(Repost of an an old article.As it originally was.)
The other day, I attended some commemoration ceremony or the other. Speaker after speaker eloquently, and in great detail, recounted the deeds of the departed soul, and bemoaned in telling phrases how much the nation was in debt to him. There was a lump in my throat at this selflessness and sacrifice but an indeterminate, diffuse and unfocussed sense of rage was also welling up in my heart. Why did the great man leave us all forever in debt? He had rather accepted the full recompense than condemn us to the fate of dying in debt. Debt is certainly a fate worse than death. Because of the misplaced magnanimity of the great man, the nation would forever languish in this helplessness.
Impereceptibly but inexorably, it seems our nation is falling into a twin debt trap which the people at the helm of affairs are not fully seized of. The debt of the IMF - World Bank variety is a crippling burden no doubt, but by various scheduling and structuring adjustments, abdication of policy initiative, or, if it come to the crunch, by handing over the reins of government altogether to the World Bank, IMF we can still redeem our credit worthiness and Moody rating. But what about this other debt; the one that cannot be quantified but is weighing the nation down? The thought has been nagging me ever since.
What has been done cannot be undone but we can certainly be forewarned to take some preventive measures so that the tangible debt situation does not get exacerbated by the intangible one. The debt incurred in dollars, perhaps, can not be prevented. Because, after all, if there are Banks, there would be borrowers. The global village cannot, perhaps, do without its moneylender. And from the pockets of those whose coffers are overflowing with dollars, something will spill into the pockets of those whose coffers are empty; it is a fairly equitable kind of order and one would sooner wish the distinction of the sexes to disappear than try to tinker with this. So forget about the debt accumulation in dollars. Pragmatism demands that we concentrate whole heartedly to ensure that there are no further accruals to the debt of the other kind. Of course I must express my indebtedness to the various figures in public life to whom I owe the inspiration, but to me must go the credit of fully articulating and systematizing it.
A sizable section of the population has already started feeling grateful for the brilliant, rearguard action that I have been mounting for national reconstruction through this column. Gushing admirers have been so overwhelmed by my reformist zeal that they swear I am the only hope. It is only natural that this feeling would spread far and wide. I am not worried overly on this score, but what is worrying is that soon the nation will start recognizing the debt that they owe me. Gradually, the sense of guilt on account of the unacknowledged but unrepayable debt would grip the national psyche. Therefore, I have decided that, at an appropriate time, I shall succumb to the pleadings of my numerous acolytes and allow myself to be anointed; to be elevated to some kind of a national institution. I would let it be known very discretly how much the nation is in arrears to me for my services etc. My birthday would no longer be such an esoteric secret nor would my predilection for being weighed against gold on that day of national thanksgiving be held back from the grateful, indebted population. A rumour would do the rounds that if gold (67Kgs of it! I have added precious kilos since then.) was scarce, coins would do just fine. Universities, roads, bridges would in fitness of things, be named after me. The nation may honour me by conferring awards etc. on Republic Day. My scholarship, my contribution to the realm of ideas, the early promise that I had shown even in school would easily pass muster and there would be no cause for me to disbelieve what the nation firmly believes in. To afford the nation the fullest opportunity of benefiting from my advice or just gawking at me, people may clamour that the facility for travel in greatest comfort be made available to me at the taxpayer’s expense, to which I would initially demur but finally accede to.
As a first tranche of the repayment of the debt, this should do, but if nation is eager to completely free itself from the obligation that they owe me , a couple of SDRs (Special Drawing Rights) which will be explained presently, for my children and children’s children can be considered. Ours is a land of equal opportunity, no doubt, but the wishes of the majority have to be heeded to. Therefore, in any contest for office, public or otherwise, my descendants could encash these .In any contest or competitive struggle for opportunities, the mere fact of being my descendants should suffice.If they were running a race they could be allowed to stand on the finishing line when the pistol cracks to signal “go” for the rest of the lot.
In fact for the whole cadre of the selfless, self-effacing public men, I would recommend this brilliant scheme whereby they could be remunerated for their services rendered to the nation in the manner of encashing Teller cheques (ATM's were not heard of a couple of years back). Promptly and without delay.The utopia dreamt of in the old maxim neither a borrower nor a lender be would be very much here.
That way we can become a nation of proud self-respecting people who owe nothing to any one.