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Tathagata Bhattacharya
Friday , December 02, 2011 at 16 : 05

Adjourned House, blighted India


The Parliament has been adjourned for the 9th day in a row; the notional loss to the country's exchequer touches the Rs 36 crore mark. The deadlock over allowing FDI in single and multi-brand retail shows no signs of abatement. So it is perfectly natural to assume that this figure will go up appreciably once our esteemed parliamentarians return after a long weekend.

The notional loss is calculated as the sum total of wages and salaries of all MPs and staff of Parliament; the cost of the elaborate security bandobast; and operating costs like electricity charges, office expense, canteen expense, stationary expense, etc. This amounts to nearly Rs 4 crore for a day when the Parliament is in session.

This is how responsible elected representatives of a country, which accounts for more hungry children than 26 countries of sub-Saharan Africa taken together and whose human development index ranking is 134 out of the 187 countries ranked, are.

Adjournments have become chronic after the UPA-II assumed office in 2009.

Adjournments in 2009 were over the withdrawal of Mayawati's NSG cover in July and over a row over sugarcane prices in November.

The impasse over price rise issue again led to adjournment of Parliament in February and July, 2010. The entire winter session of Parliament in 2010 was lost due to disruptions over the Opposition's demand for setting up of a joint parliamentary committee to probe the 2G Spectrum irregularities.

In August, 2011, Parliament was adjourned over the arrest of Anna Hazare.

However, in this same time period, there has been a five-fold increase in the salary of an MP. It is now Rs 80000. Besides this, MPs also get a host of other allowances and benefits including a daily allowance of Rs 1,000 when Parliament is in session, a constituency allowance of Rs 20,000 per month, 34 single air journey tickets, a free AC First Class railway pass, and virtually free accommodation, phones, water, power and healthcare.

The Union Cabinet had cleared a 300 per cent salary hike - from Rs 16,000 to Rs 50,000 - at first. The MPs, dissatisfied with it, stalled the Lok Sabha thrice during the course of proceedings on August 21, 2010, demanding more money.

In the true spirit of this newfound principle of "Less work, more privileges," a parliamentary committee on privileges recommended the government, two days back, to allow MPs to use red light beacons atop their vehicles and improve MPs' importance in the government list of VIPs and place them at number 17 from 21. Of course it is not important that the Parliament has not functioned for a single day in this session.

The committee also wants government officials to be courteous to MPs. For this, it has suggested the government to issue circulars that make bureaucrats aware of the courtesy and protocol to be extended to parliamentarians.

It has even suggested that the department of personnel and training (DoPT) incorporate instructions in the training courses of IAS and IPS officers relating to protocol and courteous behaviour towards public representatives.

One can be rest assured that there won't be any adjournment over any of these suggestions mooted by the parliamentary committee.

It's time to redefine the word 'unparliamentary'. Such requirements arise when the sacred turns profane.


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More about Tathagata Bhattacharya

Tathagata Bhattacharya is Editor, Special Editions, at Network 18. Having worked for well over 10 years with leading national and international media organisations, he is as enthused by newsbreaks and analyses as he is by single malts, Jazz and military aviation. You may come across this man listening to John Coltrane or reading Yasar Kemal on some obscure Himalayan tract though work pressure reduces the statistical probability of such a chance encounter.