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Bills to hike salaries tabled

Guwahati, Aug. 13: The Assam government today tabled amendment bills in the Assembly to raise the pay packages of the elected representatives amid protests by a few ruling party legislators to defer them because of the ongoing inter-state border skirmishes.

Parliamentary affairs minister Nilamani Sen Deka tabled five separate bills to increase the salaries of ministers, ministers of state, deputy ministers, legislators, Speaker, deputy Speaker and leader of the Opposition in the Assembly.

The bill on salaries of ministers has sought to raise the basic salary of chief minister Tarun Gogoi from the existing Rs 65,000 to Rs 90,000. Cabinet ministers will receive Rs 80,000, an increase of Rs 20,000, while ministers of state will get Rs 75,000 (earlier Rs 55,000). Legislators, currently getting Rs 40,000, will be drawing Rs 60,000, if the Assembly passes the amendment bills.

The other bills propose to raise the Speaker’s monthly basic salary to Rs 80,000 (from Rs 60,000), of the deputy speaker to Rs 75,000 (from Rs 55,000) and that of the leader of Opposition to Rs 80,000 (from Rs 60,000).

Apart from restructuring the basic salaries, the bills have also proposed to raise allowances for both present and former MLAs. These allowances will be applicable to the chief minister, Speaker, deputy Speaker and all ministers. Sources said the bills, if passed by the Assembly, would make the Assam chief minister one of the highest paid chief ministers in the country. The total pay package of Gogoi will cross Rs 1 lakh.

Sources said apart from the revised and enhanced pay package, Assembly members will continue to have the option of availing of a soft loan, upto Rs 15 lakh, to purchase land, house or a car. They will also be entitled to pension at six per cent annual interest.

Just before Deka proposed in the House to table the bills, former minister and sitting legislator Himanta Biswa Sarma requested Speaker Pranab Gogoi to defer the bills in view of the ongoing problems on the Assam-Nagaland border.

“If the bills to raise salaries of peoples’ representatives are tabled in the Assembly, it will send a wrong message to the public. At a time when the border conflict has claimed lives and rendered people homeless, I cannot support tabling of such bills,” Sarma said. He was backed by six to seven MLAs of the dissident group.

The Speaker, however, declined to accept Sarma’s request since the business advisory committee of the Assembly had fixed the date of tabling the bills in advance. Most legislators from both ruling and Opposition parties had supported tabling of the bills.