MONSOON SESSION: NO THOUGHT-WORTHY CONTENT BUT HIGH ON ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT

As expected, the completeness of the washout of the Monsoon session of the Parliament was complete today, on its last working day – that was again a copy of every other day – the way it has been this time since July 21, when the session began.

Reports says the washed out session has wasted some 250 crore of taxpayers ‘money. Reports also say a failure to pass the Goods and Service Bill in this session means some 2-3% drop in the markets. Reports also say the long term effect on the economy of nation of stalled GST Bill or Land Bill would be severely negative.

But who cares!

Reports say there may be another session, the special one, from August 30 to pass the GST Bill – because it is not done now, it will become impossible to achieve its targeted implementation by April 1, 2016.

GST is an important tax reform that will fundamentally change the concerned taxation structure in the country. It requires the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha passing it separately and from there it goes to the state legislatures and half of the Indian states need tom ratified it before it could become a law.

Now, that can be done, as the BJP is in government in many states and as the many non-BJP state governments are supporting the Bill. The riddle lies in Rajya Sabha and the BJP will try to arrange the numbers somehow if the special session is held.

The Congress party, that was the principal force behind the washout this time, is in majority in Rajya Sabha, with 68 members in the 245 member upper house. And, in the name of democracy, it swept the entire 18 days without any result – as the PRS Legislative Research analysis shows – the Rajya Sabha had an overall productivity of just 9% while its question hour could give an output of just 1%.

So, irrespective of political statements about majority of numbers in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, the developments were as the respective political stands – Congress had points to raise questions to score political points and disrupting the Houses, it thought, as the political parties think, was its most visible representation. Rajya Sabha where the BJP is in minority and where Congress is the largest party became the main battle arena for it.

Similarly, the BJP, that is in the government, has clear majority in the Lok Sabha and since as it in the government this time, it has the responsibility to carry out business transactions that reflects in 52% productivity of the lower house, much higher than Rajya Sabha – though, on ground, and in reality, even the Lok Sabha could not work properly.

Every day in the Parliament, in its both Houses, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, witnessed similar characters voicing similar jumbled voices charging the atmosphere to a new ‘unruly high’ that was ‘soap opera’-esque – shows running day in and day out on different television channels – with no thought-worthy content but high on entertainment quotient.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

PARLIAMENT NOW A DISRUPTED, FRACTURED PLATFORM, BUT THEY DON’T CARE!

Tomorrow, another Parliament session is coming to an end – with a beginning that hardly had begun when the disruptions started.

In fact, the trend (or the prevailing culture/political sentiments) was right on the job from the last session. The political culture of disruption, in fact, has been consistently extended from one Parliament session to the next most of the times in the recent political history.

It is said the recent Budget Session was the most productive one recently (in fact, in the last 15 years) but even it was replete with anti-Parliamentary stands resulting in a chaos/ruckus that has become synonymous with the work culture of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

A work culture where every work is done except the work for which the Parliament sessions are held thrice annually – to assess how the country is being run and to assess how it can be run – because the Union Government is the supreme administrative arch of the nation.

A work culture that has become so one with the politics of disruption that the disturbing trend now runs as its routine undercurrent.

A work culture that now prominently gives rise to countless debates on ‘if the Parliament will be able to work or transact some of its businesses on a coming tomorrow’ – a ‘tomorrow’ that is becoming more and more distant now.

And the prime people manning the Parliament, our politicians, the select few whom we elect (or who are elected), are not at all worried about it.

When it comes to disruptions, every political outfit, based on its position (sitting arrangement in the Parliament), is to share the blame, or in the prevailing political language of the day – the way political parties like to describe their disruptive stands – is to share the credit of ‘promoting democratic values’.

They don’t care if the Indian Parliament is now known as a disrupted, fractured platform that oozes out a feeling that nothing sense can be discussed there. They don’t care if verbal attacks on political rivals by them leave us in bad taste – something that was most intense today.

They don’t care if every washed out Parliament session, as this one is going out to be, wastes hundreds of crores of taxpayers’ money directly – and causes massive losses indirectly due to stalled policy decisions – like the delayed land reforms – or possibly (now) delayed Goods and Services Tax Bill (GST Bill) that could see the markets ‘fall by 2-3%’ as the analysts say.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

‘NO WORK, NO PAY’ FOR OUR MPS: DID YOU SAY THAT?

