PAY HIKE: DO OUR MPS DE­SERVE IT?

VIEW A de­cent in­come could in­cen­tivise hon­esty, in­tegrity in pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tives COUN­TER­VIEW If par­lia­men­tar­i­ans want a bet­ter pay, let them per­form in the first place

Hindustan Times (Ranchi) - - FRONT PAGE - DK Singh deepak.singh1@hin­dus­tan­times.com Su­veen Sinha su­veen.sinha@hin­dus­tan­times.com

Fol­low­ing an im­pas­sioned plea by law-mak­ers in the Lok Sabha over a pay hike, opin­ions have been di­vided over whether our par­lia­men­tar­i­ans de­serve bet­ter salaries or not. While one view is that an en­hanced pay will in­cen­tivise hon­esty, the coun­ter­view says the lead­ers should prove by their performanc­e that they de­serve a raise.

IT IS HYP­O­CRIT­I­CAL TO EX­PECT OUR PAR­LIA­MEN­TAR­I­ANS TO LEAD A SPAR­TAN LIFE WITH A PAL­TRY SALARY CAN OUR MPs LIST HOW THEIR AT­TEMPTS TO SERVE THE PUB­LIC HAVE BEEN THWARTED BE­CAUSE OF THEIR PAY?

NEW DELHI: Law-mak­ers made an im­pas­sioned plea for a pay hike on the last day of the mon­soon ses­sion of Par­lia­ment on Fri­day. Sa­ma­jwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Ya­dav ar­gued that an MP’s salary should be more than that of the cab­i­net sec­re­tary who gets `2.5 lakh a month. He got sup­port from Congress leader Anand Sharma and other op­po­si­tion MPs but the SP leader might have helped the cause bet­ter by not link­ing it with sta­tus.

A de­cent salary could in­cen­tivise hon­esty and in­tegrity in pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tives. It might not pre­vent many from fall­ing for the lure of the lu­cre, but would help a con­sci­en­tious few to re­sist temp­ta­tions. Fol­low­ing pub­lic (read me­dia) out­rage over a four-fold hike in Delhi MLAs’ salaries last year, Delhi CM Arvind Ke­jri­wal said if they still in­dulged in cor­rup­tion, “don’t spare them”. Peo­ple will have that op­tion vis-àvis par­lia­men­tar­i­ans as well.

An MP’s monthly com­pen­sa­tion com­prises `45,000 as ba­sic salary, `45,000 as con­stituency al­lowance, `30,000 to pay his staff and `15,000 for sta­tion­ary items and postages. He or she also gets `2,000 per day for at­tend­ing Par­lia­ment.

Other en­ti­tle­ments in­clude rent-free ac­com­mo­da­tion in the cap­i­tal, 1.50 lakh free phone calls a year, and 4,000 kilo­litres of water and 50,000 units of elec­tric­ity per an­num. A par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee has rec­om­mended a 100% hike in MPs’ salaries and al­lowances.

“I get `1.09 lakh in my ac­count per month. Hun­dreds of peo­ple visit my of­fice ev­ery day. I must of­fer them tea, bis­cuits, food and even money if some poor peo­ple need med­i­cal treat­ment. What’s left for me and my fam­ily,” asks Mysore MP Pratap Simha. When he needed pros­thetic legs for his wife, he was told that un­der the cen­tral govern­ment health scheme, he was en­ti­tled to `10,000 only. “I had to bor­row money to get those ar­ti­fi­cial legs cost­ing over `3 lakh.”

Ya­dav prof­fered sim­i­lar ar­gu­ments in Ra­jya Sabha, say­ing inflation has soared but the salaries of MPs, who have to en­ter­tain pub­lic vis­i­tors, re­main static. A politi­cian might spend half of his life try­ing to en­ter Par­lia­ment and might not get a sec­ond term. He would then be left to fend for him­self with a monthly pen­sion of `20,000.

Salaries might not be an is­sue with many par­lia­men­tar­i­ans. There are 28 busi­ness­men, 12 in­dus­tri­al­ists and four builders in the Lok Sabha. But there are also 77 po­lit­i­cal and so­cial work­ers and 44 farm­ers/ agri­cul­tur­ists. Is `1.09 lakh a month enough for an MP, con­fronting un­cer­tain­ties in the next elec­tions?

