Saturday, September 2, 2017
Let me begin at the very beginning by expressing my full solidarity and unstinted support for BJP MP Varun Gandhi very rightly questioning a plethora of practices including the lawmakers power to hike their own salaries and pass crucial Bills like the Aadhaar legislation without much debate and discussion. Why only MPs and MLAs have the right to hike their own salaries? Why Army officers or others have no such similar right?
Let me be direct in asking few unpalatable questions: Do only MP and MLAs perform their duty with supreme dedication that they alone have been conferred with this exclusive privilege? Why this raw discrimination? When will this raw discrimination end? Why has this raw discrimination continued for more than 70 years without being questioned?
While craving for the exclusive indulgence of my esteemed readers, let me inform them that raising the issue of MPs right to hike their own salaries, Varun Gandhi who is also an MP very rightly pitched for an external body to determine their remuneration and said that it was “shameful” that the number of sittings in the Lok Sabha had dropped from 123 days a year in 1952 to 75 in 2016. The lawmakers had raised their salaries 400 percent in the last decade, Varun Gandhi said while wondering whether they had earned this massive increment?
Let me be upfront in saying: What I find most shameful is that our Prime Minister Narendra Modi while vowing to extract each and every paise of illegitimate money from all those who garner it is absolutely maintaining a deafening silence on it! Why Modi is endorsing the reprehensible position that MPs have the full right to time and again hike their own salary even if they do just no work or very little work and keep on just shouting whenever Parliament meets? Why is Modi not speaking out on this like Varun Gandhi?
Let me also be upfront in asking: Why Modi in his three years of rule not lashed out against this malpractice of MPs raising their own salary 400 percent in the last decade even though he declared war against corruption and wasteful expenditure of money? Why Modi feels strongly that in India only MPs and MLAs have the right to hike their own salary? Why is Modi not paying attention to what Varun Gandhi has so rightly said? Why MPs and MLAs waste taxpayers money by shouting so much inside House yet they receive full salary? Why their salary is not deducted for their unparliamentary behaviour? Why rowdy MPs and MLAs are not fined?
To put things in perspective, Varun Gandhi very rightly said that, “The Winter Session, 2016, hit a low-point of 16 percent. It is shameful. Taxation Bills, as significant as Aadhaar were passed without being referred to a Committee”. What wrong has Varun Gandhi said? Why is Centre not deliberating on it?
Be it noted, while Varun Gandhi hit out at the practice of lawmakers too often raising the demand for a salary hike, he also very rightly pointed out that the Jawaharlal Nehru Cabinet at its first meeting had taken a collective decision not to avail salaries for six months in view of the people’s sufferings at the time. But what we see now is just the opposite. Our PM Narendra Modi has just no compunctions in putting the common man at inconvenience by ushering in notebandhi but under no circumstances is he is prepared to question MPs right to hike their own salaries whenever they want and that too without working much! Is it fair?
As things stand, we all know how just recently Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah had expressed their displeasure at MPs being absent from Rajya Sabha despite a whip! Nearly 17 BJP MPs including Ministers were missing from the House when a united Opposition determinedly pushed for certain changes in the Constitution Amendment Bill to set up a National Commission for Backward Classes with Constitutional status! Do they still deserve full salary? Yes, this is what they are getting even after bunking without any valid reason whatsoever!
It must be revealed here that Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar himself told reporters that, “When the party issues a whip, members must be present in the House. The party president has taken a serious view of the absence of members. It should not have happened and must not be repeated.” But we all know that it will be repeated again and again! Why? It is because whether they attend Parliament or not or whether they show up Parliament once in a blue moon like we see in the case of Sachin Tendulkar or Rekha or others still they will get full salary and there will be no deduction of their salary!
Needless to say, I must express my utmost disgust at the manner in which Members of Parliament (MPs) repeatedly misbehave with the Speaker and still get away with either very light punishment or no punishment at all! This must end now once and for all. No more condoning of such unruly behaviour by MPs who are a disgrace to the entire nation! At the first place, why is there so much of tolerance for such a shameful behaviour?
