Government upset that their (short) working hours highlighted
Off and on our media writes about how little our government works. There was this article in the Times of India about the fact that our elected representatives enjoy a 60-day working year, and this time it was about the Delhi Assembly. But the next thing I heard was that the Speaker of the House had issued a contempt notice to the newspaper for publishing the story.
Now let’s see what was so bad about what the newspaper said about the Delhi Assembly. The article starts off thus:
Ever heard of a job that has a 60-hour working year, or about 10 minutes a day, and costs the employer about Rs 40,000 a month? Probably not, but then you aren’t a member of the Delhi legislative assembly — at least not most of you. The Delhi assembly will wind up 2007 having had all of 20 days of “sittings” at an average of less than four hours a day. These four hours include typically a break of roughly 40 minutes for tea, not to speak of time lost to disruptions.
The information was taken from the Delhi assembly website itself…which has the details of MLA’s working hours. The reporter arrived at this calculation after he took away some 623 minutes (minutes lost to tea and other disruptions) and the total he arrived at was approximately 62 hours of actual work in the House in 2007. The newspaper has also given figures of previous years…and from these figures it looks like these (short) working hours aren’t anything unusual.
So the newspaper has certainly not done anything wrong. This isn’t even ‘secret’ information got via the RTI (Right To Information Act) and nor is it a journalistic sting…but nevertheless the government has been stung! They hate it that these facts have been highlighted. This is how the Assembly reacted:
MLA Jile Singh Chauhan moved a resolution in the House on Thursday condemning the article and demanding that action be taken against the national daily. “This is the House of the Delhi Assembly, not that of Uttar Pradesh or Bihar. How could the paper have written things like this,” said Chauhan…The issue cuts across party lines with MLAs from both the ruling Congress and the BJP vociferously speaking against the newspaper and unanimously passing the resolution moved by Chauhan.
Even the Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit, was upset. She said:
If this hadn’t been a headline we would’ve ignored it, such articles come out everyday. However, this article has made serious allegations against the Assembly, that of dereliction of duty and we cannot take this lying down. Reporters should stay within their limits just as we do…Dikshit further told the House today that as far as attendance is concerned, the Delhi Assembly records the highest attendance in the country — “whether it is the attendance of MLAs from the ruling party or the opposition”.
Dixit also points out that they do their work well enough, by which I guess she means that they do it despite the limited working hours. But working hours matter! Why don’t they realise it?
This is typical of the political and business culture in India. If you are a big fish the question asked is: How dare anyone question us! Catch the little guys, not the bigwigs. Note the reference by the Speaker to U.P and Bihar. Why should he single out U.P. and Bihar? Aren’t they following a culture set by Delhi, the capital of our country? Isn’t each and every state doing it?
The rot after all starts at the top.