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Karnataka MLAs' right to Junkets Act

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While one set of MLAs is packing its bags for an exotic Latin American vacation, some of their colleagues are already taking in the sun and sand in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.

The 19-member team includes 13 MLAs, officials and staff of the legislative assembly secretariat. Sources said the all-expenses-paid trip costs Rs 1.71 crore, at Rs 9 lakh per member. Some have taken along their families, but at their own expenditure.

- - - Reacting to legislators going on junkets, Siddaramaiah told reporters on Thursday that he has no say in it. "I cannot intervene in the plans and working of legislature committees. The system of foreign junkets is not new. Past governments have never interfered in the functioning of these committees. It is up to the legislators to go or not," he maintained.

- - - A 30-member legislators' delegation is planning to take off to three Latin American countries in January-February, to "study the waterfalls in the Amazon forests and sporting activity'' which will cost the state exchequer Rs 2.25 crore.

For the full report in the ToI, click here.

For all the ridicule this is raising across the country, in all forms of media, many of the politicians involved still look at it as an entitlement. Apparently, a few years back, the legislature had unanimously adopted a resolution that every member will be entitled to two foreign and two domestic junkets during the five-year term. While earlier these were camouflaged as "study tours", the South America tour itinerary shows that they have even dispensed with such niceties now. At this rate, I won't be surprised if the assembly soon chooses to formalise the whole thing through the passing of an Act.

Perhaps the ADR (Association for Democratic Rights) should include an additional criterion on how many junkets a sitting MLA has gone on, while compiling the candidates' data before the elections. Let's see how the voters view it all.

Muralidhar Rao


murali772's picture

Exchanges on a Google-group

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NS: To go off on a contrary note, is this not similar to the LTA being paid by so many private organizations to their employees?

Why not monetize this benefit and declare an LTA of Rs 2 lac per annum (figure of course subject to discussion and inflation adjustments) and then let an individual MLA use this either on a "study trip" or a personal vacation.

The official pay for an Mla is pretty poor. If we want high honesty standards perhaps it is time we actually pay them a decent salary and LTA and then hold them accountable.

I am aware that in the present "Aam Aadmi" climate this is a minority view and probably unfashionable and unpopular. But perhaps instead of focusing on matters like Rs 1.6 crores spent on this, the likes of Arnab Goswami may like to focus on the hundreds of thousands of crores in loot from public projects. The 1.6 crores or so here is frankly so small in the broader context that the national press could possibly focus on other stuff.

Me: You certainly have a point. Instead of freebies, junkets, G-category sites, etc, if they are given better salaries, and made more accountable in general, I expect the tax payers will not mind the extra burden.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

more exchanges

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TV: Accountability is the word hitherto not used in Government offices ( now of course sakala is in action) and  same holds good for politicians. Since Govt works like relay race  with dozens responsible for some work, blame game ends at God and hence God alone is accountable .My suggestion is that  any perk should be given based on performance. Some transparent merit rating system be devised  so that the performance be measured and money for vacation be sanctioned accordingly.

PS: I do not believe that an increase in salary is at all necessary for MLAs OR MPs!

The whole idea of Public Servant was originally meant to get public-spirited persons to offer themselves or these posts as an extra voluntary service to the nation, while they continued to have their own sources of income from business/ farm/ employment, etc. IT WAS NEVER MEANT TO BE A PROFESSION! ....BUT, it became a means to misuse the power/ access/ cronyism to favor their own businesses/ income sources, so as to make a mockery of the idea of Public Servant! Naturally, they have come to epitomize the power politics and corruption. The salary was meant to be merely like a stipend, to help pay for the small extra expenses that might be incurred in the process of going about fulfilling the duties as a politician!  That was the original idea!!

Now, perks and freebies and junkets, et al, are the main course while the work is left undone. The personal incomes of the MPs and MLAs are equal to huge fortunes, and so the whole idea of increasing their salaries is laughable.

