Jai Panda Charity Begins At Home, Justice Next Door
The social media was agog with the news about the letter written by BJD MP Baijayant Panda to Speaker Sumitra Mahajan’s office asking her to remove the huge subsidy in the Parliament House Canteen to ensure “greater public trust and confidence” in the lawmakers. “As you would know, recent media attention has focused on this issue with citizens remarking on the oddity of this privilege,” the politician from Odisha wrote in his letter to Mahajan. “I am of this opinion as well as believe the removal of the food subsidy for the MPs will be a right step in effecting greater public trust and confidence in our role as lawmakers.”
In writing this letter he also delivered a punch to the NDA and Modi by mentioning that the recent efforts of the government to encourage the voluntary giving up of the subsidised LPG by those who can afford it sounds hypocritical in light of the food subsidy extended to parliamentarians. Other politicians too joined the bandwagon. K C Tyagi of the JD(U) spoke in favour of removal of food subsidy. Congress leader PC Chacko also spoke in a similar tone, he said “Parliament canteen need not be too much subsidised. Too much of subsidy for Parliament canteen is not a necessity.” Arjun Meghwal of the BJP, who often arrives at Parliament on a cycle, voiced a different opinion and said, “Media, officials, guests, everybody eats in the Parliament canteen. MPs constitute only 10-15 per cent of all.” The brouhaha was raised after a RTI query revealed that the Parliament Canteen has availed a total subsidy of Rs 60.7 crores during the last five years. It made rib-tickling news to know that parliamentarians, earning over Rs 1.4 lakh per month and other perks, relish items like fried fish with chips at Rs 25, mutton cutlet at Rs 18, vegetables at Rs 5, mutton curry at Rs 20 and masala dosa at Rs 6 with rates heavily subsidised.
The RTI reply also revealed that the canteens in Parliament serve 95 mouth-watering dishes ranging from simple boiled egg to various mutton and chicken dishes which have been subsidised from over 150 per cent to about 63 per cent. It is shocking to know that certain food items were sold below the price of the raw material. It was revealed that the food price was revised only twice since 1947.
The time is ripe that MPs should realise that they are the representatives of people and they should actually represent the real world. Modi should, instead of asking people of INDIA to #GIVEITUP, should start saying #MPsGIVEITUP.
The taunts of the social media and all the hue and cry may probably result in withdrawal of these subsidies. It is ironical that Jay Panda raked up the issue. He will go down in history as the one who belled the cat. I am sure he must have done a bit of soul searching before shooting off the letter. However I feel that he should have delved a bit deeper.
Jay Panda comes from the industrial house run by his family. The IMFA group, with interests in Chrome, Iron, Power and Media, is very close to the Chief Minister of the State as well as to the power wielders at the centre. In fact the relation is so close that, despite habitual default in repayment, his firm could arrange waiver of bank loans to the tune of Rs.2300 crores in 2007. Financial Institutions like the IDBI, IFCI, ICICI and PSU Banks like IOB, Canara Bank, PNB, etc had to waive a major part of the loans provided to IMFA/ICCL. This was seen as the biggest rip-off in Odisha’s corporate circles.
The matter had even gone to the courts, but the Judiciary too stayed away from ‘judicial activism’ in this matter and hence the country never came to know whether the waiver was genuine or loss of public money. The two PIL cases filed successively against the waiver did not merit judicial consideration; because, the first one was “barred by delay” and the second was “barred by the principles of res-judicata and delay”. Earlier, Biju Patnaik too had waived outstanding electricity dues worth crores.
Baijayant, who calls himself Jay in Delhi, behaves as if he is the messiah who has been born to liberate Odisha from the chains of poverty. Ever since this industrialist turned politician joined the Biju Janata Dal and entered Parliament first as a Rajya Sabha member and then as Lok Sabha member from Kendrapada constituency in Odisha, his business interests have spiralled. He is sharp and suave, a regular page three celebrity in the Delhi circuit.
This is not the first time that Jay panda has shown his holier than thou style. In May 2013, he had introduced three Private Members’ Bills in the Lok Sabha in the matter of criminals in politics. He had asked for the removal of the exception that MPs, MLAs and MLCs can serve in the legislature after conviction and the establishment of fast-track courts for trials under 90 days for any elected representative facing a criminal case. He had also moved for amending existing statutes to empower independent and effective prosecutions. Panda was commended and rightly so, for snapping a long tradition of parliamentary silence following commission upon commission recommending action. It is time he did some introspection. Jay ho!