Surendra Kumar, 68, worked with the Madhya Pradesh dairy department for 35 years. Now retired, he draws a pension of merely Rs 2,234 a month and struggles to make ends meet.
In contrast, any person who has been an MLA in Madhya Pradesh even for a day is eligible for at least Rs 20,000 as monthly pension besides medical and additional facilities.
The huge disparity between the rules for lawmakers and the people has come to the fore amid the nationwide protest by government employees demanding a return to the old pension scheme that provided assured income after retirement.
Also, a March 3, 2022 reply to a Right to Information Act query has revealed that the centre spent a total of Rs 99 crore in 2020-21 on pensions to 2,679 former MPs, many of whom are film stars, industrialists and erstwhile royals.
A former MP is eligible to get a monthly pension of Rs 25,000. Additional allowances are added depending on his tenure as a Member of Parliament.
For both former MPs and former MLAs, even a day as a member of the House makes them eligible for the pension for the rest of their lives. Thereafter, their family members are eligible for some allowances. Also, many leaders who have served as both MPs and MLAs are eligible to draw pensions from both Houses.
With the Covid-induced economic challenges and inflation pushing the poor and the middle class to the wall and wiping off household savings, questions regarding the gap between the social security for politicians and that of the common man are becoming louder.
Mr Kumar, who is part of the government employees’ protest over pension, calls it a “big discrepancy and injustice”. “If councillors, MLAs, MPs are elected even for a day, they become eligible for pension. On the other hand, the pension of government employees is very meagre. But what can we do? they make rules that are beneficial for them,” he told NDTV.
Chandrashekhar Gaur, RTI activist behind the query on former MPs’ pensions, said, “The government is appealing to people to give up gas subsidies, but MLAs also elected as MPs are not ready to give up one pension. Railways has done away with concessions for senior citizens, but former MPs can travel free of cost in AC first class.”
Ask the politicians about this and all party lines blur as they join ranks to defend the current rules.
In Madhya Pradesh, more than 600 former MLAs are drawing pension.
Assembly Speaker Girish Gautam said, “Assembly members who are well-off should give up their pension, but there are people who are dependent on pension.”
BJP MP Dhal Singh Bisen said, “We have worked in politics for 40-50 years of our life, so if someone draws pension from two Houses, it’s not wrong.”
Former Congress MP Gajendra Singh Rajukhedi said “expectations of people” increase once a person becomes an MP or MLA. “So we need a pension. Hundreds of people come to meet us. We need to cater to them and their needs.”
According to the current rules, if a former MP or MLA becomes a minister again, he is eligible for pension as well as his salary as a minister. Also, if an MLA later becomes an MP, he gets the pension of both. After the death of the former member of the House, the spouse or dependents get half the pension.
Now, a Public Interest Litigation has been filed before the Indore Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court, seeking changes to the rule under which former MPs and MLAs and ministers draw double pension.
Petitioner in the PIL, advocate Purva Jain, said, “If an MLA becomes an MP, he gets the salary and allowance of both. We should have proper guidelines.”