No sooner had the planning commission declared that a person earning Rs 33.3 per day was not poor that the Congress leaders started giving absurd statements.
Raj Babbar said a person could fill his belly for Rs 12 in Mumbai. Rasheed Masood commented that a person could satiate his hunger with Rs five in Jama Masjid district of Delhi. Both wanted to please the Congress high command and tell the people that the party was doing enough for the poor.
The statements amply prove that the leaders are not aware of the ground realities. If Raj Babbar and Rasheed Masood were aware of places where food is available cheap, then they should have taken journalists to those places. Journalists would have then not scouted Delhi and Mumbai looking for places where food can be bought at ridiculously low prices.
But Raj Babbar and Rasheed Masood are not the only leaders who have made absurd statements. Exactly a year back, P Chidambaram had said, ‘We are prepared to pay Rs 15 for a bottle of water, but we can't bear to pay Re 1 more for 1 kg of rice or wheat. We are prepared to pay Rs 20 for an ice cream cone, but we can't pay Re 1 more for one kilo of wheat or rice."
Wheat flour was Rs 16 per kg in a shop in my neighbourhood when Chidambaram gave the statement. The cost is Rs 21 at present – a rise of over 30 per cent.
Now let’s turn towards the US.
Every poor in the US is entitled to food stamps worth $4 every day.
Converted to Indian money, that comes to around Rs 240.
By Indian standards, Rs 240 per day is more than enough for food.
But most Americans do not think that $4 is enough. They want their government to increase the worth of the food stamps.
Governors of two states – Oregon and Colorado and mayors of four cities – Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Newark and Phoenix have spent $4 on food in one day for a week to see if the amount was enough to buy wholesome and nutritious food. They wanted to empathise with the poor of their country. Even celebrities and students joined the politicians.
Celebrated chef Mario Batali has lived with his family for a week on $4 per head per day.
An American university also asked its students to try surviving on $4 per day so that they can relate to the poor.
Here lies the difference between an American politician and an Indian politician. The US is the oldest democracy. Hence, is it also the most mature democracy? Will the biggest democracy take time to become a mature democracy?
In India, why can’t a political leader – whether of the Congress or the BJP try living on Rs 33.3 for a day? We have witnessed Rahul Gandhi entering into the houses of the poor dalits unannounced and sharing food with them. Will he ever try living on Rs 33.3 for a day?
If Rs 33.3 is enough for a person, Sonia Gandhi should live on it for a day and show way to the people. Why only the Gandhis, Narendra Modi also can try surviving on Rs 33.3. He should gain some practical experience before attacking the Congress.
P.S. – Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi visited Amethi and Rae Bareli some time back. The death of students after mid-day meal in Bihar was the hottest news then. Couldn’t Rahul and Priyanka visited a school unannounced in either Amethi or Rae Bareli and shared food with children, just to check the quality of food being served? But they concentrated only in nurturing their constituencies.