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Thursday, 24 November 2022 | BISWARAJ PATNAIK

Odisha MLAs, expected to make laws only to improve the quality of people’s life, keep screaming, ‘more pay, more perks'. The political landscape of today is just terrible-because many bad creatures have come in by displacing the good. They grab party tickets by bribing outfit bosses in more than one way. Evidently, the Odisha scene is widely different from that of other States. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has been pounding rogue lawmakers to dust by hammering the sense of public service into most of the dumb heads. Unless an MLA is educated and sharp-headed, he is only asked to keep listening to bureaucratic officials who know the basic law and go by the rulebook. The boss is fully aware all the time that whatever be the status, ultimately the number of legislators would count to remain in power. But once in a while, the boss is forced to make compromises on candidate selection. So, as time rolls by, the number of compromised creatures increase and the house of lawmaking is nearly full of greedy robbers who can turn and twist facts to persuade the chief to agree to some self-serving proposals like fattening salaries and perks. Lately, one such demand has come up and the top bosses are not turning down the idea probably because general elections are fast approaching. The BJD honchos must know around this time that the party’s moves are under sharpest scanner. One wrong move would mean getting into big trouble. 

The lawmakers, among whom sane ones are only a handful, have not realised the basic principle of governance that lawmaking work is not a paid job. It is essentially social work. More than that, the responsibility term doesn’t exceed a short duration of five years.

Odisha MLAs, the same way as elsewhere, are mostly pinheads that cannot even define to a curious child the fundamental features of the Constitution or the meaning of public service. They now dedicate most time to spoiling the rash, daring and risk-taking youths by initiating them into alcohol dependence and methods of deceiving the masses to fetch votes for them. Not one loudmouth has raised voice against liquor across the State’s rural canvass. One finds heartrendingly alcohol flowing across villages in greater quantities than that of potable water.

An Odisha legislator gets around 10 times the average monthly per capita income of Rs 10,615. A recent study has revealed that 95 MLAs out of the total 147are crorepatis or millionaires with individual assets of Rs 1 crore and more each. An analysis shows clearly that many of these characters keep narrating shamelessly a rag-to-riches by amassing wealth after entering power politics. Fourth-grade beggarly fellows now have riches to put to shame erstwhile princely figures and aristocrats who are roaming the streets with begging bowls. These political creatures, particularly the elected ones are perpetually money-mad mainly because even during induction, except routinely meaningless oath-taking, there is no ethics training or any quality induction exercise to which they are exposed to internalise what is right and what wrong.

Odisha MLAs currently get around Rs 1 lakh per month, which includes Rs 35,000 salary and Rs 65000 in allowances excluding a daily allowance of Rs 1,500 the Assembly session, apart from the Rs 2,000 per day while touring outside the State. All this is besides travel reimbursements for attending sessions.

But their biggest grouse is that they get much less than what some other States’ lawmakers get. They keep citing Telangana bleeds Rs 2.75 lakh a month for each law maker, the highest in the country. Maharashtra coughs out Rs 2.30 lakh and Karnataka dishes out Rs 2.05 lakh as Jharkhand. It is because opposing party lawmakers fight on all issues like mad except when it comes to deciding salaries and perks. They all gang up and sing the same beggarly anthem to have the Bill passed with the Speaker extending support, no matter how much they have amassed already. Incidentally, a study found out that 73% of the people of the Telangana households have bribed officials for availing public services in the past one year. What these creatures do not know is it is the second-most poor performing State in curbing corruption in availing public services according to a CMS-India Corruption Study 2018. The report released on Friday last revealed that most of the States cited are known to be highly corrupt. Based on different sub-indicators to arrive at a score, very surprisingly Tamil Nadu topped the table of corrupt States. The States with high composite score are poor performers in the fight against corruption including Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the last two without any real enforcement initiatives. Punjab and Gujarat too are poor performers. Rajasthan, Karnataka and Delhi have been identified as ‘moderate’ performers. Transport, police, housing, land records, health and hospital services are considered to be most corrupt domains in all these States.

Even in the United States of America, the highest that a lawmaker gets annually would not exceed 1,74,000 dollars, no matter what. The pension would be determined on the basis of years of public service.  Interestingly, the social security benefits are paid for and don’t fall upon the past lawmakers until they turn 50 or get aged enough. Lately, there was a big rumour that the Biden administration has passed a Bill exclusively meant to facilitate salary fattening by lawmakers as and when they desired. The truth is Biden has never ever permitted such an anti-people move. In fact the Congress has been successfully frustrating every salary-raising attempt by lawmakers.

Lawmakers of Odisha have a right to live with dignity. So, all the affluent ones that earn twice the State’s per capita figure, be respectfully persuaded to give up the greed for salary, let alone raise the same; and the truly needy ones be granted a contractual primary teacher’s salary to eat and live. All the same, their perks towards office expenses and travel be given as per actuals only after being endorsed by at least 20 of the poorest voters of the constituency.

Lawmaking is one the most divine responsibilities that God gives to a human creature to bring smile in the face of the distressed communities. Asking for a salary is only committing sacrilege!

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