An open letter to my MP

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The Economic Times, August 28, 2010

You and your brother MPs have been at a vuvuzela-like pitch for a steep hike in your emoluments. You are not entirely happy that your current emolument of Rs 16,000 per month is being hiked to only Rs 50,000 per month. Never mind that both of us know that these numbers hardly reflect the reality. The fact is that your ?cost-to-exchequer? is in the region of Rs 37 lakh. Even so, personally I am all for a package of even a bigger magnitude for a diligent, honest and conscientious MP. For a country as large and complex as ours, I think we can certainly afford to pay our MPs far better.

The problem is that whatever the public perception of our parliamentarians, it is not that of diligent, honest or conscientious parliamentarians discharging their constitutional roles. Consider the track-record of your attendance, woeful lack of meaningful participation in parliamentary debates, extent of work done in your own constituency, your demeanour in the House of Parliament in full public glare when you threw that mike at the Speaker and had to be carried away by the marshals, and your contribution to the national development indices, et cetera, et cetera.

Much discussion has centred around whether the extent of the raise you are seeking, or rather, giving yourself, is justified. Strangely, little has been said either by you or by the media on the desirability of splitting your compensation into a fixed and variable component ? a practice prevalent in most performing organisations ? but not in the government. But then, whoever accused the government of being a performing entity, in general? I do hope, as our leaders, you are all for leading the way to making our Parliament a performing organisation. If so, there is no reason why you all cannot or should not have a performance-linked compensation structure.

You want a modest Rs 1 more than the Cabinet Secretary. Personally, I see no reason why you should not be paid much higher, say Rs 60 lakh per annum, provided you discharge your constitutional roles fully. Surely you don?t object to that, do you?

I think you will agree too that your single most important role as an MP is to contribute towards nation-building. What are the parameters of nation-building? To refresh your memory, surely passing relevant and important bills after due and meaningful debates in Parliament is one of your key deliverables? Also, if you are a diligent and conscientious MP, you would attend at least 80% of the parliamentary sessions and be present through the proceedings, won?t you? That incidentally is what we expect in some of our better educational institutions.

Besides, I don?t know if you are among those MPs who have never been known to have opened their mouths in Parliament. While in many cases it may be best that they didn?t, I am sure you will agree that such members cannot be viewed as adding to the parliamentary processes. Also, you will agree that impairing the decorum of the House and not disrupting its proceedings should have some weight as well.

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