Friday, August 20, 2010


The credibility of our politicians is so low that the media and the public at large are sniggering at the proposal to raise the salary of MPs to 50,000 per month. Thanks mainly to their own behaviour and the brazen corruption of some of their fellowmen, we often tend to forget or ignore the fact that those are MPs and MLAs who actually perform the most important tasks in the country. For the middle class chatterati which has a ‘radical’ solution for every problem that India faces, the solution would be doing away with MPs, and perhaps even elections. Frankly, the middle class chatterati has no interest in democracy. But India cannot afford such solutions.

Given the enormity of the task they perform, I think the MPs need to be paid far more than what they get now. Look at it this way: each MP is responsible for a shareholder base of about 20 million. The actual budget of each constituency runs into hundreds of crores every year. And while district collectors and district magistrates are merely transferred for incompetence or non-performance, an MP can – and oft en does – actually lose his job! To that extent, an MP actually deserves a monthly salary of 5 Lakh per month. There should be an additional travel and other allowance of 1 lakh per month. That sounds preposterously high? It is not. Paying them these ‘reasonable’ salaries will cost the tax payer less than 1000 crores a year.

But as pointed out and suggested by this magazine and many others umpteen number of times, the problem is not paying generous salaries to our MPs – they deserve that for sure. The problem is with the ‘perks’ that they enjoy. That really is costly and something no elected representative of any functional democracy can demand as a right. Yes, by all means pay 6 lakh every month to our honourable MPs. But then stop giving them free housing in VIP Delhi. Just as it happens in UK, USA, Denmark, Australia and most other democracies, ask our honourable MPs to find their own houses-rented or owned. This will lead to enormous savings for the society – apart from making the MPs more connected with the citizens of India.

Just imagine what can happen to the Indian economy if the logic is extended to all politicians and all bureaucrats in India. They are squatting on the most prime real estate assets available in the country. For example, pay a district collector (an IAS officer) a monthly salary of 1 lakh and ask her to find her own house. Surely the rent for even a wonderful house in a small town cannot exceed 20,000? Why let her stay in a massive bungalow with acres of lawns when that land can be better utilized commercially?

You know what the answer will be when politicians and bureaucrats are actually offered this option – huge tax free salaries but no perks. They will find every possible excuse and refuse. That is because our mindset has really not changed much since the British left. Our rulers (politicians and bureaucrats) are ‘public servants’ only in name. Deep down, they treat the ‘public’ as worse than servants. Long live Indian democracy!


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