By P. Soma Palan –
I refer to the Daily Mirror report of 13th June under the above caption, and wish to express my comments as follows:
1. It is indeed a brilliant idea emanating from a senile mind to solve the twin crises (a) the food crisis and (b) the transport issue arising from the Fuel crisis.
2. The Government had declared a four Day working week for Public Servants apparently that it would ease the demand for Public Transport and consequent saving of fuel, by a reduction in the number of Buses and Coaches, both Private and Public, plying on the roads. I don’t see a direct correlation between a single holiday and a contraction of public transport and a fall in fuel consumption. Irrespective of whether it is a holiday for Public Servants or not, modes of public transport will not contract, because passenger transport is a business and will have to cater to the larger travelling public than the Public Servants. If the majority of the Public Servants are using their own vehicles to travel for work, one can understand its effect on fuel consumption. But it is not the case.
3. Therefore, this idea of a holiday for Public Servants and the four day working week are, only a fanciful political gimmick and not a meaningful solution to the fuel crisis. It will it not alleviate the difficulty of Public Servants, in reporting to work. If these Public Servants are able to report for work four days in a week, what difference it will make in reporting one more day?
4. Even during normal times, the Public Service is notorious for its low productivity, from the Heads of the Departments down to the lowest peons. Their guiding rule was how to avoid working by taking refuge under rules and procedures than pro-actively assist the public and attend to their needs. Public servants were working de-facto half a day only in any case. Now, they are given a de-jure a full holiday on Friday and a four day working week. It is really a bonanza for them at the expense of public funds.
5. Further, they are only “ encouraged” to grow food crops in the backyards of their homes to ease the food crisis. This is based on the assumption that all Public servants have a plot of land in their backyards. Even if they had, there are variables, as soil composition and cultivability. Even if they grow food crops, it will be for their household use. It will not address country’s food crisis at present or impending. Regular farmers were producing food crops on a commercial basis of production. But this was ruined by a moronic decision to ban chemical fertilizer by ignorant political rulers.
The twin crises of Food and Fuel cannot be solved and overcome by superficial and negative means by making Public Servants to work a four day week with a holiday on Friday. This is a negative approach to the problems. By working one day less and giving a holiday to the Public Servants, it is believed that their transport problem arising from the country’s fuel problem and by the engagement of Public Servants in growing food crops, country’s fuel and food problems can be solved and overcome. This is a naïve approach to the severe crises we are facing. What we need is a positive, direct and head on confrontation with these crises, not superficial and negative approach.
I would suggest that the unemployed youth should be harnessed and incentivized to take to food growing on a commercial scale, by giving each one acre plot of cultivable State land and necessary inputs as fertilizer, seeds, pesticides and deep Wells for water etc. A monthly stipend can be paid as an allowance and a 50% share of the sales value of crop harvested, and balance 50% credited to a State Agricultural Fund to finance the activities of the Farms. This can be a mid-term project to ensure that there will not be any food problem in future.
One political wig called upon those using motorbikes to travel by pedal bicycles to work. Ministers and MPs are quick to prescribe remedies to others but not practicing what they preach to others. Why not the Ministers and MPs travel to work by bicycles? No, they need luxury cars with high fuel consumption to travel, accompanied with a back-up Security convoy of vehicles to gratify their pompous egos, with fuel lavishly supplied to them virtually at their door step, as it were, and not by waiting in mile long queues as the public do.
What is required is for the Government to ensure a steady and continuous supply of fuel, gas, food products to the market. Of course this requires foreign currency in Dollars. But the country is insolvent and bankrupt. Who brought the country to this penurious state? It was brought about by those at the helm of ruling by their mismanagement, incompetence and sordid corruption, with their lust for loans at bloated costs to siphon off kickbacks, to finance grandiose projects of no returns and economic value to the country, except to enrich them-selves, and amass dollars to their off-shore Bank Accounts. It was this reckless craving for loans totaling over 50 billion Dollars that caused the flight of Dollar reserves of the country in loan repayments and Interest to the lenders. At least at this late stage when the country is bankrupt, those responsible for it should translate their habitual pseudo patriotism for the country into a genuine heartfelt patriotism, and bring back their loot hidden away in off-shores Banks and fill the coffers of the State. This will redeem them from the guilt of their wrong doing. The country could regain its financial stability and viability.