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Lawmakers as contractors

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  6 March 2018 12:00 AM GMT

A major concern for elected representatives is to facilitate, if not actively push for, developmental works in their constituencies. But some MLAs in Assam are falling short, because they are said to be acting ‘more like contractors than lawmakers’. During the budget session in the Assembly, State PWD Minister Parimal Suklabaidya recently had to call a spade a spade. When a Member complained about the state of roads in his constituency, the Minister spoke of a similar complaint aired in the House earlier by an MLA from Goalpara district. In that case, when enquiries were made, it was found that a sub-contractor involved in the road project in that particular constituency — happened to be a close associate of the MLA raising the complaint! Suklabaidya made the point that awarding a road building contract in a constituency to a contractor ‘not favoured’ by its MLA can be a dicey matter sometimes, for the ‘interference’ is such that it becomes very difficult to execute the work. The upshot is that some PWD road works are not allotted in the first place, whenever the department apprehends trouble. This in turn has hurt development in quite a few constituencies, so the blame should be laid at the door of lawmakers concerned — for their insistence that the works should be done only by contractors of their choice. Thanks to some reforms in the tendering process, e-tenders are nowadays called for works valued above particular threshold amounts. The various bids made, the lowest bidder and other details are all accessible online. The continuing anti-graft drive by Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal is also known to have made officials wary of flouting tendering rules to accommodate interested quarters. This has meant less scope in manipulating award of contracts, so the problem now is interference by those failing to get a finger in the pie. In the past, there were allegations of some MLAs owning or having stakes in contractor agencies, and lobbying hard in various departments to get works allotted to their agencies. Such conflict of interest situations, if not outright corrupt practices, were allowed to persist for long. Barak valley, in particular, suffered much due to this system — there is little infrastructure on ground to show where all the project funds were spent there in all these decades. It is high time the present dispensation in Dispur tightens up the system to ensure that developmental work contracts are properly awarded as well as executed, and that disgruntled elements do not get to throw a spanner in the works just for the heck of it. The pernicious administrative culture of some legislators hogging all developmental work in their constituency for persol benefit or to pay off contractor friends for funding their election campaigns — should end forthwith. When it comes to governce, the electorate now wants concrete outcomes, not excuses.

Boot on other foot

When it comes to sledging, few can match the hard-nosed Aussies. Former Team Australia skipper Steve Waugh appreciated how it caused ‘mental disintegration’ of a rival cricketer coming in to bat. The English were known to ‘chaff’ their opponents even during the times of WG Grace, and later the legendary quickie Freddie Trueman once advised an Australian batsman coming onto the field not to bother shutting the gate — “because you won’t be there long enough”. But it was during the Sixties when Ian Chappell led the Aussies, that sledging was perfected as a weapon in domestic cricket tourneys like Sheffield Shield and unleashed on Test teams. As opposing batsmen faced up gingerly to the likes of Lillee and Thomson hurling their thunderbolts, their ears were also assailed by choice insults and abuse flung from the slips cordon. If the close fielders succeeded in distracting or intimidating the batsman, their chances brightened for causing a cheap dismissal. Some verbal exchanges were witty, like when Lillee told the portly England captain Mike Gatting to get out of the way because he “couldn’t see the stumps”, or when an exasperated Merv Hughes berated Graham Gooch for repeatedly playing and missing thus: “Would you like me to bowl a piano and see if you can play that?” Of course, sledging didn’t work with master blasters Vivian Richards and Sachin Tendulkar who merely got more destructive with the bat, or unflappable customers like Sri Lankan skipper Arju Ratunga who seemed to meditate on the crease. In his book ‘Ground Rules’, Sourav Ganguly wrote how Steve Waugh tried to needle him during the historic Eden Garden Test of 2001 for flooring a catch at backward short leg by quipping: “You just dropped the Test, mate”. However, Waugh got his comeuppance right after tea by losing his wicket to Harbhajan Singh, with Rahul Dravid rubbing it in by asking who had “given away the Test match now” (Australia lost that Test and later the series 1-2). Lately, in their ongoing Test series with the Proteas, the Aussies are again learning that the boot can be on the other foot. South Africa lost the first Test at Kingsmead but the headlines have been more about the spat between Proteas glovesman Quinton de Kock and Aussie opener David Warner. The pugcious Warner, known for previous run-ins with opposing cricketers including Rohit Sarma, tried to pull a similar fast one by calling Kock a ‘bushpig’ and insulting his mother and sister. But when Kock retaliated with juicy comments about Warner’s wife, the latter reportedly lost his head. Clearly stump microphones and ICC rules are proving to be no deterrent for sledging to descend from mere banter to matters persol.

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