Governance · Public Policy

The ‘Socialist’ Scheme of Things

The recent announcement by the Aam Aadmi Party Government to provide 20 kiloliters of free water a month for each household has drawn much flak, from the media and from the political parties contesting in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections 2014, but for all the wrong reasons.

Arvind Kejriwal, the dynamic winner of the Delhi elections 2013, has often in the past denied as being committed towards any particular political ideology, an example being the June 2013 interview conducted by Open Magazine where he states that his real goal is only to fulfill the aspirations of his aam aadmis. Nevertheless, on account of the recent initiative that the present Delhi Government has taken, Kejriwal is been hailed as ‘the new generation socialist leader’ and political opportunists have been quick to drive home a point to the big industrialists that Kejriwal is indeed their ‘modern day socialist threat’. Our very own Indian Constitution envisages the concept of socialism in its Preamble. India is a “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic” it says, so it is indeed the duty of our Government to institute measures in the aim of achieving a socialist nation and it is should be no surprise if it has done so. However, even if we were to assume that the Kejriwal’s Party is operating on a seemingly appearing socialist model, the recent move by his Government defeats the interests of the ‘aam aadmi’ on any given level.

When we compare this situation with similar international events, then we would be able to draw many interesting analogies. For instance, the Socialist Government in France led by President Hollande has introduced a new levy whereby French companies will be required to pay a 50% tax on all employee salaries in excess of 1 million euros. In addition, including social contributions, the total tax rate will amount to 75%. According to Hollande and his sources, this move from the Government has come in the wake of the increasing public deficit of France and by exercising such kind of a strict austerity measure on the corporate sector the State would be able to revert the deficit and restore the wellbeing of the meager to average earning people who constitute a significant proportion of French population. Thus in this manner, the general satisfaction of the public is being ensured and a true of balance of interest is also being made between the public sector and the private sector because the total tax payout will be capped at only 5% of a corporation’s annual turnover.

However, this is not the case with the water subsidy plan that has been brought in by Kejriwal. The scheme is to subsidize water for those consuming less than 20 kiloliter of water though a metered system. It carelessly leaves out of its ambit those houses which are not connected to the system and those localities where hardly even a pipeline has even been laid. According to Arun Jaitley, member of the BJP, the present Opposition party in power in the Delhi Government, the water subsidy plan will also gradually deteriorate the health of the supply organization, which is the Delhi Jal Board, and a financially unviable DJB would not be able to carry on the work of laying down pipelines in such localities with defunct water systems. Besides this, subsidies are only short term initiatives. The Government uses the tax payer’s money to subsidize a certain segment of the population and eventually has to raise the taxes to close in the deficit that is created out of it. The annual gross subsidy bill usually exceeds much beyond the estimated value. In the year 2012, New Delhi had to seek the Parliament’s approval to spend 97,800 rupees extra in view of a rising subsidy bill. Ultimately, it appears that only the middle class population of Delhi, who consume less than 20 kiloliters of water every day, stand to benefit out of the scheme. Neither the vulnerable are being protected nor the corporates with the latter even incurring further loss in the face of a growing demand for improved water delivery systems in Delhi. Instead, it would do Kejriwal and his Government a lot better to bring in reforms on the lines of what is being done in France. Money laundering scams are the hallmark of our current financial times and a wide array of companies have been known to engage in tax evasive practices.

We already have domestic examples of some of the world’s biggest corporate scandals before us such as the Satyam scam of year 2009 wherein Ramalinga Raju had falsified the accounts of his company, and the recent National Spot Exchange Limited (NSEL) scam which again involved an instance of money laundering owing to which the Enforcement Directorate estimated hidden assets worth of 75 crore rupees belonging to the NSEL. The Aam Aadmi Party having been the only party to have ever stayed away from controversies relating to corporate funding, we can expect to see them fight the real threat to the “aam admi” of today by bringing in more stringent reforms against the corporate sector. Mahatma Gandhi had one said the following of socialism, “One need have in one’s possession only what one requires. It means that all men are created by God and therefore entitled to an equal share of food, clothing and housing. It does not require huge organizations for the realization of this ideal. Any individual can set about to realize it. First of all in order to translate this ideal into our lives we should minimize our needs, keeping in mind the poorest of the poor in India.”

Kejriwal has often been heard saying that that he derives his political principles from Gandhi who is his inspiration, but his water scheme, which only seems to be functioning under the pretext of benefiting the poor, is in sheer dissonance with his ideal. Thus, in light of the current state of affairs, it would be a misrepresentation, it seems, to say that Arvind Kejriwal is working under a socialist philosophy. However, at present, it is completely unnecessary to focus our attention on what type of ideology Kejriwal may be following when we should be trying to bring the focus on practicable policy making and how the incumbent Government can engage in it. Irrespective of whether he is a ‘communist’, ‘socialist’ or ‘capitalist’, Kejriwal has a long road ahead of him and the media would do much better to discuss on what Kejriwal can do for the coming future of his ‘aam aadmis’.

About the Author

dipayanDipayan Chowdhury

He is a student of Symbiosis Law School in Pune. An  optimist at heart with a penchant for public speaking  he had decided to join law school out of an intensive interest to make significant contribution in the area of  human rights work in the country. He is currently pursuing a diploma in the field of Human Rights   Jurisprudence which involves a comprehensive study of the interface between International law and Human rights law. Having been a science student he also holds a special interest in the field of Intellectual Property Rights and particularly in exploring the human rights aspect in it. His other interests include Criminal Justice and Feminist Jurisprudence. An avid dreamer, Dipayan hopes to go a long way in the fight for the realization of his vision and also hopes for the right people to join him in this effort.

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