Across India, they decry unruly MPs

February 29th, 2008 - 11:06 am ICT by admin  

By Murali Krishnan
New Delhi, Feb 29 (IANS) Doctors, academics, police officers, company executives, activists… There is widespread anger amomg people across the length and breadth of India over the unending disruption of parliament by unruly MPs. Hours after a disgusted Speaker Somnath Chatterjee accused MPs raising slogans in the Lok Sabha of “working overtime to finish democracy in this country”, the outburst found ready echo from concerned citizens.

“This is a warning which has come in too late,” said Tushar Gandhi, the great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi in Mumbai. “The so-called lawmakers have proved to be the worst lot.

“There is no serious business happening in the house apart from triviality. When important bills are being discussed, very few MPs attend. And they are the so-called protectors of democracy. Finally somebody has woken up.”

An anguished Pragya Vats of ActionAid India group agreed.

“Chatterjee is absolutely right. I am ashamed when I see the rowdy behaviour in parliament. I simply switch off the TV.

“These are the people who are in power, the leaders of the country, whom we can’t take pride in,” she said.

The angry reactions followed the adjournment of both houses of parliament Thursday, soon after Finance Minister P. Chidambaram tabled the annual Economic Survey, as opposition MPs disrupted proceedings demanding the government’s intervention to bail out millions of debt-ridden farmers.

As MPs refused to listen to his pleadings and return to their seats, Chatterjee blurted out: “You are working overtime to finish democracy in this country. It’s a matter of great sorrow that you are not willing to work.”

Millions across the country viewed the disruptions and Chatterjee’s lament, live on television, in plain disgust.

Kiran Bedi, India’s first woman police officer, made it clear that it was time to discipline the politician.

“The politician must be made accountable to the common man. A Pay Commission reportedly considering a salary hike for MPs must consider their performance in parliament and in their constituencies before submitting its report,” Bedi told IANS.

“Somnanth Chatterjee’s remarks make a perfect platform for the judiciary to take suo motu cognisance and take the matter in its hands. Politicians do not want to remove the lacunae in our system to protect their own skins,” she added.

Venugopal Dhoot, chairman of Videocon Group and president of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, was equally furious.

“Such uncivil behaviour should come to an end. The legitimate protests of MPs and political parties ought to be allowed but adjournment on one pretext or the other for narrow political gains should be discouraged. The elected MPs should concentrate more to honour the daily schedule of the two houses.”

According to government figures, every minute of parliament proceedings costs Rs.34,500 — or Rs.2.07 million an hour. In the last session, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha lost 42 and 41 hours respectively.

Sanchari Das of Kalpavriksh, an environmental NGO, is also livid.

“It is a shame to the country and actually a failure of our democracy because we fail to elect good leaders.”

“Vandalism has become a part of Indian democracy. Whether inside or outside the house, politicians behave rabidly. It is all because of the wrong people getting into electoral politics,” said Ramesh Chandra, a professor of chemistry in Delhi University.

Chatterjee, one of India’s most respected MPs, has struggled to maintain discipline in the splintered 545-seat Lok Sabha since he became the speaker in 2004. On more than one occasion, he has expressed his anguish over the conduct of the MPs.

Two years ago he viewed with horror two MPs from Bihar almost come to blows inside the house.

Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi admitted that repeated disruption of parliament was giving a bad name to MPs.

“Such disruptions prevent parliament from being the grand inquest of the nation and from being the temple of democracy. It is in that sense that the speaker was lamenting the disruption of democracy.”

(Murali Krishnan can be contacted at m.krish@ians.in)

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