‘In 2010-12, Lok Sabha worked for average of less than four hours a day during 227 sittings in 852 hours’

India’s parliamentarians are one of the best paid legislators across the world but they lag when it comes to performing legislative business, says the National Social Watch’s “Citizens’ Report on Governance and Development 2013.”

“In terms of absolute amount, the value of Indian MPs’ pay and perks is higher than [that of] their counterparts in Singapore, Japan and Italy. It is four and a half times higher than that of Pakistan; and is about 68 times higher than the per capita income of the country … A three-fold rise in the basic salary, on August 20, 2010 was protested against by many MPs, who described this ‘low’ hike as an insult to the country’s legislators,” says the report of the research and advocacy organisation that monitors the functioning and efficiency of key governance institutions.

Highlighting the low productivity of parliamentarians, the report points out that the nine sessions during 2010-12 saw the Lok Sabha working for an average of less than four hours of work a day during its 227 sittings in 852 hours, which is less than two-thirds of scheduled six hours per day. In the process, about 577 hours have been lost in disruptions and forced adjournments.

In 2010, the government had hiked the pay packet of an MP from Rs. 56,000 to Rs.1.40 lakh a month. The salary component was raised from Rs.16,000 a month to Rs.50,000, constituency allowance from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 45,000, and office allowance from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 45,000.

“ In terms of the ratio of the pay package to national per capita income, India ranks second after Kenya and pays almost double than the U.S. Political parties work less in Parliament to perform their designated functions as people’s representatives and legislators,” says NSW spokesperson Amitabh Behar.

The study also notes that the UPA-II government continues to reduce the scope of the Union budget (as measured by total expenditure from the budget) as compared to the size of the country’s economy. “The total expenditure from the Union budget would shrink from 14.9 per cent of GDP in 2012-13 [Budget Estimates] to 14.6 per cent of GDP in 2013-14 [BE], and the brunt of this conservative fiscal policy is likely to be borne mainly by the poor,” says the report.

Despite the promise of the path-breaking food security Bill, which is expected into operation during 2013-14, the Union budget outlay for food subsidy has been raised only marginally — from Rs. 86,707.5 crore in 2012-13 to Rs. 91,591.4 crore in 2013-14.

‘A way of crisis’

“With one farmer committing suicide in every half an hour, agriculture became a way of crisis to majority of people in the country. As per the official data, one farmer committed suicide in every 32.75 minutes during last 16 years, i.e. 2,56,913 farmers committed suicide between 1995 and 2010. It is the worst-ever recorded wave of suicides of this kind in human history,” it adds.

Highlighting another interesting point, the study says Rs. 5,799.3 crore and Rs.9 ,963.9 crore was allocated for about 2.5-lakh local governing bodies in 2010-11 and 2011-12 respectively, which looks peanuts compared to about Rs. 4,000 crore per annum allotted to about 800 MPs under the local area development programme.

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