The misled, misinformed middle class - Good one by ET
I’ll start with the last one first, as it’s the easiest and the more ridiculous of the two. Firstly, these conspiracy theorists must ask themselves these questions: Who had the guts to expose Robert Vadera? It is an accepted reality that everyone (including those in the media and the BJP veterans in Delhi) knew about Mr. Vadera’s dealings but no one but Arvind Kejriwal had the wherewithal to stand up to the high and mighty, and put everything at risk to bring to light serious charges of corruption. Besides, the ministers of the UPA government, most of whom were from the Congress, was also exposed by the then Team Anna. Would the B-team of the Congress strike at the very heart of the Congress? It just does not make sense whatsoever.
Next, let’s look at the subsidy question. The total electricity subsidy announced by the AAP when in power in Delhi works out to about Rs. 242 crores out of a total Rs. 40,000 crores annual Delhi budget. It is arguable that any sort of subsidy is questionable because ultimately it is funded by the taxpayer’s money. But a little bit of research will reveal that while there are visible subsidies like the one announced by the former AAP government in Delhi, there are other camouflaged subsidies that quietly pass unnoticed.
Take the case of the Delhi Golf club (DGC) which is situated in the heart of Delhi on 179 acres of prime land provided on lease by the Central Government. In 2012, the lease period was extended till 2050, when DGC had requested to increase their lease to a fifty years term starting from 2021! The current lease will expire in 2020. It came to light that the land roughly valued at Rs.46,722 crores had been leased out to DGC for a paltry sum of Rs.5.82 lakh per annum through 2050! In other words, the government is financing the DGC with a more than generous gift. Not surprisingly, the DGC has on its board of directors a host of central government nominees.
Despite all this, can you compare the amount of media coverage on the DGC issue to the endless, hairsplitting op-ed pieces from so-called pundits over the 242 crore subsidy of the AAP government? Unfortunately, the fact that the benefits extended to DGC serves an exclusive “rich man’s club” while the electricity subsidy that benefits 28 lakhs of the 34 lakhs power consumers does not seem to factor anywhere in the equation.
One could argue that both are subsidies and two wrongs don’t make a right. Fair enough. But when subsidies are on the chopping block, every single one of them that qualifies as a subsidy must be open to debate. Unfortunately, India’s governance and politics has deteriorated to such an extent that those with connections in high places like the DGC routinely walk away with sweet deals spread over decades, while the aam aadmi is left to fend for himself.
To be fair, some members of the opposition did raise the issue about the DGC but nothing ever came out of it. It is more than likely that the opposition wanted a piece of the action as much as those in power and were never serious about completely fixing the core issue. In other words, had they been in power, they would have more than likely done the exact same thing and extracted their own share of benefits. The DGC is not a new invention and has been around for decades. It has survived the patronage and support of various governments at the center.
The truth is that no government ever thought of this as a gross injustice despite the fact that people were struggling even for basic amenities like clean, uninterrupted water and power supply, shelter, and women’s security. Not many kilometers away from where the DGC is located, you have people dying in the cold each winter. On the one hand, you have Aam Aadmis who are struggling without even the basic “lifeline“ water and electricity. On the other, you have Khaas Aadmis enjoying golf on a tax payer subsidy. If you are one of those out there complaining about the AAP's subsidies, then you need a serious reality check.
The DGC issue is just one example. Look around the country at each golf course (for starters!) and you can be sure to find similar buried subsidies for the rich and famous. The middle class needs to think beyond the anti-AAP rhetoric in the media. Their initial support for the AAP was not misplaced. All they need to do is look beyond the headlines and it will be obvious that there has been no greater champion for their cause than the AAP. Don’t succumb to the Law of the Middle Class (See Law #9). more