New Delhi

With Members of Parliament (MP) most often bearing the brunt of public criticism for getting "hefty pay and perks", the parliamentary affairs ministry has proposed an independent commission to recommend salaries and allowances for MPs.

Even as Parliamentary Affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu expressed hope that such a commission (if agreed to by parliamentarians) would bring in a "transparent and equitable" mechanism to ensure that salaries are not so low that they defer suitable candidates; questions are being raised about the entire issue of MP emoluments itself.

MP salaries are governed by the Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament Act, 1954 which has been amended over the years to revise the pay of MPs. (HOW AN MP’S SALARY COMPARES WITH THAT OF A SENIOR BUREAUCRAT)

After it was amended last in 2010, MPs at present draw a basic salary of Rs 50,000 per month. Apart from this, they draw Rs 2,000 as daily allowance when Parliament is in session, Rs 45,000 as office allowance and Rs 45,000 as Constituency allowance. Apart from these, as per the Act they are entitled to travel, housing and medical benefits as well as a travel allowance.

As per the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), "on an average, an MP of the 16th Lok Sabha took home Rs 20.5 lakh in salary and allowances in the first ten months." According to ADR, Rs 112 crore was spent on the MPs of the 16th Lok Sabha.

Professor Jagdeep Chhokar (formerly Director IIM Ahmedabad) of Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) speaking to Business Standard said, "The terminology of 'salary' for MPs is completely misleading and erroneous, it gives a very limited picture. It does not take into consideration the ample non-monetised benefits such as free travel for a companion on air and railways, the prime locality housing they get in the capital, the medical benefits, et cetera." Chhokar argues that such "hidden subsidies" must be removed and quantified before the issue of revision of salaries is debated. "Its not a question of how much they get but rather how much is spent by the nation to keep an MP," asserts Chhokar.

On the other hand, advocating better pay packets for legislators, President, PRS Legislative Research, MR Madhavan speaking to Business Standard said, "MPs should be paid well but in order to bring in transparency all allowances need to be converted to cash. Not just MPs but for all government servants, the housing in premium Lutyens Delhi needs to be done away with and like it is done globally they are given a housing allowance." Madhavan reiterates one of the means for determining MP emoluments could be to peg it to pay commission of civil services like France does or rationalise allowances to bring in transparency.

The issue was slated to be discussed at the All India Whips' Conference at Visakhapatnam; but whether a commission is finally set up or not, MP pay packets have always been in the eye of the storm, more so when routinely washed out parliament sessions are the norm and not the exception.

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