Muted Voices

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Having different priorities viz-a-viz the regions they belong to, the six MPs in past five years have hardly asked questions and participated in the parliamentary debates and discussions. As the parliamentary elections are approaching, Syed Asma reviews the performance of J&K’s six MPs in last five years in and outside the parliament

6-MPs-of-JKUntil now eighty-four representatives from Jammu and Kashmir have been elected in the Indian parliamentary elections but only a few names are remembered back home for their active participation. Shameem Ahmed Shameen stands class apart from all the 84 members, for his understanding of issues and their presentation in the house.

Shameem is the best so far, says Ghulam Nabi Ratanpuri, a National Conference leader and a Rajya Sabha member.

Though, not matching the standards set by Shameem, Saif ud din Soz created history in 1999 when he voted against Vajpayee led NDA during a no-confidence motion prompting his government to collapse.

Apart from these names not many are remembered, in fact, the present lot is criticized over their poor performances.

One of the researches conducted by PRS Legislative Research, a New Delhi-based research body which collates information about parliamentary activity says that the performance of 6 MPs from Jammu and Kashmir in past five years has mostly been below average.

PRS founded in 2005 is an independent research initiative incubated in the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), New Delhi.

It infers the six MPs including two members from National Conference: Dr Farooq Abdullah, Dr Mirza Mehboob Beg, Sharif ud din Shariq; two members from Congress: Chaudhary Lal Singh and Madan Lal; and an independent candidate representing Ladakh: Ghulam Hassan Khan, were least participatory in the lower house.

Dr Farooq Abdullah is not included in the survey as he represents government as part of union ministry.

The five MPs of the state, excluding the Union Minister Farooq Abdullah, have asked 479 questions and participated in 222 debates including those on legislations in the past five years.

As per the official data, two Congressmen from Jammu have performed comparatively better. Choudhary Lal Singh, a 55-year-old resident of Kathua, Jammu has performed fairly better among the five. He representing Jammu (Doda-Udhampur belt) has asked 261 questions to different Ministers and has participated in 84 debates. His debates and discussions were mostly development driven.

The other congressman, Madan Lal, a 61-year-old resident of district Palatan, Jammu is representing border areas of Jammu-Poonch area.  A Class 10th pass-out, Madan Lal, has submitted 79 questions apart from participating in 21 debates in last five years.

“My priority has always been the people I represent, that is, inhabitants of border areas. I have taken up many issues in the Parliament including the unprovoked firing by Pakistan,” he says.

It is Madan Lal’s second term in the Lok Sabha. He has a criminal case registered under section 332 and 342 IPC against him.

In Kashmir, Sharif ud din Shariq, representing North Kashmir including Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipora has submitted 58 questions to different central ministers besides participating in 43 debates.

Shariq, 78, a post graduate, was born in Handwara, Kupwara. His debates and discussions include developmental and security issues regarding Kashmir including revocation of AFSPA from a few areas where it is not needed.

Following him is Ghulam Hassan Khan, 74, an independent candidate from Ladakh apparently backed by National Conference during 2009 Lok Sabha polls. He has asked 54 questions besides taking part in 16 debates.

Khan is a graduate from University of Kashmir. It is Khan’s second term in Lok Sabha and his discussions and debates were dominated by the development issues of his region including connectivity issues, both air and road, besides, recruitments in para-military forces.

Dr Mirza Mehboob Beg, 64, a resident of Sarnal, Anantnag, represents South Kashmir, has asked 27 questions in last five years. But his performance in debate participation is quite well. He has participated in 58 debates. Academically a doctor, Beg is serving his first term in Lok Sabha.

The PRS legislative research shows that all the five have mostly performed below average in the house and have preferred to take a back seat.

A political analyst wishing anonymity says the mainstream leadership in Jammu and Kashmir lacks self-confidence and have pre-judged notions.

