This is to me, justifiably, a palpable anger at the turn of events following the "outright' bid and winning of Gandhiji's glasses, sandals, pocket watch, plate and a bowl, put up for auction by Sotheby's by US based collector named James Otis. Vijay Mallaya bought them for close to 10 crores. My anger is not against the political leaders for failing miserably in governance. My anger is not against the liquor baron's touching the items of a man who preached against alcohol. My ire is against the waste of money!
Before you start criticizing me for being anti-Gandhian and anti-patriotic, let's first look at the financial state of the people living in India. Read: the people!!
In my earliest recollection of the lessons in economics and civics in school, my economics teacher had made it simple the subjects of taxation by advocating that the bridge between the rich and the poor should be made less and hence taxes were introduced. India is home to approximately one-third of all poor people in the world. To be precise, India constitutes 33% of the global poor, which is nailed at 1.4 billion people.
Today, India Inc and the rich appear to have three fashioned approaches to tackling poverty. The first is fundamentally declare that there are no poor. Recent criticisms in the making of the movie, "Slum dog Millionaire" critiqued has people like Danny Boyle, the Oscar-winning director of Slumdog Millionaire wonder if he really did shoot the movie in the Mumbai teeming slums in Nehru Nagar and nearby Dharavi, which ironically is home to more than a million people and is the largest slum in Asia. Everyone was worried how India was portrayed. For them India is simply not the slums, the dirt and poverty. For the rich and the affluent, people living in the tiny shanties are simply not Indian. The second tactic of India Inc is to abolish the poor, rather than poverty. This is dramatically proven in Mumbai over the years when slum vicinities are razed, making thousands homeless. The Mumbai police simply followed suit by beating people up as protesters protested with a tear in their eye. Is it their India, they wondered. They are looked upon as cattle or any other lower form of life. People forget that the cramped huts near open sewers in narrow dirty lanes are what they call home. Mumbai Assistant Municipal Commissioner Umashankar Mistry very ironically said, "The plot has been earmarked as a playground and we will demolish all illegal settlements." A playground for whom? The children of a few rich Indians? I hear that the child actor of SDM still lives in an illegal structure made of tarpaulin sheets with his one-eyed mother and TB-suffering alcoholic father. Rubina Ali too lives in a one room tin roof shack perched above an ocean of trash which she shares with her parents and six siblings in this foul and run-down and repulsive Mumbai slum. The third approach is simply to ignore the poor. They simply fortify the belief that by the turn of the century poverty will simply disappear as the younger generation start working. So as economists sit and watch the inflation rate and compare it with the world markets, a yet another generation is living in dire straits with maybe a single lucky meal to compliment as it closes his eyes to the open sky with rumbling empty stomachs.
Is India Inc and "India Shinning" able to provide one of the most basic and most important necessities like clean air, drinking water, nutritious food, and safe shelters to all its Citizens? Or do they care only for the likes of me who pay taxes?
Article 47 says: "The state shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and standard of living of its people as among its primary duties and in particular, the state shall endeavor to bring about prohibition of the use except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health."
Democracy, as now practiced in India, is more about survival of politicians, their pride and their political parties. It's no more about its people. In fact, India's Independence which was an epic struggle for democracy, freedom and liberty, was meant only for her own people. People!!
India has forgotten all its commitments to its citizens be it the Rs.3.86 billion Chandrayaan mission to the moon, which proved nothing when it had been done 68 times before by everyone in this world and the 10,000 crore proposed manned mission to the moon. The defense budget of India is proposed at 40 billion dollars (Around 200, 000 crores) in 2009 when all we fought was some infiltrators in the last 20-30 years. For a few, the high-profile, harmless petty war like Kargil came in handy and the war was termed as the ultimate practice session and actual war like test session for the thousands of war deprived soldiers.
A total of about five million people are addicted to alcohol in India. Read: Addicted, i.e. they have a compulsive need to drink everyday. An absence in alcohol or a slight decrease of alcohol in their blood causes nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety. To overcome this, the addict dedicatedly "donates" his hard earned money and arrives home to see empty stomachs and ailed families. We as people have no time to imagine their pathetic lives. Except from a few NGO's who try to better the lives of their sorry lives, they turn poorer everyday and lose their health. The production, distribution and sale of alcohol is not only a lucrative venture but an artful and manipulative scheme to appease people who are stressed and live in the margins of society. By all chronicles, the alcohol related risks have invited scant attention from the Indian government. Alcohol unfortunately comes under the horizon of state governments, and each state's stupid politician has a lucrative incentive to expand outlets accredited to sell alcohol since its taxes contribute an estimated 20 percent of each state's revenue and every domestic liquor baron contributes lavishly to political campaigns under the expense of the poor addict. If the Indian government controls opium, prescription drugs, and harmful food additives, why not alcoholic beverages?
James Otis, before he set forth to give Gandhi's items for auction tried his best to negotiate with India on, "two proposals he had submitted – increase in the spending on the poor and fully paid exhibition of Gandhi's items in 78 countries to spread the apostle of peace's message of non violence." He wanted the Govt to keep aside 5% of the total India GDP for the poor. The Indian government had rejected the proposals sent by Otis arguing that conditions set by him infringed on the country's sovereignty. Vijay Mallaya bid for the items even though his combined debt of his six listed companies has touched a whopping Rs 14,231 crore, as on December 2008. The identity of the bidders in the auction is a guarded secret and the stupidity with which the base price of 20,000 was increased to 1.8 Million by possibly Indians themselves is both heartening and disheartening. Vijay mallaya is not new to all this kind of publicity stunts. Mallaya had spent Rs 180 million to cover the entire Sabrimala sanctum sanctorum with gold, ostensibly to gain some publicity from the investment with his name inscribed in gold everywhere. He had also previously bid for the sword of Tipu Sultan and had said proudly that, "I always believed that items of great heritage value should be owned by India and restored to India." But ironically little do people know that the sword is still not in India but is maintained by him in San Francisco, California, USA.
As yet another political election drama enfolds before my eyes and crores are spent, accounted and unaccounted, it just makes me wonder, why should I be proud being called an Indian?