budget blues .. harping on

I have never understood the intricacies of economics and figures, inflation and GDP or all such terms. During college time budget day was one when one waited to find out whether cigarettes would cost more. Not that one gave up smoking, one just adjusted things and I guess unconsciously made our own yearly budget. And come to to think about it this happened with every commodity as one slowly watched petrol going from 3 rs to 4o rs or so: one just adjusts one's life.

For many years too the budgetary allocations to social programmes did not mean much bar the fact that one felt that they were needed and welcomed them with a nod of approval: midday meals for school kids, education for all, jobs for all: it felt comfortable and appeased one's conscience as one felt something was happening.

It is only in recent years when I descended from a comfortable ivory tower that I faced a reality check. The Utopian midday meal became a real inedible offering, the superlative SC girl child programmes turned out to be a catch 22 game, and primary education a transit of many years in a insalubrious school before you dropped out. And yet on paper all these schemes seemed to right.

So yesterday as the new budget unfolded and new social schemes were revealed I was glad that many voiced what I silently thought: will these reach the beneficiary or be fodder for more hungry officials as the mind boggling administrative requirements will fly right over the true beneficiary.

Come to think of it we only have one year to make all this happen as on 28 February 2008 a new budget with new schemes will be presented. And this game will carry on till the day civil society does not come to the fore and ask for accounts! Last year we got a tool to do just that: RTI Act and some of taken on the formidable task to bring this act to the people. We as voters and tax payers need to demand accounts for every penny spent. A commentator mentioned a past Prime Minister stating the sad reality that of every rupee allocated only 16 paise reached the beneficiary.

As long as we remained silent spectator or armchair critics nothing will change. There are excellent schemes in existence and should they be allowed percolate down to the right beneficiary a tangible change would come about. The true beneficiary cannot turn whistle blower: he is often totally unaware of the scheme itself let alone the way to seek redressal. he will continue making his budgetary adjustments . The government will continue making yearly social schemes as they make good copy for electoral speeches, and we will remain in our obstinate silence and inertia, emerging out of it for brief moments when we feel the issue may directly touch us.

Yes we all want a shining India but how can it shine when a large chunk of it survives in darkness. Unfortunately it cannot be wished away. We need to be the whistle blowers; each one of us, asking accounts for the money spent as it is our own!

Last week a friend who was organising a workshop on disability asked a senior government official how a person without papers got a disability certificate; the answer was predictable: ma'am everyone in Delhi has a ration card.

No Mister, that is not true, there are many who do not and getting one is quasi impossible and yet they are handicapped and the ones who really need access to your programmes!