Modern Day Maharajas?

Ministers are behaving like kings, giving away public money at their whims and fanciesPost the T20 world cup, Dhoni is said to be making crores more and every other cricketer is making lakhs more. Good for them and best wishes to them. However something that isn’t good for us, is how our tax money was blown by every government in the country during the post world cup money distribution ceremonies. I have nothing against good old Ajit Agarkar or the promising Rohit Sharma, but I think it was not right of the State government to dole out 20 lakhs of tax payer’s money.
Indian democracy has a rich tradition of leaders wasting people’s money based on their whims and fancies. However in today’s TV age, the ministers and politicians are aware that giving away money can get them TV space and publicity. So they are giving out our money as if they were giving away prasad after a Ganesh puja. In mythological serials on TV you often see a king watch a performance and then say “Tumhari kala dekhkar hum khush huvey” and then throw a gold necklace at the performer as a sign of appreciation. The modern day equivalent is what’s being done by our politicians. The leaders are most welcome to throw gold necklaces at performers, but not with my money.

Ever heard of a businessmen just gifting 10 lakhs to a cricketer? No sane man who has worked hard to earn the money will do such a thing. So why do our leaders do such things? The politicians use the prizes and giveaways to ensure that the chief guest invites come in, they get into the Page3 circles, get invited to parties and even get their kin into the profession if required. Do you really think that the Khans or Kapoors enjoy the company of politicians at their events or parties? Yet the politicians always seem to occupy front seats at all movie events. The politicians are essentially buying TV time and the right to share the stage with cricket and film stars by blowing people’s money. The politicians also make the players and artists pay back by getting their support at election time.

Cricket is but one example. I cannot understand why the various governments at the city, state and national level give away lakhs from our money to causes like promoting a movie at the Oscars or for individual missions like jumping on the north pole or climbing Everest. I have nothing against the sportsmen or actors or any other beneficiary of the government largess. If the government offers me 10 lakhs under the name of promoting independent writing in print media or whatever, even I would most certainly take it.

However leaders announcing arbitrary giveaways when put in front of a TV camera, is just not right. If these money giveaways weren’t arbitrary, we would see a more even distribution of funds across sports and cultural activities. Today every leader wants to grab a cricketer and felicitate him. If a sportsman, writer or artist has achieved something, there are already 10s of awards and processes in place to recognize the achievement. If the awards and recognitions are inadequate, upgrade or enhance the system. Do not bypass the system, throw money at the problem and hope for a quick fix.

The current rules for what is acceptable behaviour from our administrators and elected members aren’t good enough. In an ideal world, the administrators and politicians would be just as careful with public money as with their own. However in the real world, we need better checks than what we currently have, to ensure that our money is not wasted on the whims and fancies of a politician.

Every reader I am sure can come up with at least a 100 places where our tax money could have been spent better than distributing it amongst cricketers. I can’t understand how cricket will benefit by drowning the T20 team in money rather than improving the infrastructure for players and fans. Most cricket stadiums are in a terrible shape with absence of even basic facilities for fans. Cricket coverage on Indian TV is also undoubtedly the worst sports coverage on the planet. But that’s another story that I better not get started on…