Reports say every minute of Parliament activist costs Rs. 2.5 lakh (Rs. 250,000) and most of it has been wasted in the recent parliamentary history of India.

And the season is here, yet again.

The issue is being debated intensely as the Parliament is in session and its working days so far, 10 days of this Monsoon Session, have been totally washed away in chaos.

Congress and the opposition parties supporting its stand are demanding resignation of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan’s chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia for helping Lalit Modi and Madhya Pradesh’s chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan for Vyapam scam in the state. Obviously, going by the politics of the day, the BJP will never agree to such demands.

And as everyone is maintaining the stands taken, no one is listening to anyone. If we go by the audible records of the days in both Houses, voices of the Speakers of both Houses (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) are the most clear and audible ones – trying to run their Houses and trying to discipline the members (of Parliament, that seldom happens). That speaks a lot.

Obviously, that is taxpayers’ money which our policymakers so easily waste. In fact, the Parliament of has become synonymous with ruckus and chaos and its disruptions have become so routine that when it functions, it becomes a news.

And are policymakers are openly vocal and probably, insistent on it.

So, when a union minister proposed that the Narendra Modi government was considering bringing the MPs under ‘no work, no pay’ principle, the ears became spontaneously sceptical, taking the news with a fistful of salt.

And lo! Soon, the minister that had said so took U-turn saying he never said so.

Yes, the issue is a burning one and the suggestion, if someone from the policymaking benches moots so, would be the logical one, in fact the most pertinent one. After all, bureaucracy comes under ‘no work, no pay’. It is used in many private jobs and in corporate houses.

But our policymakers who see disrupting the Parliament daily as one of their democratic rights, even if it means loss of nation’s resources, even if means nothing productive happening at a place where policies running the country are made and modified, would never agree to it.

And reactions by parliamentarians on the ‘alleged’ suggestion of the union minister only reaffirm so.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

DEAR POLITICIANS AND BUREAUCRATS: CAN’T YOU VOLUNTARILY GIVE UP SUBSIDY IN PARLIAMENT CANTEENS?

Well, if Narendra Modi can request his countrymen to do so for LPG cylinders (liquefied petroleum gas cylinders, main cooking fuel in houses where PNG or ‘piped natural gas’ has not reached – or families that can and can somehow afford it), his government can certainly push the fellow members and their officials and officials of the Parliament and the Government to give up the ‘huge subsidy’ – ranging from 60% to over 100% (in some cases, a dish with raw material cost of Rs. 99 is served for Rs. 33) – on food in the Parliament canteens.

Congress has supported the move. Parliamentarians can give it up voluntarily. Or, they can come with a yardstick. Also, it is a popular issue politically – like Arvind Kejriwal successfully cashed the electoral popularity of ‘VIP culture’ in Delhi polls – most members (of Parliament) would be forced to look positive to such measures. Some may oppose the move but their count would not be enough to obstruct a decision to this effect. And if the politicians there support it, we can count the bureaucrats in.

Now, for the point – as told reportedly – that politicians alone cannot be blamed for the practice – well, politicians and well-to-do bureaucrats are to be blamed for it.

On March 27, Narendra Modi had appealed – as the Times of India writes – “People who can afford buying LPG at market rates should give up subsidy on cooking gas. Money we save from giving up LPG subsidy is the money we will use for the poor, so that they have access to clean energy too.”

It is now almost three months to that statement. MPs and bureaucrats could have set a precedent for masses by refusing subsidized food items in the Parliament. Alternatively, they could have come up with a mechanism to fix market price of each item to pay accordingly.

They did not do it. They have not done it. Would they do it now?

It is not for the Rs. 60.7 crore subsidy given to the Parliament canteens in the last five years, as Subhash Chandra Agrawal’s RTI reply reveals. It is a very small amount when we count the overall government expenditure on politicians. It is about the message that such gesture would send to the masses – in times, when we are moving towards a ‘subsidy free’ governance – in times, when economists urge for the ‘pressing need’ to do so – in times, when the government looks convinced to do so.

The prices that have not been revised since December 2010 look ridiculously low. After all, where do we get a ‘masala dosa’ for Rs. 6 or ‘boiled vegetables’ at Rs. 5? And the long ‘ridiculously funny’ list is replete with such examples. And it is not in the canteens of the Parliament. We have other such spots on the ‘subsidy freeway’ where wrong people are enjoying such perks.

