New Delhi, Aug. 18: The pay packets of members of Parliament just got fatter.
The Union cabinet tonight cleared a bill seeking to increase allowances and salaries of the elected representatives. If the two Houses pass the bill — it would be a surprise if they don’t — MPs will get a Rs 4,000 raise in salary, up from Rs 12,000 to Rs 16,000.
Fewer MPs might want to play truant now, with the daily allowance for attending Parliament doubled from Rs 500 to Rs 1,000. Pensions will get doubled too, from Rs 3,000 to Rs 6,000.
The constituency allowance will get bigger, up from Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000. That’s still far short of the recommendation of the joint committee on salaries which wanted it raised to Rs 31,000.
Instead of one cell phone, the MPs will get two — one for use in the constituency and the other for Delhi, to be used when Parliament is in session.
Free air trips will go up from 24 in a year to 34.
In all, the annual package will increase from Rs 4.89 lakh to Rs 8.22 lakh.
The bill is likely to be passed in a hurry. When the Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament (Amendment) bill 2003 was tabled three years ago, it was passed in 10 minutes flat.
MPs are never known to bicker over legislation that makes them richer. But what will add to the urgency this time is that the existing salary structure was for five years from 2001. If the bill is not passed by September 14, the salary will drop to what it was before the last revision — Rs 4,000.
While the bill in 2003 fixed a minimum monthly pension of Rs 3000, allowed travel by private airlines and other such perks, the last comprehensive revision of the salary structure was done in 2001.
The government justified the hike, with parliamentary affairs minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi saying Indian MPs were the lowest paid in the world although they represent the highest number of people.
Only parties like the CPM, which have in the past opposed the idea of MPs deciding their own pay and suggested that an independent body should do it, could make some noise when the bill is introduced.
Not that it will affect the bill in any way.
Railway minister Lalu Prasad spoke for the majority when he said MPs get bouquets and brickbats and there was great expectation from them. The idea was that the pay should match the expectation.
Law minister Hansraj Bhardwaj’s argument was simple: “Even my secretary gets paid more than me.”