Friday, August 20, 2010


The credibility of our politicians is so low that the media and the public at large are sniggering at the proposal to raise the salary of MPs to 50,000 per month. Thanks mainly to their own behaviour and the brazen corruption of some of their fellowmen, we often tend to forget or ignore the fact that those are MPs and MLAs who actually perform the most important tasks in the country. For the middle class chatterati which has a ‘radical’ solution for every problem that India faces, the solution would be doing away with MPs, and perhaps even elections. Frankly, the middle class chatterati has no interest in democracy. But India cannot afford such solutions.

Given the enormity of the task they perform, I think the MPs need to be paid far more than what they get now. Look at it this way: each MP is responsible for a shareholder base of about 20 million. The actual budget of each constituency runs into hundreds of crores every year. And while district collectors and district magistrates are merely transferred for incompetence or non-performance, an MP can – and oft en does – actually lose his job! To that extent, an MP actually deserves a monthly salary of 5 Lakh per month. There should be an additional travel and other allowance of 1 lakh per month. That sounds preposterously high? It is not. Paying them these ‘reasonable’ salaries will cost the tax payer less than 1000 crores a year.

But as pointed out and suggested by this magazine and many others umpteen number of times, the problem is not paying generous salaries to our MPs – they deserve that for sure. The problem is with the ‘perks’ that they enjoy. That really is costly and something no elected representative of any functional democracy can demand as a right. Yes, by all means pay 6 lakh every month to our honourable MPs. But then stop giving them free housing in VIP Delhi. Just as it happens in UK, USA, Denmark, Australia and most other democracies, ask our honourable MPs to find their own houses-rented or owned. This will lead to enormous savings for the society – apart from making the MPs more connected with the citizens of India.

Just imagine what can happen to the Indian economy if the logic is extended to all politicians and all bureaucrats in India. They are squatting on the most prime real estate assets available in the country. For example, pay a district collector (an IAS officer) a monthly salary of 1 lakh and ask her to find her own house. Surely the rent for even a wonderful house in a small town cannot exceed 20,000? Why let her stay in a massive bungalow with acres of lawns when that land can be better utilized commercially?

You know what the answer will be when politicians and bureaucrats are actually offered this option – huge tax free salaries but no perks. They will find every possible excuse and refuse. That is because our mindset has really not changed much since the British left. Our rulers (politicians and bureaucrats) are ‘public servants’ only in name. Deep down, they treat the ‘public’ as worse than servants. Long live Indian democracy!


Friday, August 6, 2010


The manner in which the chattering class is reacting to the massive corruption that is being unearthed in the run up to the Common ‘wealth’ Games can be described in two ways: it is either charmingly na├»ve or disarmingly sanctimonious. Either ways, we again hear clarion calls from all and sundry on the need to change the ‘system’. Since change should begin at the top, here is a new look Union Cabinet that Manmohan Singh can wave at the nation with a brief mention of some key ministers and ministries:

• Lalit Modi becomes the Union Finance Minister. I don’t know what will happen to India’s finances (Though I guess you can take a guess!). But one thing is for sure. Hundreds of millions of Indians will start watching the Lok Sabha TV channel because cheerleaders from South Africa with micro mini skirts will start dancing on the aisle of the Parliament.

• Suresh Kalmadi becomes the Union Minister of Mines. This will ensure that his team of officials, advisors, friends and partners will think that all of India is an open cast mine and start digging up everything, everywhere. The aam aadmi is anyway used to the mountains of dirt that will start flying all over.

• Vijay Mallya becomes the Union Foreign Minister. His fellow Karnataka citizen S.M. Krishna may have mucked it all up. But he will be different. The moment Shah Mahmood Qureshi-the Foreign Minister of Pakistan starts opening his ‘loud’ mouth, Mallya will unveil the latest Kingfisher calendar. That will lead not only to peace, but also a jaw dropping spectacle. Who knows, even the Taliban might decide that women in Afghanistan can go without veils.

• Arundhati Roy becomes the Union Home Minister. The first thing she will do is send Digvijay Singh on a Marco Polo like journey to discover the ‘root causes’. Then she will join the Gandhians with Guns in the jungles of Chattisgarh and draft a new internal security doctrine. The primary objective of the doctrine will be that at least 100 security personnel are killed every week in ambushes. Of course she won't be satisfied with that. She will have the Gandhians with Guns chop off the limbs of those who dare oppose her visions of a pastoral paradise. Since she has since long seceded from the Indian Republic, she won’t even have to take the oath of office.

• Mamata Bannerjee becomes the Union Civil Aviation Minister. I don’t know what you will do, but I will surely rediscover the joys and ecstasies of traveling by train.

• Lalu Prasad Yadav becomes the Union Surface Transport Minister. All Indian roads will start looking like Hema Malini’s cheeks. And there will be no question of any tongue in cheek.

• Prakash Karat becomes special envoy to America. Since many Americans are anyway convinced that Barack Obama is a closet Marxist, Karat will do wonders to Indo-American relations.

And of course, Manmohan Singh doffs his hat to the Union Agriculture & Food Minister Sharad Pawar for his scintillating performance and announces that he is stepping down, to be replaced by the Maratha strongman as the Prime Minister. I don’t know about you; but I have a sneaking feeling that Lalit Modi will be grateful.