Politics Without Greed

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Bungalows for Netas as Praja live in huts

IN MARCH THIS BLOG HAD TWO POSTS, ONE AGAINST MPs HIKING THEIR OWN SALARIES AND THE OTHER ASKING IF MPs AND MLAs SHOULD BE PAID MORE.

Many who responded felt that politicians were all greedy and wanted to amass wealth; there are too many instances of politicians and their relatives becoming rich beyond imagination almost overnight and memories of new scandals emerging every day were still fresh.

And yet many agreed that it was foolish to expect them to live at today’s costs on salaries prescribed when the Constitution was written. When a clerk or typist gets 15000 to 25000 rupees and even domestic servants make 10 to 12 thousand a month, can an MLA or MP live on a few thousand and without many perks?

Even if they agree to will they not be tempted to misuse their authority to make money illegally? Expecting them to live on a pittance while civil servants and petty traders make much more is foolish. This alone is the rationale behind periodic hikes in their salaries and perks. Even their worst critics would (grudgingly) agree.

And yet the announcement of Telangana State government that two bedroom bungalows would be build for all legislators raised eye-brows.The 117 MLAs are being gifted a Rs.1 crore bungalow of 500 square yards (a yard=0.9144 metres) with attached office in their constituencies, in additions to the accommodation they occupy in the State capital. They are entitled to lifelong pension even if they serve for some months. And most of them own huge properties.

I met the present Union Civil Aviation Minister, Ashok Gajapati Raju at his Hyderabad residence when he was a Minister in Andhra Pradesh government. As a prince of the Vizianagaram royal family he was born and brought up in palaces, though they were later donated to colleges.

Surprisingly he lived in “Ministers’ flats” and not in a sprawling bungalow. When I pointed this out, he said, “a house should be compact – maintaining a big one is not easy.” He could not have known that in Delhi, many MPs rented out the free quartets allotted to them.

This is nothing compared to another news that comes from Patna. The wedding season is on and Ministers there were renting out their bungalows for marriages for Ps.3 lakhs per day! The argument that poverty drives politicians to corruption falls flat in the face of such greed. While the poor and middle class are resigned to their fate it is the rich who want to be richer tiii being rich becomes a goal in itself and not for what money can buy.

An online campaign went viral some time ago against the subsidised Parliament canteen and the call to public to give up cooking gas subsidy. Millions of these posts went around on WhatsApp and other media without any result. Has even one MP been shamed into giving up the LPG subsidy?

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                 NONE SHAMED BY  THIS PLEDGE
And this is the county where Lal Bahadur Shastri took oath as PM with instalments still due for the Ambassador car he bought on loan and Gulzarilal Nanda had to go to a rented house when he resigned as Home Minister of India, as they did not belong to a dynasty.

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