Himachal Pradesh legislators will be better off financially, for a 60% salary hike is slated for the entire team. Last week, the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly approved a hike in the salaries and perks of the lawmakers, chief minister, his cabinet, speaker and deputy speaker and parliamentary secretaries.
This has been the second hike that state legislators have gifted themselves generously. Telangana, last month, nodded to a bill that hiked the gross monthly salary of its legislators by 163%, surpassing the monthly packets of its Delhi counterparts.
There was much talk last year, when the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi gave itself a 400% salary hike in December. AAP, led by Arvind Kejriwal, received flak from the people for being hypocritical, and selfish. Kejriwal had risen to power a second time, after his first debacle ended in just a matter of a month.
AAP MLAs justified their step, saying they came from “humble backgrounds” and realized that “it was next to impossible… to meet both the expectations of the people and take care of responsibilities of their (legislators’) families” with the existing puny salary packet. Deputy CM Manish Sisodia defended the raise, saying it would help ensure a corruption-free environment among lawmakers.
Four months into 2016, and two states have already followed suit. For Himachal Pradesh, the monthly salary of the CM of Rs 95,000 has been raised to Rs 1.9 lakh. And this is not all. Besides the monthly salary, everyone will now be entitled to a higher “free” transport perk (from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh annually). Even previous MLAs have no reason to complain, for their pension has been raised too.
When it comes to filling its own pockets, Himachal ministers like to play it fair and square. The Congress lawmakers believe in sharing the privilege with the old and young alike. However, it’s only the state exchequer that’s going to reel under this impact with a financial burden of Rs 16.45 crore.
If flaunting the pay packets was a norm among the ministers, like it’s so natural in the corporate world, last month’s raise would give AAP MLAs serious heart burns. Till March, they were the highest earning legislator with Rs 2.4 lakh, which is likely to be toppled by Telangana lawmakers, with monthly checks of Rs 4.10 lakh.
Telangana Rashtra Samithi, run under K. Chandrashekar Rao, has chosen to turn a blind eye to the perils of its debt-ridden farmers. Over 2,100 farmer suicides have been reported in Telangana since it was born in May 2014; but only 400 families have been compensated till now. May be, the ministers too will be propelled by a fatter salary packet, and get down to improve the poor farmers’ condition. That’s the best anyone can hope for.
The state assemblies, notwithstanding their political affiliation, are generously rewarding themselves for work that has not even started yet. That’s a very far-sighted vision, and fool-proof plan to secure the future, not of the state, but of their families!