NEW DELHI (TIP): Delhi MLAs on December 3 approved a 400% increase in their salary, accepting in totality the recommendations made by an independent committee that proposed a monthly payout of Rs 2.35 lakh to each MLA against the existing Rs 88,000.

The bill was introduced – and passed – on Thursday in face of opposition from the BJP MLAs who said that this was probably not the right time for MLAs to take an increment. “We will abstain from voting for this bill because we do not think this is the right time for it. Even if you have to introduce it, the increment needs to lowered,” said leader of Opposition Vijender Gupta.

The recommendations were proposed by an expert committee, headed by former secretary general of Lok Sabha, PDT Achari, which was constituted on August 21 after several MLAs of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party complained that they were unable to make ends meet with the existing pay package. The party came in for further criticism in light of its statement that the government is running extremely low on funds and despite its ‘aam aadmi’ credentials, sought to first ensure its own bank balance.

The chief whip, speaker and deputy speaker will be entitled to the salary, allowances and entitlements of a minister of Delhi government.

While a monthly allowance of Rs 4,000 for water and electricity has been removed from the salary, several other perks have been added, which include Rs 70,000 as allowance for constituency, a one-time payment of Rs 1 lakh to furnish office, Rs 60,000 to make the office functional and Rs 1 lakh for purchase of computers.

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A massive Rs 3 lakh has been included as annual payout for travel, including foreign trips, for the member and dependents. An annual increment of Rs 5,000 in basic salary has also been included.

Several MLAs justified the rise, saying they had emerged from the anti-corruption movement and had no additional income with which to support their families or perform the duties expected of a legislative member. “Our salaries finish in the first 10 days of the month. We have now added responsibilities of running a constituency office, paying staff and meeting social obligations. I have to maintain a vehicle for official work and the salary we are getting at present is just about sufficient to meet the expenses,” said MAL Sanjeev Jha.

Amid concerns that the implementation of these amendments would make Delhi MLAs the highest-paid in the country, sources said a large chunk of the emoluments was meant for official expenses.

“Since 2014, the basic salary of MLAs in Assam is Rs 60,000 per month. With these amendments, Delhi MLAs will get only Rs 50,000 per month. The constituency allowance being paid to MLAs in Goa at present is Rs 90,000, despite the fact that it is an assembly smaller in terms of membership as well as population represented per MLA than Delhi,” said a source.

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