Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

White Day for Democracy

3 August 2015 was a white day for democracy and black day for mobocracy and anarchy in India. Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan suspended 25 Congress MPs under rule 374(A) for five days for disrupting the House.
For too long disruptions have gone on. Over the years suspensions had been rare. When majority of both ruling party/coalition and opposition parties agreed disrupting MPs were suspended.
BJP has disrupted proceedings in the past. Speakers of the time should have suspended disrupting MPs.
Disruptions had to stop at some time. Congress can retaliate in Karnataka, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and other states where it is in power when BJP MLAs disrupt proceedings. In Delhi, AAP government used marshals to throw out disrupting BJP MLAs. Speaker can suspend them.
TMC, CPI(M), JD(U), NCP, AAP boycotted Lok Sabha in solidarity with Congress. SP, RJD and some other MPs came to Lok Sabha and walked out. Why did AAP support Congress? Congress is critical of AAP in Delhi. In Punjab, AAP and Congress are rivals. ADMK, BJD, TDP, TRS, YSRCP did not join the boycott.
How much suspended MPs lose? Apart from daily allowance of Rs.2,000/- for attending Parliament they should lose part of salary and allowances. The total loss for suspended MP should not be less than 12,000 rupees per day. Boycotting MPs will lose their daily allowance unless they sign the attendance register. Many MPs will be privately grumbling about the loss of money. Boycotting MPs will blame party leaders for the foolish decision.
Congress wanted resignations of Sushma Swaraj, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Vasundhara Raje Scindia. Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Vasundhara Raje Scindia are chief ministers. Prime Minister has no authority to seek their resignations. Demand for Sushma Swaraj’s resignation was justified. However Congress said “No discussion without resignations.” When the government did not yield, the right way would have been to move a no confidence motion against the government. Disrupting is not the answer.
On the first day of suspension itself there were rumours that suspension would be revoked. Not clear who in BJP wanted suspension revoked. Shatrughan Sinha tweeted against suspension but in recent days he has opposed many things his party and government have done. Other BJP MPs have not publicly opposed suspension. Pinaki Mishra of BJD said it is too little, too late.
Purno Albert Sangma once said he never adjourned the house when he was Speaker. MPs will shout for some time and become quiet. If they adjourn the House they go to the canteen and eat and should again when the House resumes.
People of India are disgusted with disruptions. They want no work no pay rule to apply to MPs. That will make MPs behave properly. They don’t want to lose money. Most of them oppose abolition of Parliament canteen subsidy. Once again they want to increase their salary and allowances. Narendra Modi should appeal to MPs to give up Parliament canteen subsidy. The video of appeal should appear on TV channels till the subsidy is abolished.
MPs are bound by laws they pass. There is law against smoking in public places. Parliament House is a public place. Speaker should not have provided a room for smokers in Parliament House. Too bad one of the smokers who wanted room for smoking was Kiran Rijuju, Minister of State for Home.

LPG subsidy

There is a campaign asking LPG customers to give up subsidy and by doing so they are gifting LPG to a deprived household. TV ad appears regularly. There was a newspaper ad. CNN-IBN has made the campaign its own. It is said one million customers have given up subsidy.
Subsidy is for 12 cylinders per year. Above that customers pay full cost and there is no reimbursement. How many customers get subsidy for 12 or less cylinders?
How much money is spent on ads?
There are three types of lies; lies, damned lies, statistics. Have one million customers given up subsidy? During 2014 Lok Sabha elections CNN-IBN tag line was A Billion Votes. John Oliver pointed out that India’s voters were 800 million and the difference of 200 million was the size of Brazil. CNN-IBN persisted in its folly. Has no one given up subsidy since campaign began? If some persons have given up subsidy their number should be added to the million unless the actual number is less than a million.
There is no need of LPG subsidy if rupee is strong against dollar. Successive governments have weakened rupee against dollar to please exporters. It is 64 rupees per dollar now. When India became independent it was 3.36 rupees per dollar. On 4/10/1949 it became 4.76 rupees per dollar. On 6/6/1966 it became 7.50 rupees per dollar. That was the official rate for around 14 years. Then gradual devaluation began. In the middle of June 1991 it was 16 rupees per dollar. Then in one day it became 21 rupees per dollar. After that it had been a downward spiral for rupee. When rupee becomes strong notes are printed and dollars are bought. When dollar becomes strong no effort is made to protect rupee at the prevalent level. The government should make rupee strong. There will be no need for subsidy.
The government should abolish subsidies and privileges of MPs. Parliament canteen subsidy can easily go. Air travels should be only from constituency to Delhi to attend Parliament sessions. When Parliament is disrupted salaries and allowances of MPs should be cut. There are 795 MPs. Daily allowance is 2,000 rupees. Salary, constituency allowance, secretarial allowance, and other allowances and benefits are more than 3,00,000 rupees per month. When Parliament is disrupted for a day every MP should lose 12,000 rupees. Total is 95,40,000 rupees per day. If Saturdays, Sundays and other holidays come in between they should also be counted. If MPs don’t want to lose money marshals should be used to throw out disrupting MPs. Money saved and deducted can provide LPG to deprived households.
MNREGA, MPLADS, SPG security to former Prime Ministers and Gandhi family, subsidies to colleges, IITs, IIMs, kendriya vidyalayas, universities, FTTI etc. should be scrapped. Money saved can provide LPG to deprived households.
Kerosene subsidy should be abolished. It will stop diesel adulteration.
Pension to MPs should be abolished.
Who are deprived households? Many people in villages use LPG.
If the government wants to abolish LPG subsidy it can do at once. It has gone for soft option. Some billionaires gave up their LPG subsidy first. Then some executives in their companies gave up subsidies. Then employees were told to give up subsidies. When more than half the customers give up subsidy, government will abolish subsidy. It is easy for billionaires and high income people to give up subsidy. Life is difficult for people with low income. They do not wish to give up subsidy. When they see MPs enjoying subsidies and privileges and Parliament not functioning there is no motivation to give up subsidy.

