10 July 2008

Hijack of Basic ameneties

Why am I so against helping the poor? Because in the garb of helping the poor, government regulations acheive the just opposite, hijack the basic ameneties and make them costlier. The basic amenities are food, water, energy, transport, roads, electricity, drianage. I will take up transport and energy later. But the most basic of all requirements, clean drinking water. How does governemnt screw it up?

Water is a scarce commodity. Hyderabad has 3 huge waterbodies, Hussain Sagar, Osman Sagar/Gandipet and Mir Alam tanks all of which were commissioned much earlier to Indian independence. In the subsequent 60 years. Government has not built even one more water body for the city's growing population. So much for centralized control. But the problem is not in inaction, but in action. I live in a colony of high tax payers. The average income tax per house-hold in my colony would exceed 1 lakh per year. None of the 1000 or so flats nearby have drinking water connection. We buy drinking water from private companies which is very un-reliable. There is a small slum right next to my colony. I doubt if anyone there pays even Rs.1/- as income tax. They have a government water connection and you wouldn't believe the amount of that gets wasted there.

I do not envy their fortune. Quite the contrary, I want to find out the reason for such mis-management. A person who is willing to pay doesn't get the service, and a person who can't pay gets it. We are penalizing those who can afford, and subsidizing those who cannot, with the money from those who can.

The reason is simple: A slum is a mob. They have a herd mentatlity or act to have one. It is a vote-bank for the local politicans. A colony is not a mob. Each individual in a colony may vote for a different candidate. Hence there is no possibility of having a vote-bank here. And so, local politicans gain more by favouring the poor-mobs than the rich individuals, no matter how small
the mob is and how large the individual numbers are.

Secondly, government charges absurdly low charges for the supply of water. Government is not a charitable institution. Even if we agree that profit-making is evil for government, it should atleast get back the cost. How would any organization survive if it does not make atleast as much amount as it spends. As thoroughly illogical it may seem, government expects such a system to work.

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