You won’t believe this. The Punjab government pays its MLAs a salary, and the income tax due on it.
For the past two years -- since Captain Amarinder Singh took over as the chief minister -- the Punjab government has been paying the income tax of its MLAs, cutting across party line.
The practice started during the rule of former chief minister Pratap Singh Kairon but at that time the CM was the only beneficiary. Amarinder threw open the benefit to all MLAs.
In the current fiscal year, the Punjab government paid Rs 137 lakh as income tax for 117 MLAs. Of this, Rs 77 lakh accounts for the taxes of the chief minister, ministers and parliamentary secretaries. The figures for last year stood at Rs 132 lakh, with Rs 74 lakh as income tax of ministers and parliamentary secretaries.
The chief minister is understandably unrepentant about it. It is to check corruption, he reasons. "We have to pay them a decent amount so that they can function with dignity," he said. "They had approached the government through the speaker and we agreed to it."
Is any one protesting? Predictably, not politicians. Even the opposition MLAs do not mind the perks. A former minister, while requesting anonymity, said, "Let us live in peace with these small mercies. Why bother with it when there are bigger issues to attend to."