News is that the salaries of Members of Parliament are to be revised. The Hindu (daily) in its Editorial on May 11. 2010 wrote "All Pay, No Work" - MPs don't deserve a five-fold salary hike. The Editorial also has A THOUGHT FOR TODAY : India is the only democracy in the world where MPs decide their own salaries - Somnath Chatterjee, Former Lok Sabha Speaker. What an irony? Mera Bharat Mahan!
It says that a Joint Parliamentary Committee has recommended that an MP's salary be hiked from the existing Rs. 16,000 to Rs. 80,000, which would be at par with that of a Secretary to the Government. Remember, they have handsome perks of all sorts too........... taxable or otherwise! It amounts to Rs 38 lakhs per year!!
It is a big debate, never ending, that if these so called People's Representatives have made all sacrifices to enter public life to serve the Aam Aadmi, why they should be paid 'salaries'? Do they come under any of the Industrial Relations legislations? They are not full time employees with a set of service conditions, timings, duties and responsibilities. Do they observe any Code of Conduct? Is their annual performance reviewed by any one (the employer)? The Speaker of Lok Sabha has been struggling and pleading with them to submit their Assets & Liabilities data recently.
The Hindu, on May 07, 2010 (p 12) carried an article with a caption "Nothing unconstitutional about MPLAD Scheme, rules Supreme Court" - mere allegation of misuse by some MPs in itself may not be a ground for scrapping it. Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme. Strange are the rulings of the highest seat of judgement - Supreme Court, in some cases. Recently, SC ruled that pre-marital sex and Living In arrangements are okay in Indian society! Similarly, the MPLAD Scheme which is in operation for about twenty years is ruled to be okay. Supreme Court judgement on MPLAD Scheme.
This innovative and interesting scheme was introduced by the then Prime Minister Mr PV Narasimha Rao in early nineties. The objectives may be sincere but the motive must be to keep the MPs in good humour. It is the tax payer's money that is doled out at Rs. 2 crore per MP per year. If I do the maths, the amount spent (if at all), would run to billions in last twenty years. If only the amounts were spent / invested judiciously, wonders if not miracles should have taken place all over the country in infrastructure, drinking water facility, education, electricity, health and sanitation, family welfare, irrigation, non-conventional source of energy, community centres, public libraries, bus stands, roads, pathways, bridges and sports infrastructure. But......?
Where is the local area development? Who is accountable? What is the Comptroller or Auditor General of India doing? Is there any study to substantiate the outcome of this Scheme in any part of the country. Like they say, Courts have no eyes but only ears (no mention about mind, heart, soul, etc, of course). Seeing is always believing. Let a senior Parliamentary Committee go into the working of the scheme, study the fruits it had borne, and review. There ought to be misuse, misappropriation, fraud, cheating, etc in a majority cases.
Let not the politician and bureaucrat take shelter under the so-called judgement of the Supreme Court and continue to enjoy the funds and amass wealth at the cost of the ex-chequer and tax payer's money. The ruling and opposition parties and their members should be honest and committed to rural development rather than collude to continue to operate such schemes for ever without audit, review, revision and disclosures. Instead, if the judiciary joins hands with polity and bureaucracy to say "All Is Well", the poverty sticken, debt-burdened poor and hungry farmers continue to commit suicides without any remedy.
Similarly, the foul cry and recent buzz word like Financial Inclusion - would never achieve total revolution in the country. All the schemes and slogans will remain on paper only. PMs and Governments will continue to come and go; Five Year Plans would go on and on; Today, we have fortunately an honest and sincere Prime Minister and also an erudite and efficient/committed Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission. They should be ever remembered for all the contributions to the people of the country towards development, growth and total change in quality of life - thanks to economic and other reforms. No more populist measures please.