Transparency Warriors
The role of independent watchdogs becomes important when government bodies meant for door-keeping are increasingly facing a credibility crisis. Entities such as PRS Legislative Research, ADR, Bar and Bench and Live Law help in understanding the government and its institutions better

Did you know that the average asset of members of the newly ele­cted assem­bly in Karnataka is Rs 34.59 crore? One does not ha­ve to dig deep to find such nuggets. There are several independent watchdog entities that have kept the eagle’s eye on public representatives.

Sample this: As the Karnataka assembly results were out, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) dished out a ready reckoner on the assembly’s wealth chart. As per the ADR analysis, the average asset of each Karnataka MLA is around Rs 34.59 crore. It compares with the situation in 2013 and 2008 when the average assets of 218 MLAs were Rs 23.54 crore and Rs 10.05 crore respectively.

The report points out that the average assets of re-elected MLAs have grown by a whopping 90 per cent. The percentage of MLAs who reported assets of more than a crore increased from 93 per cent in 2013 to 97 per cent this year. It gave a party-wise wealth indicator where the Congress stood at number one position with 11 (14 per cent) out of the elected 78 MLAs with declared assets of more than Rs 100 crore. The JD(S) with 3 (8 per cent)  out of 37 MLAs is second and BJP has only one out of 103 MLAs valued at more than Rs 100 crore. 

The ordinary citizen, who wants to be more informed about the deeper aspects of our public representatives can rely on these analysis to form an opinion or underst­and the dynamics of trends. 

If ADR, as the name suggests, deep dives into the issues of public interest to go beyond the headlines, the PRS Legislative Research has emerged as one-stop resource for getting inside the complex world of law making by our law makers. It keeps a hawk-eye on the parliamentary proceedings and gives a detailed view on the legislations passed or the ones which are in the pipeline. For the nitty-gritty of what happens in the legal world which is intrinsically linked to the polity is provided by networks like Bar and Bench and Live Law.

The low-down on judgments in the Supreme Court and other courts give an insight into the legal aspects of some of the burning issues affecting the country and shaping its future having direct bearing on the politics of the nation in particular and society in general.

In an era where the success of governments is projected by numbers, India Spends mines data to keep an eye on the numbers and explains it to tell whether they are telling the right stories. Capturing trends of transformation or stagnation in the society is the key for data miners to come to a conclusion.

Sample this: One of the recent studies of India Spend is on the problem of high blood pressure in the country. The data analysis presented by India Spend shows that 1.6 million Indians die because of hypertension, but most of the people aren’t even aware of the fact. These eye-opening facts br­e­ak myths and help in better understanding of the situation leading to solutions. Da­ta mining is essential tool for the planners because to address a problem one nee­ds to know the clear picture of what needs to be fixed.

The role of independent watchdogs becomes important particularly when the government bodies meant for door-keeping are increasingly coming under credibility crisis. Morever, they help in understanding the government and the institutions better. Such are the complexities of our parliamentary system and governance that the common man stays away from these institutions.

The general impression among the public about parliament, for instance, is that it is a shouting arena for the politicians where each one is going for the jugular of another. But forums like PRS Legislative gives details of the work that goes inside the temple of democracy. These forums are for those who want to go beyond the visuals of live telecast of parliamentary procedures.

Every law needs to be preceded by public debate.  The independent watchdogs need to bestrengthened and serve a key purpose.

Gautam Datt