Monday, August 23, 2010

Its All About Money - MPs out to grab what they can

The Union cabinet has cleared a 200 per cent hike in salaries and allowances of our MPs,but they arent happy.A section of them stalled proceedings in Lok Sabha on Friday on the issue.Curiously,one of the demands raised by the protestors is that their basic salary must be at least a rupee more than Rs 80,000,the salary drawn by the countrys top bureaucrats.The demand is unreasonable and based on flawed logic. Compare the clamour for money by Indias political class with the radical steps in countries like the UK to slash salaries of public officials to rein in fiscal deficits,and former ought to be ashamed of themselves.

What the cabinet has cleared is more than reasonable. At over Rs 37 lakh a year,our MPs take home more money than their counterparts in developed countries including Japan,Italy and Singapore.Their pay is 68 times more than what the average Indian earns annually.So there is no case for complaining that MPs are underpaid.Similarly,the demand to peg the basic pay about that of top civil servants is ludicrous.The jobs are not comparable. Legislators are empowered to oversee the working of the bureaucracy, but those privileges provided by the Constitution cant be translated into higher pay.

The hungama over pay hike also raises questions of propriety. Our MPs deserve to be well paid,but the pay needs to be commensurate with their work and the hike ought to be reasonable.Equally important is who decides what is a reasonable raise Surely it cant be MPs themselves,which is presently the case. A pay commission comprising non-parliamentarians could determine what ought to be the salaries,allowances and perks of MPs. The commission must not limit its remit to the basic salary and allowances MPs are entitled to but also monetise perks like free housing,furniture,water,power,interest-free car loans etc while fixing the pay packet.

It must be remembered that the claim for more money is raised in a Parliament dominated by crorepatis. Over 58 per cent of the members in the present Lok Sabha have declared assets of more than a crore: the average asset holding of a Lok Sabha MP is Rs 5.33 crore.So its a club of millionaires thats clamouring for more,at a time of high inflation and economic distress.Let them not forget that voters are watching.
(source-toi editorial)

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