Please desist from making such unholy suggestions! ;-(

Cheers to Arvind Kejriwal and  the AAM AADMI Party for their desire to bring back public-spiritedness into Public life. Service is what politics was about and 'Career Politician' was a distortion of the whole scheme of things. Not the original idea of the Father of our Nation and our first time politicians. More money/ perks begets GREED.... as we have been experiencing for so many years. Time for change!

NS: Lets be practical. People need to provide a decent standard of living to their families. It is shameful that we pay our MLAs what our vice consul in New York was paying her maid servant!  For that matter, it is shameful that we pay our vice consul in New York less than $4500, a figure that sounded so ludicrously low that US law enforcement officials ard supposed to have laughed in derision at hearing it!

The old saying goes " If you pay peanuts you will get monkeys". Rest my case.

VM: Strangely,  i too find myself on the side if the politicians(to a certain extent) on this junket issue.

And wat irked me the most were the so called debates on tv  namely times now.the holier than thou postures of rhe likes of arnab and suheil seth ,were irritating to say the least. As if there is no junket practice in the private sector, corporates, unecessary "off sites", "conferences" in exotic locales, all essentially funded by the consumer.

I think politicians should have exposure to the world at large - a lot of them come from a background where their world view is very limiting. Their mistake is  trying to term it a study tour  with dubious "study" components. Better to have called it "world exposure"

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

And, more - -

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KS: Yes, but in corporate environments whenever there is a cash crunch, the things that get cut first are unjustifiable travel, goodies like team lunches/dinners, etc. One can hardly claim that our governments are running surpluses, and therefore the outrage over such profligate spending.

NS: The analogy breaks down here -- the purpose of Governments is not to turn a profit (unlike a for-profit corporation).

The outrage over this trip is akin to a several thousand crore loss making company's CEO spending hours debating about whether paper clips can be sourced at a cheaper price !!

What is the size of our deficit ? What is it due to ?

Most of it is created by design -- some of it is due to optimistic budgetary revenue forecasts which are often not met (especially like in today's situation where the economy is soft).

If we effect the necessary controls over project costing we can get massive infrastructural spend going at a price way below what we are currently paying today. Whether a few MLAs go to Brazil or to Singapore is so trivial compared with this that I am surprised that no National TV Channel is doing a story on the real scandal with regard to our governance.

One idea which may be worth examining is to have our MLAs turn in a short project report on their "study trip" to qualify for having the expenses reimbursed. At least that will make them spend a little time on the report (hopefully !) and will ensure they learn something from the whole experience.

CB: I agree with NS.  I think even the junket is peanuts compared to the other scams.  Also, if the salary is too low (considering its not a 'permanent' job) I do think we will not attract the best. There is much else the TV channels could have focused on instead of this piece of self-righteousness.

Me: The cost may be small, compared to the huge costs incurred on account of various other forms of mismanagement, and the sufferings caused to the aam aadmi thereof. But, the junkets send out a far more damaging signal of callousness on the part of the elected representatives to the sufferings of the aam aadmi. In that respect, it is best avoided.

PS: I am glad that Muralidhar and others do see that the money expended - which is being computed so meticulously here - is not the real issue at at. As Muralidhar points out it's the Principle of the thing! Especially when the money 'earned' thru Bribery and misappropriation must run onto lakhs and crores for these same MLAs and MPs! And to add insult to injury, they don't do any of the work they are supposed to do!

The comparison/Argument comparing with the Corporates is quite untenable...the workers there WORK - or else - and get rewards when the Company makes profits..which is rationally acceptable.

