There can be no perks in perpetuity for lawmakers
This sense of entitlement is so deep that some lawmakers --- and their families after their deaths --- refuse to leave their official accommodation or give up other perkseditorials Updated: Apr 28, 2017 07:30 IST
A beginning of a new financial year for appraisals in the private sector. Now the Rajasthan government seems to be following suit. On Wednesday, the BJP government increased the salary and allowances of the chief minister, ministers, legislators as well as the pension for former lawmakers after the assembly passed the Rajasthan Minister’s Salaries (Second Amendment) Bill, 2017. The proposed increase in salaries is estimated to involve a recurring expenditure of about Rs 1.55 crore per annum. The basic salary of an MLA has been increased from Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000; travel allowance from Rs 1.5 lakh (annually) to Rs 2 lakh; secretarial allowance from Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000; daily allowance from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500; sumptuary (in other words, food) allowance from Rs 30,000 to Rs 45,000; and vehicle allowance from Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000. “Looking to the present level of prices, the existing salary and sumptuary allowance payable appears to be inadequate. Under these circumstances, it has been considered expedite to increase the salary and sumptuary allowance…,” chief minister Vasundhara Raje said.
Even if we take these as modest raises, what is absolutely galling is what the state has decided to give former chief ministers: They will get for the remainder of their lives a government residence, a car that members of his or her family can also use, a telephone, and a staff of 10, including a driver. These facilities are available to former chief ministers, but through executive orders. But now they have got constitutional sanctity.
In no other country do public representatives get perks in perpetuity. In India, of course, the scene is different: Lawmakers are entitled to houses in the toniest of localities, vehicles and personal staff, free travel and telephone calls. This sense of entitlement is so deep that some lawmakers --- and their families after their deaths --- refuse to leave their official accommodation or give up other perks. This penchant for squatting in government bungalows has also started afflicting bureaucrats. In 2014, the government had to disconnect power and water connections to the houses of around 30 former MPs and cabinet ministers who refused to vacate their plush bungalows in spite of several eviction notices. There is nothing wrong in paying lawmakers well according to market rates, but there should be no perks in perpetuity for them.