Keeping aside their political differences, lawmakers of all hues today got together in Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and Legislative Council to demand hike in their salaries by three times to touch Rs 2.5 lakh per month.
They also demanded more than three-time increase in the constituency development fund to Rs five crore from the current Rs 1.5 crore as well as raise in the wages of their assistants. The demand for raise in the salary of MLCs to Rs 2.5 lakh came in the Legislative Council while members were speaking during the discussion on budget presented on May 30.
The MLCs as well as MLAs currently get Rs 80,000 as salary besides some perks for visiting their constituencies etc. If approved, it will be third hike in the salary of legislators in the past 10 years. The demand was raised by Congress MLC G N Monga who said the legislators were being paid a meagre amount which was not enough in today’s times.
“We are paid a basic salary of Rs 35,000 which is a meagre amount. There is a need to increase our salary as we have to cater to a large public and this amount is not enough in today’s times,” Monga said and got instant support from other members, including BJP, who thumped desks.
His party colleague, Jugal Kishore, while supporting the demand, cited the example of Delhi Assembly where the salaries of MLAs were hiked. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also raised the salary of the legislators recently, Kishore said.
Ruling PDP’s MLC Surinder Kumar Choudhary said the legislators have higher protocol than the Chief Secretary of a state but less salary than him or even their personal security officer (PSO). “Even the constable with us as our PSO has a salary of Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000. Our salary should be hiked to a minimum of Rs 2.5 lakh,” he said.
Backing the demand, Qaiser Lone from opposition National Conference went a step further to say that even the pension of ex-legislators should be increased and that the members should be given laptops and tablets. “There should be a salary hike for the MLCs. Many states have hiked the salaries of the legislators and we feel there should be a hike of 200 per cent in the salary of the legislators of the House. Along with that, the pension of the ex-legislators be also hiked,” Lone said.
“We should be given laptops, I-pads as well… The legislators used to get laptops and I-pads, but since this government took over, they have not given us anything,” he said. The NC MLC also sought an increase in the constituency development fund which at present is Rs 1.5 crore. “It should be raised to the minimum of Rs five crores,” he demanded.
Not only the members from the opposition, the ruling party MLCs also supported the demand. In the Legislative Assembly too, as many as 54 MLAs from all parties signed a memorandum, seeking a hike in their salaries. The memorandum was submitted by state president of ruling BJP Sat Paul Sharma to Deputy Speaker Nazir Ahmad Gurezi, who was presiding over the proceedings at that time.
The MLAs wanted a direction from the Chair to the government for hiking the salaries. However, the deputy speaker refused to pass any direction and only forwarded the memorandum to Finance Minister Haseeb A Drabu for consideration. “It is a financial matter. The Finance Minister will examine it and make a statement in the House before the end of the ongoing session,” Gurezi said.
While taking part in the general discussion on the budget proposals, several MLAs sought a hike in the Constituency Development Fund from current Rs 1.5 crore per year to Rs Five crore. They also sought an increase in remuneration for personal assistants to the MLAs from Rs 5,000 to Rs 20,000.
Those who spoke on the issue include COngress MLAs G M Saroori and Mohammad Amin Bhat, BJP’s Sharma, Neelam Langeh and Ravinder Raina.