The cult of KPSocial security scheme should reflect in government’s policies—not in its posters
The social security scheme should reflect in government’s policies—not in its posters On Tuesday, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s visage beamed out from most of the major newspapers in the country, and from billboards across the Capital city, announcing the initiation of the government’s long-promised and much-vaunted social security scheme. What is perhaps the single-largest reform in the labour industry was overshadowed by the government’s publicity stunt. The social security scheme, announced nearly 10 years ago by then Finance Minister Surendra Pandey in 2009, is a welcome initiative and should have been allowed to stand on its own merits. Instead, the unveiling led to a furore on social media, with many criticising the Oli government for what they saw as the government’s preening attempt at self-aggrandisation.
The jacket advertisements in newspapers, however, weren’t funded by the state. They were sponsored by a number of corporate houses, including telecommunications, banks and airlines. A number of officials at these companies reported receiving calls from government institutions, including the Central Bank, the Social Security Fund and the national telecommunications authority. One official went so far as to say that the call felt ‘more like an order rather than a request’. The government might insist it was simply a request but a lot can be read between the lines. All too often, a request is not just a request. On Twitter, some users pointed to echoes of Soviet Russia and implied that PM Oli’s beaming face bore a striking resemblance to that of Joseph Stalin, who had a penchant for adorning public spaces with his face.
Secondly, the government should not ask private companies to sponsor its advertisements, no matter what they are promoting. The line between private and public interests must be respected. The government and private companies should not be engaged in a quid pro quo. Blurring the line can result in dangerous forms of dependency; private entities might seek favours from the government later and the government itself might feel obliged to help out a company that had helped it out. All said, businesses will always look out for their own financial interests and while the advertisements might cost them a pretty rupee, they can easily write off the amount spent as part of their corporate social responsibility.
There are many others avenues that the government could have explored in advertising a welfare scheme as unprecedented as this one. Promoting the scheme’s salient points could have served better than the glorification of PM Oli’s own person. Personality cults function to foster megalomania and messianic beliefs of a leader. The Prime Minister’s energy and vigour towards the scheme is commendable, but it should reflect in its policies and programmes—not in its posters. It is not becoming for a communist party to invite parallels with past despotic communist regimes. PM Oli and the Communist Party might not be of the same ilk as Joseph Stalin and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, so it should not provide opportunities for the citizenry to make such comparisons.