Madam Speaker, we don't deserve fat pay cheques: Varun Gandhi
Who doesn't want a good raise? Our politicians sure do. But not Varun Gandhi, it seems.
In recent years Indian lawmakers – be they members of Parliament or various state Assemblies – have given themselves generous hikes in pay and perks. We the people – those they represent – haven't really been that lucky.
While some of us, with secure jobs in cities, have not been that badly hit, many many more have had it rough:
* Farmers have been killing themselves at an alarming rate for almost two decades now
* Traditional craftsmen have not been able to compete with cheap automation
* More and more people have had to leave the countryside to look for employment
* What they find mostly are jobs in the unorganised sector – where no one plays by any rule
* A social security net, meanwhile, remains non-existent
Tuesday Varun Gandhi, the Bharatiya Janata Party member who represent Sultanpur (Uttar Pradesh) in Lok Sabha made a point of these in the House. He asked: Why should the pay cheques of India's elected representatives get fatter? What have they done to earn that? And he wanted the law makers to stop comparing their salaries with the private sector.
Here's what he had to say:
A few weeks ago, a farmer from Tamil Nadu tried to take his own life in the national Capital, in order to register his protest against the suffering of farmers in the State. we know that in the past months, members of the same group had drank their own urine, demonstrated skulls of fellow farmers who had committed suicide, in order to make their point strongly. On the 19th of July, Madam, the Tamil Nadu Assembly in a brazenly insensitive act, doubled the salaries of its legislators.
Madam, in the meeting of the first cabinet meeting of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the entire Cabinet took a collective decision to not avail of their salaries for 6 months in view of the economic suffering of the citizens at the time.
Members of the Constituent Assembly, like Shri Biswanath Das from Odisha, chose to draw only Rs 25 a day instead of Rs 45 a day, which they were entitled to, saying that he did not need/require any more.
V.I. Muniswami Pillai, in 1949, moved a motion in the Madras Assembly to impose a voluntary cut of Rs 5 per diem in recognition of the suffering of the farmers. The Assembly unanimously passed the motion.
Madam, in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, a model our parliament is derived from, an independent authority – Review Body on Senior Salaries – consisting of distinguished non-members, advise the government on the pay and pensions of MPs. This authority takes into account the recommendations of both the beneficiaries and the public. It then checks the validity and affordability of these recommendations. Such a mechanism does not exist in out nation, sadly.
Madam, arrogating to ourselves the authority to increase our own fiscal compensation is not in line with the morals of our democracy.
Gandhi ji wrote, “In my opinion, the allowances drawn by the Members of Parliament and various Assemblies must be in proportion to the services rendered to the nation”.
Madam, as compared to a 13% rise in the UK, we have raised our salaries 400% in the last decade. Have we really earned this massive increment?
Madam, if we look at our performance over the last two decades:
Barely 50% of the bills have been passed after scrutiny from Parliamentary Committees. When bills pass without serious deliberation, it defeats the purpose of having a Parliament. The House itself has been created to dissect, analyse, debate laws, and ensure that every law has a strong policy mechanism behind it. The rush to pass bills shows a priority for politics and not policy.
41% of bills introduced have been passed without discussion.
There are those who say that MPs should be paid in line with the private sector. Madam, those employed in the private sector are driven primarily by their self-interest. Ours is a service to the nation, a mission to make this the India of our dreams. To compare these two motives is to misunderstand the commitment to public life.
Madam, when matters regarding salary are raised recurrently, it makes me worry about the moral compass of the House. Nearly 18,000 farmers have committed suicide over the last one year. Where is our focus?
Madam, I don’t want to bring up the issues of MPs taking cash for asking questions or cash for votes, but I must lastly add that from a number of sittings in the Lok Sabha of 123 days a year in 1952, we dropped to 75 in 2016. Sessions like the Winter Session of 2016 hit a low-point of 16%. It is shameful. Taxation bills, as significant as Aadhaar, were passed within two weeks without being referred to a committee.
In conclusion, for the greater good of this nation, we must create an external body, independent of us members, to determine salaries. Or, if we self-regulate, considering the economic conditions of the last man in society, we must empathetically forgo our privileges, at least for the duration of this parliament.
Edited by Joyjeet Das