@CB - I do not agree with the argument that Better Salary will attract better people into Politics...Totally wrong premise when one sees the current crop of opportunistic people in politics. Quite the opposite is the case! More rewards will attract more people who are into it to get what they can without working for it. The crux of my argument is that for the last so many years the low calibre people - and so many criminals, to boot - were attracted to Politics because of the free access to perks and freebies and the opportunities for Corrupt money to be 'earned'' WITH IMMUNITY/IMPUNITY. NOWHERE ELSE IN ANY PRIVATE SECTOR OR SELF-EMPLOYMENT DO YOU GET THIS UNBEATABLE COMBINATION OF BENEFITS!  What's a few lakhs of taxpayers money spent on a junket while Rome is burning?! That's just an example of the self-service!!
And, I believe that Arnab does his job of bringing all this callousness and insensitivity of our Public Servants to public awareness in an admirable way...Vociferous repetition and loud shouting is the only way to get thru the hard insensitivity that has grown into our psyche in recent years!

@ NS - why do you imply that idealism does not go with practicality?  Hasn't AAP just proven my point. If  the politicians were not all owning businesses, wealth and property galore to take care of their needs/greed, I would say, go ahead and give them more salary to boost their morale. I repeat that our founding Fathers of our Nation did call themselves Public Servants because they believed that that was what they were there for...

Don't you find it amazing that while bureaucrats, Corporate employees and even School teachers must eschew any other business/occupation ( it's in their work contract...) so that there is no CONFLICT OF INTEREST, the politicians merrily continue with their businesses and occupations even while their is huge conflict of interest!  Well, all I can say is that their interests are surely very well served by joining Politics, and that is why so many dubious characters have flocked onto it.. You all must agree that this is the ground reality today?!

Anyway, things will be achanging... Cheers to AAP and the Aam Aadmi!

TV:  Salary to elected leaders!!. Who needs it ? just yesterday my friend told me that a corporator who was driving an old byke before becoming a corporator,  within 3 years he now drives Innova and has built a 4 story ed  bld complex. Most of the money comes from allowing construction with all kinds of violations,  some without even licenses. But there are some good guys who do not go out of the way to make money.
Before any one talks about increasing salaries V should wipe out corruption.I was suggeting call centers in each ward to complain about the corruption, the same should be forwarded for necessary actions. Fear of getting punished will reduce corruption. Kejriwal has announced call centers in Delhi .   

The subject has certainly generated a lot of debate, though, perhaps because of the bit of extra effort involved, the posts have all been on the Google-group. The points raised being a lot relevant to the subject, I chose to transfer them all onto Praja, though it is quite pain-staking a job.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

"study tour" report - exposes the hollowness

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Legislators who went on a ‘study tour’ in November have submitted a report about it, and incredibly, this is what they have found: Tokyo is the capital of Japan and the entry fee at tourist spots is high!

The Legislative Committee on Public Undertakings, led by former Assembly Speaker Ramesh Kumar, toured five countries --- Japan, China, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. The trip, at a time when the State was reeling under severe drought, had invited the wrath of the media and the public. The State government, which had defended the junket, was forced to cancel all such tours following public outrage, and the intervention of All India Congress Committee (AICC) Vice-President Rahul Gandhi.

- - The legisltaors’ report indicates the trip was all play and no work. The delegation has also lifted portions from random websites to write its report.

For the full report in the New Indian Express, click here.

Plainly pleasure trips thinly disguised as study tours - all at tax payers' cost

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

regulations proposed

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"In future, there will be less scope for jolly trips and more onus on study and purpose of the tour," he (speaker) added. During the meeting later this week, Speaker is likely to constitute a team or assign a task to reputed universities or educational institutions to submit a report on ways and means of making legislators' foreign junkets effective in terms of constituency development or benefits to the state.

For the full report in the ToI, click here.

Fair enough - plain holidaying cannot be at tax payers' cost; the tours have to serve some worthwhile purpose. We will have to see how it evolves.

Muralidhar Rao
xs400's picture

Isnt this the same as the Kingfisher top management

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This got me thinking, do other 'leaders' of society get to get away on 'business' tours? 

Why only single out MLAs?

How about journalists? Heads of religous institutions? 

How about us? When we just walk away? 

Lets not forget, this is a reward for sucessfully engineering the drought.

Same with the other MLAs - sucessfully engineering a riot.

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