New Delhi

A 300-percent salary hike plus doubling of generous allowances is in the offing for our MPs, never mind that the majority of them are crorepatis, or millionaires as revealed by their declared assets! The MPs, of course, insist what they get is woefully short of what is required to discharge their duties as peoples representatives.

According to available data, 315 of the 543 MPs in the current Lok Sabha are crorepatis. They include 275 male MPs and 40 women, as per data compiled by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW).

There were 156 crorepatis in the 2004 Lok Sabha and the number increased by 102 percent in the present Lok Sabha.

The average asset of an MP in the previous Lok Sabha was Rs.0.86 crore, which shot up to Rs.5.33 crore in the present house.

Among MPs who contested both the 2004 and 2009 elections, the percentage growth in assets has been 289 percent.

Among the 183 Rajya Sabha MPs whose asset details were analysed by ADR-NEW in April this year, 54 percent are millionaires.

Most parties preferred nominating candidates with high assets during the June Rajya Sabha biennial elections, according to an analysis of the affidavits of 49 of 55 seats.

Out of 54 contesting candidates, 43 (79.6 percent) were millionaires. Of the winners, 38 out of 49 (77.6 percent) had assets in millions of rupees. The average asset for the candidates was Rs.24.45 crore, and for the winners it was Rs.25.24 crore.

This will cost the exchequer a recurring annual expenditure of Rs.103.76 crore, according to available figures and compiled data.

Except for the Left parties, none of the political parties has voiced opposition to the salary hike. And what is more interesting: none of them has said their MPs will forgo the increase.

A few MPs who spoke to IANS on condition of anonymity justified the demand for a hike in salaries and allowances, saying what they get was far below what their counterparts got in other democracies. They said while it was easy for MPs with business backgrounds to serve their electorate and meet office expenses, it was difficult for members with limited means to do so.

A Lok Sabha MP from Punjab said a parliamentarian has to maintain at least two offices - at his home and at his residence in Delhi. "Each of these offices requires staff of about four people - a cook, a driver and assistants. Their salaries are to be paid by the MP. Some MPs also maintain offices in different areas of the constituency," he said.

An MP from Uttar Pradesh said they also have to attend to their electorate who visit their offices and incur fuel expenses on travel within the constituency.

The Lok Sabha last week cleared the bill, seeking amendments to the Salaries and Allowances of Members of Parliament Act, 1954. It will now have to be cleared by the Rajya Sabha, the upper house.

It seeks to hike MPs salaries from Rs.16,000 to Rs.50,000 per month and double their daily allowance of Rs.1,000 for each day when parliament is in session or for taking part in house committee meetings.

Besides, a constituency allowance of Rs.20,000 a month and an office expense allowance of Rs.20,000 each month has also been raised to Rs.45,000 per month. The MPs conveyance allowance will now be Rs.4 lakh from Rs.1 lakh earlier.

The legislation also enhances pension for former members from Rs.8,000 to Rs.20,000 per month.

The increase will be given with retrospective effect since the beginning of the current Lok Sabha, the 15th, which means MPs will get arrears from May 2009. A one-time expenditure of Rs.118 crore would be incurred on account of the arrears of salary and pension from May last year to July this year.

Jagdeep Chhokar, a founding member of ADR, suggested that the emoluments to MPs should be measured on "cost to nation" basis as is done in companies where the concept is of "cost to company".

"After factoring in the cost of all the perquisites - including housing, travel, loans and allowances - it should be decided if there should be a hike in MPs salary," Chhokar told IANS. He said a commission with transparent and objective mechanism should be set up for the purpose.

BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said the hike was necessary but an index-based mechanism should be evolved to decide the quantum and timing of hike. Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said the government had decided on a hike only after proper consultations with all parties.

Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Basudeb Acharya said the party was against the hike as common people were already having to cope with the price rise and would find such demands from their political representatives unjustified.

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