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Modi Should Stop Salary Hikes For Indian Parliamentarians – OpEd

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The behavior of MPs inside India’s Parliament resulting in repeated disruption of proceedings have lowered the image of MPs among the people. Considering the poor standards maintained by them in the Parliament, people think they do not deserve any hike in salary and perks. Such public perception can be readily seen in social media and in several national surveys in recent times.

The Modi government should necessarily understand the public mood and avoid taking unpopular decision to hike the income of MPs. If Modi government would permit such a hike, the people’s unhappiness would become as much with Modi government, as with MPs.

MPs are not salaried class

MPs enter Parliament with the avowed objective of serving society. While MPs do need sort of remuneration and other benefits to enable them to discharge their duties, it is ridiculous to hike the salary for MPs at regular intervals just like raising the salary for wage earners in commercial establishments. MPs are deemed to be a class different from that of employees and the remuneration provided to them must necessarily take into consideration the fact that 30% of national population still live below poverty line, not knowing where their next meal would come from. MPs should not forget the fact that they have a primary responsibility to alleviate the problems of poor people and keep their sentiments in view in all their actions.

What basis salary hike ?

Apart from the fact that considering the performance of MPs they may not deserve remuneration hike, it is not clear about the basis for frequent increase in remuneration and perks. Normally, salary hike is given to the employees by any organisation based on fund availability, profitability, performance criteria and inflationary trends. There is no yardstick to measure MPs performance while frequently providing them higher remuneration and perks. Instead of evaluation by independent body, MPs just vote themselves increased income, which is an unjustifiable practice.

Rewards and no punishments

It is well known that several of MPs face murder, corruption and other criminal charges. Many of them have declared wealth which run into several crores of rupees. They are known to spend several crores of rupees for their election campaign and also pay to their party for getting nomination. Obviously, most of the MPs are not impoverished lot unlike the politicians of yester years such as Gulzarilal Nanda, Kamaraj and Lal Bahadur Shastri. Many MPs just sign and go away everyday and MPs like Tendulkar and Rekha rarely attend Parliament. Why reward them instead of punishing them for their behavior ?

Setting bad example to the countrymen

When the government employees demand more wages, go on strike in favour of such demands, the government often pleads its lack of resources. Govt also tells such govt employees that govt funds are needed for development projects to provide relief to the poor and downtrodden and promote economic and social development. When in such circumstances, MPs frequently raise their remuneration and govt is a party to this, the govt loses the credibility to insist that its employees should be concerned about the overall economy of the country while demanding wage rise, particularly when such stipulations are not thought about when revising the remuneration to MPs.

Put restrictions on business activities of MPs

Several MPs are known to be involved in profit oriented business enterprises in direct or indirect way. If income hike has to be provided to MPs, then relate them to their other sources of income so that the govt does not spend people’s money to pay the MPs who can do as well without such income. Certainly, many of these people would like to continue to remain as MPs even if they would not be paid at all, since they have several ingenious ways of making money.

Let not Modi ignore public mood

The recent decision to stop subsidy in Parliament canteen has received huge welcome in the country. While this would not be big expense for the govt., still this decision reflects the sentiments of what people think. If Modi govt. would choose to ignore the public mood and agree to hike the salary and perks for MPs, it would be squarely blamed for taking this unpopular decision and will pay a price.

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N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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