Dinner @ Rs 7,721, last supper on the edge of the precipice
By Shankkar Aiyar
30th September 2012History, they say, repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce. In India's political economy, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish the tragedy from farce. Last Friday, the Prime Minister told the nation that money doesn't grow on trees. This Saturday, the nation woke up to a new chapter in Manmohanomics. The country has been informed—thanks to an RTI query by Hissar-based Ramesh Verma—that the government spent Rs 28.95 lakh on the third anniversary celebrations of UPA II.
In a country where anyone earning Rs 22 per day (in rural India) is ineligible to be poor, the government spent Rs 7,721 per person on a dinner. By its own calculation that amount would have paid for a family's annual consumption of cooking gas. The Prime Minister also said that the UPA has "been voted to office twice to protect the interests of the aam aadmi" but that didn't stop the splurging of Rs 14 lakh on just the tent for the event. Isn't it incumbent on a government that caps the number of cylinders per family—ostensibly to bring down subsidies and deficit —to observe a cap on what is a justifiable level of expenditure! Indeed, in keeping with the government's inability to budget expenditure, of the 603 invited to the event, only 375 came.The question that begs to be asked is not what the UPA II was celebrating but whether the UPA can choose to celebrate given the state of the economy. The question being asked is how did the economy reach where it has and who will be held accountable for this mess.