Ever since our Union External Affairs Minister and Minister of State for External Affairs, Mr. S M Krishna (SMK) and Mr. Shashi Tharoor (ST) respectively have been asked by Pranab Da to find an accomodation that is 'External' to the 5-Star or N-Star, a nation-wide debate over 'Austerity' has crept up. 'Newsatainment' channels like CNN-IBN, Times Now, NDTV 24x7 with some of the hot NJs (News Jockeys!!!) like Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose, Arnab Goswami, Vikram Chandra, Karan Thapar haven't been 'Austere' enough over this complex issue of "How to remain simple?", thereby ensuring that the issue doesn't simmer down.
When the call for 'Austerity' came out loud and clear from the ageing loud speakers of Pranab Da with enough Bass and Treble to stir a nation-wide debate, there was a mixed response from political circles. A few were against it, a few stood for it. Some of them opted to be fence sitters. Our Railway 'Ministress' Ms. Mamta Banerjee might have been all smiles (or even grin?) over the 'Austerity Call'. Of course!! It meant some of our MPs/MLCs/Ministers would then abandon the crisis-hit Air India and travel New Delhi-Lucknow, New Delhi-Chandigarh, New Delhi-Bhatinda, New Delhi-Patna by TRAIN and that means some big bucks coming her Ministry's way. Along with an MP/Minister, their family, a PA, 2-3 Principal Secretaries, 7-8 Security officers also travel to address exotic rallies, opening ceremony of a few toiletories under the 'Pradhan Mantri (ke gram mein) Sulabh Shauchaalay Yojana', inauguration of half constructed or 'to-be-very-soon-collapsing' flyovers etc. Out of our 700 odd MPs, lets assume atleast some 50 0dd MPs per day would travel to their constituencies. So in a month you have 1500 odd MPs along with their 'Saansad Sena' travelling. Multiply this by 2 (to & fro trip). Indeed a huge number and a regular source of income to the Railways! ;-)
Meanwhile our 'Prince' who in near future will be the 'King' (after a farewell to Singh), took up the 'Austerity Challenge' by it's horns and travelled by train in a 'Chair Car' from New Delhi to Ludhiana. He rejected the bouquet, ordered for Tea in those regular use & throw cups and also rejected 'Good Food' offered in Indian Railways. As expected, fellow-passengers were excited to see the 'Prince' in their coach. Even I would have been if I were to be there. Oh yeah....!! 30 years down the line I could say my kids "Hey look... This 'KING Uncle' travelled with me 30 years ago in a train". But the situation outside was different. Though our man was in a 'Chair Car' sitting on a chair, he was spotted all over the TV. Be it Samsung of Korea or BPL of UK or Onida of India... he was all over. We do not have any Italian brand of TV in India perhaps. All would have been well to see him on that as well ;-)
Those who are easily fooled by certain antics of our rulers were fooled this time as well. A few naughty brats like me who are investigative in nature, had other ideas. We insvestigated. We found something. We found that our Prince was not travelling for a Government related work but for a party related work. I enlarge. PARTY RELATED WORK. So whats all the crap and junk about our Prince travelling in Chair Car or Table Car??? OK. I hold myself back. May be an elected representative can spend from the nation's exchequer even for his/her personal/party travel. Afterall, I haven't studied the paper 'Compensation Management of India Netas'.
Most plays and dramas attract rotten tomatoes and eggs. The 'Austerity Drama' of our Prince attracted stones from miscreants. Immediately, there was an invstigation. The Police got into swift action. A couple of youth were nabbed. But what surprsied me is a statement which came from some political quarter/figure "Pelting stones to trains are common in North India". So when will the authorities wake up from their slumber and act on it? Why or what do I worry now? I worry that this might be the next justification for the anti-North Indian stance adopted by our 'Marathi Messiah'. But what is satisfactory is that the Government considers this as a 'Common Issue' and do not intend to hang the miscreants. We already have 20 odd in queue to be hanged. We are still on a look out for a decent and strong rope to hang them :-))
Lets shift our attention from the Prince to the Mantri now. Centre of attraction for quite a few days now is our Minister of State for External Affairs Mr. ST. He tweets that he is OK to travel in 'cattle class' along with all the 'holy cows'. Soon there was an objection from political circles. I too object over ST's choice of words. In fact he must ensure his literature doesn't go over the head of our netas like the one which used to come to an Indian batsman from the 6-feet plus West Indian bowlers of the 70s. Tharoor must consider 're-tweeting' his statement to an acceptable and better choice of words or something like "Maanya mantri mahoday ke asha ke anusaar, mein saamaanya naagarik ke saath, Bharateeya Rail ke triteeya darja ke dibbe mein ek saamaanya naagarik ki tarah yaatra ke liye tayyar hoon. Asha karta hoon ki Patna se Lalloo, Chulloo, Billoo; Gandhinagar se Advani, Wadhwani, Vaswani; Jalandhar se Manmohan, Parminder, Harvinder; Kolkata se Brinda, Mamta, Devyaani; Lucknow se Mulayam, Naram, Garam mere saha-yaatri rahenge. Dhanyavaad. Aapka laaDla, 'Austerity' ka dulaara Shashi".
