Austerity begins at home
They will not exactly be slumming it, but the government’s restrictions on first-class travel and stay in five-star hotels, among other things, will certainly not go down too well with bureaucrats used to the perks and privileges of office. The common man, fed up with people using the taxpayers’ money to no great purpose other than their own comforts, will be delighted.
The NDA has banned first-class travel for babus, told them to refrain from holding conferences in five-star hotels and prevented them from purchasing new vehicles and creating new posts. The PM has already made his displeasure known over secretary-level officers going on study tours when a lower-level officer could go.
We have long seen the practice of these study tours, which are holidays disguised as work. With the reach of the Internet and social media, it should be perfectly possible to conduct these ‘study’ tours without leaving Indian shores.
The government has also said that spouses would not be paid for. This is laudable but this should also apply to our politicians. They too should not treat their high office as a gravy train and in recent times we have seen the deplorable spectacle of politicians having a jolly and a jaunt abroad, ignoring pressing issues at home.
Similarly, politicians should not expect that the state will provide for them in perpetuity in the form of housing and perks, which seems to be the norm at the moment.
These restrictions suggest that the government is mindful of the insult that such wasteful spending is to the taxpayer. This tightening of the belt may not change our economic fortunes but it sends out the right signal.
All political parties must take a cue from this and ask their legislators to keep in mind public sentiment when it comes to helping themselves to goodies at the cost of the exchequer.
In Britain, for example, a minor indiscretion in expenses has often led to ministers having to resign. Accountability has to start with the ruling elites and the PM has shown the way with his own austere lifestyle.
No one is expecting our politicians and bureaucrats to deprive themselves of creature comforts but their lifestyles should not be so far removed from those of the average Joe. The proof of the diktat is in the implementation and the public will certainly be keeping a sharp eye on how many will actually adhere to these cost-cutting measures.