Lawmakers in poor light

PARLIAMENT LOGJAM : The total lack of respect by MPs for the rules governing parliament's functioning framed, in fact, by them is a serious concer

Lawmakers in poor light
The recently concluded monsoon session of parliament was not only a wash out in terms of its business but the worst outcome was that it showed our lawmakers in rather poor light. I would not like to comment on the politics of disruption of the parliamentary proceedings. But as a citizen, I am concerned at some of the issues thrown up during the session.

The first issue is the criticism by some MPs of the corporate leaders who dared to ask the MPs to pass the crucial bills pending before parliament. Some MPs even went to the extent of accusing them to be financiers of the ruling party. It is strange that some parties want to deny the corporates their fundamental right of expressing their views.

Thanks to the media, today we see live coverage of the proceedings of our temples of democracy. We do not need any body’s advice to understand the reasons for the disruption and can form our own views on issues of national importance. In fact, each one of us has a fundamental right to express our views about the conduct of our MPs, both inside and outside parliament. It is we who have elected them to represent us and work for the betterment of our country.

It may not be out of place to remind the critics of the corporate leaders that they are the ones who first supported a few industrialists through their policies of permit and quota raj. And having failed to solve our problems and having brought our economy to near ruin, economic reforms was introduced in 1991 which was meant to help the private sector in expanding their role in the economy. The country knows that now, it is the private sector which is playing a vital role in our economic growth. The private sector has gained strength and is no longer entirely dependent on the mercies of the state to remain in their business.

Our lawmakers want to muzzle their voice. It is not only the corporate leaders who want parliament to function and pass laws which benefit us but every responsible citizen wants our parliament to discharge its functions without disruption. It is also not a secret that almost all political parties line up before the very same corporate leaders for money for fighting elections. Some of them also privately pursue the interests of private businesses by approaching the appropriate authorities.

The second issue, which is of serious concern, is the total lack of respect for the rules governing the functioning of parliament. These rules have been framed by the MPs themselves and have not been imposed on them by any outside authority. When these rules are applied by the presiding officer and unruly members are suspended for a limited period, then many parties come together and launch serious protest against it.

Utter disrespect

Why should they have rules if these are not meant to be followed? How unreasonable it is that the lawmakers should expect the entire country to follow the laws made by them and have respect for the law when they themselves give live demonstration of utter disrespect they show to their own rules governing the business of parliament? And the worst is that some of them find fault with the people who show them the mirror and tell them to do their work for which they have been elected and not waste public money by disrupting the work of parliament.

Yet another serious issue is the increasing arrogance of many of the elected representatives. Why a large number of them are arrogant? The answer lies in their background. The current Lok Sabha has 185 (34 per cent) MPs with declared criminal cases against them out of which 119 (22 per cent) are facing serious criminal cases. There are 443 (82 per cent) crorepati MPs. One can well imagine how deadly the cocktail would be if it has political power, money power and criminality as its ingredients.  How can we expect such persons to be working for the welfare of the poor people of India?

The Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLAD) has been in operation for many years now under which each MP can select works up to Rs 5 crore per year to be taken up in his/her constituency. Many of the works selected by them are meant to benefit their relatives, friends and supporters. Look at how many times they have increased their own salaries, pensions and perks – 28 times since 1954.

Their justification for increasing their salaries is that bureaucrats also get periodic salary rise. They forget that unlike government servants they run their own private business, professions or industries and their salary is not their primary or only source of livelihood. In any case, there is no better business than the business of politics. The current Lok Sabha has as many as 168 members who were re-elected; the average assets of 165 of them stand at Rs 12.78 crore, up 137 per cent compared to the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

I do not grudge their prosperity but I surely resent their arrogance. I hope the MPs will do some introspection about their conduct and work more for the country and be less arrogant. However, I would also like to mention that there are still many politicians who are excellent human beings and are always willing to help the people. Let their breed multiply like the wealth of some of their fellow members.

(The writer is former Additional Chief Secretary, Karnataka and currently President, Policy Analysis and Action Research Centre, Bengaluru)
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