Truth be told, it may be recalled here that Samajwadi Party lawmaker Akshay Yadav was censured last year after he threw bits of paper at Speaker – Sumitra Mahajan as Opposition parties continued their protests against the old 500 and 1000 notes ban by the Centre when the Parliament convened. We all saw how an angry Ms Mahajan adjourned the House. She was visibly upset by such atrocious conduct!
Truly speaking, when the House reassembled, the Speaker Sumitra Mahajan reprimanded Akshay Yadav for his conduct. Sumitra minced no words in saying that, “This conduct is not proper on the part of the member and also for the dignity and prestige of the House.” He was let off lightly after a warning from Speaker to refrain from such activities in future.
Let me not shy away from asking: Why should MPs be let off even after they misbehave with Speaker? Why are they being encouraged to indulge in such reprehensible acts by letting them off very lightly? Why should they not be permanently barred from entering Parliament or at least barred for the remainder of their term?
Let me also ask some more unpalatable but pertinent questions here: Why in other services like Army or Civil Services are the officers immediately dismissed if they dare to throw papers at their seniors as it is deemed to be “gross misconduct”? Why only are politicians who become MPs or MLAs exempted from it? Why are they treated in such a VVIP manner even though they never tire in calling themselves “public servants”?
Why are they also not immediately barred from entering Parliament or State Assembly again? Why should they be let off after a mere warning or expulsion for just a few days which has just no effect on them which alone explains why Speaker has to repeatedly face insult and humiliation from MPs? Why Centre is not making any strict law in this regard? Why is it taking all this for granted?
Let me be upfront in asking: Why if Speaker refuse to concede to the demands of MPs which is the exclusive prerogative of Speaker to concede or not to concede do they start throwing papers at Speaker? Why can’t MPs be more civilized in their behaviour? Why do they have the liberty to insult Speaker as and when they like and yet continue to enjoy all the privileges of MPs and at the most get expelled for just few days not even months or years or for life?
Let me also be upfront in asking: Why some MPs think that it is their fundamental right to throw papers at Speaker? Why PM, Opposition Leader and MPs feel that throwing of papers should be taken very lightly and under no circumstances should they be expelled except for some few days? Are they not guilty of abetting MPs to time and again indulge in such unruly acts? Why they feel that issue should not be made of it and slight condemnation is enough? Why strict rules are not being framed so that those who don’t know how to behave properly are barred from ever entering Parliament again?
No prizes for guessing that once again on the Lok Sabha Speaker had to face unruly behaviour from MPs. Topics such as open defecation problem, mob lynchings and attack on Dalits were sought to be highlighted by the Opposition. Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge put forward an adjournment motion notice pertaining to mob lynchings and attacks on Dalits which was rejected by the House. He claimed the Opposition was not given a chance to speak.
Let me be quick to ask here: Does this give an unfettered licence to MPs to indulge in gross misconduct by throwing papers at Speaker or start shouting at the top of their voices or tearing papers and throwing them all around in Parliament? Why all politicians feel that all this should be overlooked as MPs enjoy certain privileges? Should this be considered a privilege that MPs insult and humiliate a Speaker and that too a woman Speaker? Why is PM Narendra Modi silent on it?
What is most shocking is that 6 Congressmen who misbehaved were suspended for just 5 days which means that they have been given the unfettered licence to again after coming to Parliament indulge in similar misbehaviour and again face expulsion for just 5 days or so or even let off after a light reprimand which makes no difference to them at all! The suspended members are G Gogoi, K Suresh, Adhiranjan Chowdhary, Ranjeet Ranjan, Sushmita Dev and MK Raghavan.
Let me now also ask some more thought provoking questions: Should all Indians be proud that these 6 Congressmen who had the gall to misbehave with Speaker have been expelled for just 5 days? Why are there no strict rules that if any MP ever dares to throw papers at Speaker, he/she would be barred for life from entering Parliament? Why so lenient rules for MPs? Are such lenient rules not encouraging them to time and again storm to the well of the House and openly misbehave with Speaker as they like and yet continue being the Hon’ble MP?