Parliament canteens can set a precedent for all such folks. Would our Parliamentarians, bureaucrats and other ‘financially capable’ people relishing such ‘subsidized delicacies’ do so?

Would they voluntarily give up the subsidy on food items in the Parliament canteens beginning with the Monsoon Session that is from July 21?

Would they pay the ‘market prices’ with ‘service tax’ as every Indian is expected to pay (and has to pay) till the issue is fixed?

And since any such move will be ‘self-driven’, ‘altruistic’ and ‘voluntary, it will take care of those ‘who really need subsidized food items’ from the Indian Parliament canteens.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

HEROIC ACTS IN INDIAN PARLIAMENT AND LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLIES: THE TOP 10

It was really a tough choice to make a list of 10 most credible and inspirational heroic acts being performed in the Indian legislative institutions including in the Parliament out of the 21, a list that I preferentially created in one of my previous posts here.

But, finally, here it is..

THE TOP 10
(The highly filtered ‘preferential’ list)

1. Waving currency notes
(The hallowed event of Indian Democracy – in Parliament in July 2008)

2. Use of pepper spray
(The glorified event of Indian Democracy – in Parliament in February 2014)

3. Waving knife or a broken microphone that resembled a knife
(The hallowed event of Indian Democracy – in Parliament in July 2008)

4. Taking off clothes/Tearing others’ clothes
(In UP Assembly in February 2014; in Tamil Nadu Assembly in March 1989 – Jayalalitha was attacked that left her disheveled and her sari torn)

5. Punching Assembly Marshals and others
(In J&K Assembly in February 2014; in Punjab Assembly in March 2013; and in some other state assemblies)

6. Manhandling/Fist-fighting/Scuffles causing physical injuries
(Overall a regular event – in Parliament; in West Bengal Assembly in December 2012; and in other state assemblies)

7. Slapping others including fellow members
(As in J&K Assembly in February 2013; and in some other state assemblies)

8. Climbing on the desk, of other fellow members, of Speaker, of other House officials
(Multiple times – in many legislative assemblies)

9. Tearing and throwing legislative documents
(A regular occurrence – in many legislative bodies including the Parliament)

10. Upturning and breaking furniture
(Multiple times – in many assemblies)

So..how they stacked up here..

Watch out..

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

THE REPRESENTATIVE ACTS: HEROIC ACTS IN INDIAN PARLIAMENT AND LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLIES

The filtered alphabetical list

Breaking and throwing microphones
(Multiple times – in many legislative bodies including the Parliament)

Climbing on the desk, of other fellow members, of Speaker, of other House officials
(Multiple times – in many legislative assemblies)

Creating din in the Well of the House
(A regular event – in Parliament as well as in state assemblies)

Grabbing collar
(In Parliament in 2009; and in some state assemblies)

Hurling broken furniture and sound-boxes
(In West Bengal Assembly in November 2007)

Hurling pedestal fan towards the Speaker
(In J&K Assembly in October 2011)

Manhandling/Fist-fighting/Scuffles causing physical injuries
(Overall a regular event – in Parliament; in West Bengal Assembly in December 2012; and in other state assemblies)

Punching Assembly Marshals and others
(In J&K Assembly in February 2014; in Punjab Assembly in March 2013; and in some other state assemblies)

Slapping others including fellow members
(As in J&K Assembly in February 2013; and in some other state assemblies)

Smashing computer screen and glass panes
(In Parliament in February 2014; in Gujarat Assembly in March 2005)

Snatching papers from other fellow members
(A regular event – in Parliament as well as in state assemblies)

Taking off clothes/Tearing others’ clothes
(In UP Assembly in February 2014; in Tamil Nadu Assembly in March 1989 – Jayalalitha was attacked that left her disheveled and her sari torn)

Tearing and throwing legislative documents
(A regular occurrence – in many legislative bodies including the Parliament)

Throwing chairs
(A regular event – in many legislative assemblies)

Throwing paper-missiles
(A regular event – in many legislative assemblies)

Throwing slipper at the Speaker
(In Bihar Assembly in July 2010)

Upturning and breaking furniture
(Multiple times – in many assemblies)

Use of pepper spray
(The glorified event of Indian Democracy – in Parliament in February 2014)

Use of un-parliamentary and abusive words
(A regular occurrence – in Parliament as well as in state assemblies with the scale taking acerbic hues there)

Waving currency notes
(The hallowed event of Indian Democracy – in Parliament in July 2008)

Waving knife or a broken microphone that resembled a knife
(The hallowed event of Indian Democracy – in Parliament in July 2008)

These are just representative acts and representations here. Each category, barring few, has multiple of trend-setting examples. The categories that lack on count are expected to gain numerical strength in the days to come if we go by the developments happening now and the credible history they follow.

