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    Volume 8 Issue 77 | July 10, 2009 |

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Let there be a Full House

Aasha Mehreen Amin

School's open but most of the students are absent. It's not because it's raining and the roads are flooded and too pot-holed or because they have been hit by some mysterious disease. They didn't turn up because they simply didn't feel like it.

Here's another scenario. At an office, say a newspaper office, more than half the journalists, administrative, accounts and marketing people didn't show up for work. Reason: they just didn't feel up to it.

In the case of school absenteeism kids suffer from their overall grade being affected, their teachers saying harsh things to them, they may be suspended and if things go out of hand, get that dreadful thing - a TC.

In the case of a work place, people get earned leave, when that gets used up they get leave without pay, if their leave is without permission they get show cause notices and if they have too many blanks in the attendance register, they are given the less-than golden handshake and bid adieu.

But what do we do with errant parliamentarians who think they can just not come to the parliamentary sessions at the cost of the taxpayer's hard-earned money?

Even the most fanatical supporter of the idea of 'freedom' knows that humans need rules and discipline. Without boundaries we are lost and will wander aimlesslessly, falling into proverbial open manholes, figuratively be crushed in freak bus-train collisions or literally become victims of rich-spoilt-kid-speeding syndrome. Without rules we may be on the other side of the fence - vandalising lovely buildings, cheating poor migrant workers or just generally robbing people of their livelihoods and whatever little hope they may have, of a decent existence.

So it is indeed a sad phenomenon we must witness at this moment in history - the very people who have been bestowed with the power to make rules into hard-boiled laws, these very haloed individuals, are being accused of breaking the most basic rule of the House: not turning up for the session. This parliamentary transgression otherwise known as quorum crisis, says TIB, is costing us 5.41 core taka for the inaugural session. The report of this organisation says that this Q crisis has been happening almost every working day and that every sitting has been delayed 40 minutes on average, each minute costing us about 35,000 taka. I may not be a math whiz but 5.41 crore sounds like way too much self-indulgence and a tad taxing on our tolerance level. And can we really be blamed - some of our dear parliamentarians- individuals who were voted by their trusting fans, to power, people who get all sorts of amazing privileges (free Pajeros, right of way even before the dying in ambulances, free accommodation and endless invitations to weddings not to mention free Shaan concert VVIP tickets) with OUR money, these individuals have decided just not to show up for work.

Thus the TIB has come up with some recommendations to make MPs adhere to a 'code of conduct'. A lawmaker should not get paid if he or she is absent for an entire session. Lawmakers must make their wealth statements public; they will have offices in their constituencies so that they can have question answer sessions with the people. A lawmaker who is absent for 30 days of a session will have his or her seat cancelled (the current rule is 90 days).

The report also points out some of the idiosyncrasies of parliamentarians that waste time (and more importantly OUR money)-precious minutes spent eulogising leaders, badmouthing political opponents, discussing irrelevant issues and so on.

Now it's true that we, the ordinary public are not really clear on how TIB has worked out the math and come up with such infuriating figures. Some people even say that it is a little exaggerated. But we all know that quorum crisis has been the bane of all parliamentary sessions and many MPs have used precious parliament time to just vent against the past corruption and vileness of political rivals or talk about some road that needs to be built in one's constituency during say, a debate on the budget. Ultimately even if such reports are exaggerated we do demand that all our elected parliamentarians come to work and get things done. It's the least they can do.

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