Rajya Sabha MPs have no financial interests!
New Delhi, Nov 18: A total of 140 out of the 241 members of the Rajya Sabha claim that they have no financial interests, despite owning assets running into crores of rupees, said an election watchdog on Thursday.
The financial interests, which have to be declared by an MP within 90 days of his election, include income as directors of companies, controlling shares, regular salaries, paid consultancies and professional engagements.
These have to be declared by the members before participating in any discussion related to their interest, and are also to be kept in mind while appointing the members to any parliamentary standing committees.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has also declared no financial interests, but has assets worth more than Rs.4 crore.
"It is strange how one can have huge assets and no financial interests," said Anil Bariwal, national coordinator of National Election Watch (NEW).
An analysis of data on MPs' financial interests received from Rajya Sabha by NGOs NEW and Association for Democratic Research (ADR) showed a large number of them having share or control in private firms or enjoying financial gains from firms or other professions.
ADR and NEW founder member Trilichan Sastry said: "Leave alone declaring conflict of interest, there is not even enough transparency to make it public".
The activists could get the information only two and half year after their first right to information application, and after the information commission issued a notice to Rajya Sabha secretariat.
The activists said some of the MPs showed huge assets in their declaration to the Election Commission.
The highest asset holder among those who said they had no financial interest is Congress's T. Subbarami Reddy of Andhra Pradesh, with total assets worth Rs.258 crore. He is followed by Congress's Karan Singh, with assets worth Rs.57 crore. Bharatiya Janata Party's M. Venkaiah Naidu holds assets worth Rs.7 crore.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni of the Congress also figures in the list of those who declared no financial or pecuniary interests. She declared assets worth Rs.17 crore.
The information showed 28 Rajya Sabha MPs get paid for directorship in various companies with the highest amount being received by Vijay Mallya at Rs.39.45 crore annually.
He is followed by Naresh Gujral of Akali Dal who gets Rs.4.5 crore and Congress' Vijay Darda who gets Rs.4.54 crore annually.
Under the category of shareholding of controlling nature, 33 MPs have declared they have financial interests.
Congress MP Anil Lad has shareholding in the highest number of 27 companies, followed by his party's Vijay Darda with shareholding in 21 companies and Mallya with 12 companies.
For Lok Sabha, no such list of interest is maintained.
"Conflict of interest and money power is a deterrent for democracy, but the Indian parliament is lacking in transparency on the matter of financial interests of its members," said Bariwal.
"We have written to Lok Sabha speaker to have a list of interests for the members, but we are still waiting for a response," he said.
The the MPs who declared the highest remuneration - cumulative of directorship, regular remunerated activity and professional engagement - include Congress' Abhishek Manu Singhvi who leads the chart with Rs.50 crore per annum, followed by Mallya with Rs.41.4 crore, Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Arun Jaitley with Rs.10 crore, BJP's Ram Jethmalani with Rs.8.41 crore and Gujral with Rs.4.79 crore.
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