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MPs get a pay hike but scrapped travel perk might pinch

In the latest finance bill introduced in Parliament during the presentation of the Union budget, Arun Jaitley proposed enhancing the taxable basic salary of MPs from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh a month.

india Updated: Feb 04, 2018 08:26 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Parliamentarians,MPs,Pay hike
Rajya Sabha in session in New Delhi. (PTI file)

Parliamentarians are set to get a 100% hike in basic pay from April this year but abolition of a tax-free travel allowance could reduce the bonanza, especially for MPs representing far-flung constituencies.

In the latest finance bill introduced in Parliament during the presentation of the Union budget on Thursday, finance minister Arun Jaitley proposed enhancing the taxable basic salary of MPs from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh a month.

But a component of their travel allowance — which is an additional one-fourth of the total airfare — has been scrapped. The Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament Act, 1954, says “if the journey is performed by air, an amount equal to one and one-fourth of the airfare for each such journey” will be reimbursed. The finance bill abolishes this additional “one-fourth”.

Parliamentarians from southern Indian states or the Northeast may lose more money under this head than their north Indian counterparts as the amount of allowance is proportionate to the price of tickets.

For instance, a one-way Chennai-Delhi business class ticket on Air India costs Rs 24,000, while an Amritsar-Delhi flight is available for Rs 13,000. An MP travelling from Chennai would earn Rs 6,000 as allowance, while his colleague from Punjab would earn Rs 3,250.

And if the MP makes four official trips a month, he will earn at least Rs 2.8 lakh a year. This was in accordance with the “one-fourth” rule.

“We wish to know whether public servants are denied travel allowance when they travel for official work. I wish to point out that MPs don’t make pleasure trips to Delhi. They come here for serious work,” said Biju Jata Dal’s Lok Sabha leader Bhartruhari Mahtab, who attends at least two House panel meetings every month.

The government has retained the 34 complimentary tickets issued to MPs for travelling across the country a year. These tickets, usually used for personal travel and party work, don’t attract travel allowances.

Government officials said a parliamentarian’s total monthly pay package may go up from Rs 1.4 lakh to Rs 2.3 lakh. Apart from the hike in basic salary, the constituency allowance is likely to rise from Rs 45,000 to Rs 70,000 and office expenses and secretarial assistance from Rs 45,000 to Rs 60,000, they said.

For parties such as the CPI(M), the travel allowance is what the parliamentarian takes home as their salary is deposited in the party’s coffers as cess.

“But we have to adjust to the amendments as the additional airfare was an entitlement and not a right,” said Mohammad Salim, the party’s Lok Sabha leader.

First Published: Feb 04, 2018 08:26 IST