Junglistan's poverty line: Meal for Rs 12 is possible
Panchayat elections are almost a year away but already Junglistan is talking about them. Every day begins with a cup of chaya at Ittooppu's tea stall and ends at Kallu Vasu's bar and the yet-to-happen elections are discussed, studied and analysed. What will happen if Kodi Surendran becomes the panchayat head? What is the ruling leader, Bahul Gangadharan, offering? What are their politics, economics, history and philosophy?
Now, Surendran comes with a baggage. A few years ago riots happened in his ward, and most people hold him responsible for that. Till now he has been unable to bury the ghosts of riots.
"This guy will never become our panchayat head," said Kumaran, the editor of Junglistan Times, "Chinnu may vote for him, Chikku may vote for him, but will Koya and Moideen? Never."
Surendran, who was passing by, stopped and went to Kumaran's table. Always a picture of virtues, Surendran had a tumbler of milk. It didn't matter he was in Kallu Vasu's bar, he didn't have a sense of occasion, you could say.
"See friends, you are accusing me of something I never did,"Surendran said, "I am such a gentle person, I couldn't harm even a puppy."
Kaiser, the dog who had walked away, came back to the table reassured.
"Surendran, you have my vote," said Chikku the cricket, "I am very impressed with the development work in your ward."
"What development?" Kumaran was sceptical.
"I mean like roads, factories, jobs."
"But how can you forget the riots," shouted Bahul Gangadharan from across the room, "The puppy he ran over. Did he reverse? Did he give it first aid?"
"Did you give first aid to the puppies you ran over?" Kumaran shouted back.
"Of course we did." Bahul pointed at a few limping lions and tigers loitering around the road.
Surendran and Bahul made a quick exit after distributing pamphlets, the bar was back to normal.
"I think we should give Surendran a chance. Otherwise he will be called the best panchayat head we never had. We shouldn't repent it later,"said Mayilamma, the peahen.
"That man has a plan unlike Bahul," said Lotus Lolan, Surendran's biggest supporter in Junglistan, "A complete plan to improve our economy, defence, healthcare."
"We need a strong leader. Look at China ," said Kesu, the monkey,"They have overtaken us by miles. If not Junglistan, at least our panchayat should be like China."
"Exactly. Surendran has already said he will spend 20 per cent of funds on education, like China. The good thing is he won't stop at that. He will spend 30 per cent on defence, 25 per cent on healthcare, 25 per cent on job creation, 25 per cent on food, 25 per cent on religious structures, 25 per cent on transport services, 25 per cent on water supply, 25 per cent on power generation, 25 per cent on atomic programme, 25 per cent on space programme..."
"But your allocations don't add up," Pachu, the tortoise interrupted, "It's already 275 per cent. Where will the 175 per cent come from?"
"See you people can't just think big," Lolan replied, "What do we have the Reserve Bank of Junglistan for? We will print more currency."
"But won't that increase inflation?" asked Sundari, the cow who was mastering in economics.
"You silly girl, we will then stop printing notes. The RBJ will take necessary and effective steps to control inflation. It monitors the situation at regular intervals," said Lolan, parroting a recent press release by Bahul.
"What do you say Daasan?" Kumaran turned to Junglistan's best known number cruncher and the author of Daasan Kapital, a work that should have been an economics landmark.
"Currently we are witnessing a debate between a Nobel winner and a Nobel miss-out on the economic model Junglistan must follow," Daasan explained, "One, people say likes Bahul, and other, people say, likes Surendran."
"And then... " Kovalan warmed up to Daasan, there is nothing like a bedtime story.
"One says we must implement reforms, and spend the money earned on infrastructure, social schemes etc. The other says we must not wait for reforms but start spending on food security and other social welfare schemes."
"I hear both their books are selling well," Daasan continued, "But the issue is all these problems are addressed in my work Daasan Kapital. And no one seems to have read it."
"I had given a new name to the economics practised by Junglistan's politicians. In fact I wrote an entire chapter in my book called the Theory of Disproportionate Spending."
"The Theory of Disproportionate Spending is common to all politicians - Bahul as well as Surendran. Now what good does it do and what harm does it do is none of their worries."
"Because they don't think long term. They only think about the next five years, and actually they do not need to worry about it. Someone else and some point in time will be forced to clean up their mess. I pity that guy."
"But my Theory of Disproportionate Spending has proved one point beyond any doubt: that Disproportionate Spending gives Disproportionate Assets to a quite a lot of people."
"And then... my foot." Daasan was not amused by the cat's curiosity.
Kudiyan Paramu, who had overheard the conversation from his table, was by now very inspired by Surendran's school of economics and the Theory of Disproportionate Spending. "Give me a cocktail. Twenty per cent vodka, 30 per cent rum, 25 per cent white rum, 25 per cent gin, 25 per cent brandy, 25 per cent tequila, 25 per cent beer, 25 per cent water, 25 per cent orange juice, 25 per cent cranberry juice, 25 per cent coconut water."
The waiter came back with a jar, "Paramu, too much fiscal deficit in your order, I had to fill it in a jar. Who pays for it?"
"In my account," said Lolan, happy at having found a new Surendran fan.
"Now Daasan, what is this bit about poverty," asked Kuyilamma, the cuckoo.
"The Planning Commission says roughly 138 million have crossed the poverty line. It has based its calculation on the Tendulkar committee poverty line: Rs 5,000 earnings per month for a family of five in cities. It had also set a yardstick on spending: Rs 33 per day in cities."
"Oh! That's why Bahul's friends have been saying you can get a meal for Rs 12 a day and Rs 5 a day."
"And they are right," interrupted Parappanangadi Pappan, a Bahul loyalist, "You can buy a kilo of rice, prepare kanji and have it with achar and one vegetable. So what's wrong with the formulation?"
"What shocks me and surprises me is," Daasan continued, "that nearly 30 crore citizens of this country don't earn Rs 5,000 a month. And there is no debate on them. It seems they have no vote here, they don't exist."
"What would be your benchmark for the poverty line," asked Kumaran, looking for a quote to use in his story next day.
"I won't use the Tendulkar line or Rangarajan line. I support the Kudiyan Paramu line. Any one who can't afford a quarter rum a day qualifies to be called poor. "
Kudiyan Paramu ordered a copy of Daasan Kapital that very moment.
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