A day after the ruckus over the sports bill, the state legislative assembly on the last day of its budget session passed three bills increasing allowances of the speaker, the deputy speaker, ministers and lawmakers. Notwithstanding the acrimony between legislators of the ruling Congress party and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party over the sports bill that was cleared on Thursday, the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly (Allowances & Pension of Members) Amendment Bill, 2015 was passed with a voice vote.
The three bills, tabled one after the other by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, were passed with a voice vote within ten minutes. What is more interesting is that there was no discussion on the bills.
The three amendments bills enables a steep increase in allowances which would put an additional financial burden of `3.58 crore on the cash strapped government that has been finding ways to mobilize additional resources. "Due to the sharp rise in the cost of living and the considerable expenses that members of the state legislative assembly as public representatives have to bear on account of various demands of public life, there has been persistent demand for a revision of their existing emoluments. Hence, the members amenities committee has recommended to enhance allowances and other perquisites of the members, the bill said.
The daily allowance for assembly members has been raised from `1,000 to `1,500. Likewise, the limit for reimbursement of expenses incurred on free travel facility has been increased from `75,000 to `200,000. Also, each member will be entitled to an allowance of `12,000 per month to engage a computer operator. For former legislators the limit on reimbursement of expenses incurred on free travel facility will now be `1,00,000 instead of the railway tariff of 20,000 km per annum.
For ministers and the legislative assembly speaker and deputy speaker, the limit on reimbursement of expenses incurred on free travel facility will now be `2,00,000 instead of the railway tariff of 1,00,000 km. In 2013 the state government had hiked salaries and allowances of ministers, assembly speaker and deputy speaker, chief parliamentary secretaries and MLAs.
As per the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly (Allowances & Pensions of Members) Amendment bill, 2013, the total emoluments of the legislators have gone up from `70,000 to `1,15,000 per month. Their salaries were revised from `20,000 to `30,000 per month, telephone allowance from `10,000 to `15,000 per month, constituency allowance from `35,000 to `60,000 per month and office allowance from `5,000 to `10,000 per month.
The pension of an MLA is proposed to be raised from `18,000 to `22,000 per month. The increase will entail an additional annual burden of `4.45 crore on the state exchequer. The chief minister's monthly salary and allowances were increased from `39,000 to `65,000 and those of cabinet ministers from `36,000 to `50,000. Monthly salaries of ministers of state will be raised from `33,000 to `48,000 and those of deputy ministers from `32,000 to `45,000.