What will be playing on common man’s mind when Parliament resumes the budget session?
Many would have thought that lawmakers in both Houses will spend time on important matters which affect millions. Its natural for Indians to think that MPs regrouping after a month long break will discuss the severe drought and come up with measures to mitigate the crisis which has already claimed hundreds of lives. But after the recess, MP’s raised a more pressing issue- that of hiking their salary and perks.
When the ruckus over AugustaWestland issue was going on in Rajya Sabha, Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal had stood up to raise the issue. He found instant support from other members including Gulam Nabi Azad, the Leader of Opposition. Both Azad and Agarwal had only the media to be blame for their ‘low salary.’
Agarwal argued that the government should not be afraid of the media and it should go ahead and implement the joint committee’s recommendations. The report submitted by a panel chaired by BJP MP Yogi Adityanath had in July 2015 is with the finance ministry now. Azad said the fear of the media was preventing the government from implementing the committee report. “One-fourth of what the electronic media editors get, will be good enough for MPs,” he said.
Its strange that the senior MPs compared their “social work” to that of highly paid editors of TV channels.
Take the case of an MP’s salary and other allowances. Currently an MP gets 1.4 lakh as salary and other allowances. If the Finance ministry approves the recommendation of the committee, this will be presented for ratification by the parliament and the salary of an MP will double to 2.8 lakh per month. This is perhaps the only segment in India, wherein the beneficiaries decide their own salaries and perks.
The salary will increase from Rs 50,000 to 1,00,000. Similarly the constituency allowance and office expenditure which is presently at Rs 45,000 each will double to Rs 90,000. Its not only the salary and other perks, the MPs are entitled to a daily allowance of Rs 2000 on the days they attend the parliament proceedings. They will get the same amount when they attend a House committee meeting too.
MP’s also get free accommodation in Delhi’s coveted Lutyen’s zone. Some are allotted a bungalow with well manicured lawns. Some of these houses with an average land measure of two to three acres, have six bedrooms, three kitchens and a dozen servant quarters. Those who miss out on the much sought after bungalows are allotted apartments. The accommodation comes with 4000 kilo liters of free water and 50,000 units of electricity per annum. They are entitled to make 150,000 free telephone calls.
MPs or their companion are entitled to 34 free air passage in a year. Their spouse is entitled to get eight air tickets , a year to Delhi from their house any where in the country. First class travel in train also for free.
Over and above this they can avail an interest free loan of Rs. 4,00,000. The Adityanath committee has recommended an increase in this amount too.
The committee has recommended an increase in pension also from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 35,000. Sources says the government is likely to accept the recommendations soon and announce the hike.
The data collected by PRS Legislative Research from India shows the government has spent 176 crore for the 543 Lok Sabha MP’s in 2015. That works out to 2.76 lakh a month per member for salary and other allowances.
The data reveals that half of this expenses, almost 83 crore, were spend in reimbursing travel and daily allowances. If the government decided to hike the salary and other allowances based on Adityanath committee’s recommendation, the gross amount will be double.
In 2010, the parliament has approved the the hike in salary and other allowances of the MPs. The salary was hiked from 16,000 to 50,000.
Some reports indicates that half of our parliamentarians, in both the Houses, are millionaires.
The critical question is that has the performance of MP’s increased in accordance with the increase in salary and other perks? Did they raise pressing issues in the House?
Take the instance of some celebrity MPs, who are continuously absent from the Upper House. Do they abstain from claiming the salaries and perks? Trinamool Congress nominee and actor Mithun Chakraborti has attended parliament only for three days in the last two years. Beleaguered liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya is said to have claimed even his travel expenses before he left the country.
And coming back to their grouch that the government is spooked by the likely media criticism in the wake of a wage hike for MPS, then the honourable members should realise the news outlets reflect popular opinion.