India Insight

Amid parliamentary impasse, MPs cheer more perks

By Annie Banerji

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.

How to get more women into parliament?

As part of its 100-day action plan, the Congress-led UPA government is pushing for the Women’s Reservation Bill, which seeks to reserve 33 per cent seats in parliament for women.

The UPA has also promised to give women 50 percent seats in local government institutions like the village council, up from the 33 percent of seats currently reserved for them.

That measure has  been in place for over a decade and a half. But has it done any good?

The no-vote option: Will Indians ever exercise it?

Democracy is all about choice and there have been calls to introduce a “none of the above” option in electronic voting machines so that guardians of the election process in the world’s largest democracy can reject candidates who don’t pass muster.

And if this is likely to get sucked into political wrangling – the fate of most pertinent issues in India – some say the Election Commission (EC), political activists and those urging the “sleeping population to wake up and vote” should  advertise the virtues of Rule 49-O of the Conduct of Elections Rules, which allows you to register your disapproval.

A peek into the election rulebook reveals the following about 49-O: “Elector deciding not to vote – If an elector, after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters in Form-17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decided not to record his vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark.”

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