“They move into the house [Lok Sabha] believing that it is difficult to convince New Delhi over Kashmir regarding any topic. Failure is meant to happen,” he says, “if they are adamant that they want to achieve something, they will have to fight for it, at any level, but our representatives fail to do so. The vigour is missing!”

But the MPs do not agree with these surveys and opinions. They believe they do the best they can and have their own reasons and explanations.

Dr Mirza Mehboob Beg believes he, along with his colleagues, does the best and creates opportunities to talk about vital issues of Kashmir, almost each of them- AFSPA, international water treaties between India and Pakistan, NHPC projects, banning SMSs on pre-paid telecom services and most importantly he says he did talk about Afzal Guru.

He says he has questioned the Indian government for hanging Afzal Guru clandestinely in Delhi and not allowing his family to meet him. He had delivered an emotionally charged up speech and compared Guru with Balwant Singh Rajoana, a convict found guilty of killing Punjab’s Chief Minister. Balwant is yet to be hanged.

Dr Beg believes, “Indian parliament is the biggest democratic platform where we can make the country’s leadership acquainted with problems, issues and suggestions. What else can we do there? And we do that to the best of our capacities.”

Though, the MPs try to justify their representation in the Indian Parliament but nothing substantiate has been done. Taking example of West Bengal MPs and its state government: they have been adamant that they will not allow New Delhi to sign any more water treaties with Bangladesh, not at least where there water resources were involved. So far they have been successful.

But nothing similar could be done in case of Indus Water Treaty. “Kashmir is a unique problem and has its own internal and external dimensions. Kashmir is treated differently,” says Beg.

Not only Kashmir but its state subjects are also treated differently. Dr Beg elaborates, ‘the Shiv Seniks and many other leaders have pointed me out in the Parliament as a Pakistani. I spoke about it in the parliament and I said, “This is the irony of being a Kashmiri; at home even my grave is not safe as they think I am an Indian and in India’s Parliament I am accused of being a Pakistani.”

Not only the Kashmiri masses but even the elected parliamentarians from Kashmir are facing identity crisis in India, it seems.

In past five years none of the state MPs has submitted a Private Members Bill since their election in 2009.

The political analysts opine that the popular political discourse in Kashmir, the pro-freedom sentiment, is discouraging its main-stream politicians and hence they do not take the required pains to address the actual issues of Kashmir. They [the mainstream leaders]prefer to keep New Delhi happy at the cost of people of Kashmir.

Besides, it seems that the regionalism among the state’s MPs is vivid. Diversity in the state plays a major role while MP’s set their priority lists.

“Yes we are divided over our priorities. We differ in our agendas as well but we together fight for special packages and fund allotments,” says Madan Lal.

Each of the MP is entitled to a specific amount. Earlier it was 2 crores and now it is Rs 5 crores MPLADS (Member of Parliament Local Area Development scheme) funds every year. These funds are spent on the discretion of MP. As per the official records since 2009 the six MPs have been entitled to 19 crores.

More or less, they have been spending these funds on their constituencies solving the municipal issues- repairing transformers, donating C T scan machines, ambulances, school buses etc.

As per the Annual report 2009-2010 of MP LADS published by Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation, Government of India 704 works have been recommended by the MPs, 657 works have been sanctioned by the District Authorities and 633 works have been completed. During the financial year, 2009-10 Rs. 17 crore has been released. As reported by the districts, an expenditure of Rs. 9.28 crore has been incurred in the state up to 31st March 2010. The percentage utilization over release is 54.61 per cent. The percentage of works completed to works sanctioned is 96.35 per cent.

And as per the Annual report 2010-11 of MPLADS funds Rs 24 crore has been released. As reported by the districts, an expenditure of Rs 12.82 crore has been incurred in the state up to 31st March 2011. The percentage utilization over release is 53.42 per cent. During the year 2010-11, 848 works have been recommended by the MPs, 1030 works have been sanctioned by the District Authorities and 448 works have been completed. The percentage of works completed to works sanctioned is 43.50 per cent.

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