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Here is a better solution than not taking salaries when parliament doesn’t function

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On 4th April, Wednesday, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Mr Ananth Kumar told ANI that BJP & NDA MPs will not draw the salary and allowance for the 23 days during which the Parliament has not been able to function.

Recently, the politicians from both opposition and ruling party have come under heavy criticism for wasting taxpayers’ money by disrupting the Parliament.

And although this is a welcome move I don’t not see it anything more than being virtue signal to the opposition. Why? Because this is a one time move to claim the moral high-ground from the opposition and also to turn the tables on the critics in the media who have been coming down hard on the Parliamentarians.

The issue of wastage of funds is not a recent one and neither is it limited to stalling of the Parliament. In fact, it is quite amusing, and a pleasant surprise, that BJP is the party that came up with this move when it has maintained both while in Opposition & while in power that stalling the Parliament is part of democracy.

Personally, I do AGREE with this. Stalling the Parliament can be the opposition’s last move to prevent a legislation they feel should not pass. It prevents any Government with absolute majority from using their strength to bulldoze in laws. However, I also think that the taxpayers’ money must not be wasted.

Coming back to the current discussion, bigger concern than stalling of Parliament is wastage of money. And a major aspect of that is absenteeism. Recently, Sachin Tendulkar gave up his salary and received some praise for that. However, his attendance is about measly 8%. What exactly did he get the salary for? What if he didn’t give up his salary?

Many other MPs have abysmal attendance records. Actor Rekha has even worse attendance than Sachin. Did she give up her salary? Forget nominated celebrities, President of “Grand Old Party” of India Mr. Rahul Gandhi has merely 46% attendance in Budget session 2018. An average attendance of only 53% since 2014.

In most schools, students with less than 65% attendance are disallowed (or at least threatened to be disallowed) from appearing in examinations. Surely, our law makers must be held to a similar, if not higher, standard as school going kids!

Low attendance is the real menace. Disruptions of Parliament are not that common as they seem due to news reports since any session that is not stalled doesn’t get similar attention and disruptions happen out of desperation of a weak opposition.

How to solve this? Obviously the student analogy doesn’t hold very well as MPs need to visit their constituencies and have to be involved in many other aspects of social work and public life. But there have to be some standards.

Therefore, I propose introduction of salary rules whereby the payment of salary to MPs should be linked to the following two things:

  1. Attendance.
  2. Number of days Parliament is in session but doesn’t function.

Rules for Attendance:

  • a. Any MP with attendance less than 15% doesn’t get any salary or allowance.
  • b. Any MP with more than 15% but less than 20% attendance gets only his allowance but no salary.
  • c. Any MP with less than 60% attendance should get salary and allowance in proportion to their attendance, i.e. their salary & allowance should be deducted for the number of days they are absent.
  • d. Any MP with attendance higher than 60% gets full salary and allowance.

Salary Rules in case of Stalling of Parliament:

  • a. All MPs of the House that is stalled shall bear a salary & allowance cut for each day the respective House is in session but doesn’t function, regardless of their attendance records.
  • b. In case the Parliament or one of the Houses is stalled for 50% or more time of the duration of any session, salary & allowance for all MPs for the duration of the session will be cut regardless of their attendance records.

I believe these are fairly reasonable rule and simple to understand as well as implement. Hopefully my suggestions reach our Parliamentarians and they spark a positive debate on this topic, even if they aren’t adopted.

In the past too, many MPs have refused to draw their salaries or donated the entirety of it. I genuinely believe most MPs just want to do their part in the ways they think is right. And although giving up their salaries is a magnanimous and heart-warming gesture, there is a need to link salaries to objectively calculable measures so as to bring professionalism to politics. Now, attendance is just one measures but there can be others such as number of bills introduced or number of questions asked or may be some combination of these. However, the current scenario has to change. To conclude I will borrow a line from Kavi Dushyant Kumar-

“सारी कोशिश है कि ये सूरत बदलनी चाहिए।”

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