Friday, September 4, 2009

Reflections on YSR

YSR is the first AP chief minister to have died on duty. On a wet wednesday morning, in his wish to know the problems of people he set out, only to never return.

I never had a good opinion about the congress party. When I was first analysed the politics of the state, TDP was in power and considered Congress as a bad opposition. I expected the TDP to win in the 2004 elections but Mr YSR with strong leadership had captured the hearts of the masses to win handsomely in the elections. I was a strong supported of NCB at that time and hoped he will win with all the development he had done in AP. I strongly believe that we should work to get our food and hoped that should be the same with everyone. When YSR introduced schemes like free power I wondered whether he was doing the right thing. He started many more populist schemes which took him even closer to the masses and I kept wondering if this what people wanted. Though he had started many populist schemes, the fact kept hitting me that 1. he is using tax payer money which could have been put to a better use than giving handouts. 2. He is not solving the long term problem.

So as always i thought, he is just pandering to the people to win in the elections. But one thing changed my opinion. His scheme Arogyasri, helped lot of people to live when the outcome could have been otherwise. Though there were lot of wastage in the scheme like doctors billing more for insurance etc, it has helped save people's lives. Now should he have considered long term and developed govt hospitals and infrastructure or he has done better by saving lives. By not developing hospitals and other infrastructure, is he not responsible for creating a life threatening condition which he only solves by giving insurance for getting it cured. Though it can be argued both ways, he has done what others even didnt think of doing. The same situation was there in NCB's time also with nothing much done, YSR has atleast done something to solve the problem.
It is always a question of allocation of scarce resources... And though I prefer a methodical and thoughtful way of LokSatta in solving such problems, we have to consider the fact that though he might not have made a big difference, he had made a difference to each beneficiary of arogyasri as in the story of the person who tries to throw the star fishes in the sea. When a person remarks it doesn't matter because there are too many star fish to save, he remarks 'It makes a difference to this one.' A certified coach Hanna Cooper says it best about the conflict here
It's partially a question of where we want to put our time and resources, as individuals working to make a difference, and as a society. We want to save individual starfish, but in times of scarce resources, where can we get the most impact from what we do? While it's certainly important to help individuals in crisis, what could be done to prevent them from getting into difficulty? How could we move up stream?

YSR chose to give the resources right to the people, which made him popular with the masses.
This type of help is best done by an individual but what we want from leaders is to solve the system problems and make sure it doesnt repeat. But in Indian democracy, the visibility is to those who have the impression of having given which makes people like YSR succeed. I am not sure how our people will get to elect people who will actually think about avoiding fires rather than always just putting out the fires. Though I was very enthusiastic around last time about LokSatta who rather see it systematically, but I understand to have that public mindshare, credibility and support from the masses, the systemic approach might not be suitable.

Ysr had his share of failings too. Though I am not sure how much of it is true, there have been stories around forced conversions to christianity. If this is true, then it is a big blemish on otherwise good Chief Ministership. It is also said that he has put a christian as an EO in TTD which could have been very easily avoided and that he has encouraged alcohol in Tirumala. I being an atheist dont have problems with these things but he could have easily left them to a wiser judgement of respecting people's sensibilities.

I would not doubt the fact that YSR really cared about helping poor people whatever his methods were. The irrigation projects which he started are really one good thing. I really hope all those projects are completed and his dream of irrigating a crore hectares of land comes true.

It is not possible to satisfy everyone and YSR is not an exception to this. What he has done might not be the best that could have done with the resources he had, but it was good enough to please so many people to put him back in power. YSR will surely go down in history as the 'Man of the Masses.'