This is the age of austerity —or so our political leaders would have us believe. A lot is being made of not staying in five-star hotels and not flying business class.
These are experiences that men and women employed in companies are not strangers to—staying in the company guest house and minimizing travel during the inevitable downturns.
But there is one important difference: We call it cost cutting while our political leaders call it austerity. Cost cutting is practical; austerity has a ring of the holy. It’s a difference that is surely worth keeping in mind.
This country has seen true austerity during the freedom movement, when successful lawyers such as Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Rajaji gave up comfortable lives to go to jail. During the drought of the mid-1960s, the rice-loving Lal Bahadur Shastri—an austere man to begin with—gave up eating rice.
We do not wish to appear cynical, but leaders who live in palatial houses and are worth crores of rupees do not sound convincing when they repeat the austerity mantra.