Two big reforms in the Narendra Modi government—Good and Service Tax (GST) and abrogation of Article 370 ( that provided special status to Jammu and Kashmir) was meant to ensure ‘one nation, one tax ‘ and ‘one nation, one law’ respectively.
The idea was creating a unified system of financial and legal governance. While the two reforms in great measures pushed India towards achieving its goal of ‘unified system of law and governance’ certain privileges available to the lawmakers and those responsible for governance tends to create visible cracks in it.
According to a Times of India report a law passed in 1981 by then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and former prime minister VP Singh mandates the state exchequer to pay the income tax of the state’s chief minister and his council of minister. The reason for this law is straight and simple, as highlighted by the report: the lawmakers are ‘deemed; to be poor and “cannot pay income tax from their own meager earnings”.
Uttar Pradesh, like any other northern Indian state, has some clichéd attributes attached to its MLA and netas. Apart from white kurta-pyjama that they don, it is the swanky SUV’s that announce their arrival. Austerity is the last thing that is respected in the hinterlands and even the little metropolis of the state. Open display of wealth and privileges is common and one can hardly find an instance where an MLA is deemed poor.
According to the affidavits filed by the candidates in the Legislative Assembly elections of Uttar Pradesh in 2017, more than 80 percent of MLAs were multi-millionaire. The richest MLA from BSP had a wealth of more than Rs 118 crore and the close second was another BSP MLA with a wealth of Rs 67 crore.
If one ignores the wealth of the MLA and just look at the salaries and perks they are entitled to, then also there is no justification for such concessions. According to a Times of India report in 2016, the Uttar Pradesh government tabled a bill to increase the salary of its legislators to Rs 1.87 lakh, an increase of around Rs 70,000 over then existing Rs 1.17 lakh. And now the monthly salary of an MLA in Uttar Pradesh is close to Rs 1.90 lakh.
Apart from this salary, the MLAs are also entitled to a rail coupon of Rs 4.25 lakh and there are several other perks that they enjoy.