**Please feel happy to add to the list (I apologise for my ignorance on missing such points).

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

POLITICIANS VS THE REST OF ALL: WHY DEMOCRACY IN INDIA IS IN IMMINENT DANGER OF DISINTEGRATION?

The Indian Constitution, when adopted, mirrored the soul of Indian Democracy on a healthy balance of ‘a process of checks and balances’ that its different wings exercise on each-other, notably the Indian Parliament, the Judiciary and the autonomous constitutional entities like the Election Commission (EC) or the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) or the Central Information Commission (CIC).

There are many other institutions and functional establishments including the law and order apparatus but most of them either can’t keep the politicians in check or have been efficiently co-opted by the political class.

And there are really very few institutions that still matter as the forces ‘still able’ to take on the political class and have the lethal edge by their Constitutional guarantee and the positive public perception about them and so are in the hit-list of the politicians.

Here, when we talk of the institutions, we need to keep in mind that it is about the people running those institutions and how they have undermined the sanctity and authority of the institutions provided by the Constitution and so of the Constitution itself.

The situation in the country, at the moment, is more or less ‘politicians Vs the rest of all’ where on one side are the institutions controlled, manipulated and co-opted by the politicians and on the opposing side are the few institutions where not all but still many people refuse to be co-opted by the political class.

The different functional wings of the Indian Democracy have no visible lines of demarcation. On one side, there is corruption and their promoters – the corrupt politicians and the bureaucrats.

On the other side are the institutions that are seen as ‘still’ viable option to get some Constitutional remedy, to the problems that owe their genesis in the systemic failure of the System called Indian Administration.

While the all-pervasive corruption has eaten into the credibility of almost every functional wing of Indian Democracy, its scale of imminence to cause a chronic and systemic problem varies.

As the majority of the politicians of the day have become synonymous with corruption, elitism and authoritarianism, the Indian Parliament has seen the maximum credibility erosion, and by the political developments in the country, the rot, at the moment, looks irreversible.

The rot in Indian Judiciary is also deep, but the activism and alertness of higher courts and Supreme Court has become a big relief point for the people oppressed from the political tyranny and from the chronic corruption in the lower courts.

On a more positive note, Constitutional bodies like the Election Commission, the Comptroller and the Auditor General or the Central Information Commission have performed exceedingly well in an atmosphere of political gloom and sociopolitical anarchy and so are being targeted increasingly by the politicians.

If the Indian Democracy is still surviving somehow it is because of the institutions like the higher courts or the EC or the CAG or the CIC.

And politicians look all set, hands-in-glove, to challenge the good work being done by the good people in these institutions.

Subverting the Democracy by negating the important decisions taken by the Supreme Court or the Constitutional bodies has been an old practice but in recent times, it has grown on an unprecedented scale.

In the last few months, the nation has seen the ugly display of corrupt politics when the politicians across the party-lines came together to make Constitutional amendments and legal changes to nullify the Supreme Court orders on reforms in ‘Representation of the People Act’ regulating the conduct of elections, to invalidate CIC’s ruling on keeping political parties under the Right to Information Act (RTI) or the demands to scuttle the EC’s efforts to regulate the electoral ecology of the country for a free and transparent way.

And the political brazenness says it’s just the beginning.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

*“Why India is in imminent danger of disintegration?’ is a regular column on my blogging platforms to take a periodic look (say a weekly or a fortnightly or a monthly round-up of events depending on the factors in play) on political developments that are dangerous to the democratic health of the country and contribute to the process of social disintegration of the nation..”
https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/why-democracy-in-india-is-in-imminent-danger-of-disintegration/

‘FEDERATION OF ANARCHISTS’ REMARK: MR. VICE-PRESIDENT, PLEASE, DON’T TAKE IT BACK

We were hoping against the hope that Hamid Ansari, the Vice-President of the nation would not take back his ‘harsh but justified comment’ about the parliamentarians when his frustration asked the members of the Indian Parliament if they wanted to make the highest elected body in the country a ‘federation of anarchists’.

