-M V Kamath-
There can be no two opinions on the subject, those who created disturbances in the Lok Sabha on February 13, took to violence and indulged in unparliamentary acts must be punished as severely as the rules permit. Possibly they must be ostracised and in future disqualified to stand for elections not just to the Lok Sabha but even to a local panchayat. That any civilised human being should use pepper spray to make a point is unbelievable. One MP was even supposed to have wielded a knife, though this has since been refuted.
One would have imagined that MPs especially rich MPs will know what is correct or decent behaviour. Out of 543 MPs in the Lok Sabha as many as 315 or 60 per cent are supposed to be crorepatis or millionaires. Forty three out of 54 Rajya Sabha MPs are also known to be millionaires, with their declared assets beyond Rs 25 crore. Indeed, even the assets of an average Lok Sabha MP is known to have grown from Rs. 1.86 crore in the last House to Rs 5.33 crore in the current one, an increase of 200 per cent.
The average assets of 304 MPs who contested in 2004 for which figures are available—and then recontested in 2009 grew 300 per cent. There are other perks unheard of anywhere else in the world which our MPs get.
Compared to other developing countries, Indian MPs have unparalleled freedom to fix their own salaries and perks. One may wish to forget all this if MPs behaved like gentlemen and not like street rowdies. But what has been the record of our MPs? How many hours have they wasted just in the current and past Lok Sabha sessions?
Then there is the question of how many make their presence felt. The percentage of active participants is supposed to be low, especially in the Rajya Sabha to which non-professional like film stars and sports icons get elected. Shouldn’t it be the business of the media to expose these upstarts? And to think that Parliament is run for about 80 days in a year or about one day in five?
One thing the public and the media must demand is a full report on every MP both in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, concerning the number of days the individual has made a marked presence, the questions each Member has raised and the time taken in active participation. Attendance must be given high priority, which alone would show the willingness and worthiness of an elected MP. Those with poor attendance need to be penalised too. Perhaps they too might be asked to quit or officially disqualified.
The trouble is that the public attitude is one of chalta hai–anything goes. An elected MP whether in the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha can keep mum most of the time, but is that is why he or she was elected in the first place? One reason is that is many newly elected representatives are totally ignorant of what is expected of them. Wouldn’t it be a good idea for the Government to set up a one–month–long school for all newly elected MPs to educate and inform them about their responsibilities – and what they can do and what cannot? And wouldn’t it to be equally sensible for all governmental decisions to be taken transparently and not behind the scene in order to prevent 2G Scams?
In 2012, it is claimed, the Lok Sabha wasted as much as 77 per cent of the time and the Rajya Sabha as much as 72 per cent. Against the target of passing 32 Bills, the Government could pass only four. That is scandalous. Here again, the public seems so little to care. What is painful is that political parties do not seem to take the Parliament seriously. It makes no sense in finger pointing. From what one notices, practically all political parties are equally guilty in wastage of time. Excuses are given that are unacceptable.
(The writer is a senior journalist and former editor of Illustrated Weekly.)