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Is the salary of a Gram pradhan a license to corruption?
First, a disturbing news about the poor and indigent condition of a former MLA of Phulbani constituency in Odhisa, Prahlad Bahra, in September 2019. Prahlad was suffering from many diseases and lived in a dilapidated kaccha hut. He used to get a meagre pension of Rs 15,000, insufficient for his treatment. At the time, I wrote about the importance of giving a respectable salary and pension to public representatives.
The other incident is related to my recent election victory. A friend of mine from Ranchi, a brilliant journalist, called to congratulate me. Even before a Hello or any words of congratulations, his first question was about the amount of salary I would be receiving. On the basis of a false information I had, I told him it would be around Rs 18,000-18,500 per month including different allowances. He said it was too little but could be managed with anyway. Principle of honesty was inherent in the idea of ‘could be managed’. However, this amount was much less than I used to receive in the profession of journalism, still it was my assumption that it could be ‘managed’ with.
Afterwards, I found out that my source of information was wrong. Actually, in Uttar Pradesh, Gram Pradhans (Mukhiya and Sarpanch in other states) get only Rs 3,500 as remuneration for taking care of the development projects in the village. Only Rs 3,500 per month. In administrative terminology, it is called honorarium. This payment to a Gram-Pradhan is far lesser than the other employees working In a Gram Panchayat. For example, a Gram Panchayat secretary receives about 15 times more than this amount, sanitation workers receive 10 times of the amount, Anganwadi and ASHA workers are given about two-and-a-half times more.
Therefore, the question arises: how does a Gram Pradhan arrange for all his/her expenditures? The list of duties of a Gram Pradhan is a long one. Constitutionally, in the 11th Schedule, there are 29 subjects for Gram Panchayats, where there are further sub-clauses also. Would a meagre amount of Rs 3,500 be sufficient to carry out all these duties? In principle, a Pradhan is expected to be available 24X7. To carry out these duties and tasks, a further need for a technical support, like data entry, computer operators, etc., is felt when you actually work on the ground. There are many other such needs.
How are Gram Pradhans expected to manage their expenses in a situation as grim as this? It’s difficult to take care of their professional responsibilities with the money they receive, how are they expected to manage their personal responsibilities? According to a data collection website ‘Statista’, per capita income in Uttar Pradesh in the FY 2019 was about Rs 66,500 per annum. This suggests that a Gram Pradhan receives a salary even lesser than per capita income of the state.
With this amount, is it assumed that Gram Pradhans are free to arrange fat amounts of money as commission for the works of Gram Panchayat? Isn’t that what has become the standard practice? Aren’t village heads and their allies lured to defraud the exchequer through budget maximisation? Wouldn’t Gram Pradhans be permitting useless and unnecessary programmes to take out their profit?
Do we find answers to all these questions in our political science textbooks? Is performing public-service at such a petty amount accepted as a principle in Panchayati Raj? I have not read such a thing anywhere; you must not have read it either.
Then, what is the reason that Gram Pradhans receive such a petty salary? If there is no answer to this question, then should we accept that they have been given the license for corruption? In which, not only Pradhan is involved, but all the related employees and officers too, gulp down the public money. This is the reality. Corruption has become an evil truth that everyone knows and doesn’t mind.
But there is another question we need to look into. Why do we have different practices in place for different stratas of public representatives? Why the principles accepted for an MP or MLA cannot be applied for a Gram Pradhan?
There is no end or boundary to corruption. If this is a reality, then we also know the truth that not all people are corrupt. There are people who want to work honestly and with ultimate transparency. They live and work by the same principle that Prahlad Bahra lived and worked by. But should they be left to an end that he was doomed to see?
If we have a respectable salary system, the youth trying to bring change can also see it as a career. Otherwise, the vacuum that is being created due to the absence of good people in politics will continue to be filled by opportunists, plunderers and corrupt people.
There should be an effort to make honest representatives, practically as well as theoretically. And for that, it is important to give them a respectable amount of salary to begin with. This amount can be decided by the advice of a panel of experts, a committee or a commission. So long, this question hasn’t been raised. It is never too late to do the right things.
In Hindu weddings, a marriage will not be complete until the seventh step is taken under “Sapthapathi”. Immediately after that, both the groom and the bride place their right leg on “Ammi” – traditional kitchenware made of stone to prepare paste like items. Then the groom points in the sky towards the star “Arundhati” in the group of “Saptharishies”.
This Saptharishi is in the constellation of Ursae Majoris. It is also called “Big Dipper” or Plough.
Four stars forming the body and the three stars forming the handle. In Hindu mythology, Arundhati is the wife of Sage Vashista, one of the Saptharishies. Sage Vashista is the second star from the end of the handle also called “Mizar”. The star Arundhati is the fainter companion also called “Alcor”. Together, they are called “Horse and rider”.
At fourth magnitude, Alcor would be relatively easy to see with unaided eye but its proximity to Mizar renders it more difficult to resolve. Early in the day, star Arundhati is the target to test your vision sharpness.
Recently, I studied an astronomy book meant for kids. I came across the following. All the celestial body in space were revolving around their selves and may be revolving around another celestial body. No planet, star or any other celestial body revolves around each other except one pair.
The only pair that revolves around self and mutually one another is “Vashista” and “Arundhati”, that is, Mizar and Alcor.
I wonder how our forefathers identified this pair and selected in our marriage ritual to reinforce the message that couples should revolve around one another always by exhibiting the magnetic force mutually. Salute to their astronomic knowledge.