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Salary of Peoples’ Representatives

Bhaskar Phukan

The Assam Cabinet ministers and MLAs have raised their salaries. The argument for the raise is the usual one –rise in cost of living and ancillary costs that are rising. The ‘ paribartan sarkar ‘ fortunately desisted from putting forward the logic behind the raise as the student leader turned minister and legislators did post 1985 elections. It was to keep them away from getting corrupt ,they reportedly said . A decent salary however did not keep them from earning huge wealth and property and incorruptibility was not the word that would suit their behaviour.

          Members of Parliament proposed raise in salary for themselves by 100 percent — from 56000 per month to a whopping 1lakh. It has raised the eyebrows of many .There has been a persistent argument against the already high and oversized perquisites and allowances enjoyed with a reasonably high salary by the law makers and this sudden issue of raising the salary by such great degree has raised the eyebrows higher. The MPs interestingly enough like their own code of conduct , decide their own salary and the salary and other allowances according to a report has escalated to an unbelievable high as much as 1250% in last 20 years.

     It would be interesting to know that Great Britain– the birthplace of Parliamentary democracy did not pay a salary or allowances to the members of any of the two Houses till the beginning  of  the twentieth century. The members were expected to have their own means of looking after their expenses.  It was the motive of serving the people and the country that drew the great leaders of that country to politics.

Even in India till the 1970’s service above personal gain ‘ appeared to have been the laid down principle of most members of Parliament and simple living and high thinking for the country inspired many to live a life of austerity and do great things for their country. Even today at the onset of canvassing and garnering votes, the prospective members of Parliament or state Assemblies ask for opportunity from the voters to serve the people through their votes. What becomes of these people (who were too eager to serve the public before elections) after getting elected is a different story altogether. Many MPs fail to visit most parts of their constituency and many even fail to meet the minimum requirement of attendance in the House. But salary ,perks ,allowance and all the benefits that come with the designation, ‘Member of Parliament’ however remain intact.

On an average a lawmaker in India receives Rs 56000 as salary, 50000 as constituency allowance, 45000 as other allowances. In terms of absolute amount the value of an Indian MP ‘s pay and perks is higher than their counterparts in Japan ,Singapore and Italy.

The list of benefits of the MPs too makes interesting reading. They are allowed three telephones without payment of installation or rental charges and are allowed 50,000 free calls in each of the three telephones per year. An MP is entitled to 34 single air flights during a year with his /her spouse /companion or relatives. The spouse or companion or any number of companion or relative can travel eight times in a year to meet the member. The MP s can travel anywhere in the country by rail first class from their residence and spouses of MPs can travel from their residence to New Delhi when Parliament is in  session for an unlimited number of times. Next ,every member is entitled to a supply of 4000 kilo litres of water and up to 50,000 units of electricity per year in a house allotted in the Capital without charge or rent. Besides these the MPs are given the exclusive opportunity of using separate lounges in the airports and complimentary tea and coffee with snacks. An MP gets the same medical facilities as are available to the class 1 officers of the central civil services. Added to it is the allowance to alter or buy furniture and furnishings and also interest free loan of 4 lakhs to purchase a vehicle. The money earned by an MP is in most part non- taxable. Taxes are imposed only on one head –income from other sources .No tax is deducted at source. This is the state of monetary and preferential position of an MP as of now .Enhancement will mean a great hike and additional fiscal responsibility to the government.

Pension rules for the MPs are rather interesting. A one term MP is entitled to a pension. A government official has to work a minimum period of 25 years to be eligible for pension whereas an MP makes himself eligible for the same by attending a single session of Parliament.

As against the comfortable financial cushion and exclusive lifestyle offered to them what does an average MP deliver to the voters at large? Most MPs bunk major parts of the sessions and there are many who have no record of participating in a debate or participating in question hour discussions. Lobbying for political gains and at times walkouts on issues of importance to the public as a whole tend to hijack the basic purpose for which the members are elected.

It may not sound too palatable to the ears of the present day lawmakers but it is an undeniable fact that eloquence and quality of oratory has declined to a great low compared to the days when parliamentarians like Hem Barua, Hiren Mukherjee , Jayaprakash Narayan and Atal Behari Vajpayee kept the floor of the House spell bound with their substance of matter and eloquence. The most despicable fact is the presence of a large number of MPs with criminal records.

Politics today has come to be synonymous with money and power and money power alone can make an MP or a legislator in a state Assembly. Money again begets power and power begets money. That perhaps is at the root of a new phenomenon where once in the seat of power a leader of today multiplies his assets .To be called a leader one must learn to put oneself in the shoes of the ones who voted to put him/her in that position. Leadership is not all about princely living and regal lifestyle .It is also about identifying with the masses who vote with a hope of amelioration of the lot they are in .An elected member of Parliament tend to get swayed by the lifestyles of the metropolitan elite who they have the occasion to hobnob with officially or through social connections and tend to forget that they are not neo Rajas but representatives of people of a country that comprise of more have- nots than haves.

 

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