The Indian government has cleared a 300 percent salary hike for MPs and doubled their perks. However, parliamentarians from various parties are still dissatisfied and want more money.
Parliament House in New Delhi
MPs are currently paid 16,000 Indian rupees (ca. 270 euros) a month and get a daily allowance of 1,000 when parliament is in session. They will now get 50,000 rupees and their perks will also be doubled.
However, many MPs were hoping for more.
A parliamentary committee had requested 80,001 rupees - the argument being that MPs should at least get one rupee more than India's top bureaucrats because they work far more than civil servants and deserve a bigger raise, but this recommendation was overturned.
Protests in parliament
The government's decision triggered protests as soon as it was announced. Members of the regional parties, including the Samajwadi Party (SP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Janata Dal-United (JD-U), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Shiv Sena and Akali Dal demanded that the proposed increase by the cabinet be withdrawn.
The government on its part argued that the Bill would be taken up for discussion and it would see if there was merit for a further hike.
Some ministers, including Home Minister P Chidambaram and Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said it was not the right time to be asking for higher salaries.
The recent hike in petrol prices and the slew of corruption allegations regarding the upcoming Commonwealth Games make it difficult to justify a raise in salaries at this point, they argued.
Indian MPs are among the lowest-paid in the world
Left MPs reject hike in salaries
MPs from the Left also said the hike was unnecessary and that the money should go into controlling the prices of essential goods and tackling rising inflation.
"I think the hike should be rejected," said Gurudas Dasgupta from the Communist Party of India. "I thought it should have been less considering the social responsibility that MPs are called upon to bear. No question of increasing it further."
However, those MPs who want a raise, pointed out that they were among the lowest-paid public representatives in the world and were incensed that they are paid less than some of the bureaucrats they work alongside.
P. T. Thomas, a Congress MP from the southern state of Kerala, said he believed a hike was "thoroughly needed for MPs who work sincerely and without corruption."
One of the perks of being an Indian MP is free flights
Although the salaries of MPs are low compared to those in the government and private sectors, parliamentarians do receive a number of perks. They are entitled to free flights for example as well as first-class air-conditioned train travel and free accommodation.
There will be a debate in the coming days as to how much MPs should be paid, who should decide and when the right time for a raise might be. These are some of the critical questions that have made the issue of MP salaries a hot potato.
Author: Murali Krishnan (New Delhi)
Editor: Anne Thomas