Parliament disruptions

Parliament is a forum for discussion and debate with dignity and decorum. There is no room for disruption. When any House of Parliament has to be adjourned due to disruption it is a disgrace.
Since many years disruptions and adjournments of Parliament have become a common occurrence. Sometimes whole sessions are washed out. As a result bills are passed without discussion. There was a time when marshals were used to throw out disrupting members but now it is rarely done.
BJP is the main culprit in disrupting Parliament. It began with a winter session wash out on the demand of resignation of telecom minister Sukh Ram. Some months later Sukh Ram quit Congress and formed a party. Elections followed. BJP formed government in Himachal Pradesh with the help of Sukh Ram. There was wash out of winter session in 2010 on 2G issue. On 31/1/2011 Arun Jaitley said disruption is a legitimate tactic in democracy. Now he is at the receiving end. BJP is at the receiving end.
Sometimes ruling party members also disrupt Parliament. We had the unusual spectacle of Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath disrupting Opposition Leader Sushma Swaraj’s speech. Many times Congress MPs from Telangana disrupted Parliament.
Presiding officers are guilty of not doing their duty and going by what the government wants or not suspending members who disrupt. Lot of time and money is wasted. At the end bills are passed without discussion. MPs get 2,000 rupees daily allowance when Parliament is in session. When the loss is calculated salary, allowances, subsidies and freebies of MPs should be taken into account.
Many MLAs follow the example of MPs and disrupt Legislative Assembly sessions. Marshals are rarely used. AAP has used marshals to throw out BJP MLAs who disrupt Delhi Assembly.
Congress has demanded the resignations of Sushma Swaraj, Vasundhara Raje Scindia and Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Otherwise they will not allow Parliament to function. Sushma Swaraj is External Affairs Minister and MPs have a right to demand her resignation. Vasundhara Raje Scindia and Shivraj Singh Chouhan are chief ministers and MPs have no right to demand their resignations. MLAs have the right to demand their resignations. Prime Minister and chief ministers may belong to the same party but that does not give the Prime Minister right to demand resignation of chief minister or dismiss chief minister. Congress is steeped in high command culture which began with Mohandas Gandhi. In 1939 Gandhi’s favourite Pattabhi Sitaramaih lost Congress presidential election to Subhash Chandra Bose. Gandhi made life difficult for Bose and Bose had to resign after four months. In 1946 provincial Congress Committees elected Vallabhbhai Patel as Congress President. Jivatram Bhagwandas Kripalani was second in the number of votes. Patel would have become Prime Minister when India became independent. Gandhi wanted Jawaharlal Nehru to become Congress President and later Prime Minister and Patel made way Nehru. In 1951 Nehru made Purushottam Das Tandon quit as Congress President. In 1959 Siddavanahalli Nijalingappa was pressured not to contest against Indira Gandhi for the post of Congress President. Over the years differences between BJP and Congress have narrowed down but high command culture in BJP is not as strong as in Congress. That is because RSS influence over BJP.
Marshals should be used to throw out MPs who disrupt Parliament. MPs who disrupt should be suspended for the rest of the session. BJP has majority in Lok Sabha. It can move resolutions for suspension of disrupting MPs. BJP does not have majority in Rajya Sabha. Suspension by resolution is difficult. Chairman or Deputy Chairman can suspend disrupting MPs. Speaker of Lok Sabha can suspend disrupting MPs.
There is demand by people to end Parliament canteen subsidy. Jay Panda has supported ending subsidy. Some MPs want to justify subsidy by saying journalists, officials, staff members, CRPF members eat at Parliament canteen. Many MPs don’t use the canteen when Parliament is in session and when Parliament is not in session few MPs use canteen. Such arguments are wrong. Parliament canteen is for MPs and others have no right to use that. It should be shut when Parliament is not in session. All who eat and drink at the canteen should pay full amount. Journalists, officials, staff members, CRPF members are paid salaries. They should not get subsidy. MPs should not have subsidy. Parliament canteen subsidy should end.

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