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RE: Law of political corruption + draft talk



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Dear Sanjeev, 

I read your draft document, and it is an excellent piece. I have just one
comment to make. The following line of yours, which admirably advocates
increasing compensation to the politicians (law makers that is) in order for
them to not find an excuse in corrupt practices.
"..So long as we do not have the political will to pay our representatives a
compensation which is 
comparable to the investment made in contesting elections..."
But, just as soon as you recommend their compensation to be "comparable to
the investment made in contesting elections...", you seem to open this
statement for misinterpretations. It appears to me that here the "investment
made in contesting..." is considered a purely personal money (which could be
crores of rupees, a conservative estimate is 15-20 Lakhs per state assembly
constituency!), and seemingly the proposal advocates raising politicians
salaries to match that kind of amount, which could grow exponentially in
each successive elections. 
Both you and I know that is not what is suggested here, and rather a
reasonable compensation to meet their needs while the law makers serve the
people being their parliamentarians full time, is what is proposed, we must
try to make electoral reform and election expenses related issues separate
from what we want our politicians to earn while they serve us as our
representatives. 
Since there is no clear accounting rules and full disclosure enforcement for
the election expenses in India, I cannot really guess how much each
politician, or political party spends in trying to win an election, let me
try to give you an example of the United States, where a typical
Presidential election costs anywhere between 35 and 60 million dollars over
the period starting from Party primary elections to the final polling in
November every four years, and yet a president only earns a couple of
hundred thousand dollars per year, which is considered a handsome salary by
all standards even though it can never come close to what is spent in
elections. 
Similarly, a senator or house representative earns only little over one
hundred thousand dollars while they all spend millions of dollars while
trying to run for elections.
The question is where do they get money from? Are they all corrupt?
The answer is very simple. It is not all of their personal money even though
nobody can stop a millionaire from spending his personal money to try
his/her luck at polling booth, but candidates legally raise money from
citizens, and citizens do donate money for individual campaign funds to the
candidates they support. Not all politicians are corrupt. In fact I know
stories of a few politicians which deserves mentioning here. One is of a
school teacher in Texas, who took a long leave of absence from his school
and filled up gas in his pickup truck and hit the road campaigning for his
own candidature for democratic run for a legislative office. People came
forward in large numbers, gave him their money and support, and finally the
teacher ended up getting elected as their politician!
The second story is that of a tax consultant I met at H&R Block a few years
ago, who helped me file my taxes. He himself used to be a state legislator
in the state of Wisconsin. I was somewhat surprised to see a former
politician sitting in front of me helping me file my taxes. I couldn't
resist asking as to why he was doing what he was doing then, that is, being
a simple tax consultant, and how did he manage to run a costly campaign as
clearly he was not a very rich man. His answers were very impressive. First
of all, being a tax consultant was his way of honestly working to earn his
livelihood, and there was nothing wrong with that. As for where he got his
campaign money, the answer was much simpler and rather hard to believe for
me, and of course I was not there to force him to tell me all of his ways as
to how he went about doing that, but what he said was: you laydown your
programs, you make contacts with people, you go around asking for money and
support from the people who believe in you, and then go on making sure that
more and more people believe in you until you find a majority that believes
in you to entrust you with the responsibility to be their elected
representative. 
I hope this clarifies my point of reservation on election campaign expenses
with what we advocate as being the reasonable compensation for a politician.
Electoral system reform, and managing election expenses ought to be a
separate issue. Even though politicians might try to justify that "since
they spent several million rupees trying to run for office...." that
certainly ought not to be taken as a valid excuse to be corrupt. Asking our
system to fund politicians elections by way of compensating them huge
salaries is simply not practical, neither is it serving any purpose of
democracy, cuz then you will not be giving level playing field to other
citizens to participate. 
Also, please remember we collect only 8 paise via taxes for every rupee our
government currently spends on whatever programs. I don't intend to mix
revenue deficit with what should a politician earn, but keeping an eye on
what we have always helps. 
Thank You.

Umesh Tiwari


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