A man converts to Catholicism and decides to emulate as far as possible the life of a saint -- St. Francis of Assisi. Filled with the zeal of a convert, he withdrew his life’s savings from the bank and took this money out in $5 notes (bills). Armed with his bundle of $5 notes, he went down to the poorest section of New York City, and every time a needy looking man or woman passed by him he would step up and say, “Please take this”. According to a ‘New York Times’, report, this gentleman attempting to “live a Christian life” and emulate St. Francis Assisi could do so for only forty minutes before being arrested by a Christian police officer, driven to Christian hospital by a Christian ambulance doctor, and pronounced ‘non compos mentis’ by a Christian psychiatrist. A person who was only trying to be a good and kind human-being, being described as “not of sound mind” and thrust inside a psychiatric hospital, serves a very important lesson in communication -- that even kindness is beyond the experience of a kindness-professing-but-not-practicing population.
This is exactly what happens here when common people are bombarded with huge figures and boastful assertions by the government functionaries. Since huge sums of money – crores that regularly dot the political speeches of ministers – as well as their promises of public good and welfare and beyond the experience of common masses, ministers’ speeches are no better than verbal garbage for most of the people. Like the New York’s Catholic convert, whenever ministers and other political figures try and approach common masses in a moralistic way, it is outside their experience. People may no doubt attend public meetings and listen to them, even rummage through newspapers to see what their morality-professing-but-not-practicing political leaders have said, but in reality they simply brush them side, virtually telling themselves: “Ah, the man is nuts, he thinks he can fool us like this…!”
Not a single day passes without the official press releases informing public about some or the other projects or schemes either already under construction or in the pipe-line. And every scheme and project provides an opportunity to the concerned minister and the government in general to promise moon and stars to the common masses. Ministers take great pride in boasting about huge financial costs of each project and scheme, which often run into hundreds of crores. For instance, we had a Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Plan running into thousands of crores, and obviously these figures were publicity-wise also flaunted accordingly. But one may ask: how many people were actually impressed by these figures? And, have these figures really transformed much on the ground here?
Political speeches on a general basis without being fractured into specifics of public experience become rhetoric and carry very little meaning. This is exactly the problem when political leaders flaunt whooping sums, which are beyond the experience of the common masses. Besides, the popular experience also informs us that these figures mean nothing much owing to pilferage as well as faulty public delivery and monitoring mechanism within the system. Crores are in any case too big a sum for the common people to come in grips with it. The moment ministers get into the area beyond lakhs and above, let alone hundreds of thousands of crores, common people are completely out of touch, no longer interested, because the figures have gone above their experience and are thus meaningless. Over 90 percent population of the state certainly does not know how many thousand rupees make a crore! But they will certainly be happy if a few thousand rupees spent anywhere brings about any visible change in their lives. This needs to be understood by the state’s political establishment and the bureaucracy who are the practical interface between the government and the people. Given that even these few thousand rupees constantly fail to reach the common people owing to rampant corruption and unaccountability here, the Chief Minister can make a big difference by translating his resolve of fighting corruption into concrete action. This will automatically make otherwise meaningless figures to bring about meaningful difference into the people’s lives.