Charter for a Buddha and Gandhi

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  • Published 8.05.08

After Gopal Gandhi’s announcement on Tuesday to switch off Raj Bhavan lights for an hour each in the afternoon and evening, the powers-that-be in the CPM have made generous suggestions about what else Gopal Gandhi can do to express solidarity with the miserable millions.

CPM leaders are interpreting the governor’s gesture as a slight to the Bengal government. They may be unaware that this Gandhi — unlike the original one who gave the world the non-violence movement — is not the inventor of voluntary switching-off.

Just over a month ago, 30 million people across 35 countries turned off their lights for 60 minutes to observe Earth Hour. Volunteers in some Indian cities had agreed to support the movement against global warming but the event passed by without Calcutta taking notice.

It could, of course, have stayed out, arguing Earth Hour happens here every day.

While they heap scorn on the governor, Metro uncovers what the CPM-led government and its leaders could have done to pre-empt a power crisis from breaking out and can do to prove that when it comes to showing public sympathy, the governor’s is not the last word.

Be a Buddha

Thou shalt admit failure: That the power crisis is its own creation. The government was supposed to add 1,570 MW capacity a year ago but all projects have been delayed for technical reasons.

Thou shan’t flaunt power: The chief minister’s office and his secretariat are powered by a centrally air-conditioned system while the offices of ministers and secretaries are fitted with window or split air-conditioners. The electricity bill for Writers’ is around Rs 14 lakh every month.

If they follow the governor, they will save power generated by plants built with your money and save some more of your money by cutting electricity costs.

Better still, switch to solar power.

Thou shalt conserve nature’s resources: Petroleum prices being what they are — touching $122 a barrel on Tuesday — the chief minister’s minders can examine if he needs to move in a five-car cavalcade. True it’s less than half the football-team strength of 11 that accompanied predecessor Jyoti Basu, it may be possible to make it even smaller without compromising on security.

Thou shalt be a frugal eater: Just as petrol, food prices are rising too. There are reports of families not being able to afford two meals a day. The chief minister is known to be a frugal eater so skipping meals — as suggested to the governor by the CM’s colleagues — is not an option. Besides, if the state’s leader is not healthy, how will he feed its people?

Thou shalt love thy neighbour: The chief minister has held a dignified silence on the governor’s much-publicised power turn-off, but his colleagues have let fly a high-decibel assault. One suggestion is to leave Raj Bhavan to let slum-dwellers move in, Russian revolution-style.

Raj Bhavan is a short walk away from Writers’ and Buddhababu ought to tell his comrades Marx didn’t oppose loving neighbours.

Be a Gandhi

Thou shan’t stop at switching-off: The governor has caused a stir by announcing a voluntary two-hour blackout. There is no limit to what he can do to be truly the people’s governor.

Thou shan’t be too cool: Rough estimates suggest that Raj Bhavan is fitted with 11 split and 52 window ACs and eight packaged ACs that are used in central air-conditioning. The average monthly electricity bill is around Rs 5 lakh. More fans and fewer ACs is an option. But solar power is the way forward and Raj Bhavan has the space for the panels.

Thou shalt be productive: CPM leaders have suggested the governor skip a meal a day to feel at one with the around 27 per cent of Bengal’s population that lives below the poverty line. Instead of adding one more mouth to the hungry millions, the 27 acres of Raj Bhavan land could be cultivated to add to the country’s grain basket. Not far from the river, the land should be fit for multiple cropping, though given the relations between the government and the governor, there’s always the threat of acquisition for a small-car factory.

Thou shalt be eco-friendly: The governor moves in a three-car convoy that consists of a Toyota Camry, an Ambassador and a wireless jeep. There may not be much room here to crimp. But he can certainly switch to LPG.

Thou shalt entertain austerely: From book launches to dinners for visiting dignitaries, Raj Bhavan hosts at least one programme a day. The pantry employs 20 people to keep the guests fed.

Thou shalt let the media come to you: While doing any, or all, of the five things mentioned above, the governor may consider not issuing a press release and let the media find out for themselves his good deeds. That method always works better.