Friday, August 17, 2012

Form over substance

When one emphasizes form over substance , one provides information in such a manner as to remain true to the form of the underlying transaction, while withholding, if necessary, the complete information  which would have painted a truer picture of the reality. One gets to see this ascendancy of form over substance in the claim regarding rural electrification made  in the PM's Independence Day address to the nation.

I quote the Prime Minister : When the UPA Government came to power in 2004, we had promised that we would provide electricity to all villages. To fulfill this promise, we launched the Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Scheme. More than 1 lakh new villages have been provided with electricity connections under this scheme and now almost all the villages in the country have been electrified. Our next target is to provide electricity to each and every household in our country in the next 5 years and to also improve the supply of electricity.

In the first place, the Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Scheme  was "launched" in 2005 only in the limited sense that all existing schemes for rural electrification were merged and given a new name (which, incidentally, helps perpetuate a ruling dynasty).

The scheme had the objective of electrification of  all rural households by 2010. It did not happen, of course. The scheme was therefore carried forward for another 2 years, and because the target has not been reached even in 2012, it is likely to be given a further extension of 5 years.  In other words, the government has failed abysmally in achieving what it had set out to do ----- but that's not what we are being told, are we?

One lakh villages have been provided "electricity connections" , we are told.  Are all these electricity connections operational, say, a year after installation?  Is electricity being supplied to these connections? Are there villages that are still bereft of any electricity connections whatsoever? Have there been cost over runs, or has the scheme's implementation proceeded as per the initial budget?

If our leaders placed substance over form, these and such like would be the questions they would answer even before they were asked. What we are made to hear are platitudes and sermons, what we are provided is incomplete information, what we are expected to do is applaud progress that is taking place at too slow a pace and at too high a cost. Isn't it time we rebelled? Shouldn't we ask more questions, demand more answers? Even if we, the comfortably placed middle class, have no direct concern with such issues as rural electrification, should we not realise that the underlying malady will strike at the very heart and soul of the nation, leave it crippled? Is that the legacy we wish to leave our children?

Lets not sit back complacently. Lets not wait for someone else to ask questions. Lets spend some time instead acquainting ourselves with  issues of public interest; if possible, master one or two. Ask questions. Demand answers. Let the government not get away with half truths, incomplete information, misleading statements.

Lets do our duty as citizens.

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