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NEW DELHI: An annual package of Rs 27 lakh is nothing to sneeze at. If it comes with a flat in Delhi with free maintenance and subsidised food, it might even begin to seem pretty sumptuous. In case there is a bungalow, as availed by senior MPs, the perks can dwarf the salary.
In a two-acre bungalow, the plinth area is unlikely to exceed 4,000 square feet and rest are extensive lawns, just the maintenance of which, according to CPWD officials, can add up to Rs 20,000-25,000 a month. The garden charges levied from MPs are as nominal as the rent.
With MPs obstructing Lok Sabha demanding their pay be hiked to Rs 80,001 as reccomended by a parliamentary committee, TOI studied the new and old salaries and also attempted to monetise various perks available to members. Some, like estimating how often an MP's spouse could use a free rail journey, could not be evaluated and were excluded.
Based on averages calculated for an MP from Nagpur — a central reference point in the heart of India — the old package totalled Rs 48 lakh a year and the new one Rs 57 lakh a year. The yearly rental estimated for an MP's flat is Rs 30 lakh and for a bungalow Rs 9 crore.
The rental for a flat of the proportions alloted to MPs at locations like North and South Avenue and Bishambar Das Marg is assessed at Rs 2.5 lakh a month after consulting leading real estate firms like Cushman Wakefield, C B Richard Ellis and other top brokers.
It was not so easy to evaluate rentals for bungalows as such properties are usually owned and not often rented in central Delhi. But with an average market value of Rs 100 crore, rents for the Lutyens' heritage bungalows would be between Rs 75 lakh to Rs 1 crore a month.
As calculating value of facilities like free air and railway travel would depend on where an MP's constituency is located and will vary sharpyly, Nagpur seemed like a reasonable choice being at almost the centre of India. The 34 J class air tickets come to around Rs 5 lakh.
Further away from Delhi, train journeys are less prefered as MPs look to fly. Delhi-Nagpur train travel takes 16 hours and it is more instructive to look at MPs from eastern UP. Given regular travel when Parliament is in session, for committee meetings in between, party work and lobbying cases, an MP may use free rail travel in some 30-odd trips. Keeping the Nagpur-Delhi MP AC I fare, the average was lowered to 25 trips.
On the basis of this calculation, an MP's rail journeys could total Rs 56,000 a year and that of his assistant Rs 33,000. The water tariff that would be charged at the peak NDMC rate of Rs 10 a kilolitre would cost Rs 40,000 a year and 50,000 units of power Rs 1,80,000 at the top slab of Rs 3.60 a unit. NDMA rates are lower than what the rest of the city pays private discoms.
The increases in constituency and office allowances add up to Rs 4,80,000 each a year. Of the office allowance Rs 24,000 a month is for a computer-trained assistant and rest for stationary and postage. The Rs 16 per km road mileage that MPs can now claim instead of Rs 13 per km are for travel from residence to airport in their constituencies and in Delhi.
The parliamentary committee that reccomended a salary of Rs 80,001 a month — just higher than what the cabinet secretary gets — has suggested that daily allowances can be claimed for as many as 180 days or six months. This would actually push up earnings of MPs further than the current estimate but Parliament rarely meets for more than 120 days a year and members do not attend all days.
The Rs 10-lakh a year salary that MPs get is taxable, but that is just the same for most income earners. The Rs 16,000 monthly salary that MPs have been earning was low, but not everyone is in a position to give themselves a three-fold hike and then demand even more — most wage negotiations will settle at some sort of a compromise.