(Mr. Ranbir Singh Pathania, 30, was born in born in Jammu city. He did his early schooling from the J.S. Luthra Academy and the S.R.M.L. Higher Secondary School, Jammu. He graduated from the G.G.M. Science College, Jammu, with distinction, and went on to earn his law degree from the University of Jammu with distinction in the Constitutional Law. He is a practicing lawyer in the Jammu seat of the J&K High Court and subordinate courts in Jammu. Mr. Pathania has taken on prestigious cases like the Siddhra land scam, B.Ed. colleges scandal, etc. and is one of the vocal advocates for the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) to root out corruption, preserve heritage and enforce the Right to Information (RTI) law. He is the General Secretary of jagriti Samaj and a member of the Advisory and Constitution Amendment Committee of the J&K Bar association. He was selected for the "Best Citizens of India" award by the Best Citizens Publishing House.)
LONG LIVE THE ROLE-MODELS - MLAs/MLCs .
“Nobody could be a judge of his own cause” is a universally accepted maxim. Then how are the MPs and MLAs justified in increasing their perks and allowances by themselves by - and many times. Former Lok Sabha speaker, Somnath Chatterjee had stirred up a nationwide debate on the lead issue by remarking, “The issue of increase in salaries and allowances of MPs should be left to the public.”
Unfazed by the brewing public opinion on the moot point, J & K cabinet has okayed a proposal seeking to increase the salaries of legislators by three times. A legislator would now get Rs. 60,000 as monthly salary, that too retrospectively from September, 2009. Besides, they also get Constituency Allowance amounting to Rs. 15,000 per month, telephone allowance to Rs. 5000 and medical allowance to Rs. 300 per month. They are also entitled to air/railway re-imbursement of Rs. 50,000 every year, interest-free loans of Rs. 02.50 lacs for housing and car each. Rs. 500 per day as Daily Allowance per day during assembly sittings, 75% Travelling Allowance by air and Rs. 09 per km on road and Rs. 35 lacs as Constituency Development Fund every year. The pension of former legislators has also been increased from Rs. 12,000 to Rs. 18,000.
It is in the same vein that a cabinet minister would now get Rs. 65,000 and Chief Minster, Rs. 75,000 per month. Posh, well-furnished bungalows, personal staff, superfluous security and a train of vehicles tailing behind a buzzing siren - keeping aam admi in a state of awe, wonder and confusion. From costly LCDs, refrigerators, carpets, wall-paintings, electronic gadgets and opulent furniture to tubs and towels, the impeccable taste of the role-models makes one laugh with one cheek and weep with the other. Whatever do they require – ‘Pesh kiya jaye’ and ‘Pesh ho gaya.’ This unnecessary extravagance and vanity, I think, outmatches those of Mughal and Turk monarchs. Does it not look as if we are living in a government of the netas, by the netas and for the netas.
In J & K, the budget session has till now been a cat-and-mouse game between NC and PDP with the unpredictable Panthers and the accidental crop of BJP acting as viable fence-hitters. The issue regarding the headless Accountability Commission, the fangless State Human Rights Commission and framing of Vigilance Commission on the pattern of Central Vigilance Commission are still hanging fire. Even the ration and fertilizers are not properly reaching the rural pockets. Water table has plummeted to an all-time low. NREGA, PMGSY, NRHM, PMRY and ADB-funded projects have been yielding least results. ReTs, ReZs, home-guards, A.W. workers and employees are on roads.
An independent survey by National Election Watch has shown that MLAs in Haryana add on an average Rs. five crores to their wealth in their five-years tenure. Great! At least one class in India (that of legislators) is living on the fat of saturated land. Their perks and allowances have maintained a constant pace with the burgeoning fiscal deficit. According to World Bank estimates, India is home to one-third of the world’s poor, with nearly 46 crore people under the global definition of poverty. Forty-six per cent of the world’s malnourished children are Indian. The findings of the PM-appointed National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector, revealed that 77 per cent of Indians survive and sustain on less than Rs 20 a day.
And in J & K, financial crunch comes in the way of release of around Rs 45 crores due to State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) employees, Rs 519 Cr to power providers. ReTs are getting Rs. 1500 per month, daily wagers in P.D.D. and P.H.E. department are working on Rs. 500 per month despite assurance made on the floor of the Assembly from the government side. Not getting even a minimum wage, to put it the other way, State is itself violating the Minimum Wages Act. The employees are agitating for the release of arrears as per Sixth Pay Commission recommendations. But the cash starved state has no resources and it has requested the Centre to help it come out of the Penelope’s web. It is in this backdrop that the peoples’ representatives have the courage and conscience to go along with spree of enhancing their salaries and perks. Nice democracy, nicer logic and nicest-ever legislators.
This reminds one of a popular quote of a renowned Urdu poet, “Khud he mukhbir, khud hi mujrim, khud hi munsif thehre”