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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Is salary hike for MPS justified

(Published at daily english news paper "Eastern Chronicle" on dated 01.09.2010)

On 19 August 2010 the Indian cabinet cleared a 300 percent salary hike for Members of Parliament (MP) and doubled their perks. However, out of 543 MPs, 315 parliamentarians from various parties were dissatisfied and stalled Lok Sabha proceedings seeking more money. The reason? The revised pay of a Member of Parliament in India is way below the salary of a secretary ranked bureaucrat draws after the implementation of the 6th Pay Commission’s recommendation two yeas ago. They were expecting a salary of approximately 80,001 per month, which is at least one rupee more than that of a bureaucrat.

Is demand for such a huge salary hike by MPs justified? Why they should compare their salary to secretaries. Secretaries have requisite minimum education qualification and expertise in management, whereas, an MP can be an illiterate. It is the job opted by MP`s themselves and not forced on them. If they are not satisfied they can resign and allow others to perform in their seat. May be salary is less, but the perks they enjoy is unimaginable including spouses of MPs get free train travel from their place of residence to Delhi. They also get up to eight free plane tickets a year from their place of residence to Delhi. They are entitled to free electricity, free telephone, free bungalow in Delhi, Interest free Car loan upto Rs. 4 lakh and still they are cribbing.

Pension benefits also increased from Rs.8000 to Rs. 20000 per month. MPs will be entitled for pension after rending five years of service to the nation. As per the Sixth Central Pay Commission recommendation all employees should be granted pension on completion of twenty years of service. Can the Ministry of Public Grievances and Pension look into how MPs eligible for pension after completion of five years?

Also the question arises is this salary and perks taxable? A meager sum of Rs. 20 per month payable to Central government employees as re-imbursement of tuition fees is taxable. One school of thought argues that Indian MPs’ salary would be much less than that of US, Japan, Canada and most of the developed countries Parliamentarians. If converted into Indian currency, the monthly salary of an US lawmaker, for example, is 6.5 lakh and a Parliamentarian in Singapore gets 4.5 lakh per month. But we should not forget that the per capita income in India is 10 to 20 times less than that of developed countries.

Before this 300 percent salary hike the Salaries and Allowances of Members of Parliament Act, 1954 has been amended 27 times since 1954 with the last salary of Rs 16,000 a month amended in 2006 and a constituency allowance of Rs 20,000 a month amended same year in addition to a daily allowance of Rs 1000. We cannot stop pay hikes whether for our politicians, bureaucrats, teachers or other employees of the State. However each rise in salary must be matched by performance. Former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee has voiced disappointment over the way MPs demand a salary hike and said he had suggested the setting up of a salary commission to decide on the issue.

MPs Salary Structure

                                                                     Old salary structure               New salary structure

Basic Salary                                                         Rs.16000                              Rs.50000

Constituency allowance                                       Rs.20000                              Rs.40000

Office expenses allowances                                Rs.20000                              Rs.40000

Conveyance allowance                                        Rs.100000                            Rs.400000

Total Expenses per month for one MP              Rs.156000                            Rs.530000

Total expenses per year for one MP                 Rs.1872000                          Rs.6360000

Total Expenses of one MP for five years          Rs.93.6 lakh                         Rs.3.18 crore

For 534 MPs expenses for five years                Rs.500 crore (approx)          Rs.1698 crore (approx)

Now the time for our policymakers to think about do the Indians want this kind of democracy where legislators vote to raise their own salaries to as much as they desire? This is matter of shame rather than pride. The MPs should realize that to maintain their own seat they have to ensure that the fire continues to burn in the kitchens of poor families. More than their own salary they should bother about meeting the basic needs of common man and eliminate corruption.