Boorish Blah Blah
India That Is Bharat
Satiricus is puzzled. What is this BPL business? Being a journalist, and therefore illiterate and ignorant, he was surprised to learn that BPL means Below Poverty Line. In fact, he wondered…. Why should it not mean Below Prosperity Line? For in his considered opinion there can be no poverty line when there is no poverty. And has not our poverty been already abolished? If Satiricus remembers right, once upon a time, long, long ago (well, three-four decades back), Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had invented the magic mantra “Garibi Hatao”—and hey, presto! Garibi was hatao-ed. Well, almost. Perhaps some vestiges remained. So Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi improved upon the magic and brought out another slogan out of the magician’s hat—“Garibi Mitao”. That, of course, did the trick. Then what more is left to be done?
So, says Satiricus, all this boring blah-blah about poverty is so much tommyrot. For we Indians can now eat a pizza priced at 10,000 rupees, buy a purse for 30,000 rupees, wear a watch for 50,000, and buy a car for 6 crore rupees. We have/had ministers who had 300 telephone lines in their house—and even currently note—counting machines at home to calculate how much they “earned” per day. So Satiricus sees nothing wrong in our economist Prime Minister explaining to us ignoramuses that an aam aadmi earning 26 rupees per day is actually a khaas admi above prosperity line.
Unfortunately, there are men, women and even Congressmen who ridiculously assert that on 26 rupees a day (why, even on 32 rupees a day) they can neither eat a five-star pizza nor buy a five-thousand-star car. And, alas, among them, the unfair sex seems to be particularly vociferous in making this calumnious claim. For instance, Brinda Karat asks, “How many meals do you have to miss for the Planning Commission to consider you poor?” Tavleen Singh writes: “The Planning Commission proved that its smug, cloistered officials have never met a poor Indian; if they had they would have known that beggars and homeless people in Delhi and Mumbai need Rs. 100 a day just to survive; all of it goes on food.” Some women in a town in Maharashtra actually sent the Prime Minister a cheque for a few of hundred rupees for a full year calculated at 26 rupees for a day, and asked him to see if he could live on it. With a slight variation the MP unit of BJP sent a demand draft for Rs. 32 each to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, asking them to show how to live for a day on that amount. And finally the unkindest cut—there are as many as three Congress leaders whom a flabbergasted Satiricus would ask, “thou too, Brutus?” They are a central minister, a chief minister, and the party spokesman himself, and they have publicly put a question mark on the Planning Commission’s fabulous figures.
All these nefarious nay-sayers’ nonsense needs to be corrected by sensible Satiricus. Take Brinda Karat. She asks how many meals should a person miss to qualify as a poor person. The answer is simple: Not many—in fact, none. For how can a person miss a meal if there is no meal to miss? As for Tavleen Singh’s observation that the Planning Commissioners have never met a poor person, the reason is simple—they don’t move in the same circle. So naturally they don’t run into each other at some party in some five-star hotel. As for those small-town housewives who sent that cheque to the PM, Satiricus must firmly tell them that they cannot be so boorish as to complain of food shortage when they can feast on ample food for thought. And as for BJP’s caustic query, the PM has already pointed out that the business of the opposition is to oppose, so that taunt or tantrum can be ignored. But what about those three Congress leaders who have said they think the figures are not right,—and one of them the spokesman of the party, the Christ’s sake! They think! Who told them to think? The Congress party spokesman’s job is to speak, not to think. The thinking is the sole prerogative of the secular gods who live on Mt. Olympus a.k.a. 10, Janpath.