Friday, June 14, 2024

Silly, democracy about khaas log


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Aam Aadmi Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai?

By Poonam I Kaushish

Rage is the rhetoric today, India is angry, very angry. The aam aadmi’s angst has morphsized from gheraos, chakka jams and road rage to shoe-cides and slaps directed at our netagan. The reasons are countless. The daily aggravation of being bin bijli aur paani, sky rocketing prices, unemployment, increasing poverty and the ever-demanding ghooskhori. But all this pales against the in-your-face behavior of our political mai-baaps. Any wonder ki aam aadmi ko gussa kyon aata hai?

Alas, as the common man struggles for roti, kapada aur maakan our polity continues to make merry. Problem? Kahan? All in the crippling morass of a feudal mindset wherein yesterdays’ Princes have made way for the neo-Maharajas replete with the power trappings that go with it. Worse, they are shameless, suffering from two diseases: Acute Orwellian syndrome of “some are more equal than others” and Oliver’s disorder, “always asking for more”.

Most scandalously, even as India’s temple of democracy Parliament’s winter session was virtually shut down for over ten days thanks to the controversy on foreign direct investment in the retail sector, our bickering MPs collectively agreed on enhancing their privileges as recommended by the Lok Sabha’s Committee of Privileges report tabled on Wednesday last.

Expressing “displeasure” of being “much below their status and lower to persons not holding Constitutional offices and even bureaucrats”, our MPs demanded permission to flash red beacons, the symbol of exalted separateness, on their vehicles and their official status climb up four rungs in the Warrant of Precedence (protocol list of VVIPs hierarchy) so that their position doesn’t come below State Ministers and is on par with the High Courts Chief Justices. Notwithstanding, in UK, MPs do not figure in the Warrant of Precedence.

This is not all. They want a penal clause inserted under which if “due courtesies” are not extended to them and there is “violations of instructions it would entail departmental inquiry”. Gripped an MP, “even junior bureaucrats seldom respond to queries therefore, we need a status upgrade.”

More. They want invites for all Government functions in their area, their names printed on invitation cards, punishment for anyone who forgets to put the name, want everyone to stand every time they enter and leave a room and don’t want to wait to see anyone. Topped by an established code to state where they will be seated at public events and want every letter, e-mail or SMS they write to be immediately replied.

The Committee also recommended, beside the Lok Sabha Speaker who is at par with the Chief Justice of India in the Precedence Warrant at number 6, former Speakers too be included at number 7, equal with Cabinet Ministers, former Prime Ministers’ and Leader of Opposition of both Houses. No matter that they are not in the list.

The moot point: Haven’t we had enough? Do they actually deserve this extra importance? Considering, most netas barely discharge their responsibilities honestly and honourably. How could they be so audacious? Big deal, if it leaves a bitter taste in the aam aadmi’s mouth.

Undeniably, privileges extended to our leaders are primarily to ensure Parliament’s independence, the reason why our representatives enjoy freedom of speech, are not liable to any court proceeding vis-à-vis anything said or any vote given by him in the Legislature etc.

But it is the silly perks that stink of being distinctly feudal that one has a major issue with. I am deafened by the vacuous noise emanating from the House ad nauseum, from their petty politricking. My eyes hurt looking at the vacant benches in the legislatures, the crowds in the well of the House and the goondagardi. The stink of corruption chokes my lungs, suffocating the economic and social concerns that need to be addressed post haste leading to rising bile.

I am sick of convoys of screeching lal batti gaddis filled with gun-toting bodyguards jumping traffic lights and causing accidents, disgusted by paying for their lavish lifestyle, a one-five acre colonial bungalow with manicured lawns, growing wheat and vegetables, free furniture, air-conditioners, fridges and maintenance to boot, down to a tube-light, subsidised food all living like Burra Sahib! Lutyen’s Delhi is absurdly being treated as a holy cow. Big deal that each house could fetches a monthly rent of Rs 25 lakhs. And forget the hoi polloi, packed like sardines live in tin boxes atop each other.

On top of this, they rule by law. Let a citizen be jailed for daring to slap a Union Minister in Delhi, but two Union Ministers of State roam free for kicking a rival Party worker in UP. Remember, the Andhra Congress MP who vented his anger on a bank manager in 2009, actor-turned-ex-MP Govinda who slapped a man in 2008, a never ending list.

Worse, think, if one owes water and electricity dues to the Sarkar the supplies are immediately disconnected, yet the Lok Sabha Speaker continues to ‘squat’ on a 5-acre bungalow worth over Rs 350 crores without paying the Rs 2 crores she owes as rent. How? The less said the better of our Ministers and MPs who preach the virtues of bhagidari, regularly paying ones dues for the Administration to provide its citizens better governance.

Imagine over Rs 108 crore worth of security paraphernalia has been installed to protect our netagan (sic).Ironic, isn’t it, that for our law-makers, security has turned into an obsession. Today, Parliament has become an impregnable fortress. Not for terrorists but for the citizens who elected their jan sevaks, despite some criminals adorning Parliamentary benches. The obtrusive security personnel highlight their power, wealth and self-importance. Ever at war with the public who greets this with cynicism and palpable anger. Shockingly, the entrance to this high temple of democracy has been segregated: one for the MPs, one for the aam aadmi. But, we are a democracy, sic!

What kind of governance lies ahead? Clearly the time has come for our polity to realize that any increase in privileges is co-terminus with an increase in accountability. They need understand that true democracy is by the people, of the people, for the people.

Importantly, our Right Honourables need to recognize that they must be deserving before they can desire. The writing is on the wall. If our leaders do not change they will become increasingly irrelevant. Gone are the days when netas were revered, today they symbolize everything that plagues India, warts and all. Will our so- called jan sevaks rise to the occasion? —- INFA


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