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How about a salary hike, ask Kerala MLAs

india Updated: Mar 26, 2007 11:03 IST
IANS
salary hike

Many Kerala legislators are complaining that they are very poorly paid in comparison to their peers in other states and say the low incomes encourage corruption among politicians.

A Kerala legislator who is not a minister gets Rs 21,300 every month while his counterpart in Punjab gets Rs 54,500, in Delhi Rs 50,000 and in Andhra Pradesh Rs 46,000.

The break-up of the Kerala MLA's pay packet is Rs 300 as salary, Rs 3,500 as constituency allowance, Rs 4,000 for telephone charges, Rs 6,000 by way of fuel coupons and railway coupons and a permanent travel allowance of Rs 7,500.

The issue was raised in the assembly last week when Left-supported independent legislator KJ Alphonse Kannanthanam said it was high time a revision took place.

"If that does not happen, things will be in dire straits. To have a decent standard of living, the only way out will be to make money through undesirable means by doing brokering and liaison work for cash rich business people," Kannanthanam told the agency.

He says he is getting ready to move a private member's bill on the issue.

"I know well what the fate of my proposed bill will be, but I am doing this because the system has to change. The current system leads one to corruption," said Kannanthanam who used to draw a salary of Rs 50,000 as a senior Indian Administrative Officer.

A look at the financial position of Kerala legislators indicates that only a handful of them earn enough to pay income tax. While a few are lucky to have a working spouse, a majority are solely dependent on their salary.

Chartered accountant-turned-legislator Thomas Chazhikadan said: "Gone are the days when a legislator could support his family with his salary. Today what we get is not sufficient to meet our expenses.

"Something has to be done and the least expected is a hike that would at least take care of our expenses," he said.

The last such hike took place during the previous Congress-led United Democratic Front's tenure, but it was minimal.

"I just cannot to afford to have an office in my constituency in Palakkad because I don't have the resources for it. Telephone is another major expense because each legislator has a minimum of at least three telephones. One mobile with us, a landline at home and our secretary's mobile," said veteran trade union leader-turned-legislator KK Divakaran.

"And then come the huge travel bills because every voter expects the legislator to attend marriages and funerals. I really find it very difficult."

Assembly Speaker K Radhakrishnan also believes it is time for a raise.

Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, a diehard communist, however, feels a hike will send a bad signal and kept the issue in abeyance when it came up recently.

But said young legislator KK Shaju: "Achuthanandan has nothing to worry about because for the past five years he was leader of the opposition, prior to that he was party secretary and today he is the chief minister."

"We are the ones suffering and the least we can expect is for the money to cover our expenses."

For meeting the expenses of legislators, the Kerala budget allots a mere Rs 39 million, while for members of parliament the figure is one percent of the central budget.