Well, if Narendra Modi can
request his countrymen to do so for LPG cylinders (liquefied petroleum gas
cylinders, main cooking fuel in houses where PNG or ‘piped natural gas’ has not
reached - or families that can and can somehow afford it), his government can
certainly push the fellow members and their officials and officials of the
Parliament and the Government to give up the ‘huge subsidy’ – ranging from 60%
to over 100% (in some cases, a dish with raw material cost of Rs. 99 is served
for Rs. 33) – on food in the Parliament canteens.
Congress has supported the move. Parliamentarians can give
it up voluntarily. Or, they can come with a yardstick. Also, it is a popular
issue politically – like Arvind Kejriwal successfully cashed the electoral
popularity of ‘VIP culture’ in Delhi polls – most members (of Parliament) would
be forced to look positive to such measures. Some may oppose the move but their
count would not be enough to obstruct a decision to this effect. And if the
politicians there support it, we can count the bureaucrats in.
Now, for the point – as told
reportedly – that politicians alone cannot be blamed for the practice – well,
politicians and well-to-do bureaucrats are to be blamed for it.
On March 27, Narendra Modi had
appealed – as the Times of India writes – “People who can afford buying LPG
at market rates should give up subsidy on cooking gas. Money we save from
giving up LPG subsidy is the money we will use for the poor, so that they have
access to clean energy too.”
It is now almost three months to
that statement. MPs and bureaucrats could have set a precedent for masses by
refusing subsidized food items in the Parliament. Alternatively, they could
have come up with a mechanism to fix market price of each item to pay
They did not do it. They have not
done it. Would they do it now?
It is not for the Rs. 60.7 crore
subsidy given to the Parliament canteens in the last five years, as Subhash
Chandra Agrawal’s RTI reply reveals. It is a very small amount when we count
the overall government expenditure on politicians. It is about the message that
such gesture would send to the masses – in times, when we are moving towards a ‘subsidy
free’ governance – in times, when economists urge for the ‘pressing need’ to do
so – in times, when the government looks convinced to do so.
The prices that have not been
revised since December 2010 look ridiculously low. After all, where do we get a
‘masala dosa’ for Rs. 6 or ‘boiled vegetables’ at Rs. 5? And the long
‘ridiculously funny’ list is replete with such examples. And it is not in the
canteens of the Parliament. We have other such spots on the ‘subsidy freeway’
where wrong people are enjoying such perks.
Parliament canteens can set a
precedent for all such folks. Would our Parliamentarians, bureaucrats and other
‘financially capable’ people relishing such ‘subsidized delicacies’ do so?
Would they voluntarily give up
the subsidy on food items in the Parliament canteens beginning with the Monsoon
Session that is from July 21?
Would they pay the ‘market
prices’ with ‘service tax’ as every Indian is expected to pay (and has to pay)
till the issue is fixed?
And since any such move will be
‘self-driven’, ‘altruistic’ and ‘voluntary, it will take care of those ‘who
really need subsidized food items’ from the Indian Parliament canteens.