Sunday, November 20, 2011

RTI

                            92 Rajya Sabha MPs have pecuniary interest: RTI

       Jairam Ramesh may have stirred up a hornet's nest when he, as environment minister, complained of MPs indulging in conflict of interest by lobbying for environmental projects, but a look at the Register of Interest of Rajya Sabha members proves how MPs have managed to find a place in many House panels despite having business interests in the sectors concerned. 

      According to the register of interest, made public in response to an RTI application following an intervention by the CIC, 92 of the 232 MPs have declared pecuniary details, including remunerative directorship, regular remunerated activity, shareholding of controlling nature, paid consultancy and professional engagement. 

     The highest amount received from remunerative directorship was declared by the King of Good Times, Kingfisher's Vijay Mallya (Rs 39.45 crore), SAD MP and Span India's Naresh Gujral (Rs 4.54 crore), Vijay Darda of Lokmat Group (Rs 2.25 crore), KD Singh of Alchemist (Rs 92.47 lakh), Amar Singh (Rs 48 lakh) and Reliance Industries' YP Trivedi (Rs 31.28 lakh). 

    Vijay Darda and YP Trivedi are all part of the standing committee on finance. The panel also includes pharmaceutical baron Mahendra Prasad, who is popularly referred to in Bihar as 'King Mahendra'; tobacco exporter and leading liquor distributor Sambasiva Rayapati Rao from Andhra Pradesh; Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy, another industrialist MP from Andhra Pradesh, and Nishikant Dubey (who was associated with Essar). 

     A total of 33 of the 232 MPs have declared shareholding of controlling nature. The highest number of shares (across 27 companies) was declared by mining baron Anil Lad, a Congress MP from Karnataka. Incidentally he is part of the department-related standing committee on science and technology, environment and forests. Other prominent shareholders are Vijay Darda (21 companies) and Vijay Mallya (12 companies). As many as 28 MPs declared that they had one or more regular remunerated activity. 

        The highest paid include Vijay Mallya (Rs 1.85 crore) and Satyanarayana Chowdary, a TDP MP from Andhra Pradesh (Rs 1.68 crore). In terms of paid consultancy, of the eight MPs who have declared the same, Parimal Nathwani, MP from Jharkhand who looks after corporate affairs of Reliance, is the highest paid at Rs 1.29 crore. 

       Independent Amar Singh follows with paid consultancy of Rs 54 lakh, BJP MP from Bihar Ravi Shankar Prasad with Rs 37.73 lakh and economist Ashok Ganguly with Rs 36 lakh. On the professional engagement front, the top rankers are Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who has declared remuneration of Rs 50 crore from his profession as a lawyer. 

      Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, during 2005-06 when he was a practicing lawyer, received Rs 10 crore as remuneration. While Ram Jethmalani follows with a Rs 8.41-crore remuneration, BSP leader SC Mishra has declared Rs 3.44 crore as remuneration from his engagements as a lawyer. Many high networth industrialists figure in parliamentary committees. 

       A look at the members' list of important committees, including the standing committees on finance and industry, the public accounts committee and the public undertakings committee, reveals a startling number of industrialists. 

        Finance and industry-related committees are believed to be the most sought after and MPs are often known to lobby hard with their party leaders to be made part of these. 

        These committees can summon officers, including those from departments like income-tax and revenue. This generates much clout among the panel members, who by being part of committees relating to their areas of business interest, can influence policy decisions. 

       Ethically speaking, an MP who has interests in a particular sector should not put up a parliamentary question or be part of a discussion, either in the House or in a standing panel, relating to the sector. In fact, when the standing committees are constituted, care should be taken to exclude MPs who have a conflict of interest.

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