have locked ourselves in a vicious cycle of low literacy,
poor health, non-existent infrastructure, low productivity,
low investment, unemployment and poverty.
having to increase public expenditure, without having to
seek aid from international agencies, these 80 million children
could all have access to basic school education. It just
requires some re-allocation of funds and commitment of the
50 children per classroom we need to build 1.6 million class
rooms. Each class room can be built at Rs 1 lakh or less.
This will incur a one time expenditure/investment of Rs
is equivalent to only 10 days' government expenditure! Running
the school - teachers and basic teaching aids - would incur
a recurring expense of Rs 8,000 crore; a mere five days'
expenditure! A very paltry investment when you calculate
the social and economic returns to the country.
years have gone by without any attempt at fulfilling this
fundamental need. With concern and commitment it can be
done. Madhya Pradesh has proved that this could be attempted
with even less expenditure by redifining a school.
its innovative Education Guarantee Scheme, it started 28,000
schools in 18 months. That schools don't function properly
even if they exist, and teachers don't do their work is
a related problem. But this issue is obviously not linked
to resources. It is a governance problem, plain and simple.
to sanitation. An estimated 140 million households have
no access to basic sanitation and over 70 per cent of our
people are forced to ease themselves in public. There are
of course cultural issues related to sanitation, but no
one really wants to resort to the indignity and inconvenience
of public defecation.
safe, modern, hygienic toilet without frills will cost about
Rs 2,500. This is not a farfetched assumption. Sulabh, the
movement started by Bindeswari Pathak built over a million
toilets for the poor at this cost.
my own village, over 400 toilets were built at this cost
over the past two years, liberating the whole population
from the scourge of public defecation. At this basic cost,
we will need Rs 35,000 crore to build toilets for every
single household in India.
are of course other problems - availability of land, water,
housing etc. But these are again related to governance,
technology or resources. But to take the issue of sanitation
alone, the total one-time investment required to solve the
problem affecting 700 million people is equivalent to 22
days' public expenditure!
yet millions of elderly people, children and young women
are forced to endure unspeakable indignity and shame and
unbearable inconvenience, not to speak of lack of health
analysis would seem simplistic at first. After all, government
has many commitments; there is no money to spare in reality,
etc. But what is government for? Is it the servant of the
people to fulfil our basic needs or a master to lord over
us and do as it pleases?
people owe the corrupt, bloated and extortionary bureaucracy
a living? Do we all exist to gratify the egos of power-hungry
politicians and treat their whims as our commands?
huge amount of public expenditure is incurred everyday,
and if it is properly deployed, most of the basic needs
of our population can be met.
this to happen, we should first stop the legal plunder going
on in the name of governance. We would then be entering
the virtuous cycle of basic infrastructure. High skills,
high productivity, greater investment, more jobs and prosperity.
The message is loud and clear. Poverty is not the cause
of our problems; it is the consequence of misgovernance.
amount of obfuscation can hide the ugly reality of the legal
plunder of our public resources and perpetuation of poverty
and inequity. The answer does not lie merely in good economics,
but it lies in a fundamental restructuring of our politics
and government to make our money do things for us.