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HVK Archives: That's not fair!

That's not fair! - Mid-Day

M V Kamath ()
July 23, 1998

Title: That's not fair!
Author: M V Kamath
Publication: Mid-Day
Date: July 23, 1998

I would have thought the age of strikes was long over and that
workers had learnt to respect the consumer. Apparently, I am

First, it used to be textile workers and then bankmen who used to
make a nuisance of themselves. Datta Samant effectively
destroyed the textile workers. The bankmen are doing quite well,
thank you. In recent times, those bit by the strike bug were
Indian Airlines pilots and engineers. They seem to have quietened
down now. It was then the turn of the postmen, bless their

Wouldn't the average citizen, who pays his taxes and obeys the
laws, be inconvenienced? Who cares? The pilots did not care; nor
did their engineers. In the past, bankmen did not care. Why
should we expect postal services to care? Who cares in this
country, anyway?

Thank god the judges have spared us a strike. With lakhs of cases
pending in courts, a strike of the judiciary would have brought
the administration to a standstill. And yet, this country has
been paying scandalously low salaries to its judges. It is only
now that a decision has been taken to raise their emoluments.
Fancy the chief justice of the Supreme Court (SC) getting a
paltry Rs 10,000 a month and a judge of the SC a bare Rs 9,000! A
Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation sweeper gets something like Rs
52M and he thinks he is being paid rather poorly!

All these years, the government insulted our judges - and nobody
cared. Judges' salaries were last revised in 1986. Since then,
the indifference of the governments - both Congress and United
Front - has been nothing short of criminal. Wisely, the Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government has decided to up the
scales. The chief justice should now be getting Rs 33,000 per
month and judges of the SC Rs 30,000. Even these figures are
pitifully low. The chief justice should get not less than Rs
75,000 a month - tax free. And other judges not less then Rs
50,000 - again tax free.

Let it not be argued that judges get other perks, in addition to
their salaries. One can't eat perks. Perks go with the dignity
of the job. And perks end when the judge retires.

But there seems to be no retirement for politicians who manage to
enjoy perks long after they 'retire' from any ministerial posts
they might have held. And, too often, they are guilty of not
paying their bills. And not just politicians. The political
parties they belong to have just as much been careless about
paying up!

It comes as a shock to learn that the Congress has just been
forced to pay Rs 40 lakh of its accumulate telephone bills of
around Rs 70 lakh - but only after Mahanagar Telephone Nigam
Limited's (MTNL) deputy general manager Ashish Joshi ordered
disconnection of several telephones at the All India Congress
Committee's (AICC) office in Delhi. The AICC apparently had not
paid phone bills since 1993. (For doing his job, Joshi has been
transferred from the MTNL rolls to the directorate of telecom, as
director, training!). Hopefully, he will train officers to do
their duty and haul up scoundrels.

I read in The Hindustan Times from columnist Rakshat Puri that a
large number of political leaders of every hue are also in
arrears. According to a Statesman report that he quotes, former
prime minister Chandrashekar (who wants to topple the BJP
government within a week) owes the New Delhi Municipal Conned
some Rs 10 lakh for electricity; Kalpanath Rai and Madhavrao
Scindia owe Rs 6 lakh each. The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha's Shibu
Soren owes Rs seven lakh and about 51 MPs have yet to pay bills
of lakhs of rupees. These include - hold your breath Rajesh
Pilot, G Venkataswamy, Madhavsingh Solanki, Jitendri Prasad, P M
Sayeed, V Rajeshwara Rao and Ghani Khan Chowdhury, to name only a

The list of MPs and ministers with pending bills will, doubtless,
keep growing as the democratic tradition of not paying bills
keeps growing. These wretched men have been living in palatial
bungalows belonging to the government long after they have ceased
to be ministers. Obviously, they are reluctant to leave their
quarters as they know they will never again get them, since
chances of their party resuming to power in the foreseeable
future are dim. These are men without shame, men without
principles. And their continued recalcitrance is tolerated by the

There is no explanation forthcoming from anyone. How come
Chandrashekhar owes Rs 10 lakh to the Delhi municipality? How did
he pile up these dues? And why was the municipality silent all
these years?

If I don't pay my phone bill promptly, MTNL threatens to cut off
my fine. Why can't the law that applies to me be made applicable
to Chandrashekhar as well, or, for that matter to the Congress?
Incidentally, will the defaultee be forced to pay interest on the
dues? Justice demands that this be done.

But again, in this country, who cares whether justice is done?
Remember the case of Jagjivan Ram, who forgot to pay income tax
for 10 years? The good man suffered from loss of memory and had
to he reminded.

The Congress has failed to pay its phone bills since 1993.
Jayalalitha would call it selective amnesia. When the Congress
fails for five long years to pay its phone bills, with what face
can we accuse sonic petty clerk of corruption? The poor man
probably has a large family to take care of and would need every
penny that he can get, fairly or unfairly. If he can't get it
fairly, he would resort to unfair means. And he will point an
accusing finger at the Congress and at Chandrashekhar and say
that what is good for them is also good for me. And who will
blame him?

It is probably not known that NT's are entitled to a few thousand
free phone calls - to keep in touch with his constituents who
have no phones. According to an official, "MTNL bills have never
been treated as ones that need to he settled." When the Congress
was in power, no officer had the courage to initiate recovery
procedures. One wonders what the position is vis-a-vis parties.

So, why blame other people of corruption? As The Bible says - but
one does not have to go to The Bible for what is common sense -
if the salt has lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?
Yes, wherewith, indeed!

The stuns involved are not small by any means. Are we living in a
civilised society or among a den of certified thieves? Is there
is no one to question when what amounts to h sale robbery goes on

Or have we all become so blas=E9 that nothing upsets us any longer?

Incidentally, when were Congress funds last audited? Or is that
asking for too much?

(M V Kamath, veteran political commentator, takes on all comers)

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