Salaries of MPs and MLAs !

R.D. Bhardwaj “Noorpuri”

Just a few days ago, MLAs from UP have demanded a further hike in their salaries, perks and some other facilities. We often hear that MLAs from other states as well demanding such hefty hikes from time to time and their demands are also met just within a couple of days and approved in the house with a thumping of the tables. Similarly we also hear similar demands from Members of Parliament and those are also often approved in the house with thumping of tables just within a couple of days of submitting them. Those hefty demands and their acceptance just within a couple of days often compel the people to think as to why such demands are made by the politicians and what was the hurry that demands are also met without taking into consideration their degree of performance, satisfaction level of the electorates of their constituencies and some other criteria of judging their work and also, impact of such hikes on the national exchequer.

It is pertinent to mention here that the salaries, perks and other facilities of the Central Government employees and crores of various state governments employees are revised every ten years and for that also, first Central Pay Commission is constituted, that commission goes into innumerable details before recommending revision of the pay scales and allowances of the employees. Similarly, pay scales and allowances of the RBI employees are also revised every five years and it takes a long time for settlement of the negotiations between the employees unions and the managements. After RBI, pay scales and allowances of other financial institutions and banks are also revised, but not before 2/3 years of long rounds of negotiations between employees unions and the managements. Many a time, employees have to resort to strikes as negotiations between employees and the management reach a dead-lock and the salaries of the employees are often cut on basis of “No work no pay”. One more important aspect of the employees wage revision is that – their pay scales are hiked just by 12.5 to 16 %, whereas, the politicians whose wages and other facilities, perks and allowances are often doubled just within a couple of days. Not only that, the periodicity of their revision of pay perks and allowances is also not fixed, it can be done after any interval, as per whims and fancies of the MPs / MLAs, as the case may be, and as they may please.

One of the major criteria to determine the extent of hikes, is calculation of whole sale price index and inflation taken place during the last 2/3 years thus gets merged with the basic pays of the employees. But nothing such things / basis are taken into consideration when salaries and wages of the politicians are revised.

Now talking about the current demand of the MLAs of UP assembly, whole nation is aware that just a few months ago, a major city of the UP, namely Muzaffarnagar was burning with riots (in Sept./Oct. 2013), many people were killed during those riots and property worth crores was burnt to ashes. Ordinary people were displaced from their homes and hearths. But the leaders of that state did precious little to check those riots and help the poor people to get some relief. On the contrary, barely 300 kms. from the Muzaffarnagar relief camps where children of helpless riots victims were shivering in the cold, Samajwadi Party chief, Mulayam Singh Yadav very coolly enjoyed the song and dance programme (in Jan., 2014) in the company of Bollywood film stars in his native place, village Saifai in Etawah district. Even the Chief Minister of the state along with most of his ministers were seen whole heartedly enjoying the glittering Saifai Mahotsav where dhak dhak girl Madhuri Dixit and Dabang hero Salman Khan also entertained the motley gathering of top politicians, ministers and bureaucrats as well. The 15-day event was estimated by the sources to have cost about Rs. 30 crores. All these big leaders and bureaucrats were totally indifferent to the plight of the Muzaffarnagar riots victims. Print and electronic media had also described this festival as an insult and huge wastage of tax-payers’ money, least concerned about the plight of the hundreds of riots victims.

It is not that such sheer wastage of public funds happens in one state only; rather other states are also not far behind in such callous expenditure. It is also true that general public often makes a lot of hue and cry about the high rising inflation, but nobody cares for them. Law and order situation gets from bad to worse in UP, rapes of the females of the poor families have gone so high in the state that UP is being termed as “the rape capital of India”, but instead of giving attention to problems of the people and providing them some relief, the leaders continue to blissfully oblivious of all such bad incidents, but surprisingly the matters of their own interest are given top priority, at the cost of tax payers’ funds. Sometimes, foreign tours are undertaken by a galaxy of MLAs on the pretext of study tour. Recently, some ministers and MLAs from Goa assembly planned a trip to Brazil on the government’s expense, to witness the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Goa government has approved that tour costing the exchequer around Rs. 1.00 crore, though the Congress as well as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Goa has criticised the junket.

It is also seen that Punjab Govt. has also purchased new costly vehicles for the ministers putting an additional financial burden on the state exchequer, even though old vehicles were also in good working condition. Other state governments are also often seen indulging in making many costly things though general public of the state continue to suffer in silence. The fact of the matter is that, now-a-days, political leaders have reduced the novel profession of public service to a convenient business entity and once they get elected, they try to make most of this opportunity to extract maximum financial benefits till their term lasts.

Just a few days ago, in response to an RTI application, it is found that, as many as 31 air conditioners, 25 heaters, 15 desert coolers, 16 air purifiers, 12 geysers among a number of other electrical appliances were installed in the official bungalow of Sheila Dikshit, former Chief Minister of Delhi. An expense of Rs. 16.81 lakhs was incurred on the electrical renovation of the bungalow that time to customise it according to the needs of then Chief Minister. And remember, this is the same Delhi Chief Minister who used to sermonise the members of public to make very judicious / economical use of electricity, as production of electricity falls short of its supply, particularly during the peak summer season. All this reveals quite explicitly that our leaders lead the life king-size at the cost of tax-payers’ money, while ordinary people face often power cuts, shortage of water and many other items of social and economic amenities which are very much required to reduce their sufferings and ease their lives.

Not only that, Gaurishankar Agarwal, the assembly speaker of one of the backward states, Chhattisgarh, has left even the former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit far behind in terms of luxurious lifestyle. While she had 31 air conditioners in her bungalow, Mr. Agarwal has crossed this level by installing 48 ACs. He even has ACs in his bathroom and store rooms.

A suggestion for solution : To avoid raising of accusing fingers by the members of public and print and electronics media, these leaders should devise some method for the revision of their pay perks and allowances, rather than resorting to it at any time and by any state assembly and also the parliamentarians. And for that purpose, it is suggested that, just like the Central Pay Commission for the government employees which is constituted every ten years, the government should also create a commission at Centre which should look into the aspect of fixing of pay perks and allowances and some other facilities for all MPs and MLAs, irrespective of fact to which state they belong. Secondly, salaries of all the MLAs should be the same and that of MPs should also be the same. Once their salaries etc. are determined by that commission, it should be linked to the rate of inflation (just like the central government employees). And these should be revised after every five years, and the date of constitution of assembly of some particular state or Parliament should not be a matter of conflict.

Once this commission is constituted and starts functioning, no political interference should be allowed to hamper or influence its recommendations. And if that is ensured, people shall also not have any objection – like hiking their salaries etc. to any extent the leaders wish to receive.

And lastly, it is also true that some state governments and some MPs may also find faults with this system, but the Central Governments should not succumb to any such pressure and influence etc., in case they really want to make some worthwhile reforms in the system to streamline the old and decadent policies and procedures etc. Initially, it may look somewhat strange, but it shall be really a good system, and why not give it a try, in the larger interest of the country?