Friday, December 09, 2011

India suffering from "Too Much Democracy"

No work, no pay

Neeta Lal (India)

9 December 2011, 7:32 PM

As the Indian Parliament witnessed one gridlock after another over Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail during its Winter Session, a chant of “no-work-no-pay”—targeted at the legislators — is resonating the air. Indeed if all that the Members of Parliament (MPs) are going to do, say the advocates of the radical measure, is bawl on the floor of the House and create mayhem with their obstructionist ways, then why should they draw salaries? And why should the tax payer — who they are supposed to be representing in Parliament – share this burden?

The bedlam during this Winter Session cost the national exchequer a daily loss of over Rs 2 crore. Last winter was no better. The Congress-helmed ruling UPA government has some 200 critical bills pending since it was reelected in 2009. In this fraught political environment, MPs have still been rewarding themselves with three or four-fold hikes in salary. The government recently sanctioned Rs 50,000 for each member of Parliament to buy an iPad — an initiative to save paper.

Apparently, Indian MPs now pocket 68 times the national average salary. But the conditions of their service have not changed. In the US, for example, Congress members cannot earn more than 15 per cent from outside of their Congressional salary. In India, the average assets of 304 MPs — who contested in 2004 and then re-contested in 2009 – ratcheted up 300 per cent!

This unconscionable acquisition of wealth has triggered widespread resentment. “MPs have zero work to show on their report card and yet have no hesitation in demanding increase in official status! Earn your increment Mr MP,” tweeted an official of a TV news channel.

Young politicians like Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, the BJP’s Varun Gandhi and tycoons like Vijay Mallya are advocating the “no work, no pay” doctrine. The idea is to freeze the salaries and allowances of the legislators if they fail to conduct parliamentary business for a minimum number of hours. The primary purpose of parliamentary democracy is to provide a platform for reasoned debate. But parliamentary dysfunction and the resulting policy paralysis is crimping growth. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry forecasts that India’s GDP growth will now be around seven per cent as against the eight-plus being forecast earlier. Unlike legislators in many other countries, Indian MPs are freed to fix their own salaries and perks. In France and Japan, for instance, salaries of MPs are calibrated in relation to the salaries of the top bureaucrats.

In Switzerland, parliamentarians do not get any salary or allowance! Indian MPs or MLAs are remarkably unencumbered by such mundane principles. They fix their own salaries, reward themselves with frequent raises, and do not have to answer to any authority for any conflict of interest. Many – who have ancillary businesses – openly tweak state policy to suit their narrow ends. Some 150 MPs elected last year have criminal cases against them, with 73 very serious cases ranging from rape to murder.

An independent body – perhaps like a pay commission — to rule on the issue of MPs’ remuneration needs to be constituted. Former Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Bin Mohamad, recently in Delhi, said that India could be China in terms of development only if it was “less democratic”. “Too much democracy, without understanding the responsibilities, can obstruct decision-making,” he said.

Politics, it is said, is the art of the possible. But with their abominable behaviour, and an overdose of democracy, the MPs have reduced politics to an impossibility!

Neeta Lal is a New Delhi-based journalist.

Comments from Prathap G., Sharjah.............

The CEOs and his minions who suck up to him do fix their own salaries, reward themselves with frequent raises, and do not to answer to any authority for any conflict of interest. Where at the dump-bound Board of Directors of these business entities?

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