A US Con­gress­man gets `9.70 lakh as ba­sic salary, about `4.30 lakh more than what a mem­ber of the UK’s House of Com­mons gets. Their perks are also hefty. A Pak­istani law­maker’s monthly com­pen­sa­tion is around `80,000, while Chi­nese par­lia­men­tar­i­ans don’t get salary. It’s no­body’s case that In­dian MPs’ salaries should be at par with their US or Euro­pean coun­ter­parts. Nor does one sur­mise that good salaries to leg­is­la­tors would end scams in­volv­ing them. But it’s hyp­o­crit­i­cal to ex­pect our MPs to lead a Spar­tan life with a pal­try salary. In­cen­tivis­ing pro­bity in pub­lic life could be a small step in the right di­rec­tion. NEW DELHI: I would hap­pily rec­om­mend a pay hike for Mal­likar­jun Kharge; I wouldn’t give a penny more to Sachin Ten­dulkar.

When the new Lok Sabha took shape two years ago, Kharge got an un­en­vi­able job. He had to lead a party whose strength had come down to a fourth of its size in the Lok Sabha. Some­how he makes the Congress ap­pear big­ger than the sum of its MPs.

Ten­dulkar, on the other hand, has hardly been there in the Ra­jya Sabha, never mind that the Ra­jya Sabha is where the ac­tion is. Not the bat-on-ball ac­tion, but he could have tried to be a good par­lia­men­tar­ian.

Maybe the MPs are show­ing that wit has not al­to­gether gone out of Par­lia­ment, with the demise of the likes of Piloo Modi of the Swatantra Party. Why else would they rec­om­mend a hefty hike in their pay at the end of the colos­sal waste that was the bud­get ses­sion?

If they are se­ri­ous, there ought to be a sys­tem to as­sess performanc­e. Yes, even MPs’.

Make that es­pe­cially MPs’. Their job was never about the money to be­gin with. In fact, it should not even be seen as a job. Just like jour­nal­ists’.

One can make much more money sell­ing soap than by writ­ing. And the worst kind -- MPs and jour­nal­ists -- are those that jus­tify their be­ing cor­rupt by point­ing to the low pay.

In that they sound like Mark McCluskey, the cop in The God­fa­ther who thought he could take bribes be­cause he was a good cop and pro­vided pro­tec­tion to the peo­ple in his precinct. Af­ter all, he had four sons to put through col­lege. Few cried when Michael Cor­leone gunned him down, along with drug dealer Vir­gil Sol­lozzo.

The thing is, McCluskey knew cops’ pay; his fa­ther was one. If he thought it was too low, he could have cho­sen to do some­thing else. If you think MPs’ salary is low, stick to what­ever else you can do for more money. If you want to be in pol­i­tics to serve the peo­ple, serve the peo­ple. That will re­quire you to be a good MP, rais­ing is­sues, par­tic­i­pat­ing in de­bates, shap­ing pub­lic pol­icy, and ad­dress­ing your peo­ple’s griev­ances.

For ev­i­dence that it is not about the money, look no fur­ther than Bhag­wati Devi. An un­let­tered woman from the Musa­har caste, the poorest of the poor, she held her own against the ur­bane Brinda Karat while de­bat­ing the women’s reser­va­tion bill in 1997. In the process, she sen­si­tised a lot of peo­ple to the plight of her caste.

Ram Vi­las Paswan strikes just the wrong chords when he says law­mak­ers will not be able to work for the pub­lic if not given money. He should look at the un­spent amounts of the lo­cal area de­vel­op­ment funds. And he should delink ful­fill­ing per­sonal needs from the needs of the pub­lic.

Can Paswan, or other MPs list how their at­tempts to serve the pub­lic have been thwarted be­cause they are not paid enough salary? Maybe they wouldn’t have to clam­our so hard to get a hike if they worked hard to serve the pub­lic.

Mukesh Am­bani, who runs In­dia’s largest pri­vate sec­tor com­pany, has not given him­self a salary hike in eight years. In that time, his com­pany, Reliance In­dus­tries, has dou­bled its net profit. Talk performanc­e.

SPRAYED PEP­PER IN LOK SABHA WHEN IT WAS DE­BAT­ING THE ANDHRA PRADESH RE­OR­GAN­I­SA­TION BILL

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