With all this happening at helm, our 'Anna-Daata Mantri' aka Agriculture Minister Mr. Sharad Pawar comes out with his version of 'genuine reason' as to why he cannot travel economy class. He blames his 'Bulky Shape' which makes it impossible for him to even dream a distant dream in his dreams about him travelling in 'cattle class'. 'Bulky Shape'? Thats quite interesting! Dates me back to one of those tri-series played in India between India-Australia-New Zealand (I hope I am right with the 3rd Team). If I am right, it was some TVS Cup. Anyways... for the time being lets take it as 'Who cares Cup' as we have a plenty of such money spinning tri-series being played. It was the Finals between India and Australia and the former lost the match after doing well in most part of the match. The eventual winners Australia recieved the 'Who cares Cup' from our 'Anna-daata Mantri' Mr. Sharad Pawar who was then the BCCI President as well. Mr. Pawar handed over the Trophy to Ricky Ponting and the Aussies went in a huddle with the Trophy. Right in front was Mr. Pawar who forgot that he was an opaque item. With the paparazzi rearing to go 'Chishik chishik' and Ricky's men eager enough to get themselves soaked in those flashes, Mr. Pawar was indeed a vague idol between the two parties. It needed a 'Pawar Drive' from Damien Martyn who was equally popular for his 'Cover Drive', to get Sharad Pawar evacuated. It attracted a lot of controversy. Pawar kept the issue as low as possible. A few sections of the BCCI sought an apology from Ricky and his men which eventually came Pawar's way. In any case, I congratulate the Aussie Team (particularly Damien Martyn) for not only winning the 'Who cares Cup' but also in recognizing the 'Bulky Shape' of Mr. Pawar which he himself realized a bit late!! So whats the plan of action for the next one month Mr. Pawar? With Maharashtra Assembly elections too approaching, let the 'Austerity Drive' start from the dining table. That will get your 'Bulky Shape' to some 'OK Fine Shape' thereby ensuring your 'cattle class' travel from one constituency to another for election campaigning ;-)
Coming to the 'Turbanator' alias King Singh, he says that ST's 'Tweet' is just a 'Joke' and not to be taken seriously. Yes. It is a 'Joke' and it is too high for an Indian politician to take it. The literal meaning might have flown inside the nuthsell of our leaders only after their Cabinet Secretaries referred to the Oxford dictionary and took a session on the meaning of those phrases. ST is an 'UN Graduate Minister' and only a few in the political arena like King Singh, Mr. P Chidambaram, Mr. Kapil Sibal and the likes possess the intellectual capacity to understand what ST 'Tweeted'. But then it reminds me that there are many a 'Jokes' on the part of the 'Cattle' man of India. Even the NREGA has turned out to be a 'Joke' and the Government and Bureaucrats haven't taken it seriously. Similarly the 26/11 attacks, the recent 'Incursions' by the Chinese forces too haven't been taken seriously by the Government. So why battle over this 'Cattle Class' joke? Injustice to ST I say (Summon the Law Minister immediately. But make sure he travels 'Cattle Class' and not 'Holy Cow Class'!!)
Amidst all the 'Opposition' that has come breezing from the ruling party, I get a subtle feeling as to why ST attracted a lot of opposition. Is it for terming the common man 'Cattle'? May be not. May be our politicians consider themselves to be the 'Humble Devotees' of the 'Janata Janardhan' and it might have irked them when ST compared the 'Holy Cow' to them and thereby offending the 'Holy Cow'! ;-)
This is the lighter side of the 'Austerity'. On a serious note, this 'Austerity Drama' could wreak havoc with the life of a common man. Imagine a bomb blast in the New Delhi-Ludhiana train rather than stone pelting!! Imagine a massive security check by the SPG or the NSG putting the age-old, women and children into tough times in a railway station or in a Sleeper Class of a train!! My only question is "Austerity at what or whose cost?" At the cost of the lives of common men and women who are anyways leading a cattle-like life thanks to the Pak breeded Terrorists who might anytime butcher you with their guns and bombs or an occassional 'Moral Policing' cases with the Government doing very little to stop those antics? When I honestly empathise with Mr. Sharad Pawar who might find it difficult to accomodate himself in the economy class or chair car with very little leg space or with the senior and elderly leaders like Pranab Da, L K Advani, H D Deve Gowda having knee-joints pain or other ailments, it is the safety and comfort of the common men that concerns me the most. Afterall, AIIMS or Apollo is affordable only to the leaders, bureaucrats, rich and the affluent. An average earner can either afford to get (ill)-treated at a Government Hospital or afford to die without any treatment.
Our leaders believe and follow the 80-20 rule. 80% wealth in the hands of 20%. Whats for the common citizen of India? Maybe this Doha of Sant Kabirdas which goes like this -
Saayee itna deejiye, jin me kuTumb samaaye
Main bhi bhookan na rahoo, saadhoo bhi bhookan na jaaye!