Why in news?

  • The government has issued two ordinances, Parliament has modified its rules to reduce the salary and allowances of Members of Parliament and Ministers, and the Union Cabinet has decided to cancel the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) for two years.
  • These measures are purportedly to save costs as the nation tackles the COVID-19 pandemic.

Criticism of the Pay-cuts

  • The 30% cut in the ₹1 lakh per month salary and the ₹27,000 cut in office and constituency allowances amount to savings of less than ₹5 crore per month.
  • The cut in sumptuary allowances for Ministers results in a total savings of ₹25,000 per month; yes, you read that right. These amounts are immaterial for the Central government with an average monthly budget of ₹2.5-lakh crore.
  • During the crisis, Members of Parliament should be deliberating on the actions and policies to be taken to manage the epidemic, and the costs and consequences of various alternatives.
  • They should also be trying to figure out ways to have committee meetings and even the meetings of the full House through alternate mechanisms such as video-conferencing.

Support of cancellation of MPLADS

  • The cancellation of MPLADS for two years, on the other hand, is a welcome move. This scheme should not be resumed after the crisis. In financial terms, there are savings of nearly ₹4,000 crore per year.
  • While this is not insignificant, the larger benefit is that this will help Members of Parliament focus on their roles as national legislators.
  • MPLADS creates several issues of accountability and jurisdiction. It impinges on separation of powers, both horizontally across different organs of state, and vertically across different levels of governance.
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