i had commented thusly on a well-written (as always) post by dilip d'souza a few months ago. the post was on the employment guarantee act and dilip's dissatisfaction with it being turned into an assurance instead of a guarantee. (dilip did not respond to it.. i don't know if he read it. i'd like to republish it here in the hope that it might elicit some response. i'd like to add some more thoughts to this in a later post).
here goes :
''Thus the scheme to "assure" wage-employment to poor rural families "assures" instead of "guarantees" so that the scheme will not be legally binding.' (dilip's words).
the govt.,(the centre and the states) spends around two-and-a-half hundred thousand crores every year with the aim of helping the poor. this it does through various subsidies, grants and other means.now, you tell me, how is the government supposed to 'guarantee' the spending of any amount beyond this huge sum already committed? the sum committed already constitutes a major portion of its yearly budgetary spending - how is it supposed to raise(something in the range of 10,000-60,000 crores) and spend(and more effectively than the earlier schemes you have referred to ) a sum beyond its current capacity ? under the circumstances, don't you think the pm did the honorable thing by 'assuring' and not guaranteeing work? a guarantee would have been a false promise. the proponents of this current project are the same ideologically inclined wise men who had earlier backed the failed schemes you mentioned. they have always remained closest to the ears of the powers-that-be and (avowedly) to the pulse of the poor. it's funny that they should raise the questions we should be asking. right to work shall be supported by the right to information act? what about the right to education, guaranteed much earlier? a character in the movie 'austin powers' points out why james bond survives all the attempts on his life : because the villains were too smart for their own good. they would think up elaborate schemes to torture and kill him where a simple bullet to the head would have served much better. why do we fall prey to the temptations of these smart, elaborate schemes when a simple straightforward dole would cost half as much and be doubly as effective? it would avoid the pitfalls of going through the sieves and filters of the babus, elected officials, contractors and others who block the path between the poor and the promised manna. it would also eliminate the necessity of a hundred such schemes and considerably lessen the strain on governmental resources and more importantly, attention. mahbubnagar, one of the poorest districts in india, sends every year (as reported by mr.p.sainath in the course one of his expeditions in search of the holy drought) tens of thousands of migrant construction workers to mumbai and the school drop-out rate in the district too increases every year. you would find a similar picture in all the backward districts of india. the schizophrenia, i believe, lies not in the attitude of the middle classes who live only a few notches better than the slumdwellers (at times) but in the attitude of those who hide behind the poor. why do they pay so little attention to the non-voting children in mahbubnagar as compared with the voters in mumbai? a simple dole of ,say, rupees five hundred a month (which is what, almost, the current bill assures) to rural parents who send their children to school would not only cost much less than what the current project would but also a. stop the migration and b. protect the rights of the children.would you call that charity? most of the subsidies and other giveaways intended for the poor are today cornered by the more privileged classes. why shouldn't the poor have their share? but that would not be elaborate enough for the wise men. have you considered why the pm had said so little on the bill he is supposed to pilot than its votaries in the political class and the press? because it ties him up in the ultimate fiscal knot which would severely restrict any maneuvring space he would need to formulate any ideas of his own on tackling poverty or any other major issue (like how to reduce the burden of the 'elaborate' schemes so that the poor get more attention not the poverty-mongers). the wise men have effectively made irrelevant the very virtue/merit on which he was chosen: his ideas. let's not support this farcical exercise of creating 'work' for the poor when the government can't find work for its own babus. or, if we should, let's rename it : right to profits-for-all-except-the poor.'