Let me also not shy away from asking here some more pertinent questions: Why are all MPs including Speaker so conspicuously silent on it? Why should MPs be allowed to throw papers at Speaker and then get away with it by just a slight reprimand or expulsion at the most for few days as we saw recently in the case of these 6 Congressmen? When will this shameful mockery end? How long will the reputed Chair of Speaker be insulted by MPs so brazenly only to come back again to Parliament and repeat the same act?
Can anyone tell me: Why MPs have the liberty to shout as much as they like in Parliament and instead of spending time on relevant things waste time by shouting due to which crores of taxpayers money are frittered away at the drop of a hat and not stopping here further throw papers at Speaker and still continue being MPs for the rest of their life and get away with just a reprimand or few days expulsion from the House? Why should such unruly MPs not be banned for life from entering Parliament? Why should they not be jailed for few years for insulting Speaker? Why should they be paid any salary for being an MP when they don’t even know how to behave inside Parliament?
Truth be told, Sumitra Mahajan was candid enough to say that, “Sad with what happened. Question Hour should never be disrupted. Had told Kharge Ji, I will allow him to speak after Question Hour.” She also said that, “Creating ruckus at Well is non-disciplinary in itself but tearing up paper and throwing it on Speaker 4 times was worse.” Needless to say, the MPs threw pieces of paper and disrupted proceedings during the zero hour. The Speaker suspended them and adjourned the Lok Sabha till 2.30.
Truly speaking, this is not the first time that Congress MPs have been suspended for few days for their unruly behaviour. It may be recalled here that in 2015 also, the Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had suspended 25 Congress MPs again for just five days for “persistently and willfully obstructing” the House. For how long will this be tolerated quietly? For how long will PM Narendra Modi keep a deafening silence on it?
All Indians must also ask themselves these highly relevant but totally neglected questions: For how long will MPs continue to throw papers and insult Speaker and laugh at being expelled for just few days not more than 5 days as we saw just recently and as we saw in 2015? Should we all be proud of this? Should such unruly MPs not be shown the door for the whole life or at least expelled for the remaining term? How long will Centre take no action on this which concerns the high office of Speaker itself? Who will like to become Speaker if such reprehensible acts are allowed to continue unabated and unpunished?
As if this is not enough, let me also ask here: Why is no news channel or no magazine or no one in media is debating it seriously? Why MPs have the privilege to throw papers at Speaker and escape with just 5 days expulsion from the House? Why even after 70 years of independence we see no strict rules being framed in this regard? This open mockery and most reprehensible act cannot be just condoned by expelling them for a few days.
It needs no rocket scientist to conclude that it is high time and now they must be barred for the rest of their life so that the right message goes out to all MPs that those who can’t respect Speaker have no right to be a MP! How many of us are aware that Speaker office comes above even the CJI? Should it be still insulted in such a brazen manner by MPs on the ground that they have been elected to represent people and raise their voice in Parliament?
Let me hasten to add here: Protest has to be done in a well dignified manner as we see in case of eminent MPs from all parties who never indulge in such unruly behaviour! Let there be no doubt on this! Mayawati also protested and even resigned but she didn’t throw papers at Speaker! That is the proper way!
All said and done, Parliament cannot be allowed to become a dirty fish market where conduct does not matter at all! Most unfortunately, this is what we are seeing in Parliament right now! How long will this reprehensible status quo continue? All MPs must realize this! The earlier they do, the better it shall be for the healthy functioning of our democratic system.
There can be no gainsaying the irrefutable truth that Parliament is the biggest citadel of democracy and few MPs cannot be allowed to hijack it and run it as they like without being checked by anyone or being allowed to escape very lightly! Such unruly MPs must be barred permanently from entering Parliament because they are just not fit for it! When once MPs will be shown the door for life for misbehaving with Speaker, no MP will have the audacity to ever dare to again misbehave with Speaker right inside the House!
