The misplaced enthusiasm for Kapil Sibal’s subsidy for the Aakash tablet computer stems from a lack of understanding of the role of politicians in the economy. Not only is Sibal’s effort doomed to fail and get mired in corruption like any other government scheme, but it is also an example of the government interfering in the markets, which is a regressive step that takes the country back towards socialism.
The worst aspect of this programme is that it robs the poor to subsidise relatively wealthier people who can afford to buy the assembled gadget. That it is touted as an effort to help children by furthering their education should fool no one.
India’s government-run schools are among the worst in the world, and for the most part, lack teachers and even infrastructure. The only lesson that India’s schools have to offer to the world is that schooling must not be confused with education, a fact demonstrated by the success of Indians around the world despite wasting several years in India’s dysfunctional education system.
To claim that those who control India’s broken education system will set a shining example for the world to follow in the field of technology must be counted as one of the most cruel jokes. The attempt to instil pride in the people of the country by claiming that the assembled device is wholly made in India smacks of dishonesty as Aakash is not a piece of innovation that happened in India. It is a product that has been assembled using parts manufactured in other countries, a process known as ‘screwdriver technology’.
Sibal must realise that he is no Steve Jobs, but merely someone trying to be a computer salesman using other people’s money.
Entrepreneurs have a vision, take risks, under-consume, work hard and strive to create products that are better than those of their competitors. Sibal lacks vision, has taken no risk, fattens himself at the cost of taxpayers, has performed no hard work, and yet, the quality of the product is substandard. Successful entrepreneurs also turn in a profit for their investors while Sibal has come up with a loss-making scheme.
Despite the losses, Sibal has announced another plan to create a ‘cheap’ wi-fi network using other people’s money without their consent. Perhaps he believes that money comes from the Rupee tree and he can harvest as much as he pleases to meet all expenses. Such thinking on the part of politicians is the cause of inflation and underdevelopment in India.
Despite the rhetoric of using the tablet computers in villages, the underdevelopment created by the government will ensure that the computers are unusable in villages as most of them lack electricity. The government’s interference in the economy has also resulted in poverty as each government-run scheme adds to the people’s misery when losses from the scheme are eventually socialised.
On the intellectual plane, Sibal’s subsidies are on a par with Karunanidhi’s promise to use money taken from the people of Tamil Nadu to provide ‘free’ colour television sets to the people if they voted him into power.
Sibal’s actions also create a moral hazard as he takes money from one set of people to give it to another set. That the money is packaged in the form of a tablet computer does not make it morally different from the actions of a politician handing out wads of cash or sachets of liquor to his constituents in the hope that they will vote for him.
If Sibal wants to change the world by making innovations, he must quit his job and carve a niche for himself using his own money instead of robbing the public. If he feels inadequate in his job and feels a need to sell computers and puff up with pride, he must do so with his money in the private sector. That would stop hurting the people and the economy of India.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.