Around 10 lakh, reportedly, have answered the prime minister’s call by giving up their LPG subsidy. Impressive numbers? Not so, when you consider that it is only around 0.7 per cent of the total number of consumers in the country.
For a Union government led by a party that swears by the Hindu mythology and almost everything saffron, surely it should have taken a lesson or two from Mahabharat when it launched the #GiveItUp campaign. According to B.R. Chopra's classic (yes, the TV serial), Pandu ascended the throne of Hastinapur because his elder brother Dhritarashtra was blind and, hence, was deemed unfit to rule. The elder brother, however, always nursed a desire to be in his rightful place. Once when Pandu left the kingdom for a leisure trip, he handed over the reins of the kingdom to Dhritarashtra and placed the crown on his head. Dhritarashtra became so attached to the crown that he had a tough time convincing himself that it was only a matter of time when he would have to return it to his younger brother. The elder brother felt he was entitled to the throne. In fact, the enmity between their sons—Pandavas and Kauravas—and the battle of Kurukshetra was a result of this feeling of entitlement.
In a country like India, where every other person feels that he is entitled to government largesse, does the Narendra Modi government really expect the #GiveItUp campaign to bring about a revolution? Around 10 lakh, reportedly, have answered the prime minister’s call by giving up their LPG subsidy. Impressive numbers? Not so, when you consider that it is only around 0.7 per cent of the total number of consumers in the country. The three major oil PSUs—Indian Oil (Indane), Bharat Petroleum (Bharat Gas) and Hindustan Petroleum (HP Gas)—are leaving no stone unturned to convince their customers to part with their subsidy. But are the people listening?
Which brings us to the question—why are the people reluctant to let go of their LPG subsidy? For a population raised on subsidies—kerosene, fertilisers, electricity, food and what not—and reservations—be it education or labour—it is next to impossible for them to give up their entitlements. Also, there is this inherent mistrust against netas. “What’s the guarantee that the subsidy we give up will reach the needy?” is a question on everybody’s mind. And last but not the least—why me and not you? ‘India’ wanted to know. “Let the MPs give up their Parliament canteen subsidy and we will give up our LPG subsidy,” ‘India’ said. Tit for tat, or food for thought? An RTI query revealed that the canteen rates have not been revised since 2010. None of the MPs had anything to say on this. Table manners, we suppose. Except one, after all these years. Jay Panda, Biju Janata Dal MP from Odisha, sprung a surprise on his colleagues by demanding the canteen subsidy be scrapped. After all, with a salary of Rs 50,000 and various perks, paying for your food from your own pocket should not be difficult, Panda must have thought.
Giant Pandas are an endangered species. It seems, so is Jay Panda—as an MP who is willing to give up his entitlement.