Delhi Musings: Angst at a flooded tunnel and salary hike to MLAs

The subway tunnel gifted to Dilliwallas was flooded after the first rain and MLAs in Delhi finally had their way and got a salary hike

Delhi Legislative Assembly 
Delhi Legislative Assembly

Giraj Sharma

What do you do when a ‘gift’ that you recently received develops a malfunction? You gracefully accept it. And as you do so that Cassius dialogue reverberates in your mind, “… the fault dear Brutus is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings”. That’s what Dilliwalahs did too – accepted fate.

The ‘gift’ one is referring to is that tunnel at Pragati Maidan which most media outlets gave outsized coverage while it was inaugurated with much fanfare recently. The central government claimed this project was an initiative that was solely that of the Centre, insinuating that it had nothing to do with the Delhi Government.

The desperation to earn some brownie points led the ruling dispensation to even appropriate the modernisation of Delhi and pegged the tunnel as a ‘gift’ to the capital.

Never mind that the tunnel is meant for motorists barring designated days and hours when pedestrians are invited to take a stroll and admire the pedestrian murals.

Soon the first monsoon showers came and the ‘gift’ malfunctioned. There was water-logging in the tunnel leading to traffic snarls. The brouhaha of that inauguration was soon forgotten and folks had to resort to seeking help from that lady embedded in Google Maps for alternate routes.

Thankfully, Dilliwalahs, smart as they are, didn’t actually take that ‘gift’ bit too seriously. Apprehensive as they are of previous ‘gifts’ such as the one where they had to stand in long queues to legitimise their own hard-earned cash, Dilliwalahs know that it’s best to let such claims be.

Fresh in their memory is another ‘gift’ in the form of Central Vista project that has temporarily deprived them of their favourite summer indulgence of having ice-cream in the open spaces around India Gate in the evening. They thus slotted this Pragati Maidan tunnel ‘gift’ to be the beginning of a surrogate campaign for the Delhi Municipal Corporation elections and nothing more.

The economic and business dailies recently carried extracts of a report by a leading global professional services firm that indicated that salaries of senior executives in India may increase by 8.9% this year. The salary hike for these corporate honchos was 7.9% in 2021 as per the report. Now contrast this with the hike that the Delhi MLAs gave themselves this week. The Delhi Assembly passed bills to hike the salaries and allowances of ministers, MLAs, and others by a whopping 66.67%.

The bills were tabled during the two-day Delhi Assembly session and the salaries of the Chief Minister, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, MLAs, Chief Whip, and the Leader of Opposition are all set to go up. The bills were passed after some discussion by the members and, you guessed it right - these were backed by all members including the Leader of Opposition from BJP. This marks a rare occasion of a consensus being achieved in the otherwise highly polarised Assembly.

So, all of us who are critical of the conduct of members as they appear to be working at cross purpose need to go and eat humble pie. There is bonhomie in the house and in the parlance of that movie about idiots ‘all is well’ (no pun intended).

The act is akin to the one described in that bestselling book that every management graduate claims to have read ‘Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace’. The book by Ricardo Semler is about how he made his company Semco Partners to be one of Latin America’s fastest-growing companies and how managerial staff fixed their own salaries and bonuses.

Dilliwalahs, therefore, want to know if this hike will make the Delhi Assembly the best state legislative body in India? Will Delhi be governed in the best manner possible? Dilliwalahs, large-hearted as they are, will not mind these hikes if only the performance of the folks they have elected to be in the Assembly goes up. They would love it if the AAP government introduces a variable pay component and link it to performance. If our man AK thinks of himself to be the CEO of Delhi then he needs to know that that the variable component, or ‘pay at risk’ as it is sometimes called, is estimated to be in the vicinity of 50% of the total compensation of the C-level executives.

One thing that could perhaps motivate AK in adopting such a compensation structure is the fact that it is unlikely that such concepts were a part of the curriculum of the Entire Political Science course.

So, will AK walk the talk?

(The writer blogs at Views are personal)

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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