Manoj Chaurasia / The Statesman
Is Bihar really poor? Even as the chief minister Nitish Kumar continues seeking special category status to his state citing its economic backwardness and complains about “step-motherly treatment” being meted out to the state by the centre in matter of fund allocation, the state government headed by him has gone on hiking the salary of ministers and lawmakers at constant intervals amid the ongoing protests by schoolteachers, university staffs, municipal staffs and other such government staffs over long-standing salary dues for want of funds.
In a fresh move, the state Cabinet which met here last evening has approved three-fold hike in the monthly salary and allowances of Cabinet rank ministers, state ministers and deputy rank ministers in the state. The move will benefit dozens of chairmen, vice-chairmen of commissions, corporations, boards, council and committees enjoying the status of ministers, ministers of state and deputy ministers. As per the decisions, the people in this category will now be entitled to a monthly salary of a whopping Rs 25,000 from existing salary of Rs 8,000.
Principal secretary, cabinet coordination department, Bihar Mr Ravukant said the existing allowances which include hospitality allowance, travel allowance and daily allowances of the ministers too had been suitably hiked. As per the new decision, the cabinet rank ministers now will be entitled to a hospitality allowance of Rs 18,000 per month in place of existing Rs 10,000 whereas the state rank ministers will get the hospitality allowance of Rs 17,500 in place of Rs 8,000. Likewise, the monthly hospitality allowance of deputy rank minister too has been hiked to Rs 17,000 in place of existing Rs 6,000. Besides, they will also avail the facility of enjoying spacious government bungalows and will further be entitled for a daily allowance of Rs 1,000.
The move comes shortly after the Nitish Kumar government had made a 300 percent hike in the salary and allowances of 318 legislators from both Houses of state legislatures, bringing their consolidated monthly salary to approximately Rs 1 lakh, thus entailing an additional burden of Rs 34 crore on the state exchequer.
Strangely, the decision about the salary hike of lawmakers was taken by the state Cabinet last year on a day when the entire nation was busy watching the ICC Cricket world cup semi-final between India and Pakistan being played at Mohali. As per the revised pay structure, the lawmakers are now drawing a monthly salary of Rs 25,000 against previous Rs 8,000, constituency allowance of Rs 25,000 (against previous Rs 12,000), furniture allowance of Rs 50,000, stationary allowance of Rs 8,000, additional allowance of Rs 15,000, daily allowance of Rs 1,000 and others. Their vehicle loan limit has also been raised to Rs 8 lakh against existing Rs 5 lakh while their traveling coupon has gone up to Rs 2 lakh from 1.5 lakh earlier. The Cabinet also made manifold hike in the salary of chief minister and his 29 cabinet colleagues.
This is the third time in past six years that the Nitish Kumar government has hiked the salary of ministers and lawmakers. Earlier, he had made such hike in the salary of lawmakers soon after coming to power in 24 November 2005. There a total of 318 legislators in Bihar state legislature~ 243 from the Legislative Assembly and 75 from Legislative Council. Meanwhile, the state government is further considering to increase the number of existing members of Legislative Council, claiming it is under-represented.