At least 186 MPs pay their personal assistants wages that are less than the minimum mandated by law in Delhi. There are at least 321 underpaid assistants in the employ of these MPs, who belong to both Houses, according to information given by the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
MPs receive Rs 30,000 per month as office allowance to engage personal assistants who are “computer literate”. The prevailing minimum wage in Delhi for skilled labour is Rs 10,478.
But the MPs have been paying these 321 computer literate assistants Rs 10,000 or less per month, as per the reply to the RTI application by The Sunday Express. Some get as little as Rs 4,000, Rs 3000, or Rs 2,000.
Under the Minimum Wages Act, those who pay their employees less than the minimum wages can be fined 10 times the difference, and also prosecuted.
MPs who pay their assistants less than the minimum wages belong to parties ranging from the Left and socialists to the BJP. The list includes 69 BJP MPs, 35 from the Congress, 10 from the AIADMK, 8 from the CPI(M), 7 from the BJD, 4 from the JD(U) and 2 from the CPI, among others.
Bhaskarrao Bapurao Patil, former MP from Nanded who was chairman of the Joint Committee of Parliament on Salaries and Allowances of Members in the 15th Lok Sabha, said, “I am a farmer and even I cannot find a man who ploughs for less than Rs 6,000 a month in Nanded… Such instances of paying less than minimum wages did not come to my notice when I was chairman of the committee. Assistants of MPs work full time, and must not be paid less than the minimum wages.”
A senior officer in the Lok Sabha secretariat said, “MPs’ assistants are not allowed to do other work. They are the employees of the MPs. MPs are supposed to pay them at least the minimum wages. According to rules, they can appoint any number of persons for Rs 30,000, but it would be better if they do not employ more than two persons.”
As per the reply to the RTI application, one union minister has appointed four assistants, who are paid Rs 8,000, Rs 7,500, Rs 7,000 and Rs 7,000 respectively — adding up to just under Rs 30,000, but all below the floor wages.
In Delhi, since October 1, 2014, even an unskilled worker must be paid Rs 8,632 per month, while a semi-skilled worker must get at least Rs 9,542. Minimum wages before that were Rs 8,554, Rs 9,432 and Rs 10,374 per month for the three categories of workers.
In May 2007, the union cabinet approved a proposal of the joint committee to allow MPs to engage any number of people in Delhi or in their constituencies to provide secretarial assistance within the monetary ceiling of Rs 14,000 per month. One of these employees was required to be certified by the MP as being “computer literate”. The ceiling was raised to Rs 30,000 during the term of the last Lok Sabha.