House unites to effect 100 pc hike in perks, pension28 March 2011
The Daily Excelsior
JAMMU: Forgetting their bitter political enmity, the entire House united itself to effect over 100 per cent increase in the salary of Chief Minister, Ministers and legislators (both MLAs and MLCs). CPM MLA M Y Tarigami raised the voice of dissent as he opposed the bill passed by the Assembly to effect a whopping hike in the salary of Ministers and legislators, which would take emoluments of MLAs and MLCs much beyond the salaries of Members of Parliament (MPs). Independent MLA from Langate, Engineer Abdul Rashid also opposed massive hike in salaries. Pension of former legislators has also been increased exactly by 100 per cent from Rs 12,500 per month to Rs 23,000 per month. The House was adjourned for more than 45 minutes by Deputy Speaker Sartaj Madni, who was in the Chair, to facilitate an all party meeting in the chamber of Speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone to evolve a consensus on the salary hike as a number of MLAs of all political parties had moved amendments to the bill seeking increase in their emoluments as high as Rs 1.15 lakh per month. While PDP leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig after the all party meeting proposed Rs 1 lakh emoluments per month for the legislators, which was welcomed by legislators of all parties, cutting across their party affiliations including those of NC, who quite often clashed with the PDP MLAs, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar proposed Rs 20,000 additional increase in the perks of Chief Minister, Ministers and legislators than what had been proposed in the bill, which was pending in the Assembly since March 23 when it was introduced in the House during budget session last year. The entire House accepted the proposal and the bill was passed unanimously excepting the voice of dissent of Mr Tarigami and Mr Rashid, who opposed the legislation. The bill would go to the Upper House in next couple of days and, if passed, to the Governor for final assent, leading to increase in the emoluments of lawmakers. As per the bill passed with amendment in the shape of additional Rs 20,000 hike proposed by Mr Sagar, the Chief Minister's perks would now go up from Rs 45,000 to Rs 90,000, Cabinet Ministers from Rs 40,000 to Rs 85,000 and Ministers of State and legislators from Rs 40,000 to Rs 80,300, nearly 100 per cent hike for all. Mr Baig proposed that the Speaker's emoluments be kept above the Cabinet Minister. Mr Sagar agreed to the proposal saying the Speaker would get Rs 5,000 more perks than the Cabinet Ministers, which would take his emoluments to Rs 90,000 per month, equal to that of the Chief Minister. However, there was no mention of the Deputy Speaker, who gets perks equal to the Minister of State. Presently, the Speaker was getting perks equal to that of a Cabinet Minister. The Upper House Chairman and Deputy Chairman also get emoluments at par with Cabinet Minister and MoS respectively. For effecting increase in the emoluments of the Presiding Officers including Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Assembly and Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Legislative Council, a separate bill is required to be passed by the House. As per the original bill, the Government had proposed Rs 70,000 per month perks for the Chief Minister, Rs 65,000 for Cabinet Ministers and Rs 60,300 for Ministers of State and legislators. As per the original bill, the State was expecting a financial burden of Rs 6.5 crore on account of increase in salary and pensions of Ministers, legislators and former legislators. The burden was now expected to touch or cross Rs 10 crore. The official figures are being worked out by the Finance Department. As the increase has been given effect of September 1, 2009, the Chief Minister, Ministers and legislators would be entitled to arrears of nearly 18 months on account of increase in their emoluments. Each Minister and legislator would be entitled to nearly Rs 7.2 lakh worth arrears. There had been demand from some PDP MLAs to give effect to hike in their emoluments from January 1, 2009. Later, PDP MLA Javaid Mustafa Mir proposed that the hike be given effect from July 1, 2009. However, the MLAs finally settled for hike as per the original date proposed in the bill i.e. September 1, 2009. The MLAs also agreed to the Government proposal for additional Rs 20,000 hike in their emoluments over and above the perks proposed in the bill, which was pending in the House since last budget session i.e. March 2010. The bill was then passed in the amended form with Mr Sagar's proposal carried for additional increase of Rs 20,000 perks. All MLAs withdrew their amendments to the bill. In addition to nearly Rs 10 crore annual burden on the State exchequer on account of increase in salary and pension of Ministers, legislators and ex-legislators, the State would have to bear nearly Rs 9 crore worth additional burden for payment of over 18 months arrears as the hike has been effected from September 1, 2009. Sources in the Civil Secretariat said they would keenly watch Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather's roadmap on payment of nearly Rs 7.2 lakh worth arrears to every Minister and MLA as the Government had announced a prolonged roadmap of five years for just 50 per cent arrears of the Government employees on account of implementation of Sixth Pay Commission while there was no roadmap for implementation of Sixth Pay Commission or payment of its arrears in the Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs), most of which were without any DA. A total of 120 legislators of both Legislative Assembly and Council including 23 Ministers and three Presiding Officers, who would immensely benefit from 100 per cent hike in their perks, which would come into effect after the bill is also approved by the Council and given nod by the Governor. The Members of Parliament are getting Rs 50,000 salary per month. The increase was effected a couple of years back and earlier they were getting Rs 18,000 per month salary. The Legislative Assembly also passed a bill to increase pension of former legislators. The bill, which was also pending since March last year, had proposed increase in monthly pension of former legislators from Rs 12,500 to Rs 17,500, medical allowance from Rs 500 to Rs 1000 and additional pension from Rs 300 to Rs 1000 per month for each completed year in excess of the first term. A number of MLAs of all political parties were on their feet proposing more increase in the pension. PDP MLA Zulfikar Ali and Congress MLA Abdul Mujeed Wani wanted the pension to be increased to Rs 30,000 per month, another PDP MLA Javaid Mustafa Mir called for raising it to Rs 40,000 per month. Several other MLAs of PDP, NC, BJP and Congress wanted the pension between Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000. PDP leader and former Minister, in addition to hike in pensions, also stressed for complete security cover and vehicles for former legislators. Mr Sagar initially proposed to further raise the pension to Rs 20,000 per month (from Rs 17,500 proposed in the bill). However, following intense pressure of the legislators of all political parties, he proposed it at Rs 23,000. The bill was later passed unanimously in the House in amended form after all MLAs withdrew their amendments. The pension of former legislators, after the bill is passed by the Upper House and assented to by the Government, would stand at Rs 23,000 per month besides Rs 1000 medical allowance and Rs 1000 additional pension for each completed year in excess of the first term. The bill deleted the clause, which provided for determination of period-term of legislators to make them entitled to pension. All former legislators irrespective of the term they had in the two Houses now would be entitled to the pension. Responding to the members' concern, Mr Sagar said he too wanted to increase pension of the former legislators further but there was a limitation that it shouldn't exceed 50 per cent of the basic pay. Some MLAs including Saifullah Mir of NC wanted medical allowance of ex-legislators to be raised to Rs 5000 per month. Speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone also expressed his helplessness in forcing the Law Minister to increase the pension further on the ground that the Government had to take various factors into account including burden on the State exchequer. 'I can't command the Government', Mr Lone said as veteran PDP leader and former Minister Moulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari and his party colleague Abdul Rehman Veeri besides several other MLAs of different political parties continued to demand increase in pension to at least Rs 25,000 per month. Mr Sagar said it was in view of the sentiments expressed in the House that he was proposing further increase in pension from Rs 17,500 per month to Rs 23,000. As former MLAs were entitled to Rs 12,500 per month pension this year, the increase has also touched exactly 100 per cent. Intervening in debate on salary and pension hike, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah called for a mechanism to be in place for periodical increase in the salary of legislators like Pay Commission of the Government employees. 'We should have a procedure in place like that of Pay Commission for the Government employees. There should be a formula and a time frame where under the matter of enhancement of salaries will be settled in a transparent manners talking experts on board for opinion', Mr Abdullah said adding that despite justified ground for raising the salaries of legislators it is difficult for the House to explain its urgency to the people. He said the demand for increasing the salary to Rs 1 lakh per month for the MLAs could not be accommodated due to lack of resources. Mr Abdullah also voiced concern over ever increasing salary and pension bill of the State, which was expected to touch Rs 14,739 crore during 2011-12 including Rs 12088 crore salaries and Rs 2651 crore pensions, which were nearly double from 2009-10 when the wage bill was Rs 7896 crore including Rs 6329 crore on salaries and Rs 1568 crore pensions. He said when the NC left the power in 2001-02, the wage bill was just Rs 3035 crore of salaries and Rs 560 crore on pensions. Observing that a five year period was a 'reasonable time frame' for effecting hike' in salaries of legislators, he asserted that it was not a crime to increase salaries of the Ministers and legislators with a consensus and transparent manner. He called for a time bound formula to effect hike in the salaries. He said the constant upward trend in price index was also a reason for hike in the salaries. Earlier, PDP MLA and former Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig strongly pleaded for increasing emoluments of the legislators to Rs 1 lakh per month saying it was a 'reasonable hike'. 'The MLAs are not begging but there are pressing reasons for the hike. The increasing price index and financial constraints have compelled the legislators to agitate for the increase in their salaries', he said. As Mr Baig took his seat, a large number of MLAs of different political parties stood up and supported the proposal of Mr Baig. CPM MLA MY Tarigami, however, opposed the increase saying his opening should be recorded. He stressed for payment of arrears of Sixth Pay Commission to employees and DA to PSUs staff. Abdul Mujeed Wani (Congress MLA from Doda) said many political leaders like Wali Mohammad Itoo, Ghulam Hassan Bhat, Mushtaq Lone and Abdul Ahad Kar have sacrificed their lives. He said the MLAs had to travel to far off areas and they can't go by bus. They had to travel in care needing a lot of petrol. Nazir Gurezi (NC) said the MLAs salary was Rs 1.30 lakh in Goa. The MLAs in Goa are given housing lone at 2 per cent interest. The Government employees get hike in their wages without asking for it. He also called for allotment of plots to the legislators. Engineer Abdul Rashid (Independent) opposed the bill saying that instead of hiking the salary, institution if the legislator should be strengthened. He also called for increasing remuneration of PAs of the MLAs. Earlier, as soon as the House assembled for the day, BJP Legislature Party leader Prof Chaman Lal Gupta said the salary bill listed for today should be passed. He stressed for meeting of the leaders of all parties to evolve a consensus saying 25 to 20 amendments have been moved to the bill. PDP leader Abdul Rehman Veeri also called for consensus on the bill. The Speaker assured the members that he would convene the meeting for the consensus. The Speaker called the meeting before the bill was taken up for consideration and passing. The Deputy Speaker, who was in the Chair, had to adjourn the House for 45 minutes as it took a lot of time for consensus on salary and pension hike. Mr Sagar said the Opposition members had asked for Rs 1 lakh perks for legislators. He added that he spoke to the Chief Minister and finally the Government has decided to settle for Rs 80,000 emoluments. Salary Hike Present Proposed Enhanced In Bill CM 45,000 70,000 90,000 Speaker 40,000 65,000 90,000 Cabinet Ministers 40,000 65,000 85,000 MoS- Legislators 40,000 60,300 80,300 Pension 12,500 17,500 23,000 Hike effected from September 1, 2009. Arrears per member approximate Rs 7.2 lakh. Arrears to cost Rs 9 crore approx. Perks hike to cost Rs 10 crore per annum to exchequer.