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Do the MPs deserve a salary hike?
Parimal Maya Sudhakar | 24 Aug 2010

Today, Indian democracy has reached a stage where elected representatives are showing no accountability about their activities and income sources. Today, every Indian has a legitimate right to vote as well as contest the election.

COMMONSENSE SEEMS to have prevailed over the Union Cabinet as it has deferred the decision to hike salaries of Members of Parliament. Noteworthy, the proposal has neither been rejected nor amended but only slated for acceptance at some good time.
 
It is proposed to raise their basic salary from Rs 16000 to Rs 50000. Apart from the basic salary, a member is entitled for numerous allowances during his tenure and life-long pension if not a member of any of the Houses. The allowances include Rs 1000 per day when Parliament is in session or meeting of a House committee is scheduled, Rs 20000 as a monthly constituency allowance, monthly office expenses of Rs 20000, apart from rent free accommodation in the capital with almost no electricity and telephone charges and a certain number of air-condition first class travel with an accompany.
 
A parliamentary panel has recommended three fold hikes in MPs basic salary with an argument that good people should be encouraged to participate in politics and become MPs. Is it the low salary and other ‘meager’ allowances for MPs that is holding back the ‘good’ people from contesting elections?
 
In fact, many of the existing ‘good’ people in various political parties resort to back door (Rajya Sabha) entry into Parliament, which includes honourable Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, rather than contesting for the Lok Sabha seat. This space is also shrinking for ‘good’ politicians as increasingly industrialists are purchasing the Upper House ticket to become a lawmaker.
 
A recent exposure by a news channel showed how the Rajya Sabha seats were on sale in the state of Jharkhand. Although, the news channel has succeeded recently in exposing the money flow in Rajya Sabha elections, the practice has started much earlier and is an established norm now. Similarly, in the state assemblies, where the upper house is in existence, rates are fixed for voting in different constituencies like teacher’s constituency, graduate’s constituency, local body representatives’ constituency etc.

Much has already been said about practice of ‘paid news’ in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections, which is again a tip of the ice berg of the huge amount spend during canvassing.

It is the election system, which is dominated by the corrupt money power that is central to who can make it to the Parliament. Hence, the issue of salary hike for MPs and other executives in government is linked to and a part of much needed electoral reforms. When MPs are demanding salary hikes to cope up with their expenditures, are they willing to forfeit rest of their income during the period of being members of apex law making body?
 
By their own account, as furnished at the time of filing nomination for election, income and property of most of the sitting MPs and MLAs has increased many folds during their five years tenure in Parliament or state assembly. Are they really serving the people effectively for which they are being elected? If yes, when and how do they get time to increase their own wealth? If not, do they have the right to claim increase in salary and allowances? Today, Indian democracy has reached a stage where elected representatives are showing no accountability about their activities and income sources.

Today, every Indian has a legitimate right to vote as well as contest the election. In practice, a citizen can vote and do vote, often toppling the incumbent governments; but they have left with no choice to elect desirable and deserving candidates. The gap between the haves and have-nots in Indian society can’t be more visible than in the electoral system. The ‘haves’ are least enthusiastic about voting but contest elections on the basis of money power and get elected to the Parliament or state assemblies.
 
The ‘have-nots’ vote enthusiastically every time but can’t contest the election due to lack of financial back-up and can never make it to the law-making bodies.
 
Yes, there are honourable exceptions to this trend. But the exceptions are there to prove the rule. Those few parliamentarians and very few of the political parties, who have shown tremendous guts and spirit to be untouched by the malice of money, must oppose and oppose out-rightly the proposed salary hike unless the larger issues of electoral reforms remain unaddressed.