MPs ready to get more salary, perks
NOT many outside the privileged group share the feeling, but our honourable MPs believe they are a very hardworking lot and therefore should be paid a lot more than they now earn. Sometime later this month, the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha will witness rare unanimity when MPs cutting across party lines join hands to pass a resolution— moved by a committee comprising their own— that recommends a substantial hike in their salary and perks.
Currently, an MP’s salary and perks add up to about Rs 65,000 a month. Besides, he/ she gets free travel on both Indian Railways and business class by air, constituency allowance, daily allowance for signing the Parliament roster, free electricity and phone, office and secretarial allowances, etc.
All these add up to an amount that could make many whiz kids working in top MNCs green with envy. It is customary for MPs to vote themselves higher pay and attractive perks. This time, they have done one better. They are demanding a better standard of living not only for themselves but for their children and even their servants.
While MPs are now entitled to 40 trips a year to New Delhi from their constituencies with their wives or personal assistants, there is a move to extend 12 free trips by air ( six two- way tickets to New Delhi and back) for dependent children.
What’s more, they are even seeking allowances for the domestic help that most of them bring along to Delhi. There are minor differences within the committee on the last one. I am told that Punjab and Haryana assemblies have already shown the way and I have no doubt that before the current session ends, the MPs would have voted for themselves another round of freebies.
Advani sees in BJP’s history an echo of Christian events
THE brilliant ideas that L. K. Advani hatches in his mind never cease to amaze. Now that there is a new and younger team at the party’s helm, the writer in him— remember he began his career as a film critic— seems to have resurfaced.
While the party that he once headed pursues issues that belong to an era long bygone, the tech savvy leader used the worldwide web to reach his thoughts to the world. It is not the medium he uses, but the message that he seeks to convey that is pushing eyebrows northwards.
Last Easter weekend ( April 2- 4), Advani was at the Kumbh in Haridwar where he joined the Dalai Lama and thousands of sadhus, sants and assorted scholars on the banks of the Ganges and took a pledge to make the holy river pollution- free. On his return to the capital, he sat down on his comp and pounded out a few stray thoughts on his blog titled “ sthapana divas” ( Foundation Day). “ The party is exactly thirty years old today. In 1980, the party was launched in Mumbai on April 6, Easter Sunday. This year Easter Sunday fell on April 4. I happened to be at the Kumbh in Haridwar where one of the speakers was Father Dominic Emanuel. He casually mentioned that this function was being held on the eve of Easter. That gave me an opening to recall how both the Christian festivals of the week, Good Friday and Easter, had significance even for the BJP’s history. Good Friday is the day on which Jesus Christ was crucified. Easter Sunday is the day of Christ’s resurrection.
And the launching of the BJP on Easter Sunday was certainly our ‘ resurrection’.” I spoke with many senior BJP leaders, none of whom could figure out the import of Advani ji ’s jottings. Is he turning over a new leaf? Or is it that he wants to end his career just the way he had begun it— as a writer?
THE Prime Minister is off to Washington and among the many knotty issues that will accompany him is this one: Who will take over from K. M. Chandrashekhar as the new cabinet secretary two months from now? The options: Sudha Pillai or M. Ramachandran, both from the 1972 batch.
Sudha from the Kerala cadre is the senior most and her elevation means another glass ceiling broken as she will become the first woman head of the civil services.
But there is a hitch. Sudha is due to retire at the end of the month and in case she has to be accommodated as the first woman cabinet secretary, the government will have to appoint her as officer on special duty in the cabinet secretariat with an extension of her tenure in the cadre beyond May 1, 2010. But since this contravenes rules, the only option is to grant her an extension of two years. The other option is to make her a member secretary of the Planning Commission which gives her the status of minister of state, but I gather she is not keen to accept this. A more attractive option for her seems to be the Union Public Service Commission. Sudha is one of those who doesn’t have to chase post- retirement jobs. The jobs chase her.