Saturday, February 9, 2008

Jholawalas or Mewawalas



I vaguely remember reading on some shopkeeper's wall-sticker, 'Seva mein Mewa.' Roughly translated it means: real satisfaction lies in service, or something along those lines. Mewa is a word that you might stumble upon while reading the labels on dry fruit boxes(okay, nobody reads them). So, selfless service is akin to cashews, almonds, figs etc.; not a good bargain really. :-)


Pithy aphorism really, but for some reason the phrase has stuck in my mind. It rhymes well and sort of echoes a simple-minded golden rule. The only reason I recall this now is Swapan Dasgupta's searing article lampooning the now ubiquitous jholawala "activists" in today's Pioneer. They have discovered real mewa through NREGS/NGO seva.

Dasgupta's commentary, arguably the best among his contemporaries, targets one of the fastest growing, most proliferating industry in contemporary India, right behind BPO/IT.

Articulate, and formerly jobless, humanities majors have suddenly discovered their very own gold rush in the form of well-funded, yet unregulated, unaccounted, non-taxable, non-transparent NGO business. Yeah, no need for offshore tax heaven when you can have one of your own right here.

Their high-decibel activism, and strategic posturing has brought them unprecedented clout with the Italian chaperoned central administration. The "harebrained" scheme, good on paper, and usually reserved with the singular fate of gathering dust in the attic suddenly find themselves in the glow of public treasury.

The result has been, what else, catastrophy for the 'aam aadmi.' A staggering Twelve thousand crore rupees have been wasted on a scheme(NREGS) with a miserable 3% success rate, and the govt. has nothing to show for its success. The lusting activists are asking for 30k crores more.

Its proponent, Dutch economist Jean Dreze, blithely suggested in Chindu that the failure rate could have been reduced had the corrective mechanisms been activated in time, after the CAG severely indicted the scheme for what it is, a colossal bureaucratic waste. This is the sort of excuse that one often hears from high-school kids who excel at bunking classes.

That also is a euphemism for further bureaucracy. Essentially NREGS is becoming a nouveau offshoot of the sick PSU mindset.

Eventually this scheme will be bundled out, with the sultry activists and politicians moving to greener pastures, being educated at a vast sum of several thousand crore rupees.

And all the public will be left with is to sing oompa-loompa.

1 comment:

Dosabandit said...

'Garibi Bahdao' seems more apt, doesn't it? 5 Decades of 'Garibi Hatao' (read Congress) rule made no difference. Even an economist PM could not.