The Assembly ruckus over babus going to MLA homes is much ado about something. The fracas over a government circular issued during the budget session in June stating that government officials cannot visit the homes and personal offices of MLAs is not completely unfounded. But this calls for a discussion and an amendment because there are strong and tangible points on both sides of the argument.
But before we analyse this, there is a context and a background to why this circular was issued. It stemmed from the bitter rivalry in Ponda between MLA Ravi Naik and the regional satrap and PWD minister Sudin Dhavalikar, where the later took umbrage at Ravi Naik asking PWD and other officials to come to his residence for meetings. Prima facie the circular has some foundation of logic because frequent summons from MLAs force officials out of their offices, thereby denying the public access to officials at all points of time.
But there is practical side to the need for MLAs to call officials for meetings at their residences. MLAs do not have designated spaced for their work provided by the government. Unlike in bigger states where each MLA is sanctioned an apartment or a room depending on seniority in the state capital, Goa is too small in size and number of MLA’s to warrant this arrangement. At the same time, they do have any official space earmarked for them either at the secretariat or in their constituencies. The collectorate or other government buildings at the constituency level often do not have functional conference rooms to hold meetings of officials. As elected representatives of people, MLA’s spend most of their non Assembly time accepting petitions of people and acting upon them. In fact Minister Rohan Khaunte even has a full-fledged software to upload complaints, petitions and requests of the public and track the progress of each in a time bound manner. But as a ruling coalition member and minister, he stands at a far more advantageous position to dispose cases and interact with officials than an opposition MLA does.
Many MLAs have their own independent offices for constituency work. For opposition MLAs, the need for an official meeting space is genuine, since ruling MLAs are either ministers or Chairmen or Vice Chairmen of corporations and other bodies, which entitle them to plush offices and other perks.
There can be no debate tough on whether MLAs, who are people’s representatives need to meet officials. The government must therefore allow MLAs to have one office which can be designated as the office of the MLA, with some amount provided for under the Assembly budget towards the upkeep of these offices. Then perhaps half a day on two days a week can be marked for meetings with officials with a provision that no meeting should last for more than 45 minutes.
The time table can be so fixed that the official is not engaged with the MLA for the entire day and that to for an in definite period. At the same the MLAs must also keep their egos aside and meet officials in some cases, so that it’s a two way process without any false illusions of grandeur or importance. As far as homes of MLA’s are concerned, this should be avoided except during grave emergencies which can be justified.
But there is no justification for creating such a ruckus in the Assembly and stopping proceedings for an entire day. Surely there are better and more serious issues on which the opposition can and should make an issue. This needs to sorted out though meaningful discussion.