Foreign hand in Parliament cut
By Cithara Paul, Yatish Yadav / UPA - NEW DELHI
05th August 2012 07:36 AM
A “foreign hand’’, and to be specific, an American hand, is set to haunt Parliament during the Monsoon Session starting this week. The hand in question is that of the Ford Foundation. The Home Ministry is probing its role in trying to influence the Indian legislative process by funding Research Assistants who help MPs improve their parliamentary skills. About 300 MPs are part of various programmes of PRS Legislative Research—an NGO that is sponsored by the Ford foundation and other domestic agencies and comes under the ambit of the Centre of Policy Research Studies (CPRS). Under the Legislative Assistants to MPs (LAMP) scheme launched in 2008, PRS places one legislative assistant to work with an MP for a period of 11 months. Currently, 46 lawmakers cutting across 18 political parties have office assistants paid by the Ford Foundation. They include heavy hitters such as Rajiv Shukla, Manish Tewari and Naveen Jindal from the Congress; Rajeev Pratap Rudy, Shahnawaz Hussain and Prakash Javadekar from the BJP; and N K Singh from the JD(U).
The list, interestingly, also includes the names of some Left MPs, including D Raja and Moinul Hassan, who are best known for their anti-US tirades. What is significant is that many of these MPs are influential players within their respective parties. Javadekar, Hussain and Rudy are BJP spokespersons while Congress luminaries Tewary and Shukla are party spokespersons. Meenakshi Natarajan is a close aide of Rahul Gandhi’s. Anurag Thakur and Dushyant Singh, both from the BJP, are sons of powerful regional satraps—Prem Kumar Dhumal, the Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister and former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia respectively. Trinamool Congress’s Derek O’Brien reportedly has the ear of his chief Mamata Banerjee, who has successfully stymied many of the UPA government’s proposals, including the Lokpal Bill. Bijayant Panda from Orissa is an influential BJD MP.
The Home Ministry, asking the question ‘why should the Ford Foundation provide assistance to Members of Parliament (MP) in legislative business’’, has initiated an “internal inquiry’’ into the process of “foreign-funded researchers’’ getting into the Parliamentary system. It would be looking into how far “coloured research’’ has seeped into the system and how far “lobbying’’ has worked its way upward. It will also inspect how the MPs got “entangled’’ in the foreign-funded scheme and also whether they were aware that their assistants were being paid by a foreign agency. Says Javadekar, “It is wrong to say that they lobby. They never go to any Government office asking for files. They are not spies but regular Indian citizens who are interested in the way Parliament functions. And while giving us briefs on Bills, they never give any prescriptions. They just state facts and figures. In my experience, they have never made any recommendations to me.”
The ministry is of the view that MPs should have sought permission from the Government before employing foreign-funded assistants. Parliamentarians are supposed to inform the Government even if they accept hospitality from a foreigner. Last week, the ministry had refused CPRS clearance to receive foreign funds to run the LAMP scheme. This year, CPRS had applied for approval to the Home Ministry to receive US $8,55,000 (approximately `4,70,25,000) from the Ford Foundation and $1 million from Omidiyar Network that belongs to eBay founder Pierre Omidyar respectively. “An NGO named Centre for Policy Research Studies had approached MHA for prior permission to bring in some funds as donation from Ford Foundation to provide research support to the MPs and MLAs. The government thinks that it is not desirable that our legislators accept foreign support channeled through an NGO for their parliamentary research assistance. We are very clear on this,’’ MoS for Home Mullappally Ramachandran said.
- You are aiming high, but beware of marketers selling you as an FMCG
- Deadly year for encephalitis feared in India
- A mobile phone for Kerala CM, finally
- India becomes Kenya's largest Asian trading partner
- Pakistan's Punjab government allocates millions for JuD centre
- Wedlock valid only if consummated: High Court
- Underworld has betting syndicates in vice-like grip
- NCRB report: 1,316 juveniles booked for rape last year
- Indian Coast Guards help rescue 26 crew from shipwreck near Yemen
- Army Major captures 'UFO' in Kerala
- Now pay less for roaming calls, texts
- Callgate: Doctors were prime target for Biju, Saritha Nair
- 73 dead, over 71,000 stranded as rains batter Uttarakhand, UP
- Congress raking up secularism issue to hide its failures: BJP
- Wedlock valid only if consummated: HC
- Prices of 348 drugs to come down drastically from May 15