I believe that the recent development regarding Hema Malini requesting excise cuts for water purification equipment must be seen in the same light as the “Cash for questions” expose, wherein parliamentarians were paid to ask questions in the house.
While Malini is being singled out for this, every parliamentarian should be under scrutiny for the questions they raise – about whether their questions are because of the needs of their constituents, of their ideology, or indeed because of a profit motive.
Related to this issue is the fact that the Parliament had passed the Office of Profit bill – one that allows Parliamentarians to hold additional constitutional offices from which they make money…and I hold former President APJ Abdul Kalam is entirely responsible for allowing that bill becoming a law: there was a clear conflict of interest when lawmakers benefit monetarily from passing laws that may not benefit society; though Kalam did the right thing by sending the bill back to Parliament for reconsideration, it would not have been sent to him again, unless he’d shared that he would have signed it — a second refusal would have been grounds for impeachment. It was sent, and he did sign it.
It’s a tricky situation – if you restrict parliamentarians only to parliament as a source of income, then they’ll use their post for profit. The rising cost of elections compunds the issue – so then the only solution is exorbitant salaries, which some of them will denounce because that might not go down well with the electorate – they’d rather make money in a clandestine manner. Is there a solution?
Malini isn’t the only parliamentarian making money outside of Parliament – you’ve got actors, cricketers turned commentators (some who are comedians). This is Malini’s second question ever in parliament, and there’s a clear conflict of interest since she endorses a water purification brand.
But that’s democracy for you — the rule of the mob, and in this case, an uneducated mob. If only there was a better system…