But the moot question that arises here is: Will majority of MPs ever allow this to happen has it is they themselves who will be directly affected by such strict rules? MPs only know how to make rules for another but when it comes to them they are not ready for any change and feel that MPs have the right to contest from jails and even if some one is barred from all government jobs because he/she has criminal cases pending against him/her even though they may be false but when it comes to becoming MPs then even dacoits like the former bandit queen Phoolan Devi or anyone else have every right to become an MP! Can this ever be justified? Still our MPs justify this and say that all cases against them are “politically motivated”!
But what about unruly behaviour inside Parliament? For this also they will give hundred reasons! Most unfortunately, here too they are allowed to have the last laugh and continue as MP in spite of misbehaving with Speaker! Why no serious attempt has ever been made by any government to permanently disqualify all such MPs who misbehave with not just Speaker but with anybody else?
Why we see MPs hurling abuses on aeroplane while interacting with some staff official as we saw recently when a Shiv Sena MP slapped an official and even hurled abuses or with anyone else and yet not be expelled from Parliament? Why strict rules and regulations are there for only all other services and departments? Why similar rules not for MPs and MLAs?
Why they are treated as being above law? Why they are allowed to decide their own salary when we don’t see this happening in any other department? We have seen how they raise their salary 100 times or 10 times as per their whims and fancies! This too must end!
It must be said that a beginning can be made in this direction by at least banning all those MPs and MLAs who misbehave with Speaker or with anyone who is presiding the concerned House! But again the moot questions are: Will this beginning ever be made? Will MPs and MLAs ever allow it to happen? Will the time ever come in our nation when those misbehaving with Speaker or with anyone presiding the House would be barred for life so that only those who display exemplary conduct are allowed to continue as MPs and MLAs? It is our national image that will enhance if this happens and huge taxpayers money won’t be wasted because of the shouting brigade who would then find no place in Parliament or in any State Assembly to sit and create a ruckus, throw papers at Speaker or at anyone who is presiding the concerned House and yet continue as Member of that House!
MPs very strongly feel that they themselves have the right to determine their own salary and hike it as much as they want and whenever they want! But still Modi who has declared war on corruption feels that there is nothing wrong on it and MPs are a special class! Why should MPs get full salary when they don’t even turn up when their own party issues whip to participate and vote on important matters?
What a pity that PM Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah repeatedly keep appealing to be present in Parliament during sessions but all their request fall on deaf ears! Still do such MPs deserve to be paid full salary? Why when PM Modi wastes no time in punishing those bureaucrats who don’t do their work properly take no action against such MPs who have just no time to attend Parliament even when important sessions take place?
On a concluding note, let me say it loud and clear: The time is ripe now for ushering in what Varun Gandhi has very rightly demanded! All credit to him! MPs should have no right to hike their own salary! This must be ended now once and for all. An expert body of retired Supreme Court Judges, eminent intellectuals and economists should decide what should be the salary of MPs and MLAs and they alone should have the right to decide when the hike is to be done and payment must be in proportion to their performance! Why Modi does not say a single word on this? Is he even bothered to ponder deeply on this? When deadwood in bureaucracy and other professions can be thrown out then why should deadwood MPs and MLAs be allowed to enjoy unfettered freedom to hike their own salary and keep taking salary inspite of enjoying in foreign countries or in tourist hotspots? When will Modi declare a war on this or will they be allowed to make merry like Vijay Mallya who fled India even after not paying the salary of his employees since last so many months and not paying a whooping loan of more than 9000 crore from so many different banks and is now living a luxurious life in England which always grant safe asylum to such offenders from other countries? This burning issue raised most wisely by Varun Gandhi must be taken most seriously by not just PM Narendra Modi but also by all parties equally because there is a heartburn among the common man and this heartburn is what has been very rightly and forcefully raised by Varun Gandhi right inside Parliament! It cannot be permanently kept in cold storage as this will only worsen the explosive situation and it won’t be long before things finally explode for which PM and all MPs would be equally responsible! Do they want this to happen? It is for them to introspect and answer!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.