01 December 2011

Should it Be 'No Work, No Pay' for MPs?

The Indian parliament pictures an image of a house of heavy pitched slogans and cacophonous ruckus. While the people of the country may stand the heavy commotion and often the drama in the house, the cost of which is more than bearable for a nation reeling under heavy price rise and inflation.

As the standoff between the government and the opposition continues and the functioning of the Parliament comes to a standstill over the issue of FDI in retail, Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal made a strong remark stating that the parliamentarians get paid for working for public good and he feels it’s a violation of their oath to the constitution when it’s not followed.

Seemed to be angry over the developments, he said, "It is our job to work, we get paid for it. It is not just issue of money, it is an issue of public service." "Having taken an oath to the Constitution, our job is to discuss, debate and inform. If we do not do that, then in a sense, we are not doing things consistent to the oath that we have taken," he said outside parliament.

Showing his frustration at the ongoing dramas in the Parliament, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah wrote on the micro-blogging webstie, Twitter, “(It’s) Time for No work No Pay. If a minimum number of hours of business isn't transacted that day, no allowances should be paid out to parliamentarian."

Taking a dig at the opposition, Omar tweeted, “No one is forcing FDI in retail down anyone's throat. States not interested have right of first refusal. What could be more fair???” “Govt says we are ready to discuss any issue, Opposition says we are ready to discuss any issue. OKKKAY, so who is disrupting the house?????,” he tweets.

 As the logjam over Foreign Direct Investment in Retail enters the seventh day, it reminds us of the last Winter Session of the Parliament which ended without transacting any substantive business causing wastage of over 146 crore. The standoff between the government and the opposition went on for most of the sessions as opposition was hell-bent on a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into 2G spectrum case and the government refused to yield. The Parliament was able to function not more than 10 minutes on an average in 2010.

Similarly, the FDI in Retail becomes the anti-hero this year and the loss is estimated to be around Rs 12 crore for four days. The opposition has warned that it will derail the complete winter session if the decision on FDI in retail is not rolled back, leaving the parliament to remain paralyzed for the seventh consecutive day. Though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee made solid attempts to defense the government decision on several occasions, it looks like the UPA will most likely, allow an adjournment motion to debate the burning issue. UPA has also began its trouble shooting sessions wooing the three major allies opposing FDI - Trinamool Congress (TMC), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) – to stand with the government in the event of a debate in the parliament. In an attempt to hold its own members, Mukherjee explained the party’s stand on the issue to the Congress MPs and then called for an all-party meeting. Amidst these attempts, the oppositions parties including BJP, Left Front, AIADMK, JU (U), TDP and BJD along with the two outside supports of the UPA BSP and SP- are all firmly standing united on their call for a rollback.

However, it’s time for the common public to decide whether the huge salaries our parliamentarians draw every month are justified. Should we need a mass movement like that of Anna Hazare’s to put an end to the wastage of public money by the parliamentarians?