A Bill seeking a three-fold hike in MPs’ salaries and doubling their allowances was cleared by the Lok Sabha on Friday though some members sought changes in the legislation in the wake of media and public criticism and suggested setting up of an independent commission to decide on MPs’ emoluments.
The legislation, passed by voice vote, seeks to raise MPs’ salaries from Rs. 16,000 to Rs. 50,000, and to double the daily allowance of Rs. 1,000 for each day when parliament is in session or for taking part in House committee meetings.
Besides, constituency allowance of Rs. 20,000 a month and an office expense allowance of Rs. 20,000 each month have also been raised to Rs. 45,000 each.
The MPs’ conveyance allowance, according to the Bill, will now be Rs. 4 lakh from Rs. 1 lakh earlier.
The Bill seeking amendments to the Salaries and Allowances of Members of Parliament Act, 1954, will now have to be cleared by the Rajya Sabha before the hike is implemented. It also enhances pension for former members from Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 20,000.
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.
The Bill was introduced by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal.
Some MPs, citing media and public criticism, suggested that there should be a provision of cutting the day’s salary when members enforce adjournments.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani said an independent mechanism should have looked into the issue and recommended whatever hike was needed in the salary.
Janata Dal (United) (JD(U)) seconded Mr. Advani’s idea and said such a mechanism should be established in future.
Mr. Bansal said: “It is time to set up such a mechanism after a wide ranging discussion with MPs.”
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad held a contradictory view. He said the Constitution had given MPs the right to decide their own salary and “we are exercising that only”.
Congress’ Sanjay Nirupam said he supported the Bill “but the day’s salary should be cut when members enforce an adjournment”.
“This will somehow clear our image in public and the media, and will also make us accountable for the work we do,” Mr. Nirupam said.
A Parliamentary panel headed by Congress member Charandas Mahant had recommended a 500 per cent hike in salary from Rs.16,000 to Rs. 80,001 — a rupee more than the salary of top bureaucrats.
However, the government rejected the demand of a five-fold increase, inviting severe opposition from a section of MPs led by Mr. Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party.
Following the protests, the government decided to hike the non-taxable allowances of parliamentarians, but left their salaries untouched.
The provision for raising salary, daily allowance and minimum and additional pension would involve a recurring annual expenditure of Rs. 103.76 crore.
One time expenditure of Rs. 118 crore would be incurred on account of arrears of salary and pensions from May last year to July this year.