New Delhi: Earlier this year a visibly frustrated Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had complained to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar that MPs were using Parliament's Central Hall for openly lobbying with him for their businesses.
Ramesh was articulating what some argue is a deep seated malaise. The most obvious case of conflict of interest is Dayanidhi Maran. He lorded over the telecom ministry despite the fact his family controls the second biggest media conglomerate - Sun Network.
Maran for example was part of the cabinet meet that deliberated on the Headend-in-the-Sky (HITS), an alternate technology to Direct to Home (DTH) which the Marans' Sun Direct provides.
Sharad Pawar, another key minister in the Manmohan Singh Cabinet, has interests in the sugar business. He holds the agriculture portfolio that is the nodal ministry for sugar policy.
Additionally Pawar as president of ICC lobbied for a tax waiver when India hosted the World Cup.
Lawmaking on education and health in particular has been controversial, given the sizable number of lawmakers with business interests in these sectors.
Five MPs on Rajya Sabha Panel of Education Tribunals Bill found to have links with Education Institutes. The five MPs are Prakash Jawdekar and SC Angadi of the BJP, Deepinder Hooda and Vinay Kumar Pandey of the Congress, and N Balaganga of the AIADMK.
Three members of Standing Committee on Health run Medical Education Institutes. The three members are Datta Meghe of the Congress, Prabhakar Kore of the BJP and MAM Ramaswamy of the JDS.
Nine out of 26 members of Parliamentary Committee on Industry have business and industrial interests. Vijay Mallya, owner of Kingfisher Airlines, was a nominated member of the Parliamentary Committee on Civil Aviation.
NK Singh, the JDU's Rajya Sabha MP, was in the midst of a huge controversy when the Nira Radia tapes came in public domain.
Rather curiously, when a private research organisation filed a petition before the Rajya Sabha's Ethics Committee asking for compulsory declaration from all upper house members about their business interests, the petition was dismissed citing violation of private rights of an individual. However, with the intervention of the Central Information Commission (CIC), the Ethics Committee has been forced to look at this issue again. It's clear evidence that our MPs will always be unhappy whenever their business interests are questioned.
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