Blanket of silence

There’s a conspicuous conspiracy of silence on the subject of wasteful government expenditure within the Indian establishment including the intelligentsia and media. 

In this connection, it’s pertinent to note that for years, the Union budget didn’t disclose the salary and wages bill of the Central government. This glaring omission prompted your editor to file an RTI (Right to Information Act, 2005) application in 2013 addressed to the Union ministry of finance to disclose this information, which it did after a gap of six months. But happily, two years ago the Union budget suddenly began publishing an item under the head of ‘establishment expenditure’. As suspected, the Central government’s expenditure under this head is huge — Rs.5.08 lakh crore of its total expenditure of Rs.24.42 lakh crore (including the fiscal deficit of 3.5 percent) budgeted for 2018-19. This huge amount is the annual expenses bill (presumably salaries, rent, electricity etc) of a mere 3.8 million Central government servants. The aggregate annual establishment expenditure of the other 15 million netas and babus in the country’s 29 state governments and seven Union territories doesn’t bear thinking about. 

An indicator of the extent to which the neta-babu brotherhood doesn’t give a jot about public money was dramatically illustrated by Akhilesh Yadav, former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. Forced to reluctantly vacate the chief minister’s palatial official bungalow by a Supreme Court order following the defeat of the family-run Samajwadi Party in the UP assembly election last year, this worthy vandalised the property to the extent of yanking out all electricity sockets and fans, and digging up floor tiles of the house. But why is runaway government establishment expenditure a sacred cow for the intelligentsia and media? I have an explanation, for what it’s worth. All our great pundits and opinion makers have kith and kin in government and/or are themselves recipients of government perks and subsidies. Hence the blanket of silence on this subject.