TNN, 3 SEPT. 2011
KOLKATA: It was a windfall for Bengal legislators on Friday. The new government, despite financial constraints, increased their daily allowances by Rs 250 for the days they attend the assembly sessions or the committee meetings. Under the new system, MLAs can earn up to Rs 32,000 (including their Rs 12,000 salary per month) - which means a hike of Rs 5,000 from what they got earlier.
State finance minister Amit Mitra also had some good news for his ministerial colleagues. They will also get the daily allowance for attending the House, on a par with MLAs. Ministers, till now, were only entitled to a monthly remuneration of less than Rs 10,000. This, for them, is an added bonus.
"There are 24 Assembly standing committees with 10 members each. In addition, there are 15 other committees with 20 members each. So roughly, almost every member of the house is a member of these committees, if not more. When they attend a committee meeting, the MLAs will be entitled to this enhanced daily allowance too. It is difficult to pinpoint the actual but Roughly for the MLAs, if they attend the twice-a-week meetings, they get allowances for all the five days in a week. The meetings are usually on a Monday and Friday. So a bare calculation indicates they can earn Rs 5000 a week or Rs 20,000 a month. However, these will purely be on their attendance," the finance minister said. The MLAs, therefore, now will earn Rs 5000 more every month only by attending the meetings.
A look at the Assembly records in the 2006-11 term show that on an average 47.8 Assembly sittings were held every year. Inspite of the bitter acrimonious prompting Trinamool Congress MLAs to boycott the session for a long time, the Assembly had 219 sittings. Even in this index, the MLAs - and ministers - can earn close to Rs 12,000 a year more. This, however, is much less compared to the Mps. The Mps, other than a Rs 50,000 a month salary, gets Rs 2,000 for every Assembly sitting.
Earlier, Mitra made a spirited defence of his revenue-generation proposals, saying by hiking taxes in IMFL, lottery and tobacco products and by simplifying the rather complicated
tax structures, he was confident of meeting the revenue targets. "West Bengal is the only state after Karnataka to have dematerialized the VAT registration process, a bottleneck that led to less compliance," he said.