The more important question is: What should they be doing?
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From what I can see, some are involved in the distribution of food and rations, some have taken a more proactive approach in organising home delivery of medicines and groceries, some are seen buying vegetables directly from the farmers and some are busy sticking labels on government-provided ration kits.
Now, all this is good, but it doesn’t really fulfil their job description.
Functions of MPs and MLAs
MPs and MLAs perform two main functions:
- Legislation: Pass laws
- Oversight: Ensure government performs as expected
Oversight includes monitoring government programmes, identifying gaps and alerting officers to fix them, inspecting ground level work to ensure government orders are being executed without any lapses, and suggesting improvements.
They can walk into any office and seek information from concerned officials and cross-check with their constituents. They can escalate matters to the concerned minister if local officials aren’t responding. Basically, they can make things happen!
I don’t see much of this happening. Do you?
An even more important role of an MP or MLA is legislation. That means, making and amending laws and policies that drive governance.
The unprecedented nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 has opened our eyes to see our society as it really is. Statistics don’t convey the glaring gaps in governance in the way images can. The visuals of migrants walking across the country to return “home”, and of hard-working citizens forced to stand in never-ending queues for food must make every MLA and MP introspect.
While as a nation we made consistent progress on poverty eradication and job creation, the lockdown helped highlight urban poverty, hunger, lack of housing and sanitation, interstate migration, unemployment, government hospital and supply chain problems, among many other issues.
Questions I’d ask myself if I were an MP or MLA
- How many migrant workers are there in my constituency? Where did they come from and where do they live?
- How many of my constituents travel long distances for daily labour? Why are they compelled to do so?
- Why do migrant workers live in sheds?
- Where are the anganwadis near migrant colonies?
- What’s going on with the thousands of crores allocated towards affordable housing every year? How many houses actually get built in my constituency? How much budget do I have?
- What can the government do to offer social security to daily wage-earning families? How can an auto driver and a cobbler survive in tough times with dignity?
- Is the minimum wage really adequate? Are migrant workers being exploited and if so how can I protect their rights?
- Why are employers not hiring locally? Is it lack of manpower, skills or unaffordable wages, or is it something else?
- Is my city’s economy dependent on the availability of cheap labour from other states? If all the migrant workers return to their villages, what will happen?
- Do we need to increase allocation for MNREGA in the light of massive reverse migration?
- Is our PDS system working?
- What other issues came up during this crisis in my constituency?
- Rumours and fake news are causing severe damage to our society. What laws can we make to fight this?
- There is a tendency to create a host of mobile and web applications and monitoring tools – how can we protect the privacy of citizens and ensure data collected by these apps is not abused?
- Do we need to change our disaster preparedness and management protocols?
- What needs to be done to strengthen our public health system? How much money is available to modernise government hospitals? How many vacant positions are there and what can I do to fill them?
- Can a budget review be done to identify programmes that can be eliminated to save public money?
- We have to live with COVID-19 for a long time. How do we prepare our citizens for the worst and resume economic activity in safe mode?
- What is going to be the impact on the global supply chain and how can we take advantage of the situation to protect the interests of our people?
I can go on and on with these questions since the scope for improvement is plenty. You get the picture, I hope.
So, What would YOU do, if you were an MLA or MP? I am curious to know.
[Disclaimer: This article is a citizen contribution. The views expressed here are those of the individual writer(s) and do not reflect the position of Citizen Matters.]