Posted: 27 April 2006 at 12:56pm | IP Logged
Why Lata's new tune at home has hit a wrong note
It's a voice that has recorded more than 30,000 songs, touched billions of Indian hearts around the world and, famously, brought tears to Jawaharlal Nehru's eyes. But recently when it rose in protest against a flyover being built on Pedder Road in Mumbai, perhaps for the first time, India's nightingale wasn't music to many ears.
Because when Lata Mangeshkar talks public interest—she says the flyover, which will pass right outside her apartment on Pedder Road, is a seismological threat and would lead to pollution—many take it with a pinch of salt. And point to her performance, rather the absence of it, as a Rajya Sabha member of Parliament representing Mumbai. Her term ended recently.
In the six years that Lata was in Rajya Sabha, as the President of India's nominee, from November 1999 to November 2005, she could only make it to the House 12 days—and that too not 12 full days. On an average, Parliament sits in session for a minimum of 100 days a year.
And in those six years, she asked just one, unstarred, question—on derailment of trains! "Whether it is a fact that the incidents of derailment of trains on various sections have been on the increase; if so, the number of train derailment incidents since the beginning of the year 2000; the estimated loss suffered by the Railways as a consequence thereof; what measures have been taken by government to prevent such incident?" This was in
It took three months for Lata to even put in her first appearance at the House—on February 23, 2000. The second and third time was on March 9 and 10 the same year. The fourth, and last, time for 2000 was on November 24. In 2001, Lata dropped by just twice—on March 19 and August 21. But when the next year she couldn't make it more than once—March 21—even fellow member from Bollywood Shabana Azmi commented. Talking about her disappearing act and string of leave of absence applications to the Rajya Sabha Chairman, Azmi wondered why Lata accepted the Rajya Sabha nomination when she did not have the time to justify the honour. It took a reprimand from Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, also the Rajya Sabha Chairman, for her to attend some sessions. And, Shekhawat could only get to meet her at a function in Mumbai, not in the House.
2003 was better, with Lata coming in thrice. This was after her "I have lot of commitments and I have to share my time between Delhi and Mumbai" made headlines. She came by on April 7 and then for three days in the Winter Session—December 3, 4 and 5. But by 2005, the year she retired, Lata had again become scarce—she came on February 3, and the House never saw her again. Lata may have taken her attendance in the House lightly, but the same cannot be said about the Rs 2 crore MP Local Area Development (MPLAD) funds which came her way every year along with the nomination. Not all of the Rs 12 crore came to Mumbai—some of it went to Dungarpur, the erstwhile kingdom of her old friend Raj Singh Dungarpur of the BCCI fame.
Among other beneficiaries were tsunami-hit areas, schools in tribal Maharashtra, a medical college in Kolhapur, as well as senior citizens in Chennai and a Sufi dargah in Bihar. The Government of India has already released Rs 5 crore from her MPLAD funds and is about to release another Rs 5.10 crore for ongoing projects that she got sanctioned before retirement. The amount that has been sanctioned till date, parliamentary records show, is Rs 12.37 crore. But utilisation certificates for only Rs 79.44 lakh funds released so far have been received. Despite repeated attempts, Lata Mangeshkar was unavailable for comment.