A 300-percent salary hike plus doubling of generous allowances is in
the offing for our MPs, never mind that the majority of them are 'crorepatis',
or millionaires as revealed by their declared assets! The MPs, of
course, insist what they get is woefully short of what is required
to discharge their duties as people's representatives.
According to available data, 315 of the 543 MPs in the current Lok
Sabha are crorepatis. They include 275 male MPs and 40 women, as per
data compiled by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) and
National Election Watch (NEW).
There were 156 crorepatis in the 2004 Lok Sabha and the number
increased by 102 percent in the present Lok Sabha.
The average asset of an MP in the previous Lok Sabha was Rs.0.86
crore, which shot up to Rs.5.33 crore in the present house.
Among MPs who contested both the 2004 and 2009 elections, the
percentage growth in assets has been 289 percent.
Among the 183 Rajya Sabha MPs whose asset details were analysed by
ADR-NEW in April this year, 54 percent are millionaires.
Most parties preferred nominating candidates with high assets during
the June Rajya Sabha biennial elections, according to an analysis of
the affidavits of 49 of 55 seats.
Out of 54 contesting candidates, 43 (79.6 percent) were
millionaires. Of the winners, 38 out of 49 (77.6 percent) had assets
in millions of rupees. The average asset for the candidates was
Rs.24.45 crore, and for the winners it was Rs.25.24 crore.
This will cost the exchequer a recurring annual expenditure of
Rs.103.76 crore, according to available figures and compiled data.
Except for the Left parties, none of the political parties has
voiced opposition to the salary hike. And what is more interesting:
none of them has said their MPs will forgo the increase.
A few MPs who spoke to IANS on condition of anonymity justified the
demand for a hike in salaries and allowances, saying what they get
was far below what their counterparts got in other democracies. They
said while it was easy for MPs with business backgrounds to serve
their electorate and meet office expenses, it was difficult for
members with limited means to do so.
A Lok Sabha MP from Punjab said a parliamentarian has to maintain at
least two offices - at his home and at his residence in Delhi. "Each
of these offices requires staff of about four people - a cook, a
driver and assistants. Their salaries are to be paid by the MP. Some
MPs also maintain offices in different areas of the constituency,"
An MP from Uttar Pradesh said they also have to attend to their
electorate who visit their offices and incur fuel expenses on travel
within the constituency.
The Lok Sabha last week cleared the bill, seeking amendments to the
Salaries and Allowances of Members of Parliament Act, 1954. It will
now have to be cleared by the Rajya Sabha, the upper house.
It seeks to hike MPs' salaries from Rs.16,000 to Rs.50,000 per month
and double their daily allowance of Rs.1,000 for each day when
parliament is in session or for taking part in house committee
Besides, a constituency allowance of Rs.20,000 a month and an office
expense allowance of Rs.20,000 each month has also been raised to
Rs.45,000 per month. The MPs' conveyance allowance will now be Rs.4
lakh from Rs.1 lakh earlier.
The legislation also enhances pension for former members from
Rs.8,000 to Rs.20,000 per month.
The increase will be given with retrospective effect since the
beginning of the current Lok Sabha, the 15th, which means MPs will
get arrears from May 2009. A one-time expenditure of Rs.118 crore
would be incurred on account of the arrears of salary and pension
from May last year to July this year.
Jagdeep Chhokar, a founding member of ADR, suggested that the
emoluments to MPs should be measured on "cost to nation" basis as is
done in companies where the concept is of "cost to company".
"After factoring in the cost of all the perquisites - including
housing, travel, loans and allowances - it should be decided if
there should be a hike in MPs' salary," Chhokar told IANS. He said a
commission with transparent and objective mechanism should be set up
for the purpose.
BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said the hike was necessary but
an index-based mechanism should be evolved to decide the quantum and
timing of hike. Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said the government
had decided on a hike only after proper consultations with all
Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Basudeb Acharya said the
party was against the hike as common people were already having to
cope with the price rise and would find such demands from their
political representatives unjustified.