Sep 162009

It has been interesting to see the Government at work. And, although there is a tremendous amount of twittering (as opposed to tweeting) and sniggering – austerity not a bad idea. With the kind of National Debt that we are carrying, and with the kind of expenses we are gonig to incur – it’s a good idea to cut down on ‘unnecessary’ expenses.

Just after the last crash – the dot com crash – the company i was working for faced a down turn. a memo went out requesting  all senior personnel to cut down travel and fly economy when they had to. Most people cribbed, cringed and flew business – till they saw the founder Chairman traveling economy. From the next day everyone fell in line. But, this was not about just air travel or 5 star stay – it was about cost cutting across the length and breadth of the organisation – including slashing budgets and  shedding jobs. It would have been difficult to achieve those in a smooth manner – if the more visible symbols of spending were not pruned.

At around the same time – i had a conversation with a friend of mine who is in the armed forces. We were both in Hyderabad at that time. I was at a place called Amruta Castle and he was at one of the Taj properties. We bumped into each other when he came to collect his ‘men’. He was amused that a Head of Business fora large media company would be staying in the same hotel that non commissioned officers from the armed forces were put up. He was even more aghast when i told him that my CEO stayed there 🙂 It was OK for him – he didn’t have to pay the bill. What was surprising was the sense of ‘entitlement’ – i found that kind of odd !

In all our ‘worship’ of things that are powerful and our acceptance of all sorts of ‘entitelment’ – we forget that governments are also organisations. in tough times, they have to cut costs, freeze pay, slash budgets , cut expenses. Also, with drought looming -spends in other areas are going to rise. Drought relief, food procurement, health – etal are going to see increased spending. Like any good organisation – Government too has called for belt tightening. And it starts with ministers and MP’s. They are “leaders’ and it is about time they led from the front. It is not about air travel or business class – it is a message that will, hopefully, go down from top to bottom across the board – from the judiciary, to the armed forces; from the bureaucracy to the PSU’s – stop wasting our money on non-essentials.  Whether it is paper wastage, electricity, water, fuel, phone – whatever – cut costs – because the money is going to be used elsewhere. Let’s not knock symbolism – it has an effect.

To Ministers – travel economy.

To Rahul G, the advice would be follow Gandhiji and travel second class (non AC) – preferably unreserved – if you really want to see India !

And, to Jayanti Natarajan – sweetie – austerity on expenses does not mean austerity in humour 🙂 get a funny bone. I can almost see your pursed lips when i read this :

“The party strongly disapproves the statement of the minister. It is unacceptable, not respecting political or any other sensibilities,” said Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan.

This primness was in response to Shashi Tharoor – who shot his mouth off on twitter – little realising that it i s a public forum, in a nation without humour – to a journalist, 🙂

On the micro-blogging site Twitter, veteran journalist Kanchan Gupta of the Pioneer asked Tharoor: “Tell us minister, next time you travel to Kerala, will it be cattle class?” Tharoor replied: “Absolutely, in cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows.”

While the exchange is cute and all that – there is no ‘off the record’ on platforms like twitter – next time you want to be smart use SMS 🙂

And, finally finally – wouldn’t it be nice if the Congress laid down a dictat – and imposed it with an iron hand – no corruption till the drought is over.