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MPs now get

Well, folks, looks like we always precede the GOI decisions. When we were
talking of ensuring that we should be nuclearized, India exploded its
bombs. Now, when we are insisting that MPs should get a raise, MPs have
indeed got a raise. Take a look carefully at the package, and now, let us
have a show of hands of which people think 

A) This package, by itself, is enough to get them to compete for India's
votes (i.e., leave their jobs and go for politics).

B) This package, by itself, is still too risky to give up your cushy
professional package in USA and elsewhere.

C) This package, by itself is inadequate, but if coupled with campaign
finance reform, with corporate funding, would be OK.

D) This package, if coupled both with higher wage (and change in payment
method) and campaign finance reform, with corporate finance, would be OK. 

I would favor D. In particular I would insist that all frivolous frills be
withdrawn (such as allowances, electricity, etc.) and combined into one
single emolument, to be used by the MP as he/she thinks fit. Let MPs be
given an official accomodation in Delhi and plain and simple, taxable,
salaries and let them pay out of it whatever they think is necessary. The
individual knows how best to optimize his/ her expenditures and this
categorization reeks of limits and articificial controls. Second, let us
have campaign finance reform so that dishonesty is not the fundamental
qualification for being an MP. 

How about others? We might have a consensus building up here, for all you
know (ah! am I an optimist!)


Wednesday, August 5, 1998  It now pays more to be an MP in India 

NEW DELHI, Aug 4: Doing what everybody dreams of, Lok Sabha members today
gave themselves a hefty raise in salaries, allowances and perks, in the
process giving the President, Vice-President and Governors too a massive
raise with retrospective effect from January 1, 1996. The four Bills
relating to the increase were passed in a jiffy today showing what the MPs
can do if their minds are set. 

So quickly was it done that many MPs didn't even get a copy of the Bills
and those who got them were in English. ``The Hindi copies are being
printed. Please waive the Rules for this issue,'' a gracious Parliamentary
Affairs Minister Madan Lal Khurana offered. The rules were waived. 

>From now on the President gets Rs 50,000 a month, up from Rs 20,000, the
Vice-President will take in Rs 40,000 almost thrice the earlier Rs 14,500,
Governors will be given Rs 36,000, more than thrice the Rs 11,000 they
used to get. All this is taxable, unlike an MP's pay. 

MPs will take home Rs 4,000 a month, up from Rs 1,500, apart from 10 other
perks which have been sizeably upgraded. For example, an MP will now take
Rs 400 as daily allowance, a sum many people in the country look to get at
the end of a month's labour. Likewise, office expense, secretarial
allowance, constituency allowance, single air journeys, free electricity,
road mileage, car advance, pension and family pension are all up. Office
expense for MPs has been pegged at Rs 2,500 a month, secretarial allowance
at Rs 6,000, constituency allowance at Rs 8,000, free one-way air trips at
32, 25,000 units of free electricity a year, Rs 6 a kilometre for road
mileage, no matter how much an MP travels, car advance at a lakh, pension
of Rs 2,500 a month and family pension at Rs 1,000. Should an MP not use
the quota of free air trips, he or she can do so the following year.  The
common man can only pray for such goodies but still some were not

``This is nothing,'' snapped Laloo Yadav loyalist and anti-Women's Bill
RJD MP M A A Fatmi. Laloo went two steps ahead: ``It isn'tas if any great
wealth is being distributed among MPs'', and ``Add an amendment to the
BIll. Make sure an MP can get pension even if he is a member for only
10 days.''

So what if the hike amounts to a whopping 160 per cent raise in MP's
salaries. And a mere Rs 18 crore to the nation's exchequer a bulk of which
is made up of a citizen's tax money. For good effect, a President's
pension now goes to Rs 3 lakh a year, jumping from the Rs 1,20,000 so far. 

There was some show of conscience, though, on show. And it came from the
Left. ``Let it not be said that we are concerned about ourselves. 
Throwing away all procedures, the Bills have only now been circulated. 
Why is there such a sense of impatience and urgency?'' asked CPM leader
Somnath Chatterjee. 

He was backed by CPI leader Indrajit Gupta: ``I find it highly
embarrassing; when everyday we are shedding tears in the House on people
suffering from poverty and the next thing we do is vote on our emoluments.
The last time we did so, every newspaper in thecountry had editorials
hitting out at us.'' Both Left leaders were arguing for an independent
authority or institution to fix MP's salaries instead of hiking the pay
themselves.``We have been repeatedly requesting that this matter be left
to an authority like the Speaker,'' Chatterjee added. L K Advani agreed
but others didn't think so. ``The Leftists are progressive people. They
worry too much about media opinion,'' offered Laloo. He had an ardent
supporter in Congress Bihar MP Rajjo Singh. 

``There should be no need for MPs to earn money on the sly or be on the
payrolls of big companies. MPs can't even pay their water and electricity
bills,'' Singh felt. Laloo was not done yet. ``OK. Let there be a clause
that those who don't want the hike can take home their earlier pay,'' he

 Mulayam Singh also added his bit. ``There is too much corruption in our
residences. The furniture is old, new stuff lands up in the houses of
officers. We have to plead with engineers for proper power supply. Take
away these house, make them hotels or hostels. Just give us a house rent
allowance instead.''

All this, though, may have to wait for a while. For today, the increased
wages and allowances were all the MPs would get.  And just in case envy
grips you, have a heart. Not everybody can grant himself a wage hike. 

Copyright 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay)  Ltd. 

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