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Tamil Nadu MLA salaries: A pay hike at this juncture reflects insensitivity

A 90% pay hike for Tamil Nadu MLAs should not have come at a time when the state is looming under a severe drought and tackling an agrarian crisis

editorials Updated: Jul 20, 2017 18:49 IST
Hindustan Times
Tamil Nadu MLA salary,pay hike,drought
The drought — exacerbated after Tamil Nadu received the lowest rainfall in 140 years — has led to widespread protests(PTI)

In what is clearly a case of misplaced priorities and bad timing, on Wednesday legislators in Tamil Nadu decided to congratulate themselves for the work they’ve being doing for the past one year. Chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami announced a pay hike for all its 235 members from Rs 55,000 to Rs 1,05,000 with retrospective effect from July 1. Cutting across party lines legislators agreed to a 90.91% increase in their salary — and this could not have come at a more inappropriate time.

It’s not clear how the Palaniswami government justifies the pay hike, but it cannot be on the basis of performance. That is because in the past one year it has done little by way of real governance. Till December the focus of the legislators from the ruling AIADMK was on the health of then chief minister J Jayalalithaa. Since then they have been caught up in an open war between Sasikala Natarajan and O Panneerselvam that has split the party into two camps.

The government’s response to cyclone Vardah in December, the Jallikattu protests in January, and, more importantly, to the severe drought crisis has been, to put it mildly, wanting. The drought — exacerbated after the state received the lowest rainfall in 140 years — has led to widespread protests. About 100 farmers from the state are protesting at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, demanding that the governments at the Centre and state take heed of the agrarian crisis and meet their demands. In April, the Supreme Court noted that the State’s lack of concern for the plight of the farmers was not acceptable and that it had to “rise up to the occasion”.

That said, there is a case for legislators to be well paid. When compared to their counterparts from other states, a pay hike for Tamil Nadu MLAs is not an excessive demand. But it could have been done at a time when the economy and public sentiment was upbeat. At this juncture a pay hike only magnifies the insensitivity towards the plight of many people in Tamil Nadu who are facing trying circumstances.

First Published: Jul 20, 2017 16:29 IST