“The citizens of a country, whose king is weak, should not marry and beget children. A worthy family life, with culture and domestic happiness, is possible only under the rule of a good, strong king. Wife, wealth and other things are not safe, if there be no proper king…”- C. Rajagopalarchari, Mahabharata, Bhavan’s Book University, 61st edition 2015.
The above quote is taken from the episode-The Slaying of Bakasura in the Mahabharata, an Indian epic. Bakasura was a demon that invaded a town and held the people to ransom. His rage and destruction was curtailed only after the people promised to provide him a daily supply of food, wine and dessert. Delivered by a villager on a bullock cart each day, the demon would devour not only the food, wine and dessert but also the bull and the individual making the delivery. The people were helpless against this tyrant until Bhima, a powerful hero, agreed to make the delivery and put an end to Bakasura.
The American Revolution remains a popular example of an abuse of taxation. The Stamp Act, The Townshend Acts and Tea Act were designed to extort from the people increased taxes to meet expenses of the colonial power with no benefits reaching the people. This inspired a revolt which resulted in the overthrowing of British rule in the thirteen colonies and a declaration of independence.
Equity in the collection and distribution of taxes is a pillar of good governance. Unfortunately, taxes are collected and spent to feather the nest of a privileged few including party financiers. This is visible in the ease at which the 1% can successfully negotiate business in this country.
The banking industry is controlled by a cartel that has alienated themselves from the people. Their objective in business is not about empowering the people but profiteering. Depositors are paid negligible interest rates while burrowers are burdened with high interest rates after offering 100% security. The bank offers no concession to those who cannot meet their installments caused by loss of jobs or other calamities such as the COVID 19 pandemic.
Dependency has become part of the national culture of this country. This is done all in the name of politicking and religion. Our politicians devise social policies to win the next election, not to build strong and responsible citizens who will work and pay taxes. Such dependency is unsustainable and would ultimately descend into social unrests such as the Black Power Uprising of 1970 and the attempted coup by the Muslimeen of 1990.
The social welfare division of the government is always quick to respond to the social needs of the urban ghettoes while ignoring the poverty of the rural communities. The bias is blatant and an affront to social justice. It has been most visible at time of natural disasters in the past and in the current COVID 19 crisis. We have witnessed the repeated failure of the government to respond to communities in south and central under flood waters for several days. Equally disgusting is the failure of NGOs backed by the 1% not coming forward to assist. However, these said institutions are most present to distribute hampers and other benefits to the urban ghettoes. The international community would be shocked to learn of this apartheid system existing in this country in the 21st century!
This Bakasura culture is also visible in the distribution of funding for culture by the Ministry of Culture, state enterprises and private corporations. Creole culture including pan, calypso, soca and carnival continue to receive huge funding from these institutions while aspects of Indian culture are marginalized. Worse is the media houses and many users of social media who go at length to defend this discrimination.
Dr. Rowley’s engagement in backyard gardening is a sham. Had Rowley been serious about food security he would have provided the incentives to the farmers who have the skills and talent to produce foods, thus leaving him to govern the country. Despite the government’s neglect of agriculture, our farmers continue to do an excellent job at putting food on the table.
It is time for the Prime Minister to pay some real attention to agriculture and food security. Protecting the few food importers can spell disaster given the rising global food shortages triggered by COVID 19 and invasions by locusts, and the shortage of forex.
Agriculture has the potential to create more than 50,000 full time jobs in the short term. It is the surest way to solve our unemployment problem. An abundance of fresh and affordable fruits and vegetables would contribute positively to the nation’s health, thus reducing our current spiraling health bill. More so, the nation will save on scarce forex which can now be directed to import medicine and capital goods.
The PM doesn’t need to plant. That is the job of our famers. The PM’s duty remains to provide our famers with the resources and incentives to the farmers who will plant and grow the food for the nation.