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Gujarat Election 2012: Civil society seeks regulation to make Elected Representatives accountable

 

Monday June 09, 2014

Gujarat, Election 2012, Accountability of Elected Representative  
 

"When political parties of India are engaged in Gujarat Elections, members of civil society have issued an open letter to all political parties to make their stand clear on accountability of elected representatives. The letter says, People’s representatives are there to serve the citizens in democratic set up, take up their issues and concerns. But that is hardly the case and most tend to behave as ‘Feudal Lords’. There exists no mechanism to make the people’s representatives publicly accountable or to be able to keep a check on their functioning."

 
HNF Correspondent  
 

When political parties have set their eyes on the voters in Gujarat after yet another five years of negligence and apathy from those elected in the last election, members of civil society in Gujarat have issued an open letter to all political parties that are in fray for the 2012 Gujarat State Assembly Election.

The open letter has raised the long pressed issue of accountability of Elected Members and discipline in Indian Politics saying, “Every workplace is governed by a set of regulations, similar ones should exist for people’s representatives as well.”

“While there is a beeline to get the tickets from political parties, it bears a question why it is perceived to be such a lucrative proposition now.

 

Ideally, people’s representatives are there to serve the citizens in democratic set up, take up their issues and concerns. But that is hardly the case and most tend to behave as ‘Feudal Lords’. There exists no mechanism to make the people’s representatives publicly accountable or to be able to keep a check on their functioning,” says the letter terming the present day Indian Politics as nothing less than the modern form of feudalism while, also, questioning the facilities provided to elected public representatives, especially as they are funded by the tax payers’ contribution. In the present system everyone, even the poorest of poor, is contributing to these expenses in direct or indirect ways, in the taxes they pay on basic items like salt.

In this pretext, the open letter demands framing of rules not only to govern functioning of these public representatives but also to initiate disciplinary action if they violate them.

The letter signed by representatives from Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan) and Jyoti Karmachari Mandal have placed the following points before the political parties and the public as well for open debate while inviting the political parties to make their stand clear.

(1) The salary, facilities and perks provided as per the ‘The Gujarat Legislative Assembly Members Salaries and Allowances Act, 1960 be henceforth discontinued. Instead, double the amount of minimum wages as fixed in the state should be paid to them.

(2) The elected representatives should also be covered under the ‘The Provident Fund Act, 1952 and ‘The Employees State Insurance Act, 1948’ and alike the workers, their contribution should be deducted from their salaries.

(3) The elected representatives will be given a pair of uniform made from ‘Khadi’ or ‘Handloom ‘material which they should wear during while they are on duty.

(4) Alike other workers, they too can avail sick leave, casual leave and related leave facilities. 

(5) The elected representatives will be barred from taking any type of gift as a representative and action will be taken for the violation.

(6) A ‘Committee Against Sexual Harassment’ will be appointed specially for the elected representatives as per the Supreme Court Judgment in Vishakha v/s State of Rajasthan. A special committee to look in to the complaints about Domestic Violence by them, against women in their family will be constituted.

(7) To assist the elected representatives with their public works, they can choose five persons from their constituency. And they too will be paid at par with elected representative.

(8) The government will provide for an office to the elected representative in their constituencies, which will be simple, but with adequate facilities. The office will remain open on all working days except on government holidays where the five salaried workers will be accessible to the public.

(9) During the session as well as afterwards, it will be compulsory for the representative to remain present in the office during the fixed hours in office.

(10) Every elected representative will be given a BSNL mobile phone on which the citizens can connect for free. As long as the phone is used for public work and not personal, the bills will be reimbursed accordingly.

(11) Every three months, the representative has to organize a public meeting in which they will make public all the works they have undertaken and also answer all the queries of the citizens of the area. They will also detail the plans for the forthcoming three months and the minutes of the public meeting will be documented. This documentation will be a public record, which will be shared with the people and in a press conference to be held after every such public meeting.

(12) The public representative will use only public transport for official work during the tenure and if they use private transport then they will not be paid any travelling allowance for that trip.

(13) Instead of individual accommodations, elected representatives, MLA or MP will get a dormitory facility in groups of ten.

(14) All the ministers can avail two bedroom flats during their tenure.

(15) Due to such communal living, it will reduce the burden of security cost and make it easier for security arrangements.

(16) During the session, the elected representatives will be provided free of cost simple but nutritious breakfast and meals providing 2400 calories per day in a common dining hall.

(17) They can avail free of cost meals as well accommodation in government guest houses while they travel for fulfilling their duties.

(18) For all those representatives who remain absent from their office in their constituencies, without prior intimation, their salary should not be paid. In case if their absence is prolonged, all the facilities due to them in addition to their salary for that year should be withdrawn.

(19) If the elected representative were to remain absent for a period stipulated more than the rules permit in the House without furnishing proper reasons, then not only the salary but perks and all the facilities for the entire year will be withdrawn.

(20) If they resort to violence and mayhem while taking up issues in assembly /parliament then their salaries should not be paid for that session.  In case they persist with mayhem and sloganeering in house, they should be suspended for that session. And if they still persist they should be dismissed.

(21) If an elected representative instead of raising her/his issues as per the rule in the house, resorts to sloganeering or unruly behaviour in the House for more then 3 times she/he will be first suspended. If the unruly behaviour persists, will be thereafter dismissed and will loose the right to contest the subsequent elections.

(22) If the elected representatives are found to be sleeping, engaged in conversation or leaving the House, be it the Rajyasabha, Loksabha or Vidhansabha frequently, then they will be suspended for three days. During the period of suspension, they will have to pay for their meals as well as accommodation facilities. Additionally, they will have to submit a written apology to the House as well to the voters.

(23) They cannot take mobile, laptops and similar communication devices in the House.

(24) During every session the elected representative have to make written submission about the issues of their constituency as well as how they intend to solve them. The note shall be prepared following public hearing and discussion in their area and also should be made public, with a copy available in their constituency office’s notice board.

(25) The Speaker of the house should prepare the agenda for the session after referring to the notes of the representatives and ensure the detailed discussion in the House about all these issues. The duration of the session will be fixed according to the merits of the issues to be discussed.

(26) The present system of grants to MLAs/MPs for carrying out various public works in their area should be scrapped. Instead they should make a written submission of works that need to be financed and accordingly grants should be directly allotted by the government.

(27) Before introducing the motion in Vidhansabha, Loksabha or Rajyasabha for implementation of a scheme, the representative should hold a public hearing where the citizens can submit their opinions, omissions and amendments to the schemes. The motion will be prepared on the basis of the public hearing’s report and the funds will be allotted keeping in view the development needs of the constituency.

(28) During the session at the end of each day, a press conference should be called where media should be briefed as well as given the details in writing about the proceedings of the day. Also, the agenda details for the next day should be also shared with the media.

(29) Arrangements should be made so that citizens can watch the proceedings during the session. Also, subsidized rail and bus service arrangements should be made for those citizens who want to watch the proceedings, along with meals availability at minimal cost.

(30) Elected representatives have to make a written submission of what they accomplished/works undertaken during the interim period between the sessions. This information should be made public just outside their office given to them in their constituency and failure to do so would lead to non-payment of the salary for that period.

(31) While contesting elections, if the candidates forget to declare the details of their assets and property, which they have to also place outside their office.  Failing to do so, government can confiscate their assets, which shall be used for public works.

(32) Details of their income/assets should be furnished publicly each year. Also, they should be audited by an auditor to be appointed by the House.

(33) They have to maintain a daily diary and at the end of the every month, a copy of it should be submitted to a special all party committee formed by the House. All these details should be put on the House’s website as well as the constituency office.

(34) Those who violate rules three times consecutively will be debarred from contesting the immediate elections.

(35) Those seeking re-election should submit the details of the works accomplished in their previous tenure as well. Also, if their assets/income witnesses a phenomenal rise, it should be explained in writing. The Election Commission can reject their candidature if they fail to do so.

(36) A special court should be constituted to deal with cases related to violations committed by representatives, which shall deal with the cases at the earliest, preferably in the period of six months.

(37) They can avail LTC (leave travel concession) facility to undertake a seven day trip to an area other then their constituency to meet and study the condition of the deprived sections as well as common citizen. During this travel period, the state government will make home stay arrangement at the residences of common citizens. They have to submit a report in writing about their visit and the report should be made public.

(38) In addition to local issues, talks and training sessions with experts on the basic issues pertaining to the common people and different sectors will be organised. Participation in these sessions will be compulsory.

(39) Every six months an oral and written examination concerning people’s issues and their solutions will be taken. The results will be made public.

 
 

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