Competition of A Sort

A story appeared in media.

After the J. Jayalalitha-led AIADMK crash-landed in the May ’06 assembly elections, Jaya TV reporters conducted an informal survey among the fisher folk of the tsunami-battered Nagapattinam and Cuddalore districts. “Amma gave you everything after the tsunami: house, boats, nets, provisions, stoves. Why didn’t you vote for her?” The reply was piercingly frank: “True, she rebuilt our lives. We’ll always be indebted to her. But she did not give us a TV. Karunanidhi was offering us that and more. So we voted for him.” Many had lost their TV sets too in the tsunami.

This is the way our politicians promise and our people who really matter vote. The DMK as promised in its manifesto is distributing 30 lakh free CTVs this fiscal at a cost of Rs 750 crore already allocated in the state budget. It will distribute 60 lakh more in next two years. Each set costs Rs 2,965. With the present 76.2% TV penetration, the highest in the country, perhaps, Tamil Nadu will soon be the first state whose entire population will own TV sets. Surprisingly, 60 of 100 TV sets have cable connections too. With DMK gifts, many who already have a TV set will get one extra but that will be coloured one. Are Tamilians so crazy about the entertainment? Perhaps with film personalities mostly in CM chair, it is so.

No one can challenge or question the prudence of a veteran such Karunanidhi in a state that tops the development indices and where the people are considered better educated in the country.

Many question, however, whether it would have been better to provide toilet in every household, as in 92 lakh households out of 142 in TN don’t have toilets. Others see the scheme to offer business potential for Sun Network of the CM family with so many more cable connections, even if it gives Rs 100 per month.

And there is another little known Dalit party that has another agenda and free offering plan. VCK (Viduthalai Chiruthai Katchi) are promising free computer to class XII students and even have distributed some 40 among dalits. Is it not a competition of a sort that other states may envy?

I feel instead the state and the government would have facilitated the ownership of a cellular phone to all able-bodied persons in the state with certain skill and willingness to work. The state must also develop few websites, something like shaadi.com where every skilled person can register his name, trade and skill, and cellular number without any fee. That could have given better employment to the people. The government could also have spent this huge amount on crating trade schools to provide some sort of trade training to each and every person in working age to face the job market with confidence.

However, it is for the politicians and their voters to decide and demand. Politicians will go the way they wish, and we can only go on grumbling.

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