MPs extract pound of flesh

MPs extract pound of flesh

A day after the salary raise was announced, the Lok Sabha wore a near-deserted look when a handful of Opposition and Treasury bench members discussed a private member resolution on “identification of families living below poverty line and welfare measures for them” – an indication of where MPs’ interests lay.

The discussion on the BPL followed with bare minimum attendance after the House was informed that the MPs’ salary row was resolved with the government assuring Opposition leaders of a more generous hike.

Sources said that the government was likely to consider increasing the emoluments of MPs marginally more than what was cleared by the Cabinet following a meeting of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee here on Saturday with parties seeking a greater hike.
Mukherjee met RJD chief Lalu Prasad,  SP president Mulayam Singh and BJP leader Gopinath Munde to hear their demand for further increase in salaries. Sources said the issue of salary hike was raised by Lalu Prasad at the meeting which was also attended by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and Ministers of State for Parliamentary Affairs Prithviraj Chavan and V Narayanasamy. The Left parties did not attend the meeting.

NDA convener and JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav informed the Lok Sabha about Mukherjee’s assurance, saying Parliament would now function without further disruptions.  
Sources said that BJP leaders told Mukherjee to evolve a mechanism so that MPs do not decide on their salaries themselves. But Lalu Prasad insisted on a hike to ensure smooth functioning of the House. The SP and JD-U leaders also sought hike in salaries in line with recommendations of a parliamentary committee. 

The leaders said after the meeting that the issue of hike had been left to Mukherjee who will hold further discussions. Sources, however, indicated that the government was willing to consider a marginal increase in allowances over those cleared by the Cabinet. The raise will also impact the pension structure MPs will be entitled to.
The salary hike Bill cleared by the Cabinet on Friday was to be introduced in the Lok Sabha on Saturday but wasn’t included in the revised list of business. The Bill seeks to raise an MP’s salary from Rs 16,000 to Rs 50,000 and double some of their perks, but parliamentarians from many parties were dissatisfied and said it was less than the Rs 80,001 as recommended by a parliamentary committee.

The meeting also ended the logjam over the passage of the Medical Council Bill without discussion, which was vociferously protested by the Opposition on Friday. The government agreed  to hold discussion under Rule 193 and consider suggestions by the Opposition.
DH News Service & Agencies

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