Monday, August 23, 2010

Dearer MPs

Our dear MPs—the members of parliament—had raised a furor over the 3-fold salary hike that had been gifted to them…demanding in the lines of an old advertisement for the soft drink Pepsi that proclaimed, “Yeh dil maange more”…give us more…and they have indeed managed to extract more…

The raise in their salary has raised a furor in various circles and I am sure the MPs must be feeling this feeling expressed by others, to be utterly unjust…given that all other professions have an increased pay packet, than what it used to be. Hence to them this furor over the raise, and over their furor, is beyond comprehension…but is it actually so? Are they so na├»ve? I think not…though yes, as is the human nature…what others get always seems to be more than what the self gets. Thus if they felt that they were still the underpaid class…. one cannot blame them!

Though on going through the detailed research and the corresponding reports in The Times of India, Kolkata, dt. August 22, 2010, one would realise how misplaced is the wails of the MPs…that saw them thronging the well of the House (in parliament) in opposition to such a meager (?) hike in their salary. The TOI has quite explicitly reported the details and analysed the implications of this decision of pay-hike—more specifically the extent of the raise. And as if this was not enough it has been incremented further (TOI, dt. August 23, 2010)—typifying the efficiency of the government in appeasing but not in governance.

The salary hike is just the tip of the ice-berg—given the perks, amounting to gratis—considering the almost unlimited privileges being accorded to them…. in a country where a large number of people do not have the privilege of even the most elementary means of sustenance…food, clothing and shelter…and the representatives of the same people ‘were’ to earn Rs.57 lakhs annually (only the salary and not the lump sump package, as the amount excludes the unlimited allowances)….and it being too insufficient a raise, was raised within a span a of a day to Rs. !.6lakhs per month as the lump-sump pay packet, which includes still, not all of the allowances…still they are not happy as they had wanted the monthly salary to be Rs.80,001…to do justice to their self-implanted tag of ‘servers of the underprivileged’…Well, it could happen only in India and that too so blatantly.

The report, based on the original hike, has bared the implicit impact of the increment—104 times that of per capita GDP of the country—that is, they would be earning 104 times more than the annual income of an average Indian—citizens whom the MPs are supposed to serve! Herein certain questions are craving for answer:
(i) Aren’t they costing India too much?
(ii) Are we in a position to afford it?
But they weren’t happy…so to appease them the govt. has partially(?!) acceded to their demands.

It is a forgone conclusion that they do not have a conscience—most of them—and even if they have, they are deaf to it. Their grudge raises a question mark over their credibility as citizens of India. Yes, they have the right to voice their dissent…but on valid grounds…even they are aware whom they are serving…self or the nation.

A very startling realization has struck me. Even the original hike in salary of the MPs being 104 times greater (I haven’t been able to calculate that, after the latest increment as it states that the basic hasn’t been raised only the allowances have been!) than the per capita GDP of our country implies that the average salary of a common (wo)man is that much lesser, which in turn necessitates a downward motion for the growth of the country.

Therefore the salary of an MP is inversely proportional to the growth of the country and directly proportional to corruption. Look at Kenya, where this figure is 180—strife with corruption where the common man is starving while the politicians are thriving (same as in India)—courtesy this disparity, which is another name of corruption. And as opposed to these two countries— in Japan and Singapore—the respective corresponding figures being 6 and 4—records a speedy and steady growth, rather a democratic growth—sans corruption, whose index are these figures and manifestation is in the growth. I don’t know what the economists would say. But the plain truth is visible to one and all.

‘We, the people’, in general do not know the nuances of economics nor do we know how to manipulate it. But the people who matter are aware and quite capable. Still they went ahead and did what they did. No body knows more about finances than our respected PM—undoubtedly an academician par excellence. And our FM—the troubleshooter for this UPA government—too knows the financial implications of this hike. So what was (were) the compelling reasons behind the decision?

True, the MPs have the right to ask why this furor over their salary hike when it is quite natural in all other sectors as well. But then do they, as such, only rely on their salaries for sustenance…the past is strife with shames of frauds and scandals, present is either shielding many such scams or hatching them for the future…. and the trend is likely to continue till eternity…it seems. The MPs have forgotten that it is us they represent and their increment in salary would be levied on us as tax and indirectly as price rise. Instead of being for the people they prove they would do anything to be against them…till the next elections are around…and they entice with crocodile promises.

The way they have extorted the rise, and raise over this rise, is a very crude display of blackmailing the government. And when does one give in to the blackmailers—to save or shield somebody/something—very dear. So even if the demands are dearer, it becomes worth acceding to.

Hence I refuse to accept that our PM and FM hadn’t calculated how this pay hike and hike over the hike, for MPs, would reflect against the per capita GDP. They are very capable; there is no doubt about that. Then why did they use their capabilities in less than desirable manner? There must be a serious and valid reason behind it. And I find the answer in the timing of this decision, and the common factor ‘M’ –in PM, FM and MP. ‘M’ stands for Vitamin M = Money…and not Mother India. This ‘M’ and the timing are in synergy—if my perception is correct. The lure of more ‘M’, lures away… diverts, diffuses, dissipates…the ammonia fumes of Bhopal…and now the ‘visible’ ghosts that were tumbling out of the Bhopal-closet would again be allowed ‘immunity’ in ‘invisibility’.

Thus, though the MPs might have become ‘dearer’, but they would never be ‘dear’ to the citizens—for us it shall always be our ‘Dear Nation…Mother India’—above everything else.

Sushmita Mukherjee,
23rd August 2010.