Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Orissa Legislative Assembly (OLA) has repeated its wrong and therefore wrongfully given a right to its members to acquire Laptop Computers for personal use from the Exchequer of the State, sans any legal provision.

All the members of the last Assembly were supplied with these ultra-modern gadgets. Fifty-six of them could not return to the House and therefore the members who substituted them have been provided with these Laptops, one each, even though the Laws regulating provision of amenities to the Members of Legislative Assembly (MLA), Orissa, do not provide for this.

The amenities of Orissa MLAs are governed by the ‘Orissa Legislative Assembly Members’ Salary, Allowance and Pension Act, 1954 and several other Rules and Instructions. They are: (1) The OLA members’ Drawal of Travelling Allowance and Daily Allowances Rules, 1957, (2) Govt. Resolution on TA, DA of members of OLA going outside the State to attend conferences and meetings and on study tours,(3) Rates of TA to MLAs attending Committees and conferences appointed by Govt. for State, District and Sub-divisional purposes, (4)The OLA members’ Telephone Facilities Rules,1964, (5) The OLA members’ Salary & Allowance (Deduction of house rent and other charges) Rules, 1957, (6) Deduction of arear electric charges from the salary of the MLAs under Orissa MLAs’ Salary & Allowances (Deduction of house rent etc.) Rules, 1957, (7) The Orissa MLAs’ Medical Attendance Rules,1965, (8) The OLA Ex-Members’ Family Pension Rules,1979, (9) The OLA members’ Family Pension Rules,1988, (10) The OLA members’ Jeep, Motor Cycle, Scooter or Alike Vehicle Advance Rules,1986, (1)The Members of OLA (Disqualification on ground of defection) Rules,1987, (12) The leader of Opposition of OLA ( Staff and Privileges) Rules,1968, (13)The Govt. Chief Whip and Govt. Deputy Chief Whip of OLA (Staff & Privileges) Rules,1969, (14)Instructions for the management of the OLA Guest House, and (15) The OLA Library Rules,1991. Nowhere in these Rules, members have the privilege or provision to acquire an amenity of having a Laptop Computer from the exchequer of the State.

This ‘right to acquire’ from the Assembly/Govt. a Laptop Computer has been wrongfully bestowed upon the MLAs by repetition of giving this amenity to a fresh batch of members. Had the defeated MLAs been asked to return the Laptop Computers, it could have been inferred that this amenity was co-terminus with their tenure as MLAs. But, neither they have been asked to return nor have they volunteered to surrender the Laptop Computers they were given. Supply of Laptops to the new representatives of their constituencies makes it abundantly clear that the State Government and / or the Assembly administration is pampering MLAs with amenities not revocable even after their membership ceases to exist.

If a proper investigation, in this case a social audit allowing accredited journalists to probe openly, is conducted, it would not be surprising if it transpires that a few Ministers and Assembly Executives, had contemplated and executed this design to grab government money through a clandestine trade in Laptop Computers. Then it may come out that, trading house names and their stamps were picked up and projected to cover up this illicit deal.

The people of the State were told that their representatives should now have direct access to development works of their constituencies through the computer. They shall network with the people and administration for better management of resources, for proper monitoring of ongoing projects and for utmost utilization of allotted funds. They should even have access to national as well as international forums through Internet to know how to develop their constituencies and to do what best could be done. But these were wordy acrobatics to hoodwink the people.

No MLA had his /her e-mail id. No MLA ever used his/her Laptop Computer in the work for which it was given. The Assembly did never insist upon creation and activation of e-mail id by the MLAs who had taken the Laptop Computers. It never monitored the utilization of these instruments for which the State exchequer had to invest so much money.

What are the MLAs doing with the Computers they have received? Ask any of them to give you any data he might have saved in his set pertaining to his constituency, he shall fail. Most of them (you can assume, all of them) admit that they do not know how to handle a computer. To most of them these are materials to decorate the parlor with. All of them are happy that their children have got computers for use as they like.

This is precisely what the ruling party heavyweight Pradeep Maharathy, who was Govt. Chief Whip when Computers were first supplied to MLAs, has openly admitted. To quote him, “A problem has been solved. My son knows how to operate a computer. Game is his hobby. So the Computer is being used by him for games and for film viewing”.

Even the Speaker of the House, Mr. Maheswar Mohanty admits that the computer on his table has no noteworthy use.

It is clear therefore that the purpose of providing Laptop Computers to MLAs has been defeated.

It was expected that the Assembly would see the wrong perpetrated on the State exchequer by providing the MLAs with Computers. Any MLA who knows how to use a Computer for better service of his constituency may have his own from his own pocket, as this may help him in his personal political plan. Or, in the alternative, his Party may provide him with one. But knowing that the Computers are not being used by MLAs for the purpose for which those were given, supply of further sets to new MLAs cannot be anything but repetition of the wrong.

How can this be stopped?

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