September 17, 2009

The current austerity drive is commendable, but to create the real impact, the axe has to fall on the other wasteful expenditures!

Although on paper, we are one of the largest democracies in the world, but in a lot many ways, we are functionally more feudal. Otherwise, there is no other reason for such a hue and cry about the current austerity drive carried forward by the Ministry of Finance. In fact, the resistance against such a drive is justified simply because over the past sixty years, people’s representatives have indulged themselves so much in wasteful expenditure and made it such a norm, that any minor deviation from it looks abnormal. And here, the Ministry of Finance is all set to aggressively jam the brakes on every such expenditure. To begin with, the Ministry plans to cut the expenditure on domestic and foreign travel, publications, advertising and purchase of vehicles, by a whopping 10%. These heads are just a part of the non-plan expenditure, which is pegged at a staggering Rs. 6.9 trillion. Going forward, the Ministry also plans to cut the other components of the non-plan expenditure (excluding interest payments, repayment of debt, defence capital, salaries, pension and the Finance Commission grants to the states) by 5%. The Ministry has gone completely ballistic by cutting another 10% of budgetary allocations for seminars and conferences. Not to forget that holding of exhibitions/seminars/conferences abroad is strongly discouraged, with a complete ban upon holding of meetings and conferences at five star hotels!

As anticipated, of all these cuts, the maximum resistance from ministers is coming with respect to travel and hotel stays. And in fact, the maximum rot lies there itself. As reported in 2007-08, a staggering 75% of ministerial spending was on account of travel alone, which was 67% and 62% in 2006-07 and 2005/06 respectively! As per the finance account of 2007-08, the Union Council of Ministers’ expenditure was Rs. 192 crores, of which tour expenses accounted for almost Rs. 138 crores! The same figure for the year 2006-07 was Rs. 121 crores and Rs. 82 crores! And mind you, so many crores spent in traveling with literally no account on the resultant work accomplished. And then, on top of that, ministers have the audacity to resist such expenditure cuts! It was sad to learn the knee-jerk reactions from our Foreign Minister SM Krishna and his Minister of State Shahsi Tharoor, when they were asked to vacate their five star accommodations at Maurya and Taj! It was even more outrageous to learn our Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Sharad Pawar’s reaction on the same. According to him, it is hazardous to fly economy class as there is intrusion by other co-passengers (fellow citizens). He also postulated that the environment is not conducive to deal with files, and space constraints! He should realize that the money saved out of the hazards that he faces every time he travels economy class, can save the lives of those farmers of Vidharba who are dying by a dozen every week!

In fact, even in the most powerful democracy in the world, that is the US, the senators stay in rented accommodation and move around in taxis. They willfully take public transport and have no grudges about it. And mind you, that’s the United States of America, an economy which is almost 15 times bigger than us and whose per capita is almost 20 times of India’s. Given that fact, such expenditures in our economy look even more obscene. There is no reason as to why in a country, which has one of the highest number of people living below the poverty line, one of the largest number of people in the world who suffer from malnourishment and has probably one of the largest number of people in the world who suffer perennially from the miseries created by floods and droughts, the representatives of those people should have king-size lifestyles at taxpayers’ expense. Not just citizens, at this point of time when every business entity is suffering on account of the economic slowdown – and yet when one witnesses that the representatives of such a nation continue to indulge – then it is nothing short of blasphemy.

It was indeed great and impressive to see leaders of Pranab Mukherjee and Sonia Gandhi’s stature using the economy class for traveling by air. And it was a pleasure to see how others were forced to fall in line as now traveling in economy class equates to good politics. But everything said and done, such austerity drives and cut downs on travel expenditures are just a miniscule part of the overall wasteful expenditure on the part of the government. Unless the axe falls on several other areas where the real kind of wastage happens (like sprawling accommodations and related expenses, other expenses of ministers, multiple ministries, et al), the recent measures would only remain as symbolic ones for the masses and the media.

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9 comments:

rupak said...

obviosly,its a ggood move by central govt.but,still a lot has to be done.especilly, the kind of worhtless expenditure, state govts are making.it is really scocking to see in a state like jharkahand ministers using choppers to cover a mere distance of 10kms.central govt should curb these things as well and ensure better us eof resources in states as well.

srinivas said...

Before they come with another AUSTERITY DRIVE like concepts I would love to see them get in a strict rule punishing the bellicose politicians for their audacious comments which directly or indirectly hurt the sentiments of our citizens. Do they think they are gods to sell a rude and offensive comment and get away with it?

HITENDRA said...

I agree with your opinion but in my understanding if these High Class ministers will travel by economic class,that will create more problem for Aam aadmi.They will disturb the whole system at railway platform,because in india politicians are demigod and they will require more security than they require when they use choppers.
In my understanding austerity can be driven by reducing other expenses like accommodation,politician's family traveling charges,phone bills,reduce the number of security officials from the drove...

Technology Journal said...

E-Governance can play a major role in creating the required impact on the Govt's functioning.

It will improve the image of the Govt. in the public eye and also result in alleviation of corruption in Govt. systems,
Automatically reducing the wastage's to a great extent.

Using open source software and hardware , cost can be saved and a national integrated system can result in real time info for effective national yearly plans.

Technology Journal said...

E-Governance can play a major role in creating the required impact on the Govt's functioning.

It will improve the image of the Govt. in the public eye and also result in alleviation of corruption in Govt. systems,
Automatically reducing the wastage's to a great extent.

Using open source software and hardware , cost can be saved and a national integrated system can result in real time info for effective national yearly plans.

Varun Paranjape said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Varun Paranjape said...

Looks great thinking
But still we have long way to go before we see actual change which would be against our traditional way of looking at politicians.
:Varun paranjape

paul said...

Sir, yes the axe has to fall on other expenditures too, but at the same time , government can tackle budgetary deficits by two ways, one is to cut the wasteful expenditure, of course the recent steps taken by the government would really help, but the government still needs to do more to cut down wasteful expenditure, and secondly government needs to increase its revenue, one of the main source is taxation. IT department and CBI Should along with government participation need to increase the tax collection, though the IT department has performed well in the recent times in collecting taxes, but still there are a lot of tax evaders in our country , these big fishes need to be traced and make them contribute to the country’s development, if not by charity works at least by paying tax properly which is an obligation, not a choice and black money hidden in the illegal treasury of some tax evaders need to be tracked and recovered. This will greatly help the government to canalize these collected funds to some crucial projects

The recent austerity drive is highly appreciable, but asking VIPs to travel economy class and in trains is not a good idea, because it creates a lot of problems for security personnel and also a big threat for the public as it increases the risk of terrorist attacks. And obviously additional security arrangements need to be done, which will again increase the cost of traveling.

Meera said...

What about the perk factor which is enjoyed by all the MP, MC and other politicians...when the motive is to serve the country, why expect high perks...draw monthly salary as fixed/ let there be some revision if required but not abstract kind of benefits.We too, the the normal citizens working in various organisations are also contributing to the nation's growth. Are we paid alike?

Regards,

MeeraPrahlad

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