Amid parliamentary impasse, MPs cheer more perks
On the way to New Delhi’s international airport, three armed men lean out of the windows of a jeep, furiously waving at the steady stream of traffic to pull over.
As the cars swerve to the dusty edge of the highway, a convoy of a dozen sleek sedans zips past in a blaze of whining sirens and flashing red beacons, breaking all traffic regulations and leaving behind a tangle of vehicles in its wake.
A local politician is late for his flight.
Such situations are likely to become even more commonplace in Asia’s third-largest economy, thanks to a committee that this week submitted a report calling for all MPs to have flashing lights put on their cars to allow them to speed through the country’s clogged streets.
While India’s lawmakers cannot reach a consensus on key economic reforms in parliament (thanks to party infighting) due to shouting across the aisles and drowning out of the speaker, they unanimously rooted for a status upgrade on a list of India’s VIPs.
“MPs have zero work to show on their report card & yet have no hesitation in demanding increase in official status! Earn your increment Mr MP,” tweeted Rahul Kanwal, the executive director of Indian news channel Headlines Today, while “MPs” trended on micro-blogging site Twitter.
Another recommendation was tabled to teach civil servants to be more courteous to politicians, after “recurrent instances” of protocol violations. The committee expressed its “displeasure” at lawmakers’ ranking, which was “much below their status”, the PTI news agency said.
Even as a popular “no work, no pay” chant is doing the rounds targeting the MPs, it hasn’t deterred their enthusiasm to save the planet. The government on Friday sanctioned 50,000 rupees ($973) for each member to buy an iPad — an initiative to save paper.
“Good to hear MPs have got iPads. Now other than all the work they can spend their free time playing ‘Angry Birds’ in Central Hall,” tweeted Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
An estimated $50,000 in running expenses and MPs’ daily allowances is wasted for every hour of parliamentary time lost. But that’s pocket change, corporates and analysts say, compared to the amount the legislature’s failure to debate and pass crucial economic bills is costing the India’s economy.
(Interact with Annie on Twitter at @anniebanerji)