I don’t think too many national newspapers carried a short news report PTI put out on the wires on 31 August. But I believe it’s something every citizen has a right to know about.
According to the report, Congress president Sonia Gandhi walked up to Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav in Parliament that day and thanked him for facilitating uninterrupted power supply to her constituency Rae Bareli and Rahul Gandhi’s parliamentary seat Amethi. Apparently, three days earlier, Gandhi had approached Yadav with her request. That afternoon, Yadav called up his son, Uttar Pradesh (UP) chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, who immediately issued the necessary orders.
Next morning, UP Power Corporation announced that the urban areas of Amethi-Rae Bareli would now be exempted from power cuts and enjoy round-the-clock supply.
Etawah (Mulayam’s original base and SP bastion), Mainpuri (Mulayam’s Lok Sabha seat) and Kannauj (earlier Akhilesh’s Lok Sabha constituency, now his wife Dimple’s) were already “VVIP” areas where power cuts are barred by fiat. That by itself was outrageous, and now the Gandhis have quietly hitched themselves a ride.
If this is democracy, I am from Mars.
UP’s power generation is 15% less than demand, and 20% of the generated power is lost in transmission and distribution. There has been much hue and cry in the UP Assembly about chronic power shortages. Some months ago, a helpless power minister even issued a diktat that all malls in the state should shut down at 7pm to save on power. Public ridicule forced the government to backtrack.
But Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, whose hearts bleed for the aam aadmi, have happily made the general UP-ite’s lives a bit more difficult by shamelessly using their positions to wheedle out unfair benefits for people of their Lok Sabha constituencies. Well, Mr General UP-ite, it’s just too bad if you live in Aligarh or Amroha.
Is this the only way the Gandhis can help the people who voted for them (and against them en masse in the last UP Assembly elections)? In September 2010, the popular blog Churumuri.com quoted some statistics published in the Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s weekly mouthpiece People’s Democracy (I have not been able to locate the original People’s Democracy piece; however, churumuri has never been accused of misinformation). According to the report, 54% of the inhabitants of Rae Bareli-Amethi were below the poverty line, only 14% families had access to electricity, only 16% children were vaccinated, neo-natal deaths were 83 per 1,000, and fatality below five years was 160 per 1,000. All these numbers are much worse than the corresponding national averages.
Official government of India figures are that Rahul Gandhi has been allotted Rs.14 crore for member of Parliament local area development, since the formation of the 15th Lok Sabha in 2009. Of this, the government has released around Rs.6.56 crore, which had grown to Rs.6.6 crore with interest on unspent money. Rahul has recommended (and been sanctioned) expenditure of Rs.3.1 crore, of which only Rs.2.32 crore has been spent. That is, he has utilized less than 17% of the funds allotted to him for development of Amethi, and only 35% of the money released to him!
Sonia Gandhi’s record for Rae Bareli is better; she has utilized about 30% of funds allotted, and nearly 65% of the money released.
And of course, more than 80% of the “VVIP” families living in Amethi-Rae Bareli don’t have access to any electricity, forget the 24X7 joyous cascade that Sonia Gandhi has inveigled for them. Is there something here that I am missing, or are the Martians warping my reason?