The Prime Minister and Union ministers will take a 30 per cent pay cut due to coronavirus. (Express photo by Prem Nath Pandey/File)
TWO WEEKS into the 21-day lockdown, as the country prepares for the economic fallout, the Union Cabinet on Monday cleared a 30 per cent salary cut for all Members of Parliament (MPs), including the Prime Minister and Union Ministers, for a year.
In addition, the government also decided to suspend all MPLADS (Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme) funds — under which each elected MP gets Rs 5 crore annually for development work in his/ her constituency — for two financial years starting April 1. The money from the MPLADS funds — nearly Rs 8,000 crore — will go to the Consolidated Fund of India, which, the government said, will be used in the battle against COVID-19.
The government said the President, Vice-President, and state governors have also decided to take a 30 per cent salary cut for a year.
According to the ordinance to amend the Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament Act, 1954, cleared by the Cabinet on Monday, the 30 per cent cut for all MPs will be effective from April 1.
Briefing the media after the Cabinet meeting, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar said the decision has been taken keeping in mind the “social responsibility” of the MPs. “It is not about savings, but the intention behind it is more important,” he said.
Responding to a question, he said central government employees “have already given one day’s salary on their own”, but did not elaborate on whether they would face a pay cut too.
Currently, the Lok Sabha has 542 members while the Rajya Sabha has a strength of 245 members, including 12 nominated. While 55 RS members were due to retire in April, 37 have already been elected unopposed; elections for the remaining 18 seats have been deferred due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
According to the last pay hike announced in 2018, each MP draws a monthly salary of Rs 1 lakh, Rs 70,000 as constituency allowance, and Rs 60,000 for running office besides other perks.
On March 30, Telangana had announced salary cuts at all levels.
On the MPLADS funds, Javadekar said many MPs had already donated from their fund for the COVID-19 fight.
According to information shared by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat last week, 74 Rajya Sabha members had contributed a total of Rs 100 crore, and 265 Lok Sabha members had given a total of Rs 265 crore.
Javadekar said the government had announced various other measures “worth lakhs of crores of rupees”, including the PM Garib Kalyan scheme.
“The government has taken several major steps. And when such steps are being taken, it should start from itself. That is the intention behind this,” he said, adding that the “will of the Members of Parliament” is reflected in the Cabinet’s decision.
Asked if there were any discussions on extending the lockdown beyond April 14, Javadekar said: “We are monitoring the world situation every minute, and therefore decisions are taken ultimately in the nation’s and people’s interest. That decision will be declared when it is the right time… Empowered committees have been created, the situation is changing every day and is being monitored continuously”.
Meanwhile, the Congress welcomed the decision on a salary cut, but was divided on the move to suspend the MPLADS fund. While some party MPs like Jairam Ramesh and Abhishek Singhvi welcomed the MPLADS decision, many others slammed the move. Lok Sabha MP Manish Tewari said the decision to suspend the MPLADS fund was “ill thought out” and a “knee-jerk reaction”.
The CPI(M), too, criticised the move, with party general secretary Sitaram Yechury saying the government was “taking away expenditure which would have attended to unique requirements of an area”. Saying that “this centralisation goes against federalism”, he added: “If there’s no money with the government, why doesn’t it abandon the Central Vista project in Delhi?”
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