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Mai Baap Sarkar: From Birth to Death


By Devendra Kumar Budakoti

At election time, common issues that come up across political parties are Unemployment, Poverty, Price Rise, Corruption and Law and Order. All the parties talk of giving jobs, removing poverty, and checking price rise and ending corruption. The parties promise better health services and improved education system, and mention providing better services right from birth to death, thereby saying, “We will be better ‘Mai Baap’”. In India the government is expected to give anything and everything from birth to death, thus the term ‘Mai Baap Sarkar’.

In British colonial times, the government was the Master-Malik of the people, and jobs, poverty eradication was not their concern. In fact, people were told that these problems were due to British colonial rule and administration. It was basically after World War-1 that the freedom movement led by political parties spoke on public forums about Life, Liberty and Property. In this period, the xocialist and communist parties spoke about eradication of poverty and hunger through land reforms and government control of public services.

In the Post-Independence era, the socialist oriented politicians, economic planners and civil servants introduced the socialist model of development. Nehru had socialist influence and the idea of economic planning for five years was taken from the Soviet Union. The socialist and communist ideology also influenced the trade union movement in the country and the left intellectuals influenced the academic institutions and also a big segment of social activists across the country. The left intellectuals influenced historiography, political discourse and subaltern movement and a big section of journalists under the ‘Anti Establishment’ reporting system.

India emphasised on the public sector, investments in heavy and basic industries, infrastructure, educational scientific and technological institutions under government control and supervision, which laid the foundation of ‘Sarkari Naukari’ in the country. Nehru coined the term, ‘Temples of modern India’ and the expansion of government machinery gave further boost to government jobs. It was in 1991, the new economic policy was brought to eliminate licensing policies, increase market competition, and promote global free trade. Arvind Panagariya, former Chairperson of Niti Aayog, in an interview with Business Today, said, “So whether you talk of the bureaucracy, or the political class or the intellectuals, particularly the economists, even the businessmen – the philosophy of socialism has continued through this inheritance.” One can see the importance of government jobs from the number of applicants for constable and peon jobs, which include degree holders, engineers, and professionals like MBAs including PhDs. This shows the private sector and the corporate world has not matched government jobs in terms of pay, privileges, perks and pension. Is this anything to do with our economic policies and educational planners who did not think, plan and develop syllabi and curricula to address the issue of employment and livelihood?

The successive government programmes have been structured to look into all aspects of life, from birth to death, and with socialist mindset, thus becoming the ‘Mai Baap Sarkar’ for people at large. The health programmes, The Integrated Child Development Scheme –ICDS, midday meal scheme, employment guarantee scheme-MNREGA, all kind of pension schemes – widow, old age and disability – the Public distribution system-PDS, free ration for poor, providing gas, budget for housing and toilets for the marginalised and opening of bank accounts thus transferring welfare amount directly to the poor beneficiaries. There have been programmes to assist marriage ceremonies for poor families, and in death, assist in shifting dead bodies from hospitals to their homes for cremation. So, we see many programmes geared to assist people from birth to death and, hence, people expect government to be like a ‘Mai Baap Sarkar’. In the last 75 years of our independence, how far this ‘Mai Baap Sarkar’ concept has succeeded is a matter ideological debate. However, we see all political parties compete for being and promising to be better ‘Mai Baap’!

(The author is a sociologist and is an alumnus of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His research work is quoted in books of Nobel laureate Prof Amartya Sen)