Time was when Gandhi Jayanti and Children's Day were the only two birthdays of popular public figures celebrated across the country. Over a period of time, the list continued to grow, but it was mostly confined to great leaders who were no more amidst us.
However, we see a new trend emerging now. Politicians great and small celebrate their birthdays with great fanfare or their fans do, rather.
We are constantly reminded about the birthdays of leaders of all levels, shades and grades, every passing minute when we pass through the roads. Every other lane has a hoarding pasted in our faces wishing some politician or the other, a very happy birthday!
Recently, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh celebrated his birthday on the 13th of September. Thousands of hoardings flooded the city with every small-time crony in the Congress trying to profess undying loyalty to him.
Newspapers were filled with advertisements greeting the Chief Minister. Don't these worthies realize how much money they are wasting for every hoarding they put up? Most of these billboards are never seen by the dignitary in question, in this case, Kiran Kumar Reddy.
Last month, crores of public money was spent on government ads reminding us of Rajiv Gandhi’s birthday. There was a barrage of criticism which followed the government's spending on advertisements by ministries and departments on this occasion. The Central government had spent as much as Rs. 58 crores on ads in the last three years; If this cannot be termed wastage, what else are meant to call it? Rs. 15 crore was spent on ads honouring Mahatma Gandhi; another Rs. 12 crore was used for ads in honour of B.R. Ambedkar. One wonders why this money is wasted in the names of these great men. Had they been alive they would be the first to disapprove of such wasteful expenditure!
The Central Government isn’t behind in spending money on ads on the Gandhi family. Roughly around 22 crores of money was spent on advertisement campaigns on the Gandhi family, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi and these don't include the money spent on the ad campaign of Rajiv's birth anniversary.
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry recently suggested that on special occasions, there should be just one ad placed on behalf of all ministries, instead of dozens of ads where each of the minister tries to get in his bits' worth publicity at state expense.
The Government also spends crores of money advertising the welfare schemes that they introduce. Aren't they doing their duty by introducing the welfare schemes they publicize? Is it really necessary for them to spend hundreds of crores of rupees telling us what they did (their duty!)?
An NGO also filed a Public Interest Litigation in Supreme Court asking it to stop the government from glorifying its achievements using public money. This wasteful and wholly unnecessary exercise cannot be justified in any manner, particularly at a time when various development and beneficent schemes are not able to reach the masses and the unprivileged, owing to either paucity of funds or infrastructural deficiencies," the NGO said.
It is about time governments stop spending public money on trumpeting about their own 'achievements'. If a law needs to be enacted on this, let's do it. But let governments and parties not justify it the way a prominent spokesman of the ruling party did—that money spent on such expenditure drives helps the press! He claimed that the intention behind such (wasteful) expenditure was more altruistic than it was perceived to be! Think again....