, in excess of 500 crores of rupees, when every rupee is needed to fight the pandemic but it seems that ,for Arvind Kejriwal , his own image enhancement and that of his party, has priority over, much needed, but tough ,groundwork.
The general disregard by the Delhi citizens for the pandemic guidelines, which largely contributed to the spread of corona, has been nourished by the way the state government has been encouraging just any agitation, whether concerning Delhi or not, to build up its image.
Be it the removal of encroachment over railway property, CAA, NRC or Farm bills, AAP is there to stoke the fires totally ignoring the grave inconvenience being caused to the Delhi citizen at large.
AAP has exploited the natural human weakness that of men, I quote, 'easily believing in Utopias particularly when someone is heard denouncing the evils now existing'.
A populist government in a developing country would always fail to address the basic issues and AAP is no exception. The situation for the Delhi citizens is indeed grim, but, invited by those, they have elected.
The free lunches were great and now comes the pay-off.
(Prof. H.C.Pande is Vice Chancellor Emeritus , BITS, Mesra)