Monday, January 16, 2012

Is this What We Expect from a MP in India?

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Few months ago I had the chance to be present when the Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) MP Dr Shashi Tharoor was meeting people from his constituency in the lobby of Government Guest House in Thycaud. It started around 12:00 PM and ended by around 2:30 PM. There were over 100 people waiting for him. I was next to Dr Tharoor and could listen to most of the concerns and demands of the people who were meeting him. For me it was a nice learning curve to better understand the Indian political system from very close quarters. 
Of the 100 odd people who came to meet Dr Tharoor, I was surprised to find that less than 10% of the people came with genuine concerns – fund for repairing a broken road or fund for starting or upgrading a library or help in speeding up sanction of pension papers to name a few. To my surprise majority of them have come for favors an MP has no power to do/should not do ever. Majority of the people who came there wanted the help of Dr Tharoor in getting a transfer that in not possible in normal circumstances or some kind of recommendation for promotion in their job or to get their loans written off. I had also seen one gentle man who has an undergraduate degree asking help from Dr Tharoor to get him a job! 
I heard Dr Tharoor telling few of them that “MP doesn’t have any power to do such things” but still the people were insisting that he do something to help them. I still remember the interaction of one lady with Dr Tharoor. This will give you an idea of the kind of problems majority of people come with to meet their MP/MLA.I remember this conversation between that lady and Dr Tharoor because the same lady came back three times to Dr Tharoor and repeated all what she told. Here is the conversation the lady had with Dr Tharoor. 
Lady: My daughter is working in XXX and got transferred to Noida, Uttar Pradesh. She has a 3 year old daughter and her husband is working in Trivandrum. Please help us with this transfer.
 Shashi Tharoor (ST): She can contact her higher ups for the transfer, right? Lady: As per the rules she can get transfer back to South India only after being there for 3 years. Here is a petition that has all the details. If you can talk to the Secretary of that department during your next visit to Delhi she will surely get this transfer. 
ST: As an MP I don’t have the power to go and talk to the Secretary of a department for a transfer. It is not the correct way. 
Lady: Sir, please help. My daughter doesn’t have to work to look after the family. We as parents have saved enough for her to live. My daughter is planning to resign the job than go to Noida. Then it was me who told my daughter that we have all voted for you Sir [stressing that point] and that you have got good contacts in Delhi. I told her that Sir will surely help us. Sir we all voted for you in our family and surely we will vote for you next time you contest and make you win with more majority. 
ST: Give the petition to my office. I am not guaranteeing anything. Chances are very remote that I can help you with that. 
Lady: Even though my daughter can live without a job, it is still a government job and I don’t want my daughter to lose it as long as you are our MP and can help us easily with her transfer. When we have elected an MP who has worked in places like UN why should my daughter worry? You can just call the XXX Secretary and post my daughter back to Trivandrum. 
ST: I will do my best but one thing you remember – this is not the job of an MP and cannot promise anything. 
At this juncture I looked at the face of Dr Tharoor. His face told everything. He knows he cannot do anything to help this lady but cannot tell that using strong words as she happened to be a “voter” in his constituency. He went on to the next person.
We unfortunately have a system where we think duties of our elected representatives are recommending for a transfer or promotion bypassing the rules or attending marriages in their constituency.

I have lived in Phoenix, Arizona for close to 10 years. Being interested in politics, I have followed the two senators of the state – former Republican Presidential candidate John McCain (elected 5 times) and Jon Kyl (elected 3 times) very closely through television and radio. I don’t think no Arizona voter will go to these senators with a request for promotion or transfer. They may go to their Senator with a request to start a business that can give few people job in Arizona and request their help. These senators look after the overall interest of the state at Washington. Come election and the voters of Arizona will vote for them on the basis of their performance in Washington – gauged by the bills they piloted in the Senate and their voting record. I understand the system is slightly different in US and India but MP’s in India and senators in US are both supposed to be lawmakers and with that definition both should be doing the same job. 
Now back to India – however good a parliamentarian you are – unless you listen to the unjust demands of the voters of your constituency, a politician cannot survive the electoral politics of India. It is the public who should understand that MP’s and MLA’s are not elected to help you to bypass the rules but to drive the country forward drafting appropriate laws.
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Is this What We Expect from a MP in India?"

January 16, 2012 4:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should also point out that many MP's does call up anyone and get the job done if there is enough money went to his or party pockets..They actions in the past also contributed to this job definition right now

January 17, 2012 11:13 PM  
Blogger Karthikeyan said...

I was with you until you brought up McCain and John Kyl. First up, it's an unfair comparison, because the government machinery in both the countries are very different. While i can go to get most, if not all, of the stuff at any government office in US without any hassle. The biggest complaint here would be against the DMVs and Post offices which people perceive to be slow. However you don't have to grease anyone's palm to get things done.

In India, we expect to grease someone's palm to get anything done at all. That's because the delivery systems of every government system is not transparent. That gives every one of the gatekeepers of the delivery mechanism to make a quick buck.

As for politicians required to do favors, US is no different from India. Just look up lobbying and lobbyists here. Same McCain and John Kyl would have a very different record in that area.


January 18, 2012 4:51 PM  

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