Perhaps the only thing amusing about all those political worthies who went public with their bizarre views about how cheap a meal in India can be is that they themselves did not look like they would ever have eaten the portions available for the nominal sums they spoke about, namely Rs 5 for Delhi and Rs 12 for Mumbai. Adding weight to the remarks made by Congress partymen Raj Babbar and Rasheed Masood, was the irrepressible Farooq Abdullah, once again a person who has clearly never gone to bed hungry. Many railed at the insensitivity of the three. But this does not come as such a great surprise. Marie Antoinette-like, we have seen that a strange reluctance to accept much of the reality of India creeps in to the psyche of people once elected to office. In the latest round of loose remarks — the leaders concerned have since expressed regret — the Congress has damaged its own poll plank, that of the food security Bill.
While professing to ensure that no Indian goes hungry, the remarks convey the impression that the poor must subsist at near-starvation levels. This is bad political management coming as it does at a time when the party vice-president Rahul Gandhi has warned spokespersons not to stray from the party’s ideology. But why do we blame the Congress alone? Many politicians, indeed many Indians, feel that the less fortunate should make do with what little they can while such standards need not apply to others. This is seen in the callous remarks about how the poor should limit their families while those who are better off should face no such restraint. The most worrying part about such remarks, apart from the insensitivity they show, is that many of our elected representatives are totally disconnected from ground realities.
This despite the fact that many of them come from such backgrounds and should know better. They seem to believe that the poor should be grateful that their children get a mid-day meal even though it is substandard to the point of causing death. They seem to think that the abysmal health standards in our almost non-functioning public health centres are enough to service the poor. The general Indian attitude, and our netas are no exception, is that once you have escaped to a better life, it doesn’t really matter what happens to those left behind. It is no one’s contention that a person should not enjoy the fruits of his or her success. But this does not mean that one becomes totally inured to the condition of others to the extent of suggesting that they can eat all they want for Rs 5. Careless words like those of Mr Babbar and Mr Masood leave a bad taste in the mouths of people. And could come back to bite these worthies come the elections.