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Friday, January 11, 2008

Handsome hike for President

For decades, they had quietly watched lawmakers and ministers take a big bite into the salary cake and see inflation eroding theirs.

The patience seemed to pay off on Thursday when the government finally pulled out a six-month-old proposal to double the salaries of the President, Vice President and Governors and keep up the exchequer's generosity after they demit office too.

President Pratibha Patil will take home a monthly salary of Rs 1 lakh, Vice President Hamid Ansari Rs 85,000 and the Governors, Rs 70,000 once amendments to the law are cleared by Parliament during the Budget Session.

Along with the announcement by Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi came a veiled acknowledgement that people holding these positions were getting a raw deal.

The hike was necessary, Dasmunsi said, because the Vice President — also the presiding officer of the Rajya Sabha — was getting paid much less than members of the House.

The Vice President is entitled to a consolidated salary of Rs 40,000. After their last hike in 2006, MPs were getting Rs 46,000.

President Patil, on the other hand, was drawing a smaller salary than the ministers she appoints, senior bureaucrats appointed by those ministers or the generals of the armed forces that she commands.

Union ministers, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh get Rs 68,000, a Secretary in the Central Government is paid a salary of nearly Rs 55,000 and the Cabinet Secretary and chiefs of defence services crossed the Rs 50,000 mark more than two years ago.

Rashtrapati Bhavan started out in 1951 with a salary of Rs 10,000, nearly 10 times higher than an MP's salary of Rs 1,030.

But the MPs amended the law to enhance their emoluments 10 times in over five decades. In contrast, the law governing the President's salary was amended only four times and the vice president's, just once.

Dasmunsi said the Cabinet had also approved raising annual emoluments of former presidents to Rs 6 lakh and sanction more facilities for spouses of late presidents and vice presidents.

The government had finalised the salary hike proposal last year but it was put up for the Cabinet's clearance when the election process for the President had started and incumbent APJ Abdul Kalam was on his way out. Dasmunsi said the government decided to put off the proposal for this reason.

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