Millennium Post

MPs, just accept no-work-no-pay

Should the formula of no-work-no-pay be applicable to the honorable Members of Parliament? Tourism and Culture minister Mahesh Sharma had dropped a bombshell recently in Varanasi by suggesting that just like this formula was applied for bureaucrats; the government was mulling the option of stopping salaries if Parliament transacts no business because of disruption. However, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu has immediately contradicted him by stating that there is no such plan in the works. Ironically, the BJP had vociferously opposed the same suggestion floated by the then ruling Congress after the BJP had “wiped out” an entire session of Parliament in 2010. Therefore, it is clear that whether it’s the ruling party or the opposition there remains the problem of who will bell the cat. For example, the House of Commons follows a rule of withholding the salary of the suspended members. This idea is also catching up in other countries. In India even after suspension, members continue to get their salaries.

Read this along with the recent recommendation of a joint parliamentary panel headed by BJP MP Yogi Adityanath. It has proposed recommendations including a 100 percent salary hike for all MPs to Rs one lakh and a 77 per cent hike in the pension of former MPs. In addition, it includes a substantial increase in daily allowances to Rs 4,000 from the present Rs 2,000. So clearly the members are keen on getting more perks and pay rather than earning their meals.

This is not the first time this idea has been debated in parliamentary circles. Old timers point out that as chief ministers both Bansilal (Haryana) and Shanta Kumar (Himachal Pradesh) had experimented with this concept only to find to their horror that they lost the elections after that. Vexed with the stalling of business in 2008, the then Speaker Somnath Chatterjee had made a strong plea for introducing the no-work-no-pay concept for the MPs. He even called upon those members who ran to the well of the house as cheerleaders. But no party was willing to support it.

Even the judiciary has supported the no-work-no-pay concept. For instance in recent times the Tamil Nadu privileges committee has recommended no-work-no-pay for some suspended members in the Assembly. The affected members went to court only to be ruled that fair procedures were adopted. The 13th All India Whips conference had resolved in Hyderabad on August 5, 2005,  “in view of the fact that on some occasions disturbances in the House, lead to adjournments without transacting any business, the Conference resolves that the principle of “No Work–No Allowance” should apply to the Members of Parliament and State Legislatures.” Therefore, the idea has been flickering like a candle flame for some time but there are no takers.

This brings us to the present logjam in Parliament. Had this concept been adopted would the House had witnessed such uproarious scenes? Had there been a rule that those who rush the well of the house get automatically suspended perhaps these unruly scenes would have been avoided. No wonder Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, reaching the end of her patience had to take the extreme step of suspending 25 Congress M.Ps on Monday as a warning.  

The question is even if the Speaker revokes the suspension; will it produce results?  Not likely as it is too late for the house to transact any business, as Parliament will be adjourned on August 13 unless it is extended.  Secondly, the strategy has backfired as it has resulted in the further confrontation between the treasury and the opposition. Thirdly, the suspension has also united the divided opposition. Fence sitting opposition parties have now decided to stand by the Congress not because they agree with its demands but because they believe this will set a dangerous precedent and could also be used against them in the future. Therefore, it is the time that the Parliamentarians think of a long-term solution to allow the House to function smoothly.

The no-work-no-pay idea is one of them. Those who are in favor argue that if it is applicable to every working class citizen of our country why not for members of Parliament?  CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechuri has said the principle of equality in the Constitution should be applied here also and there should be no-work-no-pay for MPs if it is applied on the workers. Secondly, the principle is not just punitive, as it would ensure that only those who productively participate in the proceedings of the house would be awarded salary and vice-versa. After all, the MPs are elected as people’s representatives to raise their voices in the House. The argument against the concept is that the opposition fears that this might result in disproportionate punishment in response to there causing disruptions in the house.  

Moreover, the daily allowance and the salary is not much for the crorepati MPs. Thirdly, while many new members want the House to function it is the leadership which takes decisions about walk- outs and protests and, therefore, the members do not have much said even if they are genuinely against running to the well of the House. The public opinion against the MPs is building up slowly. Ask the man on the street whether Parliament should adopt this concept, you will get an emphatic ‘yes’ because people are fed up of the non-functioning of Parliament. It is high time that the Parliamentarians wake up to this fact. IPA
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