Bhubaneswar, October 13: The recent hike in the salary of MLAs has come in for sharp criticism from all quarters. Not that the elected representatives are the only ones to have got a pay check raise because employees of the state government have got it too. But the MLAs received a pretty good jump as compared to others and in the last 10 years, it is the third revision in their salary.
With the new hike, the monthly salary and allowances of an MLA of the State Assembly has surpassed Rs 1 lakh. Chief Minister, Council of Ministers, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Leader of Opposition, Government Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip have also got a commensurate raise. The question agitating the mind of the public which eventually pays for it is: Is the hike justified?
It was in the year 1952 when for the first time, salary provision for the MLAs was implemented, all over the country. But that time it was intended to meet their basic requirements as a public representative. So that time, a very nominal amount was set as their salary. Gradually, with higher cost of living, their salary too was raised and during 60s, it was nearly Rs. 1000 per month.
Then, during the 70s, this amount was increased to Rs. 6000, and then again, it was revised at Rs. 9000 during 1990. In 2000, it was again increased by Rs. 3000 and the salary of an MLA was fixed at Rs. 12,000 per month. Three years later, from Rs. 12,000 per month, the salary of an MLA rose to Rs. 21,950.
However, in 2011, a major pay hike took place when the monthly package shot up almost three-fold, from Rs 21,950 per month to Rs 60,000 per month. Of course, currently, it is almost double the amount.
Salary apart, the MLAs are also entitled to pension, post retirement (provided they have served for a particular period of time), which too has been doubled from Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 60.000 at present.
However, it is seen that many of the MLAs who were earlier in some government job or working for a similar profile before joining politics, are either enjoying both salary as an MLA and pension as a retired employee or a ‘double’ pension if retired from politics.
With 147 MLAs in the state, the government is spending more than Rs. 2.5 crores per month per year towards their salary and pension which is amounting to about Rs. 30 crores in a year!
Voicing his opinion about the issue, one of the renowned leaders of the state and political analyst Panchanan Kanungo told MCL, “I think I support the hike in salary because it is not just a matter of money, it is also intended to bring in probity and propriety in public life. These days, the requirement of a public figure is much higher that what it used to be earlier. Many a times, politicians get forced to resort to unethical practices to manage all their responsibilities. So, the hike has been implemented to keep them away from such practices while the pension provision is made for their future security, so that they work honestly for the public and the society. In fact, I am hopeful that this step would bring about a social reformation and make people respect politics and politicians much more.”
However, on the matter of a ‘double’ pension provision or that of salary and pension together, he said, “This is not at all acceptable that one person should enjoy both salary and pension or double pension. Although on this head, the government does not spend a huge amount but it should not be encouraged. As per the standard rule, a person should avail either pension or salary, or any one pension,whichever is more. But I understand that there are about 10 to 15 such leaders who are enjoying both the benefits. I feel they should voluntarily forego any one of the two and strict rule should be implemented to stop such a practice.”
While Kanungo criticised the double pension provisions but spoke in favour of the salary hike, retired bureaucrat Bijoya Mohanty had a completely different opinion to this issue. “This revised salary has been implemented completely in favour of the MLAs. There is no such necessity to pay such huge amount to these politicians. Because with more money, they would get more scope to manipulate voters and the system. As far as pension is concerned, the rule says that government employees are eligible for pension only after working for 30 years but in our state, many politicians are enjoying the pension facility even after working for just one or two terms, which isn’t fair.”
He further added, “You cannot bring in ethics in the system by increasing the remuneration of public representatives. It is a self-made thing. For example,during early days, most of the politicians were very honest and fully dedicated towards their work and society, despite getting a nominal salary. Like the then MLA Gopabandhu Dash used to contribute his entire salary for the education of students in his constituency. So, I don’t think an increased salary will bring in reformation. Rather, it may increase the audacity of certain politicians to do more manipulation and also it may lead to greater competition and encourage many to try getting the post only for power and money.”
“I think in the current scenario, such a huge amount of money should not be spent towards salary of political leaders. Rather, the amount should be used for productive and developmental work in the state,” he concluded.
Sketches Courtesy: Satish Acharya