Sunday, June 10, 2012

Aamir Khan - Yet Another Populist (YAP)?

I was just reading an article by Aamir Khan in the Hindu. Now he’s supposed to be a very good man. But when he talks of things he knows nothing about, he is kinda diluting his brand equity.

In the article he says he “would prefer to err on the safer side and say eight to ten percent” should be spent on Health... Did he clear his maths exam? We are talking percentages and not absolute numbers. If we increase the spending on health, we will have to cut out some share of some other spending 1. Can he also suggest where we should reduce GDP spends? Defence? So next time a 26/11 happens, we should question Aamir... Or Education? So next time a poor chap is unable to find a job because he can’t fill up the employment form, lets blame Aamir... Or Infrastructure? Next time you take 8 hrs to cover the 240 km from Delhi to Chandigarh, call Aamir, I’m sure he’ll charter a flight for you with the money he is making by airing his “well-researched” one-sided views2.

That is a malaise of the “Social Sector” workers. They throw numbers like "X% of Indians do this while Y% can't even do that. If only Z% did this, ABC% of population would benefit". You can't argue with their numbers; they are hard truths. They believe in a cause which they believe is bigger than themselves. Excellent! They are entitled to believe in a solution too... Even better...! That’s why these 6%, 10% numbers come in... Let these "civil society" members create a mock government - come up with a 5-yr plan. I bet they cannot come up with a solution to please everyone - because each of them wants the bigger share of pie - like I might personally believe the largest chunk should be spent on education (alas I'm no Civil Society member else I'd ask for a safe 10.5%)!

The truth of the matter is that "pro-poor" is the "IN-Thing" at this moment - be it the govt or television... How KBC managed to select ONLY people who had a sad story to tell, will always be beyond my understanding. Indian Idol is joining the bandwagon with their oh-so-touching stories. That is plain TRPs talking. Accept it, we are Indians. We like to blame the government. And even more than that, we love sympathising with a teary eye... Who gets the teacher’s punishment for fighting in class – the guy who didn’t cry!

Let me state, on record, that I'm not "Anti-Poor" as many people would respond... I do my bit and I'm not going to blow my trumpet on a public forum by detailing what is that bit... Should anyone feel the need to verify, they can come to me anytime... But that bit is definitely more direct than demanding the government do more!!

Just that I feel, there are two kinds of charity – one which enables people to find their own solutions, and second, provides them readymade temporary solutions. An example of the first would be “subsidising text-books” – to fully utilise the ‘charity’, the kid will have to study. An example of the second would be “blanket farm-loan waivers” – next time, when the fertiliser doesn’t come for free, how will the farmer sustain his expenditure on giving his house the Royale uplift!!! The second charity is almost always misused.

Remember that old saying about the fish and fishing? There are only finite fishes in any one pond – you teach the man fishing, he’ll find his own fish in any pond – who knows he might even stumble upon shrimp! Government can give fishes – in fact populism (the dictionary word for “pro-poor”) is just that... But where does the government get the money to buy these fishes? From those who know how to fish! But how long can you continue, one day the fishermen are ultimately going to stop fishing in your pond (FDI, FII)...

And let me add, not just charity in the form on money - also in the form of share of voice... Aamir is ultimately the "show stopper"... He wants your attention too. If you give him your blessings of too much share of voice, it will be misused! And how do you misuse the share of voice, by ensuring you garner even more share of voice by sensationalising stuff... (Also in our case, shedding a few tears at the right moments!) When blessed with a magic lamp, what is the third wish of an intelligent man? Three more wishes...


1 - GoI spends 20% of GDP. Aamir wants 10% of that to be on health. Good luck with the other sectors.
2 - As indicated in SMJ vs Dr. Sreedhar case, his research may not be a true depiction of reality but one man's view of it.