They demanded that the government project the issue in right perspective as the panel, looking into the issue of salary and allowances of MPs, decided to hold its next meeting only after the Monsoon Session amid indications that it could take back a number of its earlier proposals.
The panel refrained from discussing its core demands today amid criticism over its demands for a double hike in salary and allowances besides other perks.
While Parliamentary Affairs Ministry has already rejected most of the recommendations of the panel, voices of disapproval have also come from senior leaders of major parties like Congress and BJP.
Monsoon session, which begins on July 21 will come to an end on August 13.
Incidentally, though some leaders in both the major parties like Ahmed Patel in Congress and Shanta Kumar in BJP disapproved of the MPs’ demands, the members from all parties in the panel were almost unanimous that their salary and allowances should go up.
Members also asked BJP MP Yogi Adityanath, who heads the Joint Committee on Salaries and Allowances of Members of Parliament, to take up this issue with Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, sources said adding that a meeting between them is possible not before long over the issue. It is learnt that the Chairman expressed concern over confidential details of the panel meetings and recommendations coming out in the media.
Sources said that a senior member in the panel gave a detailed note on the salary of MPs of other Commonwealth Nations saying that members of Parliament in India are getting much less in comparison to what they are getting in some other countries.
Sources said that though the agenda of the meeting was to discuss car loan for MPs, almost half of the time of the meeting was dominated by a concern raised by MPs that the issue of their hike in salary and allowances is being projected in a manner, which is hurting their image.
Currently MPs can avail a car loan of Rs 4 lakh for which they have to pay an interest of 11.5 per cent. Some members said the amount is small to buy a good car while the interest rate is higher than what is available to general consumers.
“Many states sanction a much higher sum to their MLAs as loan for purchasing a car like Himachal Pradesh which allows up to Rs 20 lakh as loan to MLAs to buy vehicles. In Assam, it is up to Rs 30 lakh. This when there are on an average 5 to 10 assembly seats in a Parliamentary constituency. But an MP can get a loan only up to Rs 4 lakh. Similarly, an MP has to pay an interest of 11.5 per cent on his car loan while in the open market it is even as low as 10 per cent in some banks. These anomalies need to be corrected. It was discussed in detail in the meeting,” a source said.
It was found that only four to five MPs have so far availed the car loan facility, a source said.
The meeting today also saw a reiteration of demand for an independent mechanism to decide the salary and perks of MPs keeping in mind the benefits announced by various boards and commissions appointed for revision of wages of government employees, journalists and others.
A member said MPs are given one to and fro ticket to attend a whole Parliament session, which should be increased.
“Budget session is of 12 weeks, which means a member has to stay away from his home for 3 months to avail a return ticket, which he gets at the end of the budget session. This needs to be corrected,” a member said
Incidentally apart from to and fro air tickets to attend session and other meets of Parliamentary panels, members are allowed 34 air tickets a year, which are not counted for the official events. But some members feel that they should be given to and fro air tickets even in the middle of the session.
Members also feel that the exisiting amount of Rs 5 crore being given to them under MPLAD scheme should be increased as construction costs have gone up manifolds in last five to ten years.
Similarly there is a view that the current practice of allowing them to get medicines from CHGS dispensaries or Parliament Hosptial should be replaced with a system of reimbursement.
“A medicine prescribed by a local doctor in a constituency may not be available in the national capital and vice versa. Allowing reimbursement of medicines purchased will do away a lot of difficulties of members,” said a member.
Justifying the panel’s recommendation seeking free air tickets for ex-MPs, the member said how can ex-MPs from Lakshadweep and Andaman Nicobar will come to Delhi from where no train facility is available.
In today’s odd 40-minute long meeting, the members questioned why does the government not clarify the issue and inform that MPs in other Commonweath countries get much higher salaries and allowances and that some ‘anomalies’ in perks allowed to MPs need to be corrected.
“The case of the MPs are not being put up properly. Members expressed concern about it in the meeting,” a source said adding that there was a view in the meeting that almost 75 per cent MPs, who hail from modest background, should not suffer only because one fourth of MPs are affluent,” a source said.
While the government has promised to “consider in due process” the main demands of the panel including 100 per cent hike in salary, constituency allowance and office allowance of MPs and an approximately 75 per cent raise in pension of ex-MPs, it has in its action taken note on June 24 red-flagged 40 of the 65 proposals of the panel with “not accepted, no need for any change and not agreed” notings.