CHENNAI: The Assembly on Friday passed the bill seeking to double the monthly salary and other allowances for legislators despite strong protect by the DMK, which sought its deferment till the state transport employees' strike is resolved.
Countering, Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam said if the DMK members wished they could donate their salary to the CM public relief fund. “There are MLAs who need money to serve people better by going the extra mile and also to meet their medical expenses. Not all MLAs are rich. AIADMK Yercaud MLA Chitra G. still lives in a rented house and finds it difficult to educate the children,” Mr Panneerselvam said.
The bill, Mr Panneerselvam contended was introduced after duly considering the requests by several MLAs including the Congress. Recalling a similar situation when the Opposition had opposed the hike, he said late CM J. Jayalalithaa had then asked the Communist members to donate their enhanced salaries to the CM's public relief fund if they did not want to take home the pay package.
“Similarly, the DMK members can donate the (increased) sum to the CM's public relief fund,” he said when DMK working president M. K. Stalin insisted that the MLAs should be exemplary in not prospering their lot by enhancing their salaries.
The state is under fiscal strain and the present measure would be burdensome, Mr. Stalin contended. He said the DMK MLAs even gave a letter to Speaker P. Dhanapal stating they did not want any hike in their salary and that it will be given to the Chief Minister's Relief Fund. To this, Mr Panneerselvam sought to know why Mr Stalin was talking about it now after remaining silent for the last six months. He claimed fiscal position of TN is under control despite the State bearing the debt burden of Tangedco to the tune of Rs 22,215 crore.
Intervening Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami said the bill and the transport employees' strike are two unrelated issues. “The state's economy is improving and the government will implement the recommendations of the seventh pay commission for government employees,” he said and remarked if the DMK was so concerned it would have provided retirement benefits to the transport employees during its rule. “Since you had not provided over Rs. 922 crore as retirement benefits, our government under Amma had to take up the responsibility,” he said.
Transport minister M. R. Vijayabaskar said enhancing salaries for transport employees was not at all an issue but some trade unions, which wanted to capitalise the situation for personal gains, were misguiding the employees.
Mr Palaniswami justified the hike and said “if we did not save our MLAs, who else will.” Later, the Bill was passed by voice vote.
The monthly salary and other allowances paid to MLAs will be increased from the existing Rs 55,000 to Rs 1.05 lakh, nearly a 100 per cent hike.