Indian MPs need to do a reality check

31 July 2013 04:21 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The Indian government claims poverty has come down to 22 per cent in 2011-12 from 37 per cent in 2004-05. According to the Planning Commission’s latest report on poverty estimation, a person who earns Rs. 27.50 in a rural area within a day is considered to be above the poverty line.
 Similarly, a person earning Rs 33 within a day in an urban area or Rs 1,000 a month is considered to be above the poverty level. A family of five able to spend Rs 4,080 a month in a village and Rs 5,000 in a city is considered to be above the poverty level, according to Planning Commission keeping 2011-12 standards of living in mind.


"This time around, it was Prime Minister and Planning Commission chairman Dr. Manmohan Singh whose travel expense has been revealed through an RTI application. Apparently Rs 624 crore has been spent on PM’s air-travel over the past nine years. Dr. Singh undertook 67 trips since 2004 when he took over as PM, of which bills of five weren’t received. The bills received from the rest 62 visits show that Rs. 642.45 crore was spent on air travel"

 Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh is the chairman of the Planning Commission while Montek Singh Ahluwalia is the Deputy Chairman. Ironically, both have been accused of splurging on air travel while the nation continues to reel under inflation. It was only last year that an RTI application filed by journalist Shyamlal Yadav revealed that Montek Singh Ahluwalia spent around Rs 2.02 lakh daily (average) expenditure for trips between May and October 2011.
 According to information procured through RTI, Ahluwalia undertook ‘four trips covering 18 nights that cost the exchequer a total of Rs. 36,40,140 on an average of Rs 2.02 lakhs a day. This was revealed at a time when the Tendulkar Committee evaluated the country’s poverty line last year and emerged with a report which suggested a rural Indian spending Rs 22.50 and an urban Indian spending Rs. 29 a day were not considered poor.
 Last year, around the same time, the Planning Commission came up with its poverty report, an RTI application revealed Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had hosted a gala party, on the three-year completion of UPA’s second term, in which dinner cost approximately Rs 8,000 per person. This, according to the Planning Commission, would suffice to feed a family of five in a rural area for an entire two months!

 This time around, it was Prime Minister and Planning Commission chairman Dr. Manmohan Singh whose travel expense has been revealed through an RTI application. Apparently Rs 624 crore has been spent on PM’s air-travel over the past nine years. Dr. Singh undertook 67 trips since 2004 when he took over as PM, of which bills of five weren’t received. The bills received from the rest 62 visits show that Rs. 642.45 crore was spent on air travel.
 While the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is basking in the glory of bringing down the poverty in the country to 22 per cent, Members of Parliament and party members couldn’t resist from giving their two-bit on the subject as well.

 As if the latest poverty report, by itself, was not enough of a mockery of the common man, a few ministers and politicians came up with gaffes like one could easily get food for as less money in India. It was Congress leader Raj Babbar who was the first to advice people on how was easily survive with the ‘basic expenditure’ as laid down by the Planning Commission.
 Lauding the Planning Commission’s report, Raj Babbar claimed a person can get a full meal comprising rice, dal, sambar even vegetables for just Rs.12. After Raj Babbar’s faux pas, another Congress minister and Rajya Sabha MP Rashid Masood claimed that one can get a meal for Rs 5 in the country’s capital, Delhi.
 It is ironical how these MPs claim that one can survive in the city like Mumbai by spending less than Rs 1,000 in a month in 2013, when three years back in 2010 they demanded a salary hike despite receiving a salary of Rs 16,000. After considering their demands, the MPs received a three-fold hike and their salaries were raised to Rs 50,000. This is more than 50 times the salary which is considered sufficient for a person to survive in an urban area.
 If this comes across as a shocker, then the fact that after receiving a three-fold salary hike, the MPs claimed that the government was “insulting the MPs with minimal hike.” MPs from various parties united for this cause to protest against the hike led by Rashtriya Janta Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav.

 A month after the protest, the government reached a deal with the MPs and raised their salaries further by Rs 10,000. This Rs 60,000 comprises just the basic salary of an MP. That apart, the Cabinet doubled the Constituency and Office Expense allowance to Rs 40,000 for each MP as well. Even the pension of the retired MPs was raised from Rs 8,000 to Rs 20,000.
 Members of Parliament also receive many other sops and frills that comes associated with their jobs. Like, for instance, an MP’s wage is free of tax and comes with additional sops such as petrol, telephone calls and housing all at no cost.
 That apart, most of their household expenses like furniture, electricity, water etc., is paid for by the State. Other sops involve travelling by first class rail anywhere in the country and 34 free air tickets. MPs’ spouses get free air travel from residences to New Delhi, for eight times a year, when Parliament is in session and unlimited number of times by rail.

 Members of Parliament on the parliamentary panel are known to travel to ‘exotic’ locations like Leh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Srinagar, Kerala, Dalhousie, Goa, Lakshadweep, Shimla and Munnar for study tours. An RTI application filed last year revealed as many as 25 parliamentary committees of different Union ministries have spent crores of rupees on study tours since 2009, when the 15th Lok Sabha was constituted.
 So, whether it’s the salary hike, increased pension or luxury trips; these ministers seems to get it all at the expense of the state exchequer. But, when it comes to the common man who pays for all their luxuries these MPs enjoy day in and day out, these are the MPs that tell us that Rs 1,000 is more than sufficient for a person to survive easily for an entire month.
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