New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and all Union ministers along with over 750 Members of Parliament(MPs) will take a 30 per cent salary cut for one year and the amount will be used to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, Union minister Prakash Javadekar announced on Tuesday.
The President, the Vice President, governors of states have also voluntarily decided to take a pay cut as a social responsibility, the minister added.
The Union Cabinet on Monday gave its nod to an ordinance amending the Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament Act, 1954 reducing allowances and pension by 30 pet cent from April 1 2020 for a year, he told reporters.
He said besides the MPs, the Prime minister and Union minister's would also take a 30 per cent cut in their salaries.
"Charity begins at home," he said.
The salary structure for the PM and the Union ministers is different from that of an MP, who draws a salary of Rs one lakh per monthand a constituency allowance of Rs 70,000 per month, besides other allowances.
Later, the government spokesperson clarified that only the salary and not the pension and allowances of the MPs will be cut.
The money will go to the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI), he said.
All the revenue received by the government by way of taxes like income tax, central excise, customs and other receipts flowing to the government are credited into the CFI. All government expenditure is incurred from this fund and no amount can be withdrawn from the CFI without authorization from Parliament.
The Cabinet also approved temporary suspension of the MPLAD (Member of Parliament local Area Development) fund scheme during financial years 2020-21 and 2021-22, and the amount will be used for "managing health and adverse impact of outbreak of COVID19" in the country, he said.
While there are 543 MPs in Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha has 245 members --788 in all. Each MP gets Rs 5 crore per annum as MPLAD. It means, the government will get nearly Rs 7880crore from the fund.
BJP welcomes MPs salary cut
The BJP on Monday welcomed the Union government's decision, with its president J P Nadda asserting that national interest is supreme for his party.
"This decision of the Prime Minister is welcome on the day of the BJP's foundation day as the national interest is supreme for it. Everyone in the party is always dedicated to the service of the nation under the leadership of the Prime Minister," Nadda tweeted.
All people's representatives of the Bharatiya Janata Party welcome the decision from their heart, he said, noting that the move is aimed at strengthening the fight against COVID-19.
The party also praised dignitaries like the president, vice president and governors for voluntarily opting for a similar cut in their salaries.
Cong welcomes decision, calls for review of MPLAD suspension
The Congress on Monday welcomed the government's decision, but said suspending MPLADs will undermine the role of an MP and called for its review.
"Dear PM, INC supports the salary cut for MPs. Please note that MPLAD is meant to execute developmental works in the constituency. Suspending it is a huge disservice to the constituents and will undermine the role and functions of MP," Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said on Twitter.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said suspending the MPLADS is an overstretch and needs to be restored, saying a knee jerk reaction much like the lockdown will hurt poor the most.
Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said the Centre's decision to cut salaries and pensions of MPs is welcome.
"It's a good way for us to show solidarity with people suffering across the country. But the ordinance ending MPLADS funds for two years and pooling them into a consolidated fund run by the central government is problematic," he said.
Tharoor said MPLADS is the only means for an MP to direct development resources to his constituency. An order to earmark all MPLAD spending for COVID-19 related measures would have been okay. "I used mine to get urgently-needed rapid test kits and PPE to Thiruvananthapuram's health workers," he tweeted.
Citing examples of disproportionate relief, he said the Centre has allocated Rs 157 crore of Disaster Response Mitigation Funds to Kerala, which has 314 COVID19 cases, while Gujarat, with only 122 cases, gets Rs 662 crore.
"Will this kind of imbalance also affect the reallocation of MPLADS funds," he asked.
"In order to avoid such injustice, it's essential that MPLADS money continues to be spent constituency-wise. I urge the government to revise this decision by allowing MPs to earmark these funds for COVID-19 related expenditure to meet local needs and benefit the vulnerable. It's their job," Tharoor said in another tweet.