Economists oppose move to tweak MGNREGS: Deccan Herald, October 14, 2014:
You must have heard of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme by now. It’s been shouted about so much you couldn’t forget it even if you wanted to.
I, however, believe it’s a waste of time. Consider this typical conversation:
Official: Would you like to get some cash by enrolling in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme?
Villager: The what?
Official: The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, MGNREGS for short.
Villager: Sounds neat. What do I have to do to be part of this Mahatma Government thingy?
Official: You dig ditches and we pay you. And it’s not some thingy, it’s the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
Villager: Oh-oh, a scheme? I thought it was the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scam. That’s why I was interested. No point if it’s just a scheme. Can’t do it, man.
All across the country, in thousands of villages, there are millions of such conversations. Think of the colossal waste of time and energy. There’s a crying need for shorter, snappier names for such programmes.
Will the new government make the change? Unlikely, when you consider it calls a recent scheme the ‘Deen Dayal Upadhyay Shramev Jayate Karyakram (DDUSJK)’. They too seem to like long names, with some Sanskrit thrown in. When it comes to their own kids, do ministers name them Mrichhakatika Ghatotkach Neelotpalashyamam? No sir, they sensibly call him Bunty instead.
The problem is the guys who dream up the names for these schemes feel compelled to describe what they do, as well bung in some national hero. It’s like calling a vada pav the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Cholesterol and Gas Generating Karyakram. Yet they’re perfectly capable of keeping names short and sweet. They don’t, for instance, call our long-range missiles the Mahatma Gandhi Spine-Chillingly Awesome Destroyer of Rakshasas. Nope, they wisely call them Agni. Nor do they shy away from giving cyclones cute names like Hud-Hud.
Do other countries use similar names for their social programmes? The USA doesn’t, calling their health insurance schemes Medicare and Medicaid, instead of calling it the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Ridiculously Complicated and Expensive Programme for Healthcare. But who knows, maybe North Korea does have a flagship Kim Il-Sung Integrated Concentration Camp and Firing Squad Programme.
In sharp contrast to our long-winded terminology, Google’s names for its Android operating systems are a treat. The most recent one is called Lollipop, the earlier one was Kit-kat and the ones before that included Jellybean, Ice Cream Sandwich, Donut and Cupcake. Could we not use such attractive names for our social programmes, after suitably Indianising them?
The MGNREGS, for instance, could be called Jalebi, the Deen Dayal stuff could be called Rasmalai, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana could become Rasgulla and so on. They will be a great hit among the masses. Except of course, the diabetic masses.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
The views expressed by the author are personal