There have been in recent days some heart rending reports, such as the following, about some of our compatriots dying due to the impact of dire poverty compounded by extreme heat and scarcity of water:
i) a woman accompanied by her two young children, forced to travel a distance of about 14 km. on foot as they could not afford to pay for any mode of transport, died on the way in tragic circumstances, as they could not access any drinking water in the extremely hot weather.(This happened in the state of Telangana)
ii) Hundreds of people are dying in states like Orissa, Uttar Pradesh etc. under the impact of poverty and extreme heat;
iii) Many farmers in various States are committing suicides due to inability to repay loans taken for agricultural uses due to the failure of rains.
2. The above reports obviously suggest that the nation lacks sufficient resources to take proper care of all its citizens, especially the weaker sections. On the other hand, there are reports, such as the following, which suggest that the nation has all the resources that are needed to keep its ruling classes comfortably funded and in good humour:
i) The assembly of the National Capital Territory of Delhi recently voted to quadruple the salaries of its MLAs while all the time pleading that the Territory Government had no money to pay the sanitary staff’s salaries which were in arrears for several months.
ii) Similarly, MLAs in Telengana also gave themselves a handsome increase in salaries.
iii) A proposal to double the salaries and entitlements of Members of Parliament of India is at an advanced stage of processing and
iv) the Union Government is ready with a provision in the Central Budget for the current financial year for a nearly 24% raise in the salaries of central government employees and pensioners on the basis of the report of the 7th Pay Commission.
3. The MPs and MLAs seek election to their offices avowedly to work for the removal of poverty and serve the people. But once elected, they have no compunction in working for prioritizing the fulfillment of their own needs as a charge on the country’s resources.
4. The existence of grinding poverty on the scale that it exists in India is a matter of deep shame for the nation and the first persons to manifest such concern in a concrete manner through conduct and style of living, should be the country’s ruling classes. This concern should also be reflected in the policies that govern the expense of country’s resources on entitlements of all salary and perk earners. No such concern has been made manifest during the last 68 years of independence but it is never too late and it is specially expected of the current regime at the Centre. I would suggest that all salary increases,at least in the government sector, especially at the higher levels, say of those earning Rs. 50,000 pm & above should be restricted to the percentage increase in GDP of the country so that every body has a incentive for working for the uplift of the economy as a whole. The Government may also consider creating a special fund at the Central & State levels to which voluntary contributions out of salary increases or otherwise can be made by those who have heart for the poor and suitable criteria for the utilisation of such funds can be devised to ensure that no one dies of poverty.