Monday, September 21, 2009

Members of Parliament: Politics of Legislative Perks

Members of Parliament:

A very interesting view of how our MPs grew with time. This table begins with the Members of the Central Legislative Assembly under the British Rule in 1921.
Whether our elected representatives deserve this growth? Whether they deserve more in order to attract the brightest and the best to the legislature? Or whether we should expect them to go back to the Gandhian sentiments? These are some of the issues that need to be seriously discussed.

1921: Central Legislative Assembly (under British rule): Rs 21 (daily allowance)
1945: Central Legislative Assembly (under British rule): Rs 30 (daily allowance) , and Rs 15 conveyance allowance
1946: Central Legislative Assembly (under British rule): Rs 45 (daily allowance)

1949 to 1954: Constituent Assembly, and First Lok Sabha: Rs 40 daily allowance
1954: Member of Parliament: Salary Rs 400 per month, Rs 21 daily allowance
1964: Member of Parliament: Salary Rs 500 per month, Rs 31 daily allowance
1969: Member of Parliament: Salary Rs 500 per month, Rs 51 daily allowance
1983: Member of Parliament: Salary Rs 750 per month, Rs 75 daily allowance
1985: Member of Parliament: Salary Rs 1,000 per month, Rs 75 daily allowance
1988: Member of Parliament: Salary Rs 1,500 per month, Rs 150 daily allowance
1993: Member of Parliament: Salary Rs 1500 per month, Rs 200 daily allowance
1998: Member of Parliament: Salary Rs 4,000 per month, Rs 400 daily allowance
2001: Member of Parliament: Salary Rs 12,000 per month, Rs 500 daily allowance
2006: Member of Parliament: Salary Rs 16,000 per month, Rs 1,000 daily allowance

1976: Pension for MPs

This is extracted from a very insightful analysis of the pay and perks enjoyed by our elected representatives.
"By the members, for the members" by Era Zezhiyan (former Member of Parliament from Tamil Nadu), published in Frontline magazine, 9-22 Sept 2006
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The Salaries and Allowances Act has been amended 27 times since 1954. The Joint Committee on Salaries and Allowances for MPs was constituted in September 1954 to frame the rules under the Act. The Committee consists of 10 members nominated by the Lok Sabha Speaker and five nominated by the Rajya Sabha Chairman.

The Committee determines its own rules of procedure and is empowered to make, after consulting the government, rules on matters specified in Sub section (3) of Section 9 of the Act.
Its reports are not presented to Parliament. The rules do not take effect until they are approved and confirmed by the Rajya Sabha Chairman and the Lok Sabha Speaker, and are published in the Gazette. Such publication, under the Act, is the conclusive proof that rules have been duly made.
... ... ...

In India, the members of the Central Assembly received Rs.20 per diem in 1921. In May 1945, they were paid a daily allowance of Rs.30 and a conveyance allowance of Rs.15, which were consolidated to Rs.45 and continued to be paid to the members of the Constituent Assembly from December 1946 onwards.

Mahatma Gandhi insisted that persons in public life should take a minimum salary, just enough to maintain a simple life. Some members of the Constituent Assembly chose to draw only Rs.30 and several others surrendered their allowances to the local Congress committees and took lesser amounts fixed by the party.

When the Draft Constitution provision on the salaries and allowances of the MPs came up for discussion on May 20, 1949, a suggestion was made to pay between Rs.750 and Rs.1,000 as monthly salary. There was strong objection to this high amount and the Assembly retained the daily allowance of Rs. 45. Even this was considered too much in the context of the extent of poverty prevailing in India. On October 17, 1949, V.I. Muniswami Pillai (Madras) moved a resolution to reduce the daily allowance to Rs.40. He said: "I know as a matter of fact that this is a small sacrifice. This august body has to give a lead to the country to improve the economic conditions that prevail today... I contacted many members of this august Assembly and found that they are all unanimously of the opinion that a five-rupee cut in the daily allowance will not be a hardship." The amendment was accepted unanimously and the daily allowance of Rs. 40 was in force from that date in the Constituent Assembly, the Provisional Parliament and the First Lok Sabha until 1954.

Article 102 of the Constitution provides that members shall be entitled "to receive such salaries and allowances as may from time to time be determined by Parliament law". Accordingly, Speaker G.V. Mavlankar appointed a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), which recommended a daily allowance of Rs.35 without any salary or other remuneration. This meant a reduction of Rs.5 in daily allowance, which was not acceptable to the post-Independence MPs. After some animated discussion, the Members returned the proposal to the JPC for reconsideration. In its second report, the Committee recommended either a monthly salary of Rs.300 plus a daily allowance of Rs.20 or Rs.40 per diem.
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In his introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution by A.V. Dicey, E.C.S. Wade cautioned: "It must not be forgotten that the inevitable consequence of the supremacy of Parliament in the legislative field is that there can be no check upon the unscrupulous use of power by a government which finds itself in command of a majority in the House of Commons."
This should serve as a warning to the Members who succeeded in establishing a temporary majority in Parliament in order to effect a steep hike in their pay and perks.
A political decision should be backed by political morality. Without morality, no decision lasts long in a functioning democracy.

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