Congress politicians move in pairs, like burglars. At one time, Hollywood couples also did so-Budd Abbott and Lou Costello, and Laurel and Hardy, and also in literature you had Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. We now have our own Quixotes and Panzas in politics, who instead of tilting at windmills, prefer five-star hotels and silky sheets and maybe other things that go with them. The latest five-star pair is SM Krishna and Shashi Tharoor, no kin to Shashi Kapoor, who is a much more modest man and a gentleman.
Like itinerant beggars, they move from one five-star deluxe hotel to another with an occasional spell in a smelly guest house. Who pays the bills? They say they pay them. If somebody asked for receipts, there would be a lot of white faces in the foreign ministry.
How can they do it? How can so-called people’s representatives stay in deluxe hotels in a country where a loaf of bread costs an hour’s wage. It is arrogance of power and a total lack of accountability that this kind of power gives them, or, at least, they think it gives them.
Tharoor is a United Nations man where he was a public relations officer, not a great job as PRO jobs go. But UN is an organisation with a large leverage, where a little goes really very far. I have no idea what he had been doing there, but whatever it was, it brought him close to powers that be, and he believes that gives him immunity from a accountability and access to goodies denied to mere mortals elsewhere.
For, the UN is one of the most incompetent and irresponsible organisations run by its officials for the welfare of the officials. It seems to have no other purpose. It is a spending agency, not an earning one, so everything is free and nobody is responsible for anything. The UN staff gets fat salaries for all the work they do, and equally fat pensions. The peons in UN earn more than the presidents or prime ministers of some countries. It attracts all kinds of riff-raff from all over the world, from the desert of Kalahari to the snows of Kilimanjaro, all of them very adept at million-dollar deals and numbered accounts. It is not an accident that most of the UN agencies operate from Geneva which is where numbered accounts were invented.
Ask the UN, what it has achieved over the years and the answer will be a big zero. Almost all the issues, which it was supposed to handle, and for which it was established, hang fire sixty years after the issues came to the fore. What has happened in Kashmir, which Nehru dropped in the laps of the UN in his great Kashmiri wisdom. Where is Palestine, which was supposed to be formed in 1948 and is now dying on its feet? What is happening in Cyprus, Kosovo, Sri Lanka? The list is endless. These have now become permanent issues without solutions, precisely the kind of issues UN prefers and which it has no intention of solving, for where would the officials with their fat salaries go, if there were no problems to solve? The families of so-called observers in Kashmir must now be millionaires, having spent a lifetime in sunning on the Dal Lake, and occasionally watching Pakistanis across the frontier come and go. Multiply Kashmir a hundred times and you have an idea of the UN at work, or, on holiday.
No wonder, the US which foots, most of the bills, for UN functioning is so fed up it would like to wash its hands of the whole thing. It refused to pay its subscription for a number of years and at one time nearly pulled out of it altogether. About a million people would have lost their livelihood, and all those holidays in the Alps. The Americans were persuaded to stay on and the UN survived. For the officials and others, it was pet ka sawal!
Most of the information UN provides in its several reports is stale and useless. This is not its fault, nor of its officials. Most countries are members of the UN from whom it collects, and in fact, is duty bound to collect its information. If the Indian government in Delhi says that the economy in India is doing very well and there will be record production of this and that, the UN is bound to say that in its reports, verbatim, for that is its job. Indian officials are a very clever lot; they use the same information, which they have supplied to the UN, re-cycle it and tom-tom it in their own domestic reports as the views of UN experts. Actually, there are no UN experts. The so-called experts are also sent by the individual countries and have their backs to guard. A deputy secretary goes as a UN expert and returns as a joint secretary, with a free laptop and half a dozen Van Heusen shirts, and instantly becomes an expert on whatever he has spent his time on. There are more UN experts in this world than there are rocket-launchers in Afghanistan, and both serve their purpose!
Of course, since the Americans are footing the bills, we don’t really care. Government leaders go to the UN once a year, some in their fancy clothes and fancier headgear, give out their official spiel, then they go back to their hotels and open their bottles of champagne, which they have purchased in Paris on their way to New York, and drink the stuff with the same people they have abused in the morning. This is supposed to be international diplomacy in its most liquid form, and there are people like Muammar Qaddafi who do it as well as the moulvis of Iran. Qaddafi may be the richest terrorist in the world but he still lives in a tent, even in New York, and whose UN bill is paid for indirectly by the US Treasury. There are other terrorists too and Barack Obama would gladly pay their bills also, if the US Treasury allowed it.
You may ask, where is morality in all this, and why should the bills of terrorists be paid by governments who are themselves the victims of these terrorists? But you don’t ask such questions in UN gatherings because some of the terrorists head the governments and since these governments are members of the UN, you don’t’ ask such awkward questions. If you think that this is all rather strange and something of sham, the answer is that this is precisely what the UN is and this precisely what its officials including its great PROs do or were doing, for that is their job. They are totally unfit for genuine public work, for they have lost all touch with genuineness. There are no standards for judging your work, for your bosses are sham too, and they too do the same thing. For, it was not only Tharoor who stayed in deluxe hotels, to which he was not entitled, but his boss did too, and, of course, being meticulous about protocol, he chose a different hotel and a higher-priced one, as befits a good bureaucrat who has spent his time in hotels all his life, and knows them all down to the insides of the mini-bar.
So, there they go, to their marbled bars and cocktail lounges to down their daiquiris as the sun goes down the velvety tress in India Gate, and the night comes alive in the dining halls of the Taj and the Oberoi, and, of course, the Maurya, where the diplomats, some of them fresh from the UN, gather for their evensong. Down the hatch!