The response by an official of the Press Information Bureau (Akash will change the face of India’s education system ) to a piece in DNA on the Akash computer reveals the attitude of the ruling class towards the people of India. The attribution of motives, ad-hominem attacks and the use of words such as “of his ilk” show that the rulers consider the people of India to be in a state of peonage.
By evading the points on government schemes descending into corruption, the illiterates subsidising relatively wealthier people, the low quality of India's education system, the creation of a loss making scheme, and the moral question of using other people's money to pursue one's whims, the government confirms that it has no answers to the legitimate arguments against Kapil Sibal's scheme.
Instead, it makes the fictitious claim that the author scoffed at the low cost of the computer and makes the false charge that the motive of the article was to launch an attack on Kapil Sibal. This allegation is quickly refuted by pointing out that similar actions by other individuals who use other people's money would also be unacceptable. Two previous efforts, the marketing of the Simputer by two Indians and the attempt to sell a 100 dollar laptop by a professor at MIT, were equally immoral as they sought to channel government subsidies their way.
Arguments favouring the free enterprise system contain two aspects. The first deals with the process and raises moral objections to the government trampling on liberties while it implements its system. The other angle focuses on the outcomes and highlights the inefficiencies and failures of the government-run system as opposed to a free enterprise system. These two aspects are in harmony with each other as the system that does not usurp our freedoms is also the more efficient one in which there is less poverty, more equality, less corruption and more stability.
In its response, the government ignores these ideas, appeals to emotions by mentioning children, and then congratulates itself for allegedly empowering them. No one, not even Kapil Sibal, believes that the government's education system is of a decent quality. After all, Kapil Sibal sent his sons to the US and the UK for higher education. Sibal himself pursued his education outside India and obtained a degree in law from Harvard University. Sibal's degree in law brings us back to the moral angle and he would be well advised to mull over the point raised by Frederic Bastiat his book, The Law, to identify plunder by the government,“See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.”
The government's response also purports to read minds and makes a determination on what constitutes a “misplaced thought.” If this goes unchallenged, it will take us down a slippery slope and it won't be long before the government publishes a list of accepted and forbidden thought processes. It may even take the dangerous step of telling Indians the exact number of days one would be allowed to fast in protest against corruption in the government.
The government's claims cannot be taken seriously as it comes from the Press Information Bureau of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. This bureau is really the division of disinformation and has a sordid past. As for the Ministry itself, Orwellian ministries should have Orwellian names and it ought to be called the Ministry of Truth and Propaganda. Mentioning the success of the mobile telephone market while questioning the government is typical of such a ministry. The telephone industry underwent explosive growth only after the government loosened controls and allowed the private players to enter the arena. The areas in which the government still retains control, such as the allocation of frequencies, are still steeped in crony capitalism and massive corruption.
Rather than take credit for providing good schools in the future, the government should take a hard look at its record in providing drinking water, supplying electricity, removing poverty and clearing garbage. Even if it learns to perform these tasks some day, it would still not change the fact that by assembling the Akash computer, the government has merely performed a task that is routinely performed by Chinese imitators who produce cheap electronic goods in their shacks. The pricing of the Akash computer in US dollars also makes it hard to believe that the purpose of the scheme is not self-aggrandizement.
—The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org