How can we forget that for Rs 28,000 crore we could have established primary schools and health centres in tens of thousands of villages? Can we ignore this splurge the next time a malnourished child looks at us in the eye? writes Azim Premji in today's morning paper. I have been saying this for quite some time. I hope that when an eminent personality echoes the same it would be heard. Then why do I have the uncanny feeling that it will not.
I fell of my chair when I heard a Member of Parliament and also an industrialist state on National TV that 80 000 Rs a month salary was no big deal! This was in the course of a debate on the raise in salaries for Parliamentarians. The MP felt that 80K a month was not such a big salary and wondered why it was being made into such an issue. I would like to remind our esteemed MP that the present minimum wage is about 5000 Rs a month and many across our country do not earn even that. According to recent statistics over 37.2 % of Indians live below the poverty line and 5000 children still die of malnutrition every day.
The question is not whether one should or should not hold international events. The question is one of priorities. And these seem to be totally skewed. But then we are missing the point: such events are wonderful ways of making money and these Games have given us ample proof of that. What is worrying however is the total lack of concern of those in power for what I call the other India. It almost seems as if for them it does not exist. Though if you care to look, it is at our very doorstep. Be it the malnourished child who taps on your car window, or the poor labourer toiling under the rain to meet some new impossible deadline.
The Games are an eye opener to all that is wrong in India. Anyone can see that but we seem to have lost our ability to do that. We are too inured, or perhaps too ensconced in our self created catatonia and unable to move when we should be screaming. If at nothing else than at least at the helium balloon hired at the cost of 40 crores for the opening ceremony, mind you in case you use it for the closing ceremony then you pay more! And let me remind you lest you have forgotten it is you and I and our children who will toil a lifetime to foot the bill. Yes I said let us at least scream at this wasteful expense as we seem to have lost our ability to do so when hundreds of thousands have lost their homes, their livelihood and more.
I have now words left.. I will simply quote Mr Premji again. He ends his article with the following: At times like these, it will serve our leaders well to recall Gandhiji’s talisman: “Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to Swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?”
Is anyone listening?