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Musings
   Prasoon S Majumdar
Prasoon S Majumdar
Editor, Economic Affairs - The Sunday Indian
Dean Academics (All India), The Indian Institute of Planning and Management
[31/10/2010]

MPs should work for free!

Nation building cannot be a paid job!

I wonder, why donít people aspire to join politics? At the same time I also wonder as to why do people at large abhor the career of a politician. I can understand that such feelings can emanate from those enterprising people who want to make a difference in life in their own way, but what I donít understand is why do the lazy and disillusioned ones also nurture similar feelings. What more would anyone want than access to some unwarranted luxuries and perks of life absolutely free of cost! On top of that, there arenít any defined job profiles or descriptions, no constraint of age, education, no accountability, no discipline, no reporting and voila! Ė you get paid for all this, and get a raise too!!

Unlike other jobs done by employees under the federal government, work done by MPs neither call for expertise, nor for education, qualifications and the irony is that still people prefer other jobs over politics! Not to forget, in other jobs, there are the risks of recalls, removal, arbitrary relocation, reporting, halt in increment and also face the risk of Annual Confidential Report (ACR). MPs unlike other employees have full immunity for their act inside their offices (Parliament) which canít even be challenged in the courts!! What more, there are no rules with respect to working hours, no compulsions of participation in parliamentary debates, no mandatory attendance and no objectively-measured-system to find out their productivity. To top it up, there is no promotional and removal clauses. Thus, works done by MPs are neither normatively defined nor is objectively measurable and yet they get paid handsomely and get a raise too, which is comparable and equivalent to bureaucrats, and yet no one opts for politics as a career.

Now the question is that if all this is true then why in the first place an MP should get paid? Call it utopia ó But joining politics was meant to be fundamentally a public spirited voluntary decision and less of a conventional mode of not working and yet earning a living. Since the beginning of human civilization, people who wanted to serve the society and transform them, opted for such career without an aim of upgrading their own economic stature. But then, what we observe is just the converse! Today, the biggest entry barrier to politics is the amount of investment that one has to make. And this is a glaring reality of our political system today. Or else how does one justify that the collective assets of 543 MPs elected to the Lok Sabha are worth more than Rs.3,000 crore! This means the average asset size of an MP works out to be more than Rs.5 crores! Going by this again, I wonder why should they be paid as what difference that little money that they get in the name of salary, make to them! And worse, our MPs on an average make nine times the national poverty level which is again too high compared to the US or the UK, where they are just five and three times respectively. In the US, Senators are not allowed to earn more than 15 per cent from outside of their Congressional salary while in India, the average asset value of MPs is found to have increased by a staggering 300 per cent over the last term! In Germany, the elected federal members get enough remuneration to ensure their basics, while Switzerland parliamentarians do not get any salary but just paid leaves from their employers on the days of parliament session. MPs in Mexico canít practice any profession and be office-bearers of any political party.

As I said earlier, though it might sound utopian, but politics was and should be meant for individuals willing to participate with just public serving spirit! Till the time this remains an utopian dream, at least they should not be paid!




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