The TRS government in Telangana, which had given a three-fold salary hike to its lawmakers, increasing their monthly income from Rs 1.3 lakh to Rs 4.25 lakh, has cut it down to Rs 2.5 lakh per month in the face of growing criticism from pressure groups. However, Telangana MLAs and MLCs have been substantially compensated with perks and emoluments unrivalled by other states. The monthly salary of the Chief Minister has been raised from Rs 2.44 lakh to Rs 4.21 lakh, with effect from 1 April 2016.
Sources in the legislature secretariat told the The Sunday Guardian that the Telangana CM has perhaps become the highest paid CM in the country. The state’s MLAs and MLCs, too, are the highest paid lawmakers. In fact, if their salary and perks are counted together, their total monthly income surpasses that of the MPs.
The salaries of the Speaker of the Assembly and the Chairman of the Legislative Council have also been increased to Rs 4.11 lakh from Rs 2.42 lakh per month. In terms of compensation, they are ahead of the state’s ministers whose pay has been increased from Rs 2.42 lakh to Rs 4 lakh per month. The chief whip and two government whips will get a hike at par with the ministers.
The Assembly amenities committee led by Legislature Affairs Minister T. Harish Rao has recommended a pay hike of up to Rs 4.25 lakh to all the 120 MLAs and 40 MLCs last month. But this proposal evoked sharp criticism from civil society groups and political parties which do not have any representation in the Assembly, like Lok Satta and Aam Admi Party, forcing the government to slash the hike.
However, the MLAs and MLCs have been given handsome perks that include the offer of house sites measuring 500 sq yards at a prime location in the city for around Rs 4 crore, less than 10% of the market rate.
All the 17 MPs from Telangana, too, would get the house sites. The government also has offered an interest free vehicle loan of up to Rs 30 lakh. The MLAs and MLCs would be provided with an office-cum residence in their respective constituencies, a first-of-its-kind facility.
The lawmakers are happy that they have got a bouquet of perks along with the over 200% hike. They are overjoyed at KCR’s promise to revise the salary again next year. But what brought real joy to the MLAs is the increase in their Constituency Development Fund from the present Rs 1.5 crore to Rs 3 crore per year beginning 1 April. This fund will be entirely at the discretion of the MLAs and MLCs who can decide and allot it for development work to the beneficiaries.
Other facilities like a hike in the pension of former members from a minimum Rs 15,000 (for those with a single term) to Rs 25,000 and a maximum of Rs 25,000 (for those with more than three terms) to Rs 50,000 has brought cheers to lawmakers cutting across party lines. The free medical bill limit will be increased from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh to all.
Besides that, the KCR government, which has passed a surplus Rs 1.30 lakh crore annual budget for 2016-17, gifted iPhones, iPads and a gift shopping coupon of Rs 14,000 to all the MLAs and MLCs after Appropriation Bill was cleared by the House on Tuesday. KCR hosted a sumptuous dinner for the House members at Taj Falaknuma on Thursday night.
M. Padmanabha Reddy, secretary of Forum for Governance, a Hyderabad based NGO that strives for reforms in public sphere, told The Sunday Guardian that though there was nothing wrong in the hike, the manner of its execution was not correct. “Even MPs follow the procedure of some scrutiny before hike, but it was not the case in Telangana,” he said.
However, Minister Harish Rao refuted the charges and told this correspondent: “We have done a lot of exercise before the pay hike to legislators and studied the situation across the country. Madhya Pradesh, too, is going to increase legislators’ pay, while other states are toying with the idea. The burden on the MLAs and MLCs has gone up and there is nothing wrong in the hike,” he said.