Well, we had a disappointing development a day after (August 14) when the Vice-President and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, the upper body of the Indian Parliament, asked his office to review the statement after the government and the opposition continued with the demand to withdraw the statement from the official records of the House.

Let’s see again what ‘his frustration’ had to say: “Please allow question hour to proceed. Every single rule in the rule book; every single etiquette is being violated. If the honorable members wish the House to become a federation of anarchists, then it is a different matter.”

Earlier, it seemed, Mr. Vice-President would not back-off from his stand. We had certain reasons to believe so.

Before becoming the Vice-President in 2007, he had taken, on more than one occasion, different-and-inconvenient line from the official line of the government of India, notably on issues related to the Western Asian nations like Palestine, Iran and Iraq. Mr. Ansari is a renowned scholar on West Asia.

He may still not pull it back as his clarification in the House indicates where he said he didn’t place an allegation but put forward simply a question for the parliamentarians to think over the continued logjam, unruly scene and unproductive sessions.

He clarified: “If you read what I said I said with condition … not as an allegation, or attributing it to anybody. If a question is posed, it cannot be an allegation.”

Yes, an opening is now there but the career diplomat, the teacher and the intellectual in him may push him not to back-off this time because he is not bound to accept the demand, because ‘enough is enough’.

But then politics behaves (predictably) strangely in this country. The Vice-presidential chair to Mr. Ansari has been given by the Congress party, a party with a known undemocratic and elitist history of defining precedents. Also, he is a grand-nephew of a former Congress president.

So, it leaves a window for an understanding over the issue to be developed.

And why would our parliamentarians, an increasingly intolerant and elitist lot, understand the simple understanding behind the clarification when they know they can pressurize the Chair to withdraw the statement, a Chair that is ceremonial in nature, a Chair that is headed by a Chair that is nothing more but a decorative title?

But we the citizens of India reiterate our request Mr. Vice-President.

‘Federation of Anarchists’ is an innovative expression of our displeasure and frustration over this political lot. It suitably describes the deterioration of values in Indian politics.

Please, Mr. Vice-President, don’t let it be expunged from the Parliament records. Even if it is not going to change anything, at least, it gives us, the common men, yet another symbolic point of reference’ to brood-over the growing political apathy.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

FEDERATION OF ANARCHISTS

It was so soothing to hear this when the Vice-President of the nation had to remark this on the unruly behaviour of the parliamentarians in the Indian Parliament.

His statement, “Please allow question hour to proceed. Every single rule in the rule book; every single etiquette is being violated. If the honorable members wish the House to become a federation of anarchists, then it is a different matter”, should be put on the walls of the Parliament instead of being expunged something that both the ruling members as well as the main opposition Bhartiya Janta Party have demanded.

It is a well-known human tendency that we do not want to hear criticism about us. In case of Indian politicians, this human trait breaks every barrier of the observable human decency.

A common man, forced by the circumstances, is compelled to hear his critique and such occasions come regularly in his life.

But, our politicians are not the common men. It is what they have come to believe. It is what they are working to establish.

So, they behave differently. They behave like kings. And kings seldom like to be told that they are wrong. They hate their true reflection in the mirror.

And so, when a non-political man, sitting on a non-political and ceremonial chair like India’s Vice-President, charges the politicians, elected to the highest policymaking and governing body of the country, the Indian Parliament, how can they let it go?

How can they allow someone to castigate them whom they have installed in the position he is in? After all, Hamid Ansari was the Congress candidate for this decorative position in the hierarchy of political institution of India.

It doesn’t matter for them that how frustrated Hamid Ansari, otherwise seen as a ‘yes-man’ of Congress, would have been that he was forced to make this comment.

Okay, whatever be the line taken by the politicians over it, if we do a round of some brisk talking in our immediate circles, we would find everyone endorsing what Hamid Ansari has said.

Let’s all of us, who think sincerely over such themes on problems of Indian democracy, carry out this small, random exercise, to feel good about it, even if this ‘feel good’ is not going to do anything to ‘what politics and politicians have become in this country’.

They have made politics synonymous with corruption, high handedness, insensitivity and elitism.

‘Federation of Anarchists’ is an innovative expression of displeasure and frustration over this political lot. It suitably describes the deterioration of values in Indian politics.

Please, Mr. Vice-President, don’t let it be expunged from the Parliament records. Even if it is not going to change anything, at least, it gives us, the common men, yet another symbolic point of reference’ to brood-over the growing political apathy.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/