Earlier this month a television news channel exposed, using hidden cameras, how Indian politicians across several mainstream parties take money to raise questions in Parliament.
While the event has evoked a predictable public chorus of â€˜shame, shameâ€™ and pious pronouncements on the decline in standards of our politicians all this in my opinion is missing the point completely. These allegedly â€˜corruptâ€™ Members of Parliament (MPs) need to be congratulated not condemned for their behaviour.
Before any of you go ballistic, let me explain why.
First of all, in a Parliament where a significant number of members have criminal records or are closely associated with crime the act of a few MPs accepting money in a peaceful and non-violent manner is in fact a sign of hope.
It shows that despite the pollution of our national cultural values by foreign channels like AXN and Fashion TV even today Gandhi- (the Mahatma, not Sonia)- wields influence on at least some of our leaders. After all the same MPs could have been out somewhere extorting money at the point of a gun from someone. (Would that have been all right for the TV fellows with their silly secret cameras? Hmmm!)
Secondly, by agreeing to raise questions in Parliament the honorable MPs demonstrated that there are still some elected representatives left in our country who are willing to work for their money. How many MPs do you know from whom a client, customer or citizen can get any work done or service performed even after paying hard cash?
And also think of it – how much easier it would have been for these MPs, being martyred by the media now, to have taken the money and then paid someone else to raise the questions. Wouldnâ€™t that have been even worse, being outright cheating and complete dereliction of duty?
By taking up direct responsibility for asking the pre-paid questions (the post-paid option is still in the works) in parliament the MPs have in fact set a shining example of personalized customer service that puts much of the Indian private sector- particularly telecom companies- to shame.
But well beyond demonstrating the power of Gandhian thought and the ancient Indian work ethic what these eleven MPs have done is pioneered a concept that has deep implications for the future of electoral democracies all over the globe. They have taken the first steps towards implementing the amazing idea of Privatizing the Parliament!
Imagine the future! You want a question asked in Parliament? No problem- you will be able to book your favorite MP over the Internet with the mere swipe of a credit card! (at www.cashforquestions.com or something like that).
There will be competition for this market of course so you can look forward to deep discounts from rival MPs who might offer two questions for the price of one. If you donâ€™t have a second question to ask they will provide management graduates to invent them for you. How thoughtful!
Forget about mere questions- you want a law introduced or amended? No problem again-they will introduce, reduce, bend, amend any law you want and have it freely delivered to your doorstep!
The list of potential benefits of Privatizing the Parliament is quite long but one possibility that is particularly exciting to me is that of outsourcing the talents of our MPs to other countries that want their Parliaments to look like a reality TV show. (The term BPO can then become â€˜Bharatiya Politician Overseasâ€™)
Think of it! Indian MPs disrupting proceedings in parliaments all over the world, turning serious debates into shouting matches, throwing mikes at fellow members with great accuracy. I bet they are capable of introducing an entire range of innovations that will make the British rue the day they conjured up the idea of parliamentary democracy. (Aha! The colonized shall finally have their revenge against the colonizers!)
There are no doubts at all in my mind also about the comparative advantages our MPs have over competitors from other countries.
To begin with the average Indian MP is not any other garden-variety, developing country parliamentarian â€“ but one coming from the worldâ€™s largest democracy. That means there are more of them for overseas buyers to choose from. In fact they probably form the worldâ€™s largest pool of political manpower- whose export out of India would help our country make great progress.
Secondly, they are thoroughly familiar with the institution of parliament- having tried to enter it for years through all means possible and once inside â€“ fought tooth and nail to hang on. Our biggest global competitors â€“ China and Pakistan – either donâ€™t have parliaments at all or have pseudo-parliaments run by decree by the military. They just donâ€™t stand a chance against our fellows.
Thirdly the Indian MP is available cheap by any international standards. (Man, are they a bargain or what!) I donâ€™t really know the latest figures but a few years ago when Enron was buying up Indian politicians to back their scam power project near Mumbai the going rate was just a few thousand dollars each. In fact, you don’t even have to pay them in dollars, Indian rupees will do. (But mind you- no soiled notes please – our MPs don’t accept dirty money.)
Fourthly, they are all willing to work on the night shift to take advantage of the time difference between India and developed countries in North America and Europe. Working in the night comes easily to our MPs, many of whom are from occupational backgrounds where darkness was an essential precondition for carrying out their professional tasks.
I can go on and on about this but I can already hear some very important questions coming up.
If you privatize parliament then what is left of the idea of â€˜one man, one voteâ€™ and the very concept of electoral representative democracy? Does it not become â€˜one dollar, two votesâ€™ or whatever the conversion rate may be?
Indeed, if money can buy our MPs then why bother to have an elected government at all? Why not do an IPO and sell the damn institution to any multinational, hedge fund or global bank willing to pay the premiums? Why have a Prime Minister and a cabinet full of pompous ministers when you can get a smart, highly paid CEO and a board of directors accountable to none but their shareholders?
And will this mania for privatizing every public body stop with even the parliament or government? Why not privatize the armed forces and the police too- after all these are huge and highly subsidized institutions in every country that violate all the rules of the WTO? And while we are on this privatisation spree why not sell the moon also to a multinational- to convert moonlight into a moneymaking venture?
You know what? All these questions above are not really questions at all but frightening descriptions of where our dear country and the globe are really headed for. Even on a noisy day I can hear the future wheezing and sputtering with her privatized lungs.
Satya Sagar is an Indian journalist and videomaker based in Bangkok, Thailand. He can be reached at [email protected]