at last, we have got the confirmation. We don't we see many discussions about poor peoples' issues because poor people cannot pay their elected representatives enough for questions to be raised on their issues in parliament. The debate over ethics of 'sting journalism' is meaningless. Eleven disreputable mps of India's reputed democracy have been sacked from their jobs. They were caught on camera accepting money for raising questions. Within a week, another lot of politicians, six to be precise, got stung in another operation. They were seen negotiating with ngos for commissions to release development funds going under the garb of Members of Parliament's Local Area Development Scheme (mplads). The scheme provides Rs 2 crore a year to each mp to for development projects in his or her constituency. A former Goa chief minister was seen haggling over a Rs 3 lakh commission to release Rs 15 lakh from his mplads fund for the development of his constituency, to reportedly build a Konkani library. Long live knowledge in Konkani.
There has been enough debate in the past over the efficacy of mplads. Many serious members think the money is too little to undertake any sustainable and productive project and the fund promotes ad hoc development. In a report in May 2004, the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (cbga) clearly stated that a total of Rs 10,000 crore spent under mplads since its inception in 1993 has been a total waste of money -- the results of this expenditure were hardly visible. In a political system full of irresponsible politicians, it is also expected that such funds will give rise to favouritism. It was interesting to watch on television how a debate initiated by the speaker on abolishing mplads degenerated into 'spirited' presentations by a few parliamentarians to ban 'sting journalism'! Citizens are shocked to know about such malpractices! Some politicians and journalists are surprised to see this shock as this was not a secret, they felt!
The fact that the political system is corrupt is not new. But politicians cannot be corrupt alone. Most legislators, who agree to raise questions in parliament for money certainly get it from industrial and corporate lobbyists. We hardly get to see any reports on them. But the scam on mplads has exposed something more serious. Sting operators of the news channel posed as members of fake ngos while they negotiated the scam. Given the smooth sail the journalists had, such deals must be normal. It has become a common practice to 'start an ngo' to make money. A corrupt system breeds corrupt practices. It is high time that members of civil society take note of this rot. A politician, however corrupt, will turn to us and say that he is an elected representative. But NGOs are not elected by anyone, and that demands honesty. Civil society cannot afford to lose public trust.
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