Telangana’s legislators will soon become the highest paid lawmakers in the country, with their salary set to jump from Rs 1.3 lakh per month to a staggering Rs 4.25 lakh per month. The K. Chandrasekhar Rao led Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government has agreed to a proposal to this effect made by the Legislative Amenities Committee this week.
A bill will be passed in the current budget session of the Assembly next week and the revised salary will be paid to the lawmakers from 1 April 2016. This will benefit 119 MLAs and 40 MLCs in a state which is heavily dependent on deficit financing for the coming year. The total debt for the year 2016-17 is put at Rs 1.38 lakh crore in the budget, with interest payment of around Rs 22,000 crore per annum.
As per the decision of the amenities committee headed by Legislative Affairs Minister T. Harish Rao, the members’ monthly salary will be hiked from the present Rs 95,000 to Rs 3.5 lakh, while house rent allowance will go up from Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000 and secretarial allowance from Rs 10,000 to Rs 25,000.
The committee had also decided to enhance the interest free loan to MLAs and MLCs to purchase vehicles from Rs 15 lakh to Rs 40 lakh. However, the government cut down the proposal to Rs 30 lakh. The monthly pension of the MLAs and MLCs will be increased to Rs 50,000 per month, from the existing average pension of Rs 25,000 per month.
The government has agreed to the amenities panel’s suggestion that the monthly pension of a member will be decided irrespective of the period of her or his tenure in the House. Currently, a minimum period of two years is a must for the average pension. The government has decided to remove the upper limit on the medical bills to be paid to both members and former members.
The entire enhanced package is expected to put a burden of around Rs 50 crore per annum on the exchequer. Surprisingly, members of all parties in the Assembly—TRS, Congress, TDP, BJP, MIM, CPI and CPM—have come together in recommending the revised salary and perks to themselves. Even Chief Minister KCR has expressed his happiness that the members have unanimously taken a decision on this.
The Chief Minister has brushed aside any possible criticism on the ground that not only the legislators work very hard, but they also end up spending more from their pocket than they earn. “The bill will be passed next week,” Harish Rao told The Sunday Guardian.
R. Krishnaiah, former Telegu Desam Party MLA, who is now an Independent, however, said that it was not proper on the part of the legislators to increase their salary so steeply at a time when the state was grappling with a serious drought problem. “People will hate us if we hike our own salary like this,” he told this newspaper.
Sources in the Legislative Secretariat told this correspondent that most of the members were not paying their staff the actual allowances they get from the government. “Most of the members are also on one or the other House committee. They draw allowances from the respective departments to pay their secretaries or personal assistants. This way they will save their secretarial allowances,” said an official.
Besides that, the members claim travel allowances from the government by showing their personal travel as official. The MLA’s salary in united AP was stagnant for a long time until 2012 when former CM Kiran Kumar Reddy of the Congress enhanced it from Rs 45,000 per month to Rs 1.30 lakh per month.