“Please bear with us”, said Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong on Thursday when reporters asked him what the government was doing to help daily wagers and others employed in the unorganised sector. He went on to say that it was not only the poor who have problems but the rich have them too.
The deputy chief minister of the state was not being insensitive but was trying to tell the media how helpless the government is in the face of the crisis that is spiralling out of hand. In the process, he exposed the government’s insensitivity towards the problems of the hoi polloi. He will definitely be forgiven before the next election.
Tynsong was not incorrect when he said the rich have problems. Indeed, they have. Like any common citizen of the state, the rich too are suffering because of the lockdown. They are missing on so much fun that life would otherwise offer in absence of a deadly virus. But they are not the complaining types and they know how to bear with the authorities. It is the poor who are always up in arms against the government, demanding this or that. They are the illiterates who do not understand the gravity of the situation or how the system works. Not fair for a government that is struggling to control the pandemic situation. Time to give the devil his due.
The devil will get his due but before that, Mr Tynsong, one question that the poor — many among whom voted you and the government you are part of to power — might want to ask, “Have you lost it completely?”
Again, not fair. It is natural to lose it in an unprecedented situation such as this. The eminent leader can forget that the rich have four meals, or may be more, a day while the poor are struggling to get even a square meal a day. It is again natural that the eminent leader, in his Covid-induced insanity, would advise the poor to replace their meat diet with vegetables. Meat? Seriously?
“… telling the working classes to not eat meat everyday during the lockdown, make do with vegetables. Which world do you live in,” a social media post read. Mr Tynsong may find this insensitive.
“It is not so simple… We gave Rs 2,000 to about 2 lakh people last year… The lockdown started yesterday (from 8pm on Wednesday) but before that we allowed MGNREGS work and construction works too… What else the government will do… You have to understand that it is not so simple,” Tynsong told the pestering media. (Sorry Mr Tynsong, reporters are akin to pests, don’t you think so?)
True, the government cannot do anything more. It cannot give more assistance to the poor (to all the struggling souls, do not forget that God helps those who help themselves). It cannot feel their problems any more. It cannot support them in this time of crisis. It has always been survival of the fittest.
What the government can do is to forget that not many beneficiaries received the Covid dole last year. It can forget that during the first wave, many people in the state struggled to get ration when the rich were experimenting with recipes at home. It can overlook its mistakes and blame it on citizens. It can also forget that money can solve many of the Covid-related daily problems faced by the rich.
According to a survey conducted by the Thma U Rangli Juki (TUR), more than 50% beneficiaries of the government financial benefits either got less or no amount last year. “Our demand is that the government should clear the dues of these people,” TUR’s Angela Rangad said during a virtual press meet on Thursday. The meet discussed about the bottlenecks in distribution of the pandemic dole and the government’s failure to address the issues.
TUR — which submitted a memorandum to the chief minister on Wednesday suggesting that the MLA development fund be consolidated in order to help the unorganised sector — condemned the deputy chief minister’s comments.
“Mr. Tynsong made this insensitive statement while rejecting the demand for income support for the daily wage workers including domestic workers, taxi drivers, marginal farmers. Mr. Tynsong doesn’t deserve to be the deputy chief minister of Meghalaya if he can only respond to the bleak plight of the poor working people by insulting them further. He should realise that almost a month-long containment measures and lockdown have brought the working people to their knees where forget about vegetables people don’t have income to even buy rice. His insensitivity was further exposed when he put the minor problems of the rich and the salaried in the same basket as those of the working classes who are staring at hunger on a daily basis. For the rich and the salaried, they can get their essentials and non-essentials home delivered while the poor, even if locality shops open, cannot afford to buy anything because they have not had any income.”
Mr Tynsong does not like sulking citizens. So doesn’t the government that he is serving. So what if he likes the rich? Afterall, one needs money to buy votes. There is nothing to be ashamed of Mr Deputy. Your Chief, we are sure, feels the same way. You are right, an insensitive government has nothing much to do for its constituents. Both the rich and the poor will agree to this.
“Life is precious than anything else,” Mr Tynsong said. Ahem, we thought it was money, sorry. You are a good leader and you will be forgiven because there will be enough money to distribute before next election.