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How to keep our elected representatives reminded of their duties

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That the crushing jam of people on a narrow foot overbridge at the Elphinstone Road Station in Mumbai happened due to negligence is bad enough. It has resulted in 23 avoidable deaths and left many injured, some perhaps so badly that their remainder lives will now be a greater struggle than before.

That the direly needed broadening of the said bridge was kept pending for two years is atrocious. It is obvious neglect and callousness. The urgency of the matter was thought secondary to the search for a ‘proper’ tender.

If these facts don’t tell the story of the common man’s insignificance, then the police authorities bringing out a pamphlet with the photographs of all the deceased, with serial numbers written in red ink across their foreheads- should leave no doubt.

The sad reality is that the only worth of the common man today is just as a voter. Once he exercises his franchise, he is just a statistic in the country’s swarming population of nobodies, till the next polls. In between two elections, he exists merely as a hapless struggling ‘something’.

The politicians of course, promptly move on to another level of comfort and entitlement that is far above and far removed from the struggling existence of the common people.

In this context, it is no surprise that the common man has decided to call out the injustice in always being at the receiving end of the administration’s apathy, neglect, and gross failure of duty. The dismayed common people can’t help but voice their anguish.

The gulf between the privileges of the Netas and the common man have suddenly become exposed. The common perception has emerged that if the Netas don’t experience the conditions of the common people’s daily lives, they will never know the ground reality of the struggles of the daily lives of the common people. So how can they solve the people’s problems if they are so distanced from them?

This hasn’t happened as a result of just this incident. It has been building for some time. This needless and avoidable tragedy has triggered the first shriek of frustration. People know that a democratically elected government is duty-bound to serve the people. But over time, the repeated failures in performance caused even that basic notion to be drowned in a cloud of despair and resignation.

Just some time back a building collapsed in a part of Mumbai, and there was a lot of passing the buck on display. To date it is not publicly known as to which authority was held accountable. We don’t even have the clarity in our systems to pinpoint accountability.

But there is remarkable clarity on how two to four fold increases in salary and perks  can be sanctioned within minutes by elected representatives for themselves, with miraculous unity across party lines for the ‘essential’ amendments.

The true relevance of the ‘M’ (Member) in the official names of our elected representatives like MP, MLA, or MLC has morphed over time. From being a designation to indicate their status in our very honorable law making houses, they have now come to mean a super-status entitling them to special powers and placing them over and above the people. To some then, the ‘M’ means only that they are members of an incredibly powerful league or club that is far superior to the people. Which is not something that the Constitution ever meant it to be.

The basic fact still remains that they are the people’s representatives. As long as they are elected representatives, they are to be in the service of, and for, the people.

Sadly, this basic and paramount truth is easily lost sight of.

One way to ensure that this basic truth is always the prominent identity of an elected representative, is to officially rename MP, MLA, MLC, as PRIP (People’s Representative in Parliament), PRLA, or PRLC. The sooner it is done, the better.

It would serve as a straight and gentle reminder to all that their foremost duties are to serve the people.

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