The Aam Aadmi Rhetoric
Earlier this month, the Cabinet brought out the Budget for the first year in the 11th 5 year plan. All in all I thought the Railway Budget of 2012 and the Fiscal Budget of 2012 were an improvement to the Budgets of the previous years and tried to address the real problems that affect the Indian Railway and the Indian Economy respectively. However, I am no economist and I shall not pretend to give an economic analysis of the policy decisions of the Cabinet and waste your time or mine! Yet there is one advice that I have for the Cabinet ~ it is time to shed the façade of being ‘Common-Man-friendly’!
Honestly, who is the Aam Aadmi or the Common Man that we so fondly talk about in India? Is he the man who lives in abject poverty but still joins the queue outside the ‘Angrezi Sharab Dukaan’ every night to drain the last of their sorrows in alcohol, and quite coincidently, also the last of his daily wage? Is he the middle class Indian who goes to his Public Sector job every morning to read newspapers and discuss the events and happenings of the town, and conveniently forgets the files he needs to tackle? Or, is he the 20-something Corporate Employee who carries his next day’s outfit to work, whose life revolves around work, work, and maybe, the money to afford the luxuries that are piling up in a house he rarely visits? Or, the politician who goes to the House of the People in the Parliament by his Government vehicle and betrays the very same people he represents in the House of the People by bringing out self-serving policies under the guise of ‘for the aam-aadmi’? Is he that man on the road riding his bicycle as this article claims? Oh wait, is he the man who joins the crowd of Indians who shirks all his responsibilities to ‘fight corruption’ by protesting against the government he voted into power?
Maybe I am being overly critical. There are exceptions to all the above mentioned categories, but at the end of the day that is what they essentially are ~ exceptions! Who then is our revered ‘Aam Aadmi’? In my search for the ‘Aam Aadmi’, I stumbled upon a tweet describing him as “Common man: the mystical being everyone talks about, but no one has seen.”
While it would be easy to simply accept this answer, I decided to spend the better part of last week wondering who exactly this ‘Common Man’ is! I mean, we all know about R. K. Laxman’s creation, the ‘Common Man’. This cartoon figure was meant to reflect the hopes, aspiration, fears and foibles of the ‘average Indian’.
Now, we are all very fond of generalizing, but we must understand that India is not something that conveniently fits into any one description. India (or Bharat, as I like to call it!) is more than the sum of its geographical area. It is an agglomerate of various units, where the units like to preserve their distinctness. It is not uncommon to find an Indian confused about his identity; be it with respect to the number of states he has lived in during the course of his life as an Indian, where he is a Keralite born in Madhya Pradesh, but spent most of his life in Andhra Pradesh and has never seen the ‘God’s Own Country’(the land of his ancestors), or due to the multi-faceted identity, where he is an Indian, a Malayalee, and a Hindu all at the same time. Even R K Laxman initially had tried to represent the different states and cultures but gave up in order to meet deadlines, and stuck to the ‘Common Man’. An Indian man cannot be ‘common-ised’, he is unique, and he stands out amongst a crowd of his compatriots.
These days however, we hear it as an excuse for the substandard job that everyone from the politicians, entrepreneurs and even the scientists do for Indians. In the last eight years’ rail budget, this was the first time that passenger fares were hiked. This year when the prices were finally hiked, the ‘Common Man’, the Ministry were trying to protect all this while, lashed out at the Rail Ministry for increasing the prices. The previous ministers were so busy cushioning the harsh realities of Inflation and the general increase in running the Railways; they made the ‘Aam Aadmi’ too comfortable in his stable state of affairs of being blissfully unaware! When the prices were finally raised, this Common Man forgot all about gratitude and complained about the government. Consequently, Mr. Dinesh Trivedi was rewarded with an early retirement from his post as the Railway Minister.
As for Foreign Investments in India, the ‘Common Man’ seems adamantly against such an idea. From my limited knowledge of Macroeconomics, Foreign Direct Investment plays an important role in improving the economic growth in a country, especially when the country is a developing one like India. However, in contrast to China our nation seems obstinately against a growth that is powered by Foreign Investments. Maybe it brings back old memories of the rise of colonialism or maybe we are just too scared that we will lose our jobs to realise the number of job opportunities that it brings with it.
In the minor research that I did before I sat down to jab out this piece on my keyboard, I came across this article from Times of India where the writer accuses the politicians saying, ‘So, politicians who oppose foreign retailers are promoting the aam bania against the aam aadmi.’ He goes on to tell us that ‘Chengal Reddy, head of the Consortium of Indian Farmers Associations, favours foreign investment in retail: he says it will bring better technology to farmers and cut out bania middlemen.’(You are welcome to read the entire article on ~
On my part, as far as FDI in retail is concerned, I believe it is a step towards growth, at least economically. Maybe the word ‘socialist’ in my country’s preamble means that it is essentially a welfare state, but do the people who oppose the move to increase FDI in retail to 51% actually have a better idea on how to finance the socialist ambitions of their motherland? And quite frankly, isn’t it a tad bit hypocritical to fight for the jobs of the ‘aam bania’ when you are happy buying your basic products from retail outlets like ‘Reliance Fresh’ or ‘Food World’? As for the ‘bania’ himself, I do not think he needs to worry about losing his loyal customers, because Indians are these people who still value loyalty.
At the end of the day, if the fictious ‘Common Man’ could give one advice to the government of India, I guess it would be along these lines – ‘While I am rather flattered that you have put ‘my problems’ ahead of the rest of the people in the country, I believe that you have gotten your priorities all messed up! Worry about your economy, worry about using your funds efficiently and effectively, worry about the basic necessities of the poorest in your country, worry about proper execution of laws in your nation, worry about the security of your citizens, worry about global warming, but do not waste your time worrying about me and making laws to ease my life for, I DO NOT EXIST!’ (The author could not resist adding ~ ‘For, i am as imaginary as the root of -1!’).