Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Snippets / Mail Today, May 10, 2010

Curious ‘ illness’ of absent MPs
MORE ON Parliament. There is much that is going wrong and MPs absenteeism is only one of them. There are some who get elected and haven’t seen the inside of the House, others don’t attend sessions for weeks together. Technically, any member who remains absent for 60 days or more without permission forfeits his seat, but it is seldom that the Parliamentary Committee on Absence resorts to the harsh step. A cursory glance at the report submitted to the Lok Sabha speaker by the Committee on Absence makes for interesting reading. While applying for leave, MPs have to detail the number of days for which leave is being sought and the reasons. Shibu Soren who never attended a sitting said he was ill while seeking leave from November 19, 2009 to December 12, 2009 and again from Feb 22, 2010 to March 23, 2010.

But he continued with his duties as the Jharkand chief minister in Ranchi and turned up in the Lok Sabha to bail out the government on the finance bill cut motion. As with most things about Soren, this too was bizarre as he was an ally of the BJP in Jharkand. He was granted leave for a total of 56 days. K Chandrasekhar Rao of the Telengana Rashtriya Samiti applied for leave from Nov 19,2009 to Dec 21, 2009 and then again from Feb 22, 2010 to March 16,2010, a total of 56 days.

His application clearly stated that he was on a hunger strike for a separate state of Telengana and the CoA agreed to give him leave. Soren’s party colleague Kameshwar Baitha was in jail for 33 days, leave granted. Kabir Suman ( Trinamool) claimed illness to take 20 days off but during the period, newspapers reported extensively on the Maoist sympathiser’s public activities. Neither sarkari babus nor even school children would have had it so easy.

The return of the prodigal minister
IS THE irrepressible Alagiri turning over a new leaf? It’s not just the DMK leaders, but even other MPs seem to think so and the evidence is plenty. It now transpires that after Alagiri raised the banner of revolt by vowing to contest for the post of Chief Minister and president of the DMK once his father calls it a day, M Karunanidhi decided to crack the whip and a disciplinary notice was even drafted.

Alagiri got wind of this and knew that if the party suspended him, DMK MPs and MLAs who swore by him would desert him, making younger brother MK Stalin, the undisputed successor. Big brother was convinced that the succession battle would be fought on a level playing field only if stayed within the party.

Besides, the booty from the highly lucrative ministries that are in his charge would also come in handy to fight the cash rich Stalin. Once his aides tipped him off on disciplinary action, Alagiri flew into Delhi from Madurai, attended a cabinet meeting, sat through an entire day's proceedings in the Lok Sabha and even began attending office for three hours every day.
He also seems to be taking rapid English lessons because the man who spoke nothing but his native Tamil is suddenly talking, even if in monosyllables sometimes, in English. But what surely takes the vada is this: in front of many MPs in Central Hall last week, he called to one of the canteen bearers and asked him " Aaj Kya Kya Hein Menu Mein?" Even as those around him wondered how he had overnight managed to master the national language, Alagiri pulled out a piece of paper from his shirt pocket and held it aloft for everyone to see the question in Hindi written in the Tamil script.
There were chuckles all around which turned into loud laughter when one of the MPs remarked that even national leaders routinely read out Hindi speeches written in the Roman script.

LATE last year, Cabinet Sectretary KM Chandrashekhar who is quite net savvy and an ardent votary of e- governance sent memos to secretaries of all departments about the pathetic quality of the government websites. They were pathetic in terms of design, accessibility, quality and currency of content, all of which were compounded by the obsolete technology that was used. “ Today, websites are considered the virtual face of the Department in cyber space… and must accurately reflect the Department's activities and initiatives in the real world as well as offer more and more services online” his note said and asked all department Secretaries to nominate senior officers at Additional Secretary or Joint Secretary level who would ensure up- to- date and high quality content on the websites as well as ensure timely response on queries received through websites.

He has now gone a step further and has decided to give incentives to the ministries/ departments than maintain the best websites. The National Informatics Centre maintains more than 450 websites relating to virtually any government department or organisation and a new software developed by NIC translates all contents into about 85 foreign languages. Prizes will be given away in November this year and the winner stands to gain a prize of one lakh rupees. As the prime minister very graciously put in recently, " e- tarakki" is a major achievement of both the NDA and UPA governments.