December 29, 2013

BABUS ON A TOUR


MLAs PLAN A FOREIGN TOUR AS DROUGHT HITS KARNATAKA


While the British government has tried to correct a mistake from the past by granting a royal pardon to the great Alan Turing (Link), it seems that the netas back home have not learnt their lessons. It was in 2012, that a group of MLAs from Karnataka were caught by the media 'holidaying' in Argentina while on a supposed 'study tour' to the South American country even as large parts of the state were reeling under drought. The plea by the then CM Jagdish Shettar to his colleagues in the Vidhan Sabha to refrain from the foreign visit fell on deaf ears as legislators spanning across political parties shamelessly enjoyed their vacation in Latin America, neglecting the duties towards the people who they had sworn to serve. Although it has been just over an year after that infamous incident came into the limelight, a period that witnessed a change of regime in Bengaluru, there has not been much change in the mindset of our politicians who think they can do whatever they want and then get away with it. Earlier this week, it was reported that a contingent of 18 MLAs were planning a junket to the same destination and the itinerary is said to include a tour of the Amazonian forests, shopping in Rio, watching samba and tango and the icing on the cake - a desert safari in Dubai on the way back. Considering that over 25 per cent of the talukas in the state are facing acute shortage of water, there has been an outrage over the trip. Though CM Siddaramiah has tried to wash his hands off the matter and the Opposition has asked its members to opt out, the audacity of our elected representatives in justifying the spending of tax payers hard earned money on such 'useless' outings is an insult to the people of the largest democracy in the world.

It is indeed deeply saddening that a country that produced stalwarts like Mahatma Gandhi, Subash Chandra Bose and Vinoba Bhave is today governed by crooks who seem to have forgotten all their responsibilities towards the electorate. While corruption has spread like cancer, we are fast becoming a morally deficient nation. The justification given by Congress MLA Mallikaiah Guttedar who also heads the Legislative Committee that planned this trip is shocking to say the least. While 'complaining' that MLAs get to go on a foreign tour only once unlike MPs who get this privilege several times in their tenure, Guttedar said that spending a few lakhs on this junket out of the state budget of 1.21 lakh crore is not a big deal. Speaking to reporters, he explained that the reason for the tour was to study the water falls system of Amazon and sporting activity.  He also said that he had learned a lot of things from his earlier tour to the US. And finally like all politicians, he believed that it was a conspiracy that such incidents are only reported from Karnataka whereas trips are undertaken by legislators in all other states. Wow!!! At a time when there is paucity of water both for people and cattle in the state, common sense tells us that it will be better if our babus can think of ideas to solve this problem. In fact, the same money can be used for fruitful purposes like compensating farmers whose crops have failed or for implementing measures like improving irrigation and promoting rain water harvesting. Desert safari can also be done in Thar; not only will this turn out to be cheaper, it will be a fillip to domestic tourism. And finally, our MLAs should concentrate on their constituencies and improve the lives of the people who voted them to power rather than undertaking tours to foreign nations.

I am tempted to view this entire episode against the backdrop of the coming to power of the Aam Admi Party (AAP) government in Delhi. Barely one year after he flouted a new outfit with the aim of cleansing the entire system, former IRS officer and Anna lieutenant Arvind Kejriwal beat three time Delhi CM Sheila Dixit by a margin of over 27,000 votes as the AAP bagged a whopping 28 seats in the recently concluded Delhi assembly elections. Though the BJP finished as the single largest party in the new legislature, its failure to go past the majority mark on its own in spite of the numerous scams that hit the incumbent government in the last few years is something that its leaders have to retrospect upon. The people of the national capital have made a clear choice and more importantly sent a strong message - they do not mind handling the reins of the government to first timers if they feel they are honest. And after coming to power, Kejriwal has started delivering almost immediately - doing away with red beacons for ministers and fulfilling the pre-poll promise of providing free water to private homes. Not only the AAP, voters do not mind re-electing their leaders who are known for good governance as it happened in Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh some time back. The verdict of the final leg of the state elections should be a warning bell for petty MLAs like Guttedar & Co. If they believe that their actions will not affect their poll prospects then they are wrong. Today's voter is highly aware of the thing that happen around him and it is in their interest if our political parties and their members don't take them for granted. If they do so, then the people will teach them a lesson.