Monday, November 14, 2011

Promises, promises

Your MP (member of parliament) is not responsible for water, sanitation or gardens. S/he can spend Rs3.35 crore on your constituency every year. But it is not her/his job to ensure that sewage isn’t leaking into drinking water.

Parliament’s basic job is national policy. This may translate into roads and drains, yes. For instance, new laws can force urban residents to start composting or rainwater harvesting. But to make that happen, MPs have to attend parliament. As our representatives, the least they can do is the actual representing. But are they doing it?

There had been a very promising trend started by a group called MumbaiVotes. Their ‘Promise vs Performance Report’ tracked six MPs from Mumbai between 2009 and 2010 by collecting data from parliament, direct interviews, and compiled media reports.

They told us that Eknath Gaikwad has 99% attendance. Gaikwad and Sanjay Nirupam are classified ‘livewires’ (over 90% attendance); Milind Deora and Sanjay Dina Patil are ‘healthy’ (80-90%); Priya Dutt is a ‘ghost’ (less than 70%). Gurudas Kamat was not included because, as a minister of state, he would be judged by different standards.

They also analyse ‘questions’, which tells us how active MPs are in parliament. Do they bother with research? Are they are trying to expose policy flaws? None of Mumbai’s MPs did well, though Gaikwad asked 426 questions, way above the national average of 135. But it seems like he was focused more on raising questions than on what his queries would achieve... Every politician has a personal manifesto, where he promises to do this or that thing for his voters. So all six MPs were sent a questionnaire, demanding a progress report. Kamat, Dutt and Gaikwad did not bother to reply.

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