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My MP is a geek. 

He will now get a free iPad. Or, if he is free spirited, he can do the rebellious thing and get a Samsung Galaxy Tab. Nothing short of the best tablets will do for the MP. Not the simple, government-promoted Aakash, not the scores of cheaper tabs, it is going to be an iPad or a Galaxy Tab.

Why does the honourable Member of Parliament need an iPad? It’s a decision of the Lok Sabha committee on paperless office.

Did you know that there was a Lok Sabha committee on paperless office? We couldn’t find such a committee on the Lok Sabha website but it is mentioned in a Times of India report on recommending the tablet purchase. What we could find though was a Committee on Provision of Computers to Members of Lok Sabha under Ad-Hoc Committees. Yeah, it did sound pretty ad hoc to us too!

Perhaps it was the same committee, referred to in the newspaper article as the Lok Sabha committee on paperless office, which recommended this. May not. We are not sure. But we sure couldn’t find a committee on paperless office on the Lok Sabha site (here’s the committees page http://164.100.47.134/committee/committee_list.aspx).

In case the committee that recommended this new age of tablets for MPs is the same Kafkaesque sounding Committee on Provision of Computers to Members of Lok Sabha under Ad-Hoc Committees, then, lo behold, at least one member of the committee to get computers for Lok Sabha members does not even have an email address on his official page on the Lok Sabha website!

Sohan Potai, member of Parliament of the Bharatiya Janata Party from Kanker in Chhattisgarh is a member of the group to computerise the Lok Sabha, but as you can see from his page here,

http://164.100.47.132/LssNew/members/Biography.aspx?mpsno=331, there is no email address provided for him!

The iPads or Galaxy Tabs will be latest in list of connectivity devices for the MP. Here’s what else they get, 

– a fixed line telephone and free 50,000 calls in a year. MPs who are chairs of parliamentary committees do not have to pay for any local calls made from the fixed line in their New Delhi residence. 

– a fixed line telephone and free 50,000 calls in a year within his constituency. 

– one fixed line telephone at his residence in New Delhi or his constituency on which 50,000 free calls are given for accessing the internet. 

– Trunk calls for free worth 150,000 calls every year (though who makes trunk calls any more?)

– Extra 20,000 calls are free for MPs whose constituency is more than 1,000 kilometres away from New Delhi. 

– One free mobile phone number from MNTL whose calls are adjusted to the 150,000 free calls.

But what do they do with all this connectivity? 

Perceptionally, and on the ground, if you know what I mean, the Indian MP, at an average, remains an aloof and distant creature. There is little real interactivity between the elected representative and those who elected them and citizen feed back to governance remains desperately weak which assures that the Indian parliamentarian is seen as ‘the corrupt neta’ and rarely close to a true representative of the people. 

Few among this tribe make a real attempt to reach out and engage their constituents and the people at large. Precious few have functioning regularly updated websites which respond to queries; most publicly listed email addresses are non-functional. Few tweet or use the social media. 

In fact, the Indian elected representative is singularly unversed about reaching out to the people. Years of top down netagiri means that, as has been seen in the Anna Hazare movement, the Indian MP largely responds only to public threats of mass movements.  

As they get their tablets, the Indian MP would do good to remember what these devices are for. They are not just for paperless offices. 

 

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