Speaking My Mind
POVERTY AS DIVERSE AS UPA's VOICES
That every other day the Congress Party has to declare that it "disassociates" itself from what its official party spokesman said during an official briefing and interaction with media explains that the party has fallen short of talent for the purpose. Sometimes it has to declare that it was not the party position but the "individual or personal views" of the official spokesperson of the Party.
The latest was the gaffe the party spokespersons very eruditely said about the cost at which one can have a hearty fulsome nutritious meal. One said it could have had at `5 in Delhi, the other said it could be had at `12 in Mumbai. The Union Minister Farooq Abdullah who had chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir for pretty long went much further. He said one could fill one's stomach with just `1. All these statements and claims were not just ridiculous but these also went to ridicule the poverty and poor people of the country whom Congress claims to be the nearest to its heart. The redeeming feature was that all of them withdrew their words.
TRYING TO PLEASE ALL
It is also a great ploy too. By saying one thing our politicians please one section of society and by later withdrawing or explaining the same, they try to soothe the tempers that may have been ruffled with such words. It acts as a double-edged weapon.
I am reminded of an incident narrated to me by a friend from Punjab. Decades back there was a political tussle between the then Punjab chief minister Partap Singh Kairon and his home Minister (who later became a chief minister himself) Darbara Singh. A signature campaign was launched by the two groups against each other. One MLA Chaudhary Sunder Singh was very close to Darbara Singh but the latter came to know that the former had signed a petition against him. After a day or two when Chaudhary Sunder Singh came to Darbara Singh's room instantly Darbara Singh burst out at him for having signed a petition against him. Very calmly Sunder Singh said: Why are you shouting at me like that? Calm down. I have signed in your favour too.
That exactly is the same the Congress Party seems to be doing. First it allows its spokespersons to say something and later disassociates from it to soothen the frayed tempers of others.
DIVERSITY OF VOICES ON POVERTY
Since Congress-led UPA came to power in the country, there has never been one voice on what constitutes the population that lives below the poverty line. It has failed, so far, to come out with a specific income or expenditure criteria that divides the below and above poverty line, even in the Supreme Court of India. One government committee reports that more than 65 percent of India's population does not spend more than ` 25 per person per day. Only on July 23, 2013 the Planning Commission disclosed that Poverty in India declined to a record 22% in 2011-12
"Over the last decade, poverty has witnessed a consistent decline with the levels dropping from 37.2% in 2004-05 to 29.8% in 2009-10. The number of poor is now estimated at 269.3 million, of which 216.5 million reside in rural India" stated the Commission.
It is worth noting that Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, is the Chairman and his close confidant Montek Singh Ahluwalia the Vice-Chairman of the Planning Commission. Yet, Manmohan Singh's own Law & Communitions and IT Minister Kapil Sibal has challenged the method used by the Planning Commission to calculate poverty. "If the Planning Commission said those who live above ` 5,000 a month are not at poverty line, obviously there is something wrong with the definition of poverty in this country. How can anybody live at `5,000?" Sibal asked.
On the Congress Party side too, there are diverse voices. The Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh, otherwise considered close both to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice-President Rahul Gandh, tweeted on July 27, "I have always failed to understand the Planning Commission's criteria for fixing the poverty line. It is too abstract. It can't be same for all areas". (http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/kapil-sibal-digvijaya-singh-planning-commission-poverty-line-criteria/1/296623.html)
It is time the UPA government and the Congress put their house in order, have an open discussion between themselves and come to a uniform and one voice on the issue. Otherwise, it will end up being a laughing stock of the nation and hurting the sentiments of the poor.