Poor JK Has Affluent Legislators

Poor JK Has Affluent Legislators

12 October 2012
Greater Kashmir
Abid Bashir

Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir Government may have no money for providing subsidy to common people on cooking gas, but when it comes to pay and privileges enjoyed by legislators, the State has taken a big leap over the Central government and Members of Parliament. Besides fat salary, J&K offers mouth-watering perks, free vehicles, security, medical allowance, housing allowance, travel allowance, housing loans, free accommodation, air, road travel, almost free electricity and drinking water and what not to its legislators. While the monthly salary of a State legislator is Rs 80,300, they are entitled to a traveling allowance of Rs 1 lakh per annum. The MPs get only Rs 50,000 as monthly salary. The legislators can avail the facility of interest-free housing loan to be repaid in 72 installments. The State Cabinet recently enhanced the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) of each MLA, MLC to Rs 1.5 crore each. There are many other hidden benefits not known to the common people being enjoyed by the legislators. “A minister shall be paid traveling allowance at the rate equivalent to the cost of petrol or diesel consumed,” reads the hand book for legislators. “Chief Minister is entitled to get travel allowance for traveling 1500 kms, while the travel limit for a minister is 1000 kms a month. Similarly, MoS is also supposed to get the travel allowance for traveling 800 kms a month.” Similarly, a minister in J&K is entitled to draw personal aviation insurance of Rs one lakh and premium will be paid by the government. “A minister may draw advance TA for journeys exceeding 200 miles,” the hand book reads. It further reads that every member or a member of his family be entitled to reimbursement of Rs 50,000 a year on the production of railway receipt or air ticket. The hand book further reads that a legislator should be allowed to get an advance for the purchase of a motor car. It further states that the government may provide public telephones at the MLA hostel which can be used by the members free of cost for local calls. As for the appointment of personal assistants, any member may recommend any person who is a permanent resident of J&K other than a member of his family for the post of personal assistant. About pension, the hand book states that every member who has served as the member of constituent assembly, legislative council or legislative assembly would be entitled to the pension of Rs 23,000 a month. For an MP, Rs 20,000 has been fixed as monthly pension. One-and-a-half crore is the annual expenditure on the petrol and telephone bills of ministers. Sources said the government has also enhanced the sitting allowance for legislators for attending the legislature. “Earlier, we had Rs 500, now we get Rs 1000 a day,” a legislator said, wishing not to be quoted. As far the government is concerned, the benefits, salary hike and other allowances of legislators don’t seem to be affecting the State’s economy. “J&K’s economy is Rs 42000 crore at Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Of this, the State has only Rs 5000 crore income from tax and non-tax sources, rest is Central assistance,” said economist Professor Nisar Ali. “Of the total income, Rs 16000 is the wage bill and lesser amount remains to be spent on developmental schemes.” “Politics seems to be the best bet for unemployed youth of J&K as other avenues have dried up,” Farooq Ahmad, a Kashmir University student, said in a lighter vein. Tanvir Sadiq, who recently joined the ruling National Conference, while defending the hike in perks for the legislators, said a politician is the only person who works 24x7. “Unlike government employees who work for eight hours a day, politicians work all day for the people. So there should be no objection if they get what they deserve,” said Sadiq. He said for many youth politics means “passion”. “All don’t run after money. I believe if a legislator is paid well, the move will help eradicate corruption.”