Chandigarh, Dec. 12: After his austerity drive to put Punjab’s economy back on rails, chief minister Amarinder Singh has now decided to hike legislators’ allowances to bring them on a par with or take them above that of their counterparts in Haryana.
Senior government sources said the proposals were likely to be implemented after next year’s budget.
“After having gone through the proposals, the government feels it is time to hike the allowances. Since everything is becoming costlier, legislators, too, must be provided some hike from next year,” an official said.
The last such hike was in 1998 when the Assembly passed a Bill hiking the compensatory allowances of legislators and other perks and facilities for former chief ministers.
Like the hike four years ago, this time, too, a windfall appears to be in store for the legislators.
Apart from raising the daily allowance from Rs 300 to Rs 500, the government is studying proposals to hike the constituency allowance to Rs 8,000 per month, telephone bill reimbursement to Rs 10,000 per month and conveyance allowance from Rs 50,000 to Rs 120,000 per year.
The proposal to hike the allowances was recently discussed at a meeting of 13 chairmen of various Assembly committees chaired by Speaker Kewal Krishan as Amarinder was out of town.
Over the last two months, most ruling party MLAs and some from the Opposition had been complaining that work in their constituencies was being hampered by lack of funds. They had begun a whisper campaign to somehow get the chief minister to agree to hike their allowances.
“We are supposed to represent the face of the government to the people. With allowances that keep on dwindling, especially with the increase in petrol prices, it has become difficult for us to keep in contact with our constituencies and work for the welfare of the people.
The government can curtail its own expenditure and divert funds to increase our allowances. It will not stall the working of the government,” a ruling party MLA said.
In 1998, the Parkash Singh Badal government had passed the Punjab State Legislature Officers, Ministers and Members Salaries, Allowances and Facilities Laws (Amendment) Bill by a voice vote to hike legislators’ allowances.
MLAs had then begun to draw an additional compensatory allowance of Rs 1,000 apart from the Rs 1,500 they were receiving while constituency, stationery and postage allowances were raised from Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000.
Conveyance allowance was raised from Rs 35,000 to Rs 50,000 per year; telephone bill reimbursement from Rs 30,000 to Rs 48,000 per year; house building advance from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 6 lakh; and car purchase loan from Rs 2.50 lakh to Rs 3 lakh.