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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2342

When Will Curtains Come Down On VIP Culture

By Atul – Rama - Syndicate Features

The Supreme Court order asking former chief ministers in UP to vacate the official bungalows allotted to them for life has been widely hailed. But rejoice only if you know nothing about the guiles and cunnings of our VIPs. In fact, the crafty politicians who may be expected to suffer on account of the May 7 court order had already anticipated the judicial eviction order.

Of the six or seven former CMs who are supposed to be affected by the court order at least half are living in bungalows which were transferred to ‘trusts’ they or their family had formed to avoid trouble at a future date. The court order does not say that bungalows given to ‘trusts’ should also be vacated. There you are: A loophole was created in advance to dodge any move to get the VIPs evicted from public property.

It cannot be said if the court will pass another order asking ‘trusts’ to shift to another location, should the VIPs stay on in the luxurious bungalows they occupy for life at taxpayers’ expense. There may be legal hurdles: one doesn’t know.

The point to ponder is that the much scorned ‘VIP culture’ has taken deep roots in the country with the connivance of almost all political parties; perhaps there are no exceptions in this case. What has been observed is that on matters relating to pay and privileges all politicians unite; even the ‘sworn enemies’ join hands.

To the struggling poor citizens it must be a disgusting sight to find, for instance, Members of Parliament unanimously agreeing to enhance their pay and perks whenever they wish. Parliament may be ‘paralyzed’ but any legislation to raise the salaries of the honorable members is passed quickly with, sometimes, a token discussion during which some members talk sanctimoniously but would not let go of the extra cash that flows into their accounts.

What could be a better proof of the crocodile tears that members shed when they chide those who allegedly derail Parliament proceedings but have no qualms about clamoring for higher wages. If Parliament does not function it means it has not worked and then how can you justify payment of salary. Is it not a reward for NOT working? Recently, some Members of Parliament said they could not accept salary for the days the session did not function.

That is political posturing, meant to denigrate the Opposition. If there was any honesty in adopting a (misleading) moral stance the legislation for enhanced salary should not have been moved and passed in the first instance. This is not to say that the salaries of MPs should be frozen. If the working class is told that ‘no work’ would mean ‘no salary’, why the same rule can’t be applied to the VIPs, including elected representatives?

Remember, the Supreme Court in its May 7 order said clearly that a former chief minister is no different from a common citizen. It was going against the Constitution to give a number of privileges, including free bungalow along with other perks like staff and free electricity and water to someone who is no more the chief minister.

Almost all the former CMs who manage to live in sprawling official mansions in the plushest areas of the UP capital rose from humble backgrounds where luxuries were almost unimaginable. While struggling to establish themselves as politicians, they give the impression that they believe in unostentatious, simple life with no intention to acquire material wealth.

No sooner they get wider recognition and acceptance in politics and enter the exclusive club of VIPs, they shed their pretensions for ‘simple life’ which ill-suits their claims like being ‘sevaks’ of the people. What emboldens them is that their followers see nothing wrong in the Netas’ ostentatious lifestyle. If there is any public criticism it is muted enough not to cause any embarrassment. In short, failure of public scrutiny of their extravagant lifestyle makes it easier for them to multiply their material wealth.

Narendra Modi as Prime Minister has done nothing to end the ‘VIP culture’, despite speaking against it. The ‘VIP culture’ is a big burden on the poor people of the country because it entails not just free bungalows but many other things. The taxpayer has to bear the huge security expenditure on many VIPs who include not only Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, senior bureaucrats etc but also those who have retired from their posts.

It is said that it has become a matter of ‘prestige’ for politicians to be seen being guarded by a large posse of armed security men. India has by far the largest number of VIPs who get perks that cost a bomb.

A report published some time ago said that India, with a population of 1.3 billion, has nearly 58,000 VIPs. China with a higher population has 435! The next highest number of VIPs is in the US—252. Western countries like the UK, France and Germany have far lesser number of VIPs. In the past there has been a lot of talk about cutting down the number of VIPs, especially those entitled to elaborate security cover. The number has only been going up. The present government had sanctioned security cover for 475, against 300 by the previous government.

The choice of some of the people who now move around surrounded by a sea of security personnel has looked like distribution of some kind of patronage. One of the arguments used in justifying large security cover to VIPs is that they face the risk of being attacked by terrorists. Well, terrorists feel free to attack anyone, anywhere and nobody has been able to stop them. However, certain state functionaries do need elaborate security but their number cannot run into tens of thousands, as is the case in India.

Assigning armed men and women to VIPs is a sore point with common citizens who have seen manifold rise in street crime all over the country. Particularly shameful has been the almost daily report of sexual offences against women and children. But the official answer to that is: ‘rapes happen; cannot be avoided’. Yes, VIP safety comes before the safety of ordinary men, women—and children. That is ‘VIP culture’ for you.

- Asian Tribune –

Six former Uttar Pradesh CMs, Mulayam Singh, Mayawati, Rajnath Singh and Kalyan Singh, Akhilesh Yadav and ND Tiwari are set to lose their swanky bungalows